John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
The ART of repurposing marketing copy
(Or, why you shouldn't use brochure copy as web content)

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It’s often tempting to reuse existing marcom assets when you have a project that requires copywriting. Need a microsite for a new product? No need to hire a freelance copywriter – just recycle copy from the press release! Need a brochure for a trade show? Copy-and-paste the text from a few web pages! Need a display ad? Reformat the landing page content for print!

Unfortunately, that approach to copywriting usually produces a disastrously ineffective website, brochure, or ad.

That’s because marketing copy is written for a purpose – the more targeted the purpose, the more effective the asset. Well-crafted copy addresses a multitude of factors, including the media environment, the audience and its level of interest and knowledge, and the desired outcome on the path to a sale. If two marketing pieces have identical purposes, one of them is probably not necessary.

I’ll repeat that because it’s worth it: if two marketing pieces have identical purposes, one of them is probably not necessary.

In addition, each medium brings its own advantages. To simply stick brochure copy online often produces a website with too much information and not enough interaction. To throw web copy into a brochure often creates a haphazard litany of search-optimized terms with no cohesive story or persuasive structure.

Either way, the additional marketing opportunity is squandered, the budget wasted.

To maximize effectiveness, you can’t just re-use copy. You have to rewrite it. Of course, rewriting copy isn’t as easy as simply reusing it as-is. But, when you consider the cost of an ineffective marketing tool in lost sales, it’s better than easy because it’s effective. And by rewriting copy you already have, you still might get away without hiring a freelance copywriter.

I use a three-step process to rewrite copy when converting it from one medium to another. You could call it an ART.

The first step is to Analyze the strategic purpose of the proposed marketing tool, compared to existing tools.

Mere copy editors and less-experienced copywriters frequently miss that last key point. It’s essential to evaluate the new medium for better ways to communicate the desired information. For example, if the task is to rewrite brochure copy for a website, perhaps an online animation or video could demonstrate a process or a benefit much more convincingly than a static image lifted from a printed piece.

You want the new marketing asset to supplement your marketing arsenal, not duplicate an existing piece of collateral, so look for ways the medium itself can be used to enhance communication.

The next step is to Restructure the information to create a persuasive argument that fulfills the strategic purpose of the new marketing tool.

A well-written brochure has a linear persuasive structure – it propels the reader, step by step, to a call to action. A well-written website, by contrast, has a branching persuasive structure – it encourages exploration based on individual visitor needs and preferences.

When you rewrite website content for use in a brochure, you must wrangle the copy points from an open, branching structure to a linear narrative. Alternatively, when you rewrite brochure copy for use on a website, you must free features and benefits from fixed points in the sales pitch and place them – or, even better, individualized iterations of them – in multiple places targeting multiple user needs or profiles.

The structure of the new marketing asset should take into account alternative ways to communicate through the new medium – with a video or slide show replacing static images, for instance, or an oversized panoramic foldout presenting a spectacular visual surprise.

You want the new marketing asset to be the best-optimized version of itself, not a simple – and possibly irrelevant – copy of something else in your toolbox.

The final step is to Translate the copy so it makes the best use of the new medium. This is the actual rewriting stage.

Note that this shouldn’t be a transliteration – a direct lift of existing copy from one marketing tool into another – but a translation created to fit the audience and application.

For example, brochure copy is seldom optimized for search engines and web users. Website copy, on the other hand, uses a fair amount of repetition built around key phrases, navigational aids, and individualized audiences. Copy written for a specialized trade publication may fly right over the heads of a general audience.

Essential: depending on the differences in use between the source material and the new marketing tool, the concept itself may require adjustment to fit the new audience and application.

The analysis and restructuring creates a foundation for translating the copy. Some copy blocks may be fine as-is, others may be moved to fit the new structure, and still others will be written or re-written for the new audience or application. Bits and pieces from different copy blocks may be merged and edited. Claims, statements, and examples may be condensed or expanded depending on what your audience already knows.

Repurposing content works. You save time and money developing new marketing tools by leveraging existing ones. The key to making those new tools effective, is to apply that leverage in the right way. After all, the goal is to make sure each marketing tool says the right thing to the right people in the right way.
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