Content marketing slush piles

With so much emphasis on the sharing and distribution of content, we tend to neglect the content itself. The most important aspect of content marketing is not the sharing, but the raw content itself – every idea, concept, sticky fun fact or quirky nugget of value that you give your fans in return for their continued appreciation. It comes down to the value you give, and providing this every week is a daunting task. 

Introducing the slush pile approach

The best I can do is share with you the method I use to keep the content marketing pipeline flowing. It’s called the slush pile approach. Generally speaking, less than 5% of your big ideas will hit when you’re staring at the computer monitor about to hammer out the next article. The concepts that will eventually form the base of whatever topic you are about to type up will come from discussions with clients over lunch, arguments with friends, skimming the trades, reading books and general observations on the complexities of the world around us.

Wherever the origin, it is then your job to somehow remember it verbatim, jot down the idea on your smartphone or rip a page out of a magazine and write, until you have a chance to transcribe it all into a dedicated, cloud-based brainstorming spreadsheet – a proverbial digital slush pile. Every potential topic for an article gets its own row, with one column dedicated to the eye-catching title in addition to a slew of columns for any thoughts, outlooks or further comments that are appropriate.

While I realize that the term slush pile is traditionally used in editorial circles to denote unsolicited work from external sources, I use this reference as my final drafts start off as, well, slush. But if I am able to mine a mere morsel of goodness from this pile of slush then it makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

The next objective for this slush pile is the accumulation of notes and ideas for each topic until I deem that I have enough to pull the trigger on one or more articles. For instance, suppose you stumble upon a feasible and original concept for a summer package as well as a great way to promote it by tying in some other catchy material…only the eureka moment happens in early November. What are you supposed to do? Memorize the thought and hold it on the back of your mind for five months before the time is right to express it in full? 

Five steps to content development success

To put the slush pile approach into the overall context of a hotel’s blog and social media content strategy, here is a five-step action plan to follow:

1. Create your content release schedule. Highlight any holiday periods or organizational milestones. Determine the frequency with which you will post to each outlet. Organize your team and delegate tasks to ensure that all due dates are met.

2. Create your slush pile database. Keep the spreadsheet flexible with room for memorable titles, ways to divide the article into multiple parts, ruminations, asides, references to other articles, contributors worth contacting for an outside opinion and so on. Use a color-coded system as well as pictures to help make the database as easy on the eyes as possible so that no row or ideas gets lost in the void. Make it cloud-based so that multiple people can add new ideas at the same time.

3. Fill your slush pile. Brainstorm ideas with your team, discuss topics over lunch with your other managers, research on the web, prepare an outline and gather as much information as you can. This is a never-ending process. Some of the ideas you put into this database will remain there dormant for over a year while others will blossom into written articles within a month’s time.

4. Write, write And rewrite! Once your slush pile has enough meat on it, it’s up to your own discretion to judge which ‘clusters of ideas’ will make for the best articles – that is, which topics will give your fans the most value and generate the best possible response from them. Next comes the hardest part – the physical writing. This is as much as art as it is a skill. Try using a structure that first gets your audience hooked with the most titillating nuggets of value at the top followed by any calls to action (for example, promotion links) at the bottom. Another sound structure to use is to tease your readers with a tasty morsel of interest at the beginning, then dive into a full story and bring it back full circle by the end.

5. Rinse and repeat. Once you’ve drafted a piece and given it a proofread, remove it from your slush pile and shift it over to the release schedule. Another concurrent step, if time permits, is to put your work forward to a peer review board to see if they can’t ‘punch it up’ to heighten how an audience will perceive it once published. And while it’s waiting in the queue to be released, get started on writing newer blog posts just so you can stay ahead of the game.