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Sam Parrs Content Strategy

If you like our content style, how we write, and how we tell a story, you have one person to thank: Sam Parr.

He was my mentor when I was at The Hustle, and his content strategy is our holy bible.

When Sam started The Hustle, he knew he needed to create content that would grab people's attention. He wasn't a trained writer, but he had a knack for understanding what gets attention, inspires emotion, and influences action.

So he and his team developed a process for creating content that consistently gets noticed.

Like the blog post about living off Soylent for 30 days, which was viewed by millions.

So let’s dive into Sam's process, step by step.

Step 1: A Rough Headline & Description

Start with the headline. Before writing a single word, you need to know what you're writing about and why someone should care.

For the Soylent post, the initial headline was simple: "We're going 30 days living only on Soylent." It's not perfect, but it's a start. You can refine it later. The key is to capture the core idea of the post.

Next, write a 1-2 sentence description that will appear under your headline on Facebook or in search results. This is your chance to provide more detail and hook the reader.

The Soylent post's description was: "In an attempt to become the most productive person on the planet, we are giving up food and living entirely off Soylent. This article is about how it went."

In just a few sentences, you've told the reader what the post is about and why they should keep reading.

Step 2: The First Draft

Most people get stuck here, agonizing over every word, trying to craft the perfect sentence. But that's not Sam's approach.

His advice? Make your first draft horrible.

Just write without overthinking.

Get all your thoughts on the page, no matter how rough or unpolished they are.

The goal is to start moving, to overcome the inertia and fear of the blank page. Once you're in motion, it's easier to maintain momentum.

Step 3: The Incubation Period

After completing your terrible first draft, step away. Go for a walk, take a shower, grab a snack. Let your mind wander.

This is what Sam calls the "incubation period."

It allows your brain to make new connections and come up with ideas you might not have thought of when staring directly at the page.

Some of the best ideas come when you're not actively trying to think of them, so give yourself space to let them bubble up.

Step 4: The Edit

This is where the real magic happens. You've got your raw material; now it's time to shape it into something compelling.

Start by creating what Sam calls a "slippery slope."

Your first sentence should make the reader want to read the second sentence.

The second sentence should make them want to read the third, and so on.

You're gradually pulling the reader in, deeper and deeper.

Slippery slope:

I spent the last 30 days eating nothing but Soylent, a new-age powdered meal replacement.

Why would I do something so stupid?

I’ll explain.

But first, if you aren’t familiar with Soylent, here’s the gist:

For writing style, use short sentences and paragraphs. Keep your language simple, at a 6th-grade level (use Hemingway editor to check).

And cut ruthlessly. If a sentence or paragraph isn't moving the story forward, delete it. Sam usually cuts about 50% of the initial draft. The goal is to remove unnecessary fluff and make the writing sharp and engaging.

Your goal is to create something that's easy and compelling to read, no matter who your audience is.

Step 5: The Headline (Again)

Now that you've polished your post, revisit your headline. Chances are, the original headline you wrote doesn't quite fit anymore, or maybe it could be even better.

Here's what Sam suggests:

Write 25 different headlines.

Yes, 25. It sounds like a lot, but it's a great way to push past your first, most obvious ideas and come up with something truly compelling.

This is much easier now with AI tools like ChatGPT. You can generate multiple headline options quickly.

Then, pick the best one. You can even test a few different options to see which one performs best.

For the Soylent post, the winning headline ended up being: "What Happened When I Went 30 Days Without Food".

Step 6: The Image

Your image is just as important as your headline. It's what's going to stop people from scrolling past your posts in their social media feeds.

Pick something eye-catching and unique, and make sure it's high quality.

For the Soylent post, they chose a striking image of a shirtless, gaunt-looking man, which immediately makes you want to know more.

In today’s content saturated world - great copy is an easy way to stand out.

But most people get frustrated and decide that they’re not good writers.

Which to be honest, isn’t a conclusion worth drawing.

Instead, use Sam’s outline to get better.

1. Start with a rough headline & description

2. Brain dump a first draft

3. Step away

4. Edit

5. Rewrite 25 headlines

6. Use a standout image

Rinse and repeat - and you can’t help but get better.

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