Index CardsRecycling content from diverse sources is clever but not always wise. The temptation to use content “as is” is hard to resist. You may spot nuggets of good information, professional expertise, and well-rendered expert advice in obscure internal documents. With hardly any work at all, these writings could become how-to articles and primers for readers with a more casual interest in the problems your brand might solve for them. But be careful! While you can easily rush these into company blogs, portfolios, and other outlets, they don’t always work “as is”.

A LinkedIn connection shared this article from CMSWire awhile ago that piqued my interest. Here’s the title and opening paragraph:

Cleaning Up File Shares: Keep, Move, Delete or Archive?

Destruction of significant, unique objects from a file share is rarely the first step in the destruction phase of the life cycle of the record. Usually the process of elimination from deduplication to significant, unique object deletion is multi-faceted. Here is one way your company might approach a few of the decisions.

Whoa! The answer to the title’s simple and straightforward question seems almost purposefully complex and roundabout! I read on, curious enough to read carefully for the eventual answer. But the stylistic issues of the piece, and my own experience with the subject made me think, “I can write a better article for this title!”

In content marketing, too often, self-promotion trumps simplicity. This article needed to benefit a wider audience than the original document had, and it needed to deliver more value sooner.

This tone is apparently “whitepaper-speak”, and as I read the article, I sensed that it came from either a whitepaper, a textbook, or a client deliverable such as a project proposal or a needs analysis. In that context, the tone can presume – or even demand – a much deeper level of knowledge or interest from the reader. In the  article format however, the unchanged tone and language seemed to be over the reader’s head on purpose – as if to say, “Look how complicated this problem is!” instead of “Here’s how you might solve this problem in a more structured way.”

Making Recycled Content Fit New Formats

Key improvements would be to use less formal language, use active voice, and collapse the diversity of stakeholder roles into one individual to more closely resemble the reader who is looking for a practical solution to the problem addressed in the article’s title.

Here’s my rewrite:

Cleaning Up File Shares: Keep, Move, Delete or Archive?

The question in the title comes easily to mind for a lot of people whose file systems are bloated with outdated files – especially those larger ones! But destroying files should take place after you’ve answered a lot of earlier questions that determine their importance. Files in your file system are like records in a database, and often these files outlive their usefulness, only to accumulate on your servers, and make it harder for you to find what you really need in order to get important work done. This cleanup process usually begins with identifying and eliminating duplicated objects, then determining which of the remaining significant, unique objects can be deleted. If you’re an individual or managing a smaller team or office, here is one way you might approach a few of the decisions.

This introduction is admittedly longer, but it aims to simplify and explain the subject, and demystify the jargon. I’m also considering this topic from two angles: as an individual responsible for my own file system, and as a consultant working for a larger company where many of these functions are distributed among different roles and departments.

Are you using the right tone for a casual reader? And is your primary purpose to give value or to flaunt your authority?

The DPS Renderer package helps companies with complex value propositions or lengthy procedural explanations adapt client-specific communications to advance thought leadership programs. Read more here!