Forget about the Content. Ask yourself these two questions first!

by Victor Guerra

They used to say that everybody knows at least 2 things in life: (1) how to run a restaurant and (2) how to create good advertising. After all, most of us have gone to a restaurant hundreds of times, and for sure we have been exposed to millions of messages trying to sell us something. Therefore, we know from our own experiences what can be done right and wrong, since we have been the judges on every one of those experiences.

But one thing is, to know how it “feels” to receive good services, products and messages; and another very different is to master the principles behind them, and to actually know how to do it properly.

Today, our usage of social networks has surpassed that of traditional media (where advertising used to live). Our frequent exposure to it can make us believe we know how to use it for business purposes.

In social media as in any other communication platform, an organization who wants to establish a connection with its customers, has to consider the basic principles of communication: There has to be a message, a sender, a receiver, a medium and contextual factors (language, tone, timing, environment, “noise”, etc.).

One simple but powerful model to analyze and create your content strategy is what I call “The six W’s”. A set of 6 questions to ask yourself about your communication intentions: Who, what, when, where, why and how. All of them are crucial to achieve a real connection between your company and its clients. But, in my opinion, two of them are the most important ones: The Who and the Why.


The “Who” is in reality two questions in one: Who are you? and Who is your audience?

The first step is to be clear about who you are. A hard question to answer.

It is not just who you say you are, or who you may want to become. It is more about how you are perceived, it is your brand’s DNA, preferably written in few words (3 maximum, 2 or 1 much better): Who are you?

In marketing, it is called Brand Essence (your true nature). It is the cornerstone for the positioning strategy (what you want built as your public image). But it is a prior step to it.

The second part is defining your audience. Again, in marketing it is called Targeting. It has to do with segmenting your market and selecting just one segment to speak to (to have a conversation with, would be more appropriate to say these days).

We are referring here to the sender and the receiver. As opposed to the traditional media, where you are the sender and your audience is the receiver, here you will try to ignite the conversation, but you need to be willing to interchange roles with your audience. So you better know them well in order, not only to fulfill their expectations, but also to anticipate their needs and to positively surprise them.


The second most important W, is the “Why”: Why are you trying to connect with them, what is the intent of your communication effort? It better be for a good reason. It better be because there is something of value for them, that will be of value for your brand as well.

The time and effort dedicated to determine the Who and the Why will show a clear path for the remaining 4 W’s: What (message), where (medium), when and how (contextual factors). The remaining W’s will provide in your favour, and not cause you unnecessary “noise” into the communication process.

Once you answer these first questions, your success will be determined by how easy or how hard it is to identify: (1) the what (pathways or topics for messages that you should embrace); (2) the where (the right platforms to reach effectively and efficiently your audience); and (3) the when and how (style, tone, graphics, etc.).

Ironically, in order to achieve a successful Content Strategy, you have to forget about the content first. Ask Who and Why instead. As the old quote says: “Think before you speak”.

3 thoughts on “Forget about the Content. Ask yourself these two questions first!

  1. It’s interesting how you mentioned in your “Who” both who you are as a writer (or a persona), and who you are writing to. It’s indeed very important to keep in mind that your online persona must represent you as a brand as well!


  2. I loved your title. It’s what made me want to read the text. Your content was clear and informative without being too wordy. I also liked the punchy ending. Comment by Annabelle.


  3. Your opening consideration of the difference between seeing it done well and actually performing it yourself is spot on in today’s world on digital communications. The multiple dimensions of Who are well stated and your bottom line of delivering something of ‘value’ in the Why is also accurate to the core of your message. And then you tied it up nicely at the end – well done!


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