Luke Thomas, Director of Spring invites Mark Mapstone to write a guest blog

I’ve recently been asked by Luke to make more of a PDF on the Coaching At Work article called ‘Get Shifting’ – without turning it into a press pack trying to sell something – that’s just not him.  One of his team features in the article and people are benefitting from the read.  He’s had folk in management and leadership roles finding the case study valuable and suggesting that it should be shared more widely. What could we do?

I think the way people use PDFs needs to change. PDFs are great for contracts, specification sheets, architects plans, invoices and other legal papers. Things that need to stay ‘fixed’ and be printed.

However we’ve become so used to ‘Print As > PDF’ that we’re doing it far too much. Now the Internet is all ‘social’ and sharable, a PDF fails. It’s locked down, closed, good for printing only and clogging up each others inboxes. I propose looking at a PDF in a new way: as content in the wrong format.

So we created an ‘asset pack’ for the social web, as a simple zip file of valuable ‘pieces’ from the article.  Luke and Spring want to develop people in creative and innovative ways.  By sharing this article and encouraging more people to read the magazine or have a chat to Luke, it will go some way to achieving that.  Individuals and organisations can adopt these best practices and make a tangible difference to performance.

I stripped out all the dialogue from the main characters Sian & Sidonie and turned them into large graphical quotes. As well as creating .doc files of the same quotes, so people could copy and paste them elsewhere. The quote graphics were also turned into a PDF (I’ve nothing against them) for presentation and distribution separately. The whole blog post got shoved into and turned into a tag cloud, then saved as a jpeg for people to view and use. The Spring logos and main website links were added to the pack, including links to LinkedIn profiles, then a few Spring screenshots of social spaces were added. The original PDF article was converted in to 2 versions of text only and full colour – whilst carefully respecting the copyright and source of Coaching at Work Magazine.

Finally we needed something else: emotion. I asked Luke to film a piece of him reacting to the article and summarising the value to others. Nothing fancy, just him at home or in the office. This clip, created more good content, as Luke mentioned several ‘key points’ in the video. However again, they weren’t in the best format. So I repositioned them as graphical slides, then created a separate PDF so they could be shown in a presentation or embedded on a website as a slideshow.

We ‘exploded’ the PDF into pieces of valuable content that not only can Spring use with it’s clients and partners, but the wider public can share easily too.

Think this is too much effort for a PDF? I agree. However we were reverse enginneering it from the Coaching At Work article. Oddly most PDFs (as well as blog posts) start off in fragments first, as we design, research and collate sources and images. It’s that folder of ‘pieces’ on our hard drives, the web world is interested in. Why not include it by default and increase its reach so more people can benefit?

The next time you share or create a PDF, think ‘is it in the right format for the sharable, conversational web?’ See it as a wrapper of ‘value’ and pull everything out. Break it up in to little consumable pieces and reposition it in different ways. Think about the people who will receive it. What could they do with it?

We don’t exactly know what you’ll do with all the pieces, maybe nothing, maybe something. But as long as more eyeballs see it and benefit from the information, we’ll be happy bunnies all round – because people’s coaching, mentoring and training practice might improve.

The next stage? Getting those assets out to people who can make use of them. Do you want the pack? It’s free. Download the link from the Coaching At Work page and let us know in the comments or contact Luke directly. Alternatively, you may just find a link to download it in your inbox.

Find out more about Mark Mapstone