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The six W’s to Content Strategy

We all know the six W’s of a good story: who, what, why, when, where and how. Together, they tell the whole tale. Together, also, taken in a slightly different order, these six questions can lead us to a content strategy for the web.
the six w's to content strategy

Why? – business case

Before we can have content strategy, we must have a reason for the site(s) to exist. Identifying the business drivers provides the baseline upon which all else is built. Once we know the purpose, direction is provided for all that follows.

What? – types of information to exchange

The answer to this question falls out, largely, from the business drivers. A web property is a means of communication. Something must be intended to be exchanged for it to exist. There are concepts of information pushed, and perhaps pulled. Stories, ideas, sales promotions, feedback, user details. Understand the full picture of the exchange.

Who? – with whom to communicate

Now that we have the definition of the web property, and what is being communicated through it, we need to know with whom we are holding this conversation. What groups of people make up the audience; the other parties to the conversation? Understanding your audience drives the tone of your communication.

Where? – communication channels

Web properties are more than just a site; they are branded domains: partly on the site, partly within social channels, partly through other channels. Identifying where all sides of the conversation will take place – knowing also where it will not go – provides a landscape within which to operate. it defines the structural nature of each part of the conversation.

How? – required information structure

With the same audience, we do not communicate in the same way on Twitter as we do on our primary site. The types of information defined above need to be refined, broken down into their constituents, as they apply in conversations with each audience across each channel. As an example, a blog post alone can have at least four “bodies”: the real one, the RSS teaser, the listed summary, the tweet. Then there is the title, and the meta-description. Document the detailed structure of all content types, as they will be delivered across all your channels.

When? – creation and maintenance process

Lastly, define the workflows surrounding your content. What is the timeline? When does content need to be created – not just for day one, but as the property evolves over time? Who curates it? How should it be retired? What are the triggers?

There you have it. Six simple questions – the six W’s – to develop the basics of a content strategy.

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2 responses to “The six W’s to Content Strategy

  1. Adam Najmanowicz 2011/07/18 at 19:00

    I would also expect mobile to be a part of the picture with the change of the content online and pretty much be a big part of many W’s

    What – may need to be adjusted if you’re seeing it on mobile. you’re likely to want to access different parts of “what” if you’re on-the-go and have the “what” morph into the “what” you need here and now.
    Who – might differ for mobile users. You’re more likely to address the tech-savy and potentially more involved audience this way (at least for now, while smartphones are still in minority).
    Where – can also mean “where” you’re accessing the content and the content can be different based on where the VISITOR is. You’re likely want to address differently people from your city and from abroad, (however that would also be true for desktop users).
    How – naturally fits with the channel distinction. You’re showing different layouts and content structured otherwise on mobile screens.

    I think I could involve the other W’s as well… maybe a blog about it… 🙂

    • Rick Yagodich 2011/07/18 at 19:04

      Absolutely, mobile and other channels. Indeed, experience shows me that applying this model can quickly take one offline too, depending on the answer to “why?”

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