“I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” – Rudyard Kipling in ‘Six Honest Serving Men’
The toothpaste tube you squeeze in the morning. The brand of underwear you prefer. The news that you scroll through in rush hour traffic. The timely notifications that hit your phone. The trailers of your Netflix binge. They are all descriptive of your tastes and preferences. But before you make purchase decisions for specific brands, there is always a team that works behind the scenes to create, curate, and carry their unique content which resonates with you.
Spin this another way: you, the consumer with personal preferences and brands, the guys that provide you with the content or product you enjoy. Content is everywhere. But what is it that makes your preferred products stand out? An innovative product isn’t enough, one good copy cannot suffice, putting in the moolah alone won’t do it. The craft of content creation and marketing is complex, subtle, and involves more ingredients than meets the eye.
The Craft of Content Creation
As a business thinker, you probably hope the content you create meets its end, lasts, and is loved. This is the North Star of every content creation and dissemination process. If one may make a study on your content strategy, they would find that anything that you have created in the past can be improved upon. You may also find that it need not be fluff to be pleasurable or really clever to serve its function.
The Honest Serving Six, as Kipling called them, can help you give clarity, direction, and meaning to your marketing efforts. They are the same 5Ws and 1H that news writers as ambassadors of the fourth estate use as guidelines when they create content. There are no universal templates in the content craft. But depending on the what, why, who, when, where, and how factors, you can craft a strategy that works for you. Let’s go over them now and the excerpt at the top of this page may start to make sense.
- What is your business mission statement in one simple sentence?
- What is it similar to and different from?
- What might be affected or changed by your business goals?
With the evolving digital landscape, even a widely respected publication like the Harvard Business Review has had to keep pace with the times. The media house has steadily leveled up its game plan to bridge the gap between print and digital media.
What did they do? They developed a Customer Experience Management (CXM) strategy that would keep magazine readers happy with a subscription model that was well segmented. Its readership now has three options: digital, digital and print, and a premium subscription.
An analytics review of this model reveals that HBR now has 8 million unique visitors on the site every month with a lot of behavioral data that helps guide both effective campaigns and more intuitive segmentation. The email communications have since then expanded to 40 million emails with a neat variety: new subscribers, niche topic consumers, and website visitors who abandon their carts.
- Why are you doing what you are doing?
- Why does it matter and why should anyone care?
- Why do the forces of the market affect your business either directly or indirectly?
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek examines how some of the world’s best brands and leaders communicate. He spells out a communication strategy called the Golden Circle which has the why of your activities at the very core. Clear communication of a brand’s why cements trust between sellers and buyers, politicians and voters, leaders and followers.
To quote Sinek’s example, Apple did exactly just that. The brand stood out from the noise of other efficient computers and showed people why Apple can ‘think differently’ and why they should care. If you want your message to drive home, you have to start with the purpose of doing what you’re doing. It straightens out your brand strategy so you’re producing more passionate, efficient, and sustainable content that sets itself apart from the competition.
- Who is this piece of content for?
- Who does it affect positively or negatively?
- Who is involved in the creation, dissemination, and the reach of content?
For instance, Starbucks was rolling out college tuition to help its employees carve out their career paths. The customers weren’t aware of the employee benefits so the company set up an email marketing campaign to notify its customers of its noble vision. Obviously, the customers were delighted with the brand and wanted to support the effort.
The who in this marketing case scenario covers two sides of a coin: the consumers of the products and the team behind its great service. The campaign became a selling point for the brand. It’s hard to forget an email that impresses you even on days your inbox is teeming.
- Where do you plan on getting internal work done?
- Where do you place brand assets that attract, engage and delight your audience?
- Where should your content be placed for the desired effect?
Silicon Beach is known for its technological prowess. You can easily rub shoulders with high-profile connections that can step up your influencer marketing game. This was where actor Jessica Alba decided to expand her career and start her business. The Honest Company, founded here in the year 2011, has had a host of brand ambassadors and influencers since then. Alba’s smart choice of location has served the company well ever since. In an atmosphere like that, great synergy is possible, either for talent, or investments, or just good traction.
Not every start-up gets the opportunity to host its company in heavy networth hubs. But where you position your company affects the talent and revenue you attract. The successful guys know that you have got to stay put where the traffic is.
- When do you plan on launching the next campaign?
- Does your when strategically impact your communication reach and other success metrics?
- When do you communicate important messages to the stakeholders and to the different audience segments?
A recent ad featuring Ryan Reynolds and three brands: the Netflix blockbuster Underground 6, the star’s own brand of alcohol, Aviation Gin, and the Samsung QLED TV. A production staff walks into the screen and clarifies “…you bought an ad for your gin within an ad for your movie within an ad for Samsung?” Very meta but equally hilarious for its unassuming confidence and playfulness. “It seemed like the right thing to do,” Ryan clarifies empathizing with her evident disbelief.
While the ad strings the right identities at the right time, what it excels at is the element of attraction in a spectrum of audiences. You may not find occasions to be meta, but there are creative ways to accomplish the multiple key selling points at the right time for your brand.
- How does the content you create affect your target audience?
- How do you create, curate, and disseminate the content you create?
- How do different roles in the content function of your business function independently, as a team, and as a key stakeholder of your business as a whole?
$3 billion worth software company Red Hat delivers high-value content for marketing, communication, and sales. Global Director, Laura Hamlyn, has transformed the team from a handful of people doing fragmented work into an integrated center of excellence. The integrated team of about 45, has copywriters, journalists, content strategists, librarians, curators, localization experts, editors, and academics.
How do they do it? Laura had disclosed in an interview, “We’ve been given a lot of responsibility at Red Hat. Brands have to deliver consistent value in a consistent voice. The way we do that is with a consistent team.”
Predictive questions in content marketing are fuel for putting in consistent effort. The Honest Serving Six help you determine the kind of talent you employ, the quality of plans you draw up, and goals you reach successfully. 5Ws and 1H help iron out challenges, remove blind spots, and make marketing more intuitive, hands-on, and on-point.
You can start now by asking simple questions about your brand and the content you aim to craft. People will only remember you for your unique brand identity. Even 150 years later, millions across the world remember food tycoons like Heinz for ketchup, Coca Cola for soft drinks, and Kellogg’s for cereal. Your content craft has the maximum leverage to do that for you. Even as it does for Ryan Reynolds, HBR, or anyone else who gets it right.