As content marketers, we’re occasionally stuck with “stale” content. Stale content comes in many forms, but it shares a commonality in being less effective than its “fresh” counterparts. It may be too old, too uninteresting, or too late to resonate with audiences.
But stale content presents an interesting dimension; it isn’t necessarily “bad” content. It doesn’t deserve to be thrown away, necessarily, nor will it do active harm to your brand if and when you publish it. At the same time, it doesn’t live up to its potential. You’re essentially stuck with a piece (or several pieces) of less-than-optimal content that aren’t good enough to support your content marketing strategy. But aren’t bad enough to avoid including altogether.
What can you do with this stale content?
My personal recommendation is to revitalize it. You can do this by transforming it, polishing it, or reimagining it in a new context, using the power of your own personal brand. And as you might have guessed, I’m about to show you how you can do it.
What Is Stale Content?
First, I want to define what constitutes “stale” content in the first place. Though there is no strict definition, there are three main types of stale content that frequently plague content marketers:
- Old posts that lost momentum. Sometimes, stale content starts out as fresh content, the same way stale bread was once soft and delicious. You’ll write up a post that entertains and informs your users, but over time, your post gets buried in the archives. It no longer generates any new attention, aside from a few remote stragglers who happen to find it in search engines. There’s a natural life cycle to most forms of content, so this isn’t abnormal. But why let a high-quality piece of content die when you can breathe new life into it?
- Missed opportunities. I also categorize missed opportunities as forms of stale content, even though in many cases, these pieces of content never actually get published. In cases like these, you’ll draft content too late, attempting to take advantage of a trend that’s already over by the time you start moving. Sometimes, your content may never move past the conceptual phase, leaving you with a brilliant idea or angle that’s dead in the water.
- Underwhelming executions. Sometimes, your content fails to become evergreen, landmark content because your execution missed the mark. You covered the topic suitably, and didn’t fully botch the post, but you weren’t as thorough, engaging, or original as you could have been. In this scenario, your concept was strong, but your execution allowed your content to lose momentum over time.
- Topics that lost relevance. In other cases, the topics themselves are to blame for the staleness. For example, you might have written about an upcoming technology you thought would revolutionize your industry, only to find out a week later that the technology is failing to meet expectations (the way Google Glass was presumed to change the world, but never fully took off). Your analysis of the technology is perfectly well-written and valuable for your customers, but due to new circumstances, that topic is no longer significant.
The Power of a Personal Brand
I’ve already alluded to the fact that personal branding is the mechanism for revitalization, but why is this so? Why do personal brands have an advantage over corporate brands when it comes to refreshing content?
Personal brands, if you weren’t aware, are much like corporate brands; they’re a collection of identity standards meant to serve as a kind of signature, except they apply to an individual rather than a corporation. For example, you might brand yourself as a sales expert with a focus on maximizing productivity.
This gives you a number of key advantages in revitalizing content:
- Freedom in voice and tone. First, thinking beyond all the brand standards you’ve artificially established for yourself, your personal brand is still “you.” Your natural, unique personality is a major selling point, and since you aren’t bound by any corporate restrictions, you’ll have far more freedom in the voice and tone you use when writing your content. This allows you to reimagine content in more entertaining, engaging ways for your audience, and gives you more opportunities to pursue “edgy” or unconventional topics.
- Syndication opportunities. Personal brands also give you more power in offsite publishing and syndication. Most offsite publishers will gladly accept guest submissions from individual authors, but not from brands or organizations (for obvious reasons). Personal brands also tend to attract bigger and more engaged social media followings than corporate brands, giving you an edge when redistributing your older pieces and possibly introducing you to an entirely different audience segment.
- Fresh positioning. Finally, your personal brand will likely have slightly different areas of expertise and opinions than the core corporate brand from which the content originally came. This gives you a critical opportunity to cross-examine or reposition an old subject without treading the same old ground.
Strategies for Revitalization
With those types of stale content and those personal branding advantages in mind, let’s delve into the five main strategies you can use to breathe new life into the stale content you have lying around:
- Syndication and Support. Your first line of defense is to simply support your stale topics with further syndication and support. Sometimes, your stale posts haven’t become irrelevant—they simply haven’t had enough opportunity to generate momentum on their own. Introducing them to new audiences through your personal brand’s social media platforms could be just the opportunity they need to thrive. This is especially powerful if you find a way to get your audience directly involved in your material; for example, you could start a conversation around your piece, stimulating debate among your readers and generating even more attention to your work. It may also help to change the publication date of your piece. Admittedly, this strategy only works for some types of stale content; for example, topics that lost relevance entirely won’t benefit from further syndication.
- Retrospective Analysis. If your topic has lost relevance, or if you missed an opportunity, you could reproduce the piece as a kind of retrospective analysis. Taking the example I threw out above, let’s say you wrote a post about how Google Glass was about to fundamentally change your industry. Because this clearly didn’t turn out, you could use your personal brand to represent the arguments from the original piece, and bit by bit explain what went wrong. You could point out which of your predictions were right, which ones were wrong, and why; this captures the initial appeal of the article while updating it in terms of relevance. Many popular brands do this regularly; for example, SEO authority Moz frequently retrospectively analyzes whether its previous year’s predictions were accurate.
- Reimagining for a New Audience. You could take a topic, dismantle it, and reassemble it for a new audience (presumably the one targeted by your personal brand). This may involve taking a different stance or angle on the topic, restructuring the tone, or exploring the topic in a new way. For example, let’s say you have an old piece about how sales teams can work more productively, with a vanilla tone and somewhat outdated information. With a personal brand, you can take a bolder stance; for example, you might express outrage at certain habits that modern sales teams have. Or you might make the piece more humorous to better connect with a personal audience.
- Sequel and Follow-Up Work. Similar to the retrospective analysis, you could instead opt to extend the work you created initially. Here, your goal is to kick up new interest in the original topic and create some new material at the same time. You might continue exploring the topic you started in the first place; for example, you might have an original piece about how to use Facebook to get more sales, but follow up with a sequel piece that explores Twitter, LinkedIn, or another social media platform. This exploration hearkens back to your original, “stale” piece, generating new interest in it, while presenting audiences with fresher, personally branded material at the same time.
- Springboards for New Material. Finally, you can use your stale content as a lead-in for entirely new materials and concepts. Here, your goal is to use your stale pieces as supplementary or introductory content. For example, you might take your original piece on how to hire the right salesperson and use it as a core citation or as a chapter in a bigger piece (like an eBook). You could even assemble a “best of” compilation of work, accumulating multiple stale pieces that didn’t deserve to become stale into a comprehensive PDF that your users can download as a permanent resource.
In many ways, success in content marketing is about efficiency. It’s about making the most of the resources you have, and about getting the best results for the effort you spend. Revitalizing your stale content, then, is about getting more results for the effort you’ve already spent, and making up for any lost potential you may have missed. Take the time to nurture the dying plants of your content campaign, and you’ll earn the rewards of a lusher garden, less wasted space, and more fruit to harvest when the time is right. All it takes is a little extra attention and a few adjustments.