A Sustainable Approach to Content

August 24, 2023 - 15 minutes read

Is it possible to make your content creation process more sustainable?

When we think about sustainability, we typically don’t think of things like content creation. For businesses that are new to the concept, the idea of “sustainability” instead conjures up images of hugging trees, driving a Prius, or switching to solar and wind energy. Even if you’ve been focusing on sustainability as a strategy, you might not have begun to apply these concepts to your operations or marketing. 

Sustainability is relevant to all businesses, from the inside out. Beyond caring for the environment, it’s about operating and existing in a streamlined, self-sustaining way. 

One of the foundational pillars of sustainability is mindfully maximizing the use of an object or resource. In other words…not using something once and discarding it. Don’t be wasteful, even if you can afford to be.

You may only get one or two uses of an item in its intended form, but there are almost always other uses for it–for example, using an old shirt as a rag or a toothbrush for cleaning. These examples are more relevant to life at home than business, but the ethos behind them is the same. Wherever your business is in its sustainability journey, applying the lens of sustainability to your content is a quick and inexpensive way to make an impactful change.

How Sustainability Applies to Content Creation

So how does this concept apply to content? We use content in every facet of our businesses these days. Content allows us to effectively communicate with stakeholders, including:

  • Vendors
  • Suppliers
  • Referral partners
  • The media
  • Our employees and teams
  • Prospects
  • Clients and customers
  • Peers 

It’s especially important to note that content can and should be used to provide a layer of customer service. Content isn’t just about bringing people into a sales funnel. It’s also about continuing to serve them once they’re part of your digital ecosystem.

This idea of being sustainable with content is also an homage to marketing’s rule of 7: “People need to see/hear things 7 different times from 7 different sources before they are ready/make a buying decision.” Therefore, using and reusing content to help feed their needs, address their questions, and whet their appetites only makes sense.

Here’s another noteworthy benefit of sustainable content creation: many small businesses don’t have fat budgets for marketing. If you’re enlisting the help of outside consultants or agencies, get the best bang for your buck by thinking strategically and sustainably about the content they’re creating.

Sustainable Content Creation Tips

Let’s run through the most common elements of sustainability, plus some ideas for how to leverage these practices in your content creation.

1. Recycle

Use it again! One of the best places to recycle content is through conversations with customers. Oftentimes, business owners and/or longstanding employees conduct (what feels like) routine communications with customers and prospects. However, more often than not, there is gold in those conversations. They’re discussing concerns, motivations, considerations, etc. that they could be reframing and sharing through other mediums.

Example: These conversations should be revisited regularly, perhaps quarterly or at least every 6 months. This is a good way to also monitor whether trends are shifting. Is there an uptick in people asking for “x” or concerned about “y”? Use that trend to create content for social media. Or perhaps you start getting a new question more frequently. In that case, it might be time to update your FAQ page on your website, or to create one!

2. Reuse/Repurpose

This is all about being creative. Turn that email into a video, a blog post into a podcast, or a webinar into an ebook. Your Instagram stories could become short culture videos. Think of different ways one piece of content, such as a photo, can be used–and where else it could be relevant.

Example: If someone has been taking photos of your team during various events, outings, or parties/celebrations during this quarter, consider adding those as a highlight on your Instagram profile showcasing your company culture. Or, add some of those images to the Careers page on your website. Like they say, a photo is worth 1,000 words. It’s one thing to share your mission statement or to describe your company culture, it’s another to show it.

3. Repair

Check your digital platforms occasionally for functionality. Fix broken links, update CTAs, and ensure everything is up to date. This process seems like a given, but it’s almost always overlooked or flat-out forgotten. We talk about digital repairs with our clients as though we have been planting a garden with all the content creation & publishing. But after a period of time, weeds can start to poke through. Or, some plants and flowers might need help keeping their heads up. Or, others might get left out of the sunshine and need to be brought indoors. The same is true for internal and external links, calls to action, etc.

Your team may also grow, and/or you may bring on new service lines. In either/both of those cases, it may be a good idea to adjust the CTAs on some blog posts. Perhaps, instead of directing people to a general info@ email address, you can now provide a link for them to schedule a consult with a specific person. Hint: that is a giant step forward in not only service to them, but it’s also a sign your company is maturing.

4. Maintain

Update your stats and references. This is another step that is often forgotten or overlooked. It may not be necessary or even possible to write a new article every time new science, studies, legislation, and other updates are released. Instead, use those opportunities to revisit existing articles and update them. 

As time goes by, some of the references you use in your articles may become defunct, or you might not want to be associated with some of these companies or entities any longer. It’s highly likely that new, even more relevant sources will emerge. Website optimization and SEO tactics also change over time, so being proactive about revisiting older content can help you maximize results from one piece of content.

Think about it this way: if you allocate 10 hours to a blog post, it might have a big one-time sticker price. Taking a set-and-forget approach to that blog post means your spend was most effective for its initial publication–however, once it’s outdated, it’s not likely to remain effective. But if you can continue to nurture that seedling, it can grow into a consistent lead-generation tool. When that happens, you’ll begin to see sustainable content as a worthwhile investment.

Example: Over 6 years ago, we wrote a blog post for a client that is the third most visited page on their website, via organic traffic. We’ve refreshed the call to action periodically to keep the reader’s next steps up-to-date. It continues to produce website traffic.

Bonus: Source Your Content from Existing Resources

Whatever your budget size, it’s definitely sustainable to work with what you have. Create content using existing resources and information. While you might not have the budget for a professional video crew that follows your team, documentary-style, you can definitely leverage these ideas to create great content.

  • Every time your team is together, take photos. Include different combos and poses for use in future campaigns, social media posts, and more. 
  • Something funny happened today? Capture it! Write it down or record it, and share it with your marketing team. It may seem irrelevant to you, but your marketing team will probably disagree! It may not be used immediately, but more than likely, they’ll be able to incorporate it in a future piece of content.
  • Be on the lookout for people, events, and changes within your sphere/community – these shifts also provide the raw materials to create content. Extreme weather (blizzards, heat waves), pop culture trends, and even wide-reaching events (like a global pandemic) that impact the collective are great places to start. That’s because these topics create relatable content that connects you with your audience in an authentic way.

The Bottom Line

All businesses can stand to be more sustainable – and frankly, must be. For some, that means working on ESG reporting and reducing their carbon emissions. Others are just getting started by encouraging less single-use plastic consumption, measuring energy consumption and sustainable material sourcing and usage, and DEI-focused supply chains. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, sustainable content creation can absolutely benefit your company.

And if you haven’t yet begun to incorporate sustainability into your business practices, applying these techniques with content is a great place to start your journey! We all have to start somewhere and the best place to start is where you are currently at.

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