Ten years ago, I worked at a corporate PR firm. My first week there, my boss taught me two very important lessons that I call upon every day as I produce and write annual reports, videos, articles, communications plans, stories: Never start from scratch, because you don’t have the time and repurpose any and everything you do.
Instead of starting from scratch, she encouraged me to scan the environment and see what’s already been done that I can build on or adapt. And then the next step is to adapt and re-purpose the fruits of that work!
I not only consider the content I create for repurposing, I also listen for ideas that I can adapt to a piece that I’m working on.
For example, I was recently at a fundraising dinner and my CEO spoke about what had moved her the most at a recent conference we had held for our community. She told a story about a woman she’d met years ago – an employee at a grant partner organization. The woman’s personal transformation resulted in her becoming a powerful and eloquent leader at another organization that has made incredible gains on behalf of farm workers in California’s Central Valley.
This inspiring story helped to demonstrate the ability of our organization to identify and cultivate leaders who have gone on to have a tremendous ripple effect in their communities. And it showed the way the work personally touched my CEO. The story became an important part of a direct mail letter this spring.
Another great place to repurpose content is in your organization’s blog. I’ve found that many organizations are reluctant to start blogs because they don’t know how they will generate content. I launched a blog for the Women’s Foundation of California this spring, and I base content creation upon repurposing the incredible information that I come across in the course of a week.
Before the blog, this was information and anecdotes shared when people sat together and ate lunch, or short emails that rarely went further than staff in-boxes. Many of us come across information that can be easily re-purposed for blog content. Examples include:
* success stories shared by grantees or the beneficiaries of your organization
* responses that you write to emails seeking information about your work or an issue
* podcasts that other people do (you can link to ones that are related to your issues)
* photos you take at events that can become brief photo blogs
* quick videos in which you ask a question and get an answer (see previous blog post about using video)
It’s also important to share the workload and engage others. We have a couple of regular contributors who write blog posts every other week. Another staff member created simple short videos featuring two public policy fellows who are working on upcoming legislation. And don’t forget to create an editorial calendar with key dates so that you can see what’s on the horizon for your organization and your constituents. That will inspire story ideas too.
I didn’t think so at the time, but I’ve come to realize that these ideas – never start from scratch and repurpose everything you do – are actually ways of exercising creativity. Many great inventions are inspired by, or modifications of, something that already exists.
In his book, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, Michael Michalko uses the acronym SCAMPER to help people remember 9 different things you can do with an idea to create a new idea:
- Combine it with something else
- Magnify or add to it; modify it or change it in some fashion
- Put to other use
- Eliminate something from it
- Rearrange or Reverse it
Try repurposing an idea this week and see what you can create – and the time you save!