Columnist Rachel Lindteigen explains how marketers can use the five Ws and one H of writing to create better content.
Think for a moment about the last piece of content you published. Was it a blog post, a new page on your website, an e-book, a video or something else? What made it good in your opinion? Would you proudly pin it to the fridge in your kitchen? You know, like kids do when they’re really proud of something. If you wouldn’t proudly display it on the fridge, then maybe it’s not as amazing as you think. Maybe.
When you sit down to create a piece of content, what decision process do you go through? Do you create content “because it’s in the contract,” or “someone said to create X,” or “my boss said we need 12 infographics this year?” If so, maybe it’s time to step back from the content calendar and rethink it altogether.
To create really great, really useful content, you have to be willing to step back and think things through. You may even need to answer a few questions. Think way back — back to elementary school English class and the five Ws and one H of writing (and often used in journalism as well):
- Who is your audience?
- What information do they need to know?
- Where do they want to see your information?
- Why do they care about what you have to say about the subject?
- When will they want to read it?
- How should you relay the information?
How can something as easy as the lessons you learned in elementary school help you create better content?
These questions will help you really home in on your audience and their needs, rather than focusing on creating content for the sake of content creation. And let’s be honest, a lot of brands are still creating content to check something off their list.
Who is your audience?
Can you describe your target audience in one to two sentences? Are they male or female? What age range are they? What interests do they have? Where do they live?
Knowing as much as possible about your target audience allows you to craft targeted content — and targeted content performs better.
What information do they need to know?
Have you spoken with your audience? Do you know what questions they have? How do you know? Do you think you know, or do you really know?
If you have customers who communicate with you, then you’re in luck because they’ve told you exactly what they need to know via phone calls or email. Your customer service people can help create the list of FAQs they receive on a regular basis, and you can go from there.
Where do they want to see your information?
Is your audience most active on your blog, in social media, on your website? Understand them and their behaviors and ensure you’re providing content where they are so they can find it easily.
Your audience isn’t likely going to dig deep to find out what you have to say about X subject. Help yourself by providing information where they’re looking.
Why do they care about what you have to say about the subject?
What information do you have that’s new? Why would they care what you have to say? Be unique, but more importantly, provide useful information.
If you’re just retelling what someone else already said, your customers might not care. If you have additional insights or can genuinely help answer their questions, you’re going to create better content.
When will they want to read it?
Are your customers busy working professionals who are reading on the train during their commute into the city? If so, you might want to publish very early in the morning to get their attention. Are they parents who put their kids to bed in the evening and catch up on the day’s news then? Do you target stay-at-home moms who might have downtime after the kids are dropped off at school or during nap time in the afternoon?
The better you know your customer, the better you can answer this question and target your distribution time.
How should you relay the information?
What format will work the best for your audience? Will they have seven to 10 minutes to watch a long-form video or read an in-depth journalistic piece, or are they more likely going to have 30 to 90 seconds to catch up on your news?
Will a blog post, video, infographic or something else help tell the story better?
When you spend time answering the basic content creation questions listed above, you should end up producing content that your customers find helpful. And that’s something to be proud of.
Don’t create content just because someone told you to do so. Create content because someone asked you to — and that someone should be your customer.
Give your customers what they want or need, and they’ll reward you with their read/view/share/like. Remember the five Ws and H when you’re creating content, and in the end, you should have something you’re proud of and would be willing to showcase on the fridge.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.