4 Ways to Revise Your Content, as Opposed to Rewriting
As a writer, you learn pretty early on that not everyone is going to like everything you write. You may put your heart and soul into a piece of content, only to have 800 angry internet strangers tear it to shreds in the comments section.
In marketing, you’ve probably encountered similar situations, but instead of anonymous trolls, it’s your boss or client saying, “Yeah, this just isn’t quite right.” Or maybe he or she thinks it’s well-written but it needs more of something, or less of something, or to be refocused. Even if you think you created a spot-on piece of content, whoever gets to offer critique may disagree, and send you right back to the drawing board.
So if you’re in the situation where you have to revise - even if you might not think it’s necessary - what do you do?
Sometimes you probably won’t be able to avoid a rewrite - maybe you really did get it wrong, and to produce a quality piece of content, you need to start over. And sometimes you didn’t get it wrong but the powers that be are so powerful that you still have to rewrite. Such is the life of a writer.
But depending on the issues being raised with the piece, and your powers of persuasion, you may not have to go that route. Here are a couple of alternative tactics to try.
1. Circle back to the original vision for the piece
Let’s say you’ve been working on your company’s first piece of anchor content - a meaty eBook that you’re creating specifically as an asset for an email campaign which will (ideally) help you generate a ton of new leads. But when your boss sees it, he suggests that it’s too long, and would prefer that you break it up into a series of blog posts.
This often happens when a reviewer comes in at the last minute, someone who wasn’t involved in the original decision to create that specific piece of content. Sure, his or her opinion is valid, but it also lacks context. He doesn’t understand why you created the piece the way you did.
In cases like this, it can be helpful to loop everyone involved back into the original vision for the piece. Reminding the team of the reason you decided to create an eBook - and why blog posts won’t be an effective replacement for a piece of anchor content - can be enough to get everyone back on the same page.
2. "Can we try it this way and see how it goes - and revisit it next time?"
This may seem a bit bold for some audiences, but it can be effective in the certain situations.
For example, maybe you’ve been working on a certain piece that incorporates something a little different than other pieces you’ve created before - a bolder image, a different tone, a little humor - and that makes your boss or client uneasy.
Yes, you want to produce quality content, but that doesn’t mean every piece has to meet everyone’s idea of perfection. There’s also value in using content in a more experimental way: by putting it out there, gauging your readers’ reaction, and adjusting accordingly.
Of course, this works best with smaller pieces of content - like paid ads, blog posts, or nurture emails. Because you probably produce these fairly often (and they don’t take a whole lot of time to create), it makes sense to try different approaches every so often and see what sticks. You wouldn’t necessarily want to take the same approach with an eBook - since if you figure out that your chosen approach doesn’t work, it’ll take another several weeks to create a new one. But pushing to try something a little different with smaller pieces can actually help improve your content in the long run.
3. What can you add or change without starting from scratch?
When you do get feedback on those larger pieces of content, like eBooks or white papers, it can feel extra painful. A lot of time and effort goes into creating anchor content, so it’s easy to get frustrated when your boss or client decides your final draft isn’t anywhere near where he or she wants it to be.
The question here is do you truly need to start over (at the cost of a lot of additional time and resources) to get it right, or is there something you can add or change to make a significant improvement?
Depending on the specific critiques, the path of least resistance can be beneficial - for example, if the feedback is that the eBook you created isn’t comprehensive enough and seems too surface-level, can you add a few in-depth sidebars throughout the eBook to provide more insight and round out the piece without having to rework the body copy?
Or maybe your eBook comes across as too sterile and straightforward, and could benefit from some personality. Could you go back to your interview notes and pull out a couple of quotes to incorporate throughout the piece?
Sometimes these small adjustments can make a big difference in how the reader - and your reviewer - perceives your work.
4. Can you tackle additional elements as a separate project?
Maybe you have a boss who suffers from a content marketing version of FOMO - constant fear that your content is missing something. For every draft you show him, he comes up with “just one more thing” for you to add, and before you know it, your 3,000-word eBook has exploded to 5,000 words.
For the sake of your audience (who might not appreciate the, er, extreme thoroughness of your content), you shouldn’t automatically agree to add in everything that's suggested. If something clearly doesn’t belong in the piece of content, recommend that you use it for a spin-off piece (perhaps a blog post, checklist, or follow-up eBook) down the road. That way, you’re not dismissing the idea, you’re just deferring it (and, as a bonus, you’ll help build up your content library on the topic - so rather than one very comprehensive eBook, you have several pieces of content in a variety of formats).
When you’re working with multiple stakeholders - whether it’s the rest of your team or a client - pushing a piece of content over the finish line can be a challenge. But with these tactics, you can push forward without sacrificing quality.
Article and image via Social Media Today