You don’t need expensive hardware or software to create content for the web.
Instead, we’ll look at using the tech you already have, and free software, to get started. We’ll go through the creation of five content types:
- A written post
- Supporting visuals
- In-person presentation
- Video and streaming
- A podcast
But first, a quick bit about myself:
Hi. I’m Andy McIlwain. I’m part of the content marketing team at GoDaddy, looking after the GoDaddy Blog.
I’ve spent over a decade wrangling content for the web, starting with forums and fansites in the mid 2000’s.
I got into freelancing in 2009 out of college. Since then, I’ve worked with tech startups, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
My hope is you’ll find some inspiration, and some tangible takeaways, in this post. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, or shoot me an email.
Ready? Let’s go.
Start with a written post
We’re going to start this process with a written post. Why? Because written text is the most versatile raw material. You can repurpose a written post into all sorts of other media formats.
When I start a new post, I imagine I’m talking to one person. It’s the two of us. We’re sitting down in a café, sipping coffee, and I’m explaining something new to them.
By focusing on one person – one reader – we can be precise with our examples and recommendations.
What’s your topic?
So, first thing: what are you writing about? What’s the topic for your post?
For a business, I recommend writing posts that answer common customer questions. For personal blogs, you can write about whatever you want.
If you’re stuck for ideas, you can try a topic idea generator. There are a bunch of free options out there, including:
There’s also the BuzzSumo Topic Explorer. I haven’t played with it much, but it looks promising.
You can also lean on headline formulas. It’s like playing Mad Libs. Buffer has an excellent compilation of headline formulas, as does Sumo. You can also find a ton of these on Pinterest.
A third method for coming up with topic ideas is to do some keyword research. This digs into seeing what people are already searching for. I use the free Keywords Everywhere extension for Chrome and Firefox. It provides a bunch of detail, including the search volume and competitiveness of different search terms.
[ Related: What should you blog about? ]
You can also look at what others are doing with their written content. There’s nothing wrong with covering the same topics or answering the same questions, as your competitors. There’s only one of you, with your unique combination of personality and first-hand experiences.
Which takes us to the next point: finding your angle.
What’s your take?
What’s your perspective or opinion about a given topic? If you can inject some of your personality and experience into your content, that’ll separate you from others. This is the thing that echoes across media formats, not just written text.
I’m trying to provide my own take in this post by sharing my personal recommendations. And the topic, this concept of a five-step framework for repurposing content, is also mine. They’re the tools and tactics that I use every day.
Sure, there are other people sharing similar ideas. But this specific combination, based on my experiences, is unique.
I bet that there are topics you know a lot about, where you have your own take on the subject. Lean into that. Include it in your content. Make it resonate across everything you create.
[ Related: What’s your angle? – WordPress.com ]
What are the points you want to get across?
So you know your topic, and you have a unique perspective on it. But how are you going to translate that into a written post?
Some folks like to sit down and dump their ideas onto a blank page. Others prefer starting with a rigid outline and building up from there.
Regardless of your approach, you’ll need to know what points you want to make. These are the points you want your audience to remember. And they’re vital for repurposing your written post into other formats.
My personal approach is somewhere in the middle. I like having a very high-level outline of headings and subheadings. Then, when I sit down to write, I imagine I’m having a conversation. I let the words flow.
Do the writing
Now we get into the good stuff. It’s time to sit down and write. I’m a sucker for templates, so I use the following as a starting point for most articles:
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3
- Point 4
- Point 5
- Conclusion / Next Steps
For longer writing, like tutorials or guides, I’ll bump that up to 12 major points. Each point is a subheading. Depending on the topic, each subheading might get more subheadings another level down.
I do the vast majority of my writing in Microsoft Word
You might be going “ugh, Word!”, and I get it. I used to hate Microsoft Word. I was a Google Docs advocate for a decade. But Word, as a desktop application, is so much more powerful than Google Docs. And I can use it offline!
The online version of Microsoft Word – which is free, by the way – has improved over the last few years. If you’d like to give it a try, head over to OneDrive.com and create a free Microsoft account.
[ Related: Free Office Online apps – Microsoft ]
Edit. Revise. Edit again.
Alright. So you’ve written your post. Awesome. Your first draft is likely terrible, and that’s fine. That’s what editing is for.
Start with a quick self-edit. After you’re done your draft, let it sit for a day or two. Then come back and read it out loud. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it sound like you? Make your revisions as needed.
If you have time, you can throw your first revision over to someone else. Get their feedback.
I’m usually writing on tight deadlines, and I’m usually behind schedule, so I’ll often skip this step. But I have a secret weapon.
Hemingway Editor is a free browser app that acts as a sort of automated proofreader. It’ll flag issues in your content, like unnecessary adverbs or passive voice. It helps make your writing easier to understand, but you may lose some character and style in the process.
To get around that, I’ll run the post through Hemingway first. Then I’ll copy the post over to my website software (WordPress).
In WordPress, I’ll make another self-edit pass for flow and formatting. That way, even if Hemingway nuked some of my style, I can still add it back.
I can’t stress this enough – pay attention to formatting and how your post looks on your site. Things like the width of a paragraph or the size your text can affect readability in unexpected ways. Nail that down first before moving on.
Create supporting visuals
So you have your edited written post. I’m sure it’s amazing. But it’s not done. We need visuals.
Visuals break up the “wall of text” effect and make your post easier to comprehend.
Visuals are also important from a social sharing perspective. When you share a post on Facebook or Twitter, those platforms are going to try and pull an image into the feed.
If the image is appealing and relevant to the post, potential readers are more likely to click and read.
The most common approach for visuals is to hunt for free stock images. But stock images are pretty friggin’ weak by themselves. I rarely see them add anything of value to a post.
What we need instead are original visuals.
So how do we create those?
Use presentation software
You read that right. I’m recommending you use presentation software like PowerPoint Online or Google Slides to create your images. Why? Because the presentation slide deck is going to play a big role in the media you create later.
Remember how I said the points of your article are like references? You’re going to go back to those points.
Let’s use my five point template as a base:
- Intro (title slide)
- Point 1 (slide)
- Point 2 (slide)
- Point 3 (slide)
- Point 4 (slide)
- Point 5 (slide)
- Conclusion/next steps (slide)
That’s seven slides for a blog post. Seven original visuals. But what goes in each slide?
Diagrams are great for visualizing complex topics. Screenshots are great for software tutorials. Photos and illustrations are great for stories.
And, if nothing else works, you can pull out juicy quotes from your writing and embed them in images.
Pull out juicy quotes.
Juicy quotes are sentences or short paragraphs that capture the essence of a section. Within your posts they act as a sort of pull quote. They’re also great for sharing on social media by themselves.
You can use solid colour backgrounds with quotes, but you can also pull in pictures as backgrounds. This is where stock images do come in handy. I’m a fan of using Unsplash for this. It’s a massive, ever-growing library of creative commons licensed photographs. Which means there are very few limits on how you use the photos.
Also consider using iconography. These simple illustrations pair well with quotes or titles. You can find free icon sets all over the web – usually a limited part of a larger, paid collection. Iconfinder and Flaticon are two large directories for browsing and searching icon collections.
Have a consistent look and feel
Keep consistency in mind as you start pulling your images together. It could be the colours you use, or the type of photography, or the iconography, or the fonts, or the layout.
This consistency leads to familiarity. When people see your images in their feed, they’ll know it’s coming from you.
It’ll take you some time to find a combination that works, and that combination will evolve over time. But you can start small.
Choose a font and stick with it. Choose a set of colours and stick with it. Match the fonts and colours used on your website as much as you can. If you have a logo, include it in every image.
Embed the images in your post
Alright. So you have your post and your slide deck. Now you need to embed these slides into your post. But first, you need to export those slides as image files.
If you’re using Google Slides, you’ll need to do this slide by slide. You can download them as either JPEG or PNG. (I generally recommend PNG.)
If you’re using PowerPoint Online, you can download the entire deck as a set of images, but only in JPEG format.
After you’ve downloaded the images, you’re going to compress them. Compressing the images reduces the filesize. This makes your images, and your post, load faster.
Download your compressed images. Embed them into your post next to the relevant points.
Present to an audience
You have your post and your images. You could publish that as-is and it’d be a pretty darn strong piece of content by itself. But you’re not done yet.
The next step is to present your content. And I’m about to get meta here because I’m talking about doing the thing I’m doing right now.
Volunteer to speak
Find local speaking opportunities. Search for “speaker submissions”, “call for speakers”, and “call for presenters” on Google. Include keywords relevant to what you’re looking to present and who you want to present for.
Small meetups and community-run events, like WordCamps, are a great starting point because they’re always looking for new speakers.
Use your points to guide your structure.
The main points in your written post are the guideposts for every other content format. You created images to support each point and embedded those into the post. Now you’re presenting the images on their own as a proper slide deck. But the points remain. And you’re going to speak to each of them.
Reference your post
While your presentation follows your written post, that doesn’t mean you should read it word for word. Instead, you can use your written post as a support to make sure you’ve hit on everything you want to say.
You should also give your audience a reason to visit your site. Cite your post for related links and further information that you don’t have time to cover in your talk. Provide the link at the end of your presentation. Share the link with the event organizers to pass along to attendees afterwards.
Embrace the questions to improve your content
Audience questions are a gift. Invite people to ask questions, be it through your website, email, or social media. Take note of what people are asking. Incorporate your answers into your written post and future presentations.
Upload your slides to SlideShare
SlideShare helps a bit with discovery, and it’s useful if you want to reach a business audience.
If that’s something you’re into, you can take your presentation deck and upload it to SlideShare. Attach it to your LinkedIn profile. Provide a condensed summary for each slide. Reference your written post for full details. Embed the presentation into your written post.
Record a video
“YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world.” (You may have heard that before.) So, if people are searching for a topic on Google, chances are they’re also searching for it on YouTube.
[ Related: YouTube Ranking Factors – Search Engine Land ]
But video is more than YouTube. There’s also the growth of video on Facebook and, more recently, on LinkedIn.
Video is challenging. There’s a lot to it. But we’re here to be scrappy. So if you have a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop, you already have everything you need to record a video.
Record your in-person presentation
The first method is to record your in-person presentation. You can either aim the camera at the screen, or aim it at you and add the slides later in editing.
The scrappy “aim it at the screen” solution is the easiest. You could upload the raw footage to YouTube, Facebook, or LinkedIn. The lack of polish can also be an upside. It’s honest, it’s you.
Swap out “presentation” for “demonstration” and this approach also works for practical tutorials. Let’s say you have a written blog post teaching people how to make something by hand. Instead of relying on images, like we did for the written post, you can perform the techniques in the video.
A quick note on lighting and audio: Lighting is a challenge for presentations. Especially if you’re using a projector. The screen throws contrast out of whack. But viewers can deal with rough lighting as long as they can understand the audio. So get the camera close and try to lose any distracting background noise.
[ Related: Video production tips from Wistia ]
Record on your computer
The second method is to record the presentation on your computer. You’ll go through the presentation deck like you would if you were presenting to an audience. Why? Because you are presenting to an audience, even though they’re not all together at the same time.
This approach works very well for anything on the computer. Tutorials, reviews, critiques, whatever. Open up the software or media and record yourself going through it.
I like using the Zoom videoconferencing software for this because it’s free and easy to use. Yes, you’ll have the Zoom logo in the corner, but we’re being scrappy here, so that’s not a big deal.
Close all unnecessary apps and disable your notifications. Open Zoom. Start a meeting. Hit record. Share your screen. Go through your presentation. (Give yourself some breathing room at the end for editing purposes.)
Zoom will create a video and audio file from your one-person call. You can then upload that video to YouTube (or wherever you want to share it), or you can take the video and edit it.
By the way – did I mention that Zoom creates an audio recording? Yep. If you’re looking for a scrappy method to record a group podcast, you can use it for that as well.
It’s not as ideal as having everyone do a high quality audio recording on their own end, but it gets the job done. Plus people can dial in by phone…!
[ Related: Local recordings in Zoom ]
Optional: Edit in Shotcut
Shotcut is a free, open source video editor that works on both Mac and Windows. I won’t get into the details of video editing here because it’s waaay beyond the scope of my session. But I want to put it on your radar because, if you’re interested in doing video, this is an affordable way to dip your toes in.
Upload to YouTube, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn
After you have your final video file, upload it to whichever platform you feel it’s best suited for. Add a description based on the major points you cover. Then invite viewers to visit your written post to find more information.
Run a live stream or webinar
Live streaming and webinars give you the extended reach of putting your content online. They also support the real-time interaction that comes from presenting at an event.
Live streams are usually entertainment oriented. Anyone can join in. Twitch is the behemoth of streaming for gamers, but it’s also used by creatives, like artists and performers.
Each of these platforms offers their own tools for streaming from your computer or mobile device.
Webinars are usually education or business oriented and need registration to attend. There are a bunch of different platforms for hosting webinars, and I won’t get into them here. But if you’re looking for a simple solution that runs in the browser, take a look at Crowdcast or Livestorm.
[ Related: Hosting a successful webinar – Convince and Convert ]
If you decide to host a live stream or a webinar, reference you written post like you would in a presentation. Give your audience a reason to visit your site. Invite them to ask questions and leave a comment on your post. Turn those comments into a discussion.
Use those questions and conversations to improve the quality of your written post. Include those improvements in future presentations, live streams, or webinars.
See a pattern here? Rinse and repeat. Continue the cycle. Keep improving and sharing your content.
Record a podcast
And so finally we arrive at podcasting. I’m gonna be somewhat light on this. There are other PodCamp Toronto sessions digging into podcasting like a professional. But you’re here to be scrappy, not perfect, right?
So, the easiest method for flipping from post to podcast is to treat your written article like a script. Read it line for line. You can add some commentary here and there, deviate if it feels right. But stick with what you’ve written.
You’re talking to a person
The thing I love the most about podcasts is that you get to be the voice in someone else’s head. It could be you, or you and some friends, or a guest, or whatever. But that’s what drew me to podcasting in the first place over ten years ago.
This allows you to be more personal in your approach. Will you adapt how you convey your content? Will you take on a softer tone, as if you were sitting next to the listener? Or will you be more conversational, as if you were on the phone with a friend?
Create your podcast with Anchor
I first dabbled in podcasting a decade ago. We would record our calls on Skype, edit in Audacity, and upload the MP3 to a file server. Then we’d type up the show notes in HTML before pushing everything to our website’s CMS.
You don’t need to do that anymore, thanks to a little app called Anchor.
Anchor, when it first came out, was trying to be a sort of Instagram for audio. Then they pivoted to become a free, all-in-one podcast creation tool.
So that’s what we’re going to use.
Record and edit in Anchor
Download the app in the App Store or Google Play Store or use Anchor in the browser. Create your account. Then jump straight into recording and editing within the app.
Add show notes
Show notes aren’t a transcript. They’re an overview. Your overview follows the points from your written post, images, and presentation. These points will help listeners determine if your podcast is what they’re looking for.
Your show notes are also the place to reference your written post. Include the URL in your show notes. Ask listeners to visit the post to find more information and leave comments.
[ Related – Adding & formatting show notes – Anchor ]
Publish and embed your episode
After you publish the episode, you can embed the episode within your written post.
[ Related – How to share and embed a podcast – Anchor ]
Put it all together
I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: always reference your written post.
Your website is the definitive source for your content. You want to bring people back to your website as much as possible.
That written post, in its final form, will touch on everything else you created from it:
- The embedded images from the slide deck.
- The embedded deck from SlideShare.
- The recorded presentation, webinar, or livestream.
- The embedded podcast episode.
These should all be findable through your site, and within the post they’re based on.
Leave them with a call to action
What are the next steps? What do you want people to do after they’ve read your post, watched your videos, or listened to your podcast?
You should have a call to action unique to each platform. Your YouTube video should invite people to like and subscribe. Your podcast invites people to leave a rating and review on iTunes.
For your written post, there should be a central call-to-action. You could ask them to subscribe to your email newsletter. Or announce a promotion. Or bring attention to a cause.
Give your audience something to do. Don’t leave them hanging.
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