How to design content waterfalls
6 min read

How to design content waterfalls

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Yo! Welcome to the next episode of The Content Strategy Reeder where 6,613 creators get better at content strategy and creation in 5 minutes or less.

If someone sent this to you or you found this article online, you can subscribe here.

Last weekend I talked briefly about how I use a content waterfall framework to repurpose content.

I posed it to you, Should we do an in-depth how-to next week?

A bunch of you said “yes!” So here we are, whippin’ up waterfalls on a Saturday morning.

Here’s what you have coming your way…

  1. What exactly content waterfall framework is and its immense impact
  2. How to design waterfalls that fits your content strategy
  3. Two examples of waterfalls you can add to your content strategy ASAP Rocky

Let’s riiide.

Content waterfalls are a production framework for scaling your output

Put simply, it’s a mechanism for producing more content from a single source.

Like taking a podcast and turning it into a blog, or taking a blog and choppin’ it up into five social posts.

Waterfalls are helpful because they:

  • Provide a clear framework for content production
  • Increase the ROI of your work
  • Help you scale, especially across channels
  • Give you clarity into your inputs and outputs
  • Remove the exhaustion caused by coming up with new ideas every day

I include these in every content engine I build, including now at Clari.

How to design a content waterfall

Step 1: Identify and capture your inputs

Consider inputs as your Point A, or the top of the waterfall. You need to know what you have to work with.

There are two types of sources that feed your waterfall: polished and unpolished.

Polished content is the final product that is ready to be (or has already been) published.

These are typically longer form pieces that include, but are not limited to:

  • Podcasts
  • Blog posts
  • Webinars/keynotes
  • Ebooks
  • Newsletters

These are easier and faster to repurpose because you can copy/paste or reuse with minimal changes because you’re already working with a finished product.

Unpolished content is “raw” content that hasn't been refined yet and is not ready to be published as is. These are things like:

  • Customer advisory board conversations
  • Executive roundtable events
  • CEO town hall meetings
  • SME interviews
  • Internal strategy sessions

These are typically informal conversations that contain valuable ideas and provocative insights that just need some writing/editing/finessing to get them publication-ready.

Unpolished content is the most neglected but most impactful because they are candid in nature. You get the “real talk” that can lead to phenomenal insights. Don’t overlook them.

Step 2: Identify your outputs

This is your point B, or the bottom of your waterfall. It’s the new content that you want to produce.

There are two questions I ask to here:

First, what do I need to fuel my content strategy?

When fueling your channel strategy, I usually work backward. Because once you know what you need, you can figure out how to splice and recycle.

Here’s where you take inventory across your channels and see the gaps in your content calendar that you need to fill. For example, I might look at my LinkedIn channel strategy and decide I need two “value posts.” Then I move to the second question…

Which inputs will support my outputs?

You don’t need to repurpose everything just because you can. I prioritize:

  • Unpolished content  (because I get the best inputs here)
  • Top-performing evergreen content
  • Expensive content, like commissioned analyst reports

You want to avoid adding content that flopped to your waterfall (unless you can tweak what you believed didn’t work and try again). Waterfalls are designed for volume, but never at the expense of quality.

Step 3: Map your content waterfall

Now it’s time to design out how your inputs will transform into your outputs.

When building a waterfall, you have two options for reusing content:

Repurposing is when you transfer it to a new format, like taking a podcast and turning it into a written blog.

Rule of thumb: if you said it, write it. If you wrote it, say it.

If you said it, write it. If you wrote it, say it.

Recycling is when you take parts of a piece of content to create something new, like taking a keynote and using it to inspire a LinkedIn post.

(FWIW, these terms are used interchangeably all the time, which is totally fine. I do it too. I’m defining them here so you can better “see” your options.)

Keep in mind that not everything needs to be repurposed just because it can.

You want to look for the “highlights” that have the strength to either serve as a stand alone piece or are substantial enough to grow into one.

You’re specifically scoping the best performing content to repurpose and pulling the highlights within them to recycle.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Stories
  • Insights (aka “aha!” moments)
  • Guides (aka how-to explanations)
  • Perspectives (the more contrarian, the better)

(PS: here’s a refresher on turning ideas into multiple pieces of content.

Two examples to inspire you

By now seeing a waterfall mapped out will get you to the finish line (or the plunge pool – the official name for the bottom of a waterfall).

These are general examples to show you the “flow” of content. But you can adjust and customize for your content, style, channels, etc.

You can steal these. In fact, I hope you do.

Waterfall Example #1

Let’s start with a simple one. This is more or less what mine looks like for The Reeder:

This is how one newsletter can easily fuel multiple channels. Think once, publish over and over.

Waterfall Example #2

This one is more complex, and more aligns with how I run B2B strategies that have more people to support it.

As your get better and faster at repurposing, you'll find new opportunities to add or channels to launch.

Aight, that's a wrap! I hope this guide inspired you to create your own content waterfall. It's the easiest way to double your content ROI and scale your best ideas.

Holler at you next Saturday,

PS: When I was a kid, I remember listening to TLC’s “Chasing Waterfalls” in the back seat of my mom’s maroon 1990 Honda Accord. In the hook they sing 🎵 “Don’t go chasing waterfalls…” 🎵 But I heard it as “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls.” I never knew who Jason was or understood why he was running away from TLC.

Has the Content Strategy Reeder become one of your favorite newsletters? If so, you’d make me shout-sing “Break My Soul” by Beyonce if you shared this link on LinkedIn or Twitter. Here’s an example from Joel Primack for inspiration.

(Even more) Digital resources for creating prolific content

  1. NEW! If you want to become a prospecting pro and stack your calendar with qualified meetings, join me at Sell Better's Ultimate Cold Prospecting Masterclass on November 10th. I'm hosting the "LinkedIn Prospecting Tips" session with cold calling superstar Gabrielle “GB” Blackwell, and Mr. President’s Club Nick Cegelski.  
  2. Catch up on previous newsletters here (scroll down to ‘Here’s what you missed’)
  3. Follow me on Linkedin and Twitter for edu-taining content on sales and marketing tactics, plus updates on my content journey.
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