I remember one of the first lessons I learned in journalism school was about the “Five ‘W’s”: “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” and “Why.” These “Five ‘W’s” help journalists address basic questions that every story should be able to answer.

When developing a content strategy, the “Five ‘W’s” are a useful touch point. Asking these questions can help marketers see the bigger picture, ensuring content creation is intentional rather than haphazard. And purposeful content that flows from a cohesive strategy has a far greater chance of being effective and generating ROI. 

Here’s how to apply the “Five ‘W’s” when devising a content strategy.

  1. Why?

This is the most important question to answer. It’s the raison d’être for why you’re producing content in the first place. Answering this question means having a clear sense of your needs and goals, both on a marketing level and on a broader business level. Once you define your goals (boost customer loyalty? Get more leads? Increase sales by 150 percent in two years? You get the idea…) you can determine the role that content plays within your marketing machine. Your content strategy will encapsulate the answer to the question why and will keep you focused on the bigger picture. A solid content strategy will guide all content decisions, so that every piece of content you produce serves an overarching goal.

  1. Who?

You can’t write great content if you don’t know who you’re writing for. Ask yourself: Who are the current customers for your product or service? Who are your ideal customers? Figuring out the answers to these questions helps you develop buyer personas, which informs the type of content that will resonate with different customers or prospects. Answering this question will also help you iron out more granular details, like the tone of voice to use in your content. 

  1. What?

Should your content marketing strategy include a drip email marketing campaign? Or maybe you need to establish authority in your industry with thought leadership content? Perhaps you need targeted social posts to help build engagement.

What kind of content do you need? 

This important question will help you flesh out the types of content that will be most useful in accomplishing your goals. You should consider different mediums and ways of presenting content too. For instance, a podcast is a great vehicle for brands that want to establish authority in their space. Mixing things up is also a good idea because different target audiences have different preferences (even within the same demographic.) Some people prefer to digest content visually, some absorb information better by reading text, while some people are auditory learners.

  1. When?

Cadence is important when developing a content strategy. Should you put out content weekly? Bi-weekly? Answering the “when” links to the “what” in your content strategy because you’ll want to put out some types of content more frequently, whereas other types of content might be needed on a less frequent basis. For example, you might publish blog posts weekly, whereas thought leadership articles might be published monthly. Once you’ve figured out the “what,” you can address the “when” and create a content schedule, or calendar, that clearly lays out your plans.

  1. Where?

Where should you publish your content? Which platforms make sense for the types of content you’re producing? Of course, a lot of content will be housed on your website, like blog posts, case studies or white papers. But think about where you can publish your content beyond your website so that it gets even wider distribution. Share content on your social channels. Consider other outlets that would be interested in publishing your content, like relevant industry websites. After investing time and money in great content, you’ll want to get as much value as possible out of it. Think about all the platforms, sites and publications where you can publish and distribute your content to amplify your message.