The 5 W's: What Content Marketers Can Learn from a Journalist

By Maren Hogan

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I doubt most agencies would seek out journalists to hire. Although some news anchors leave the newsroom for various communications positions (+ better hours & work/life balance – let’s be honest), I was lucky Red Branch took a chance on me. Since first grade, I have always excitedly said: “I want to be a writer!” when asked what I want to be when I grow up, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. After a journalism degree and a handful of years in that biz…I became immersed in the world of content marketing.

It’s unclear what the future of tv news looks like, but content marketing and blogs, in general, are on the up and up. This year, 71% of B2B buyers say they consumed blog content during their buyer’s journey. That’s up from 66% in 2017! However, my journalism degree and my time in the news were not put to waste. After a bit more than a year in the world of content strategy, I can confidently say content marketers can learn a lot from journalists.

Hear me out:


The 5 W's are the bread and butter of reporting: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. It’s a simple formula journalists use to gather information while researching or producing a package for a newscast or an article for a publication. It covers all the questions a viewer would want to know about a newsworthy event. When you answer the 5 W's, you have all the necessary material needed to answer major questions and solve problems—the two key elements to any content marketing campaign.

For online content to be successful, each piece – whether a blog, printable, infographic, video or otherwise should try to answer these questions. Here’s how you should approach the 5 W's in content marketing:


Content Marketing is all about your audience. The very point of content creation is to provide valuable information to the people you are trying to reach. If you don’t know much about them, how can you write to them? This includes, of course, demographic information, but you also have to put yourselves in your buyer’s shoes. What makes them anxious? What even would lead them to purchase? Who your target audience is geared toward should always be on your mind as you write.


As you write toward who your target audience is, you need to focus on the potential issue they have. You have a fancy product or solution that you believe your audience needs, but what is it going to do for them? In your writing, bring a focus to what your product would solve for them. What will it do to make their lives easier?


Once you know what social site your target audience can be found, whether on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, or another site, you need to consider when they visit that site. However, some people are sure to download and save content to read at a later time, so RSS feeds remain useful. We are also seeing more and more bite-sized content online lately. Why?

Basically, readers can see it, scan it quickly, and share it. As content becomes more digestible, many people dip in and out of online content throughout the day, reading whatever they come across at the moment. Because of this, I recommend that you schedule the timing of your content to look more natural. If possible, target days and times that would make the most sense for your audience. Apps, like Buffer, offers a free version that is a solid schedule tool for posting content to social media.


Calls to Action (CTAs) in content marketing are everything. They should be transparent throughout any piece of content you produce. Make them clear throughout your content, and end with a bang—putting the ball in your reader’s court to make a move. Whether it be to find out more, read a whitepaper, or anything else that will push your reader to become more informed and convinced that your product truly is the one that will solve their problem.


Okay, before you blow this question off as self-evident, think about it for a minute. It may be obvious that you are creating compelling content to get more customers for your client or your personal business, but is that answer truly useful to your strategy? Your answer to the “why” question is, essentially, your marketing goal. If that goal is to increase traffic and get more leads for your client, how will you know what’s been successful? The “why” is really about strategy and measurement.

When you approach your content strategy, I implore you to think like a journalist. Remember the 5 W's, never forget the value of good storytelling, be deadline oriented, and never ever let your credibility slip up!

This article originally published on the Red Branch Media Blog.

About Maren Hogan:

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer, writer and business builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. Founder and CEO of Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and outsourcing and thought leadership to HR and Recruiting Technology and Services organizations internationally, Hogan is a consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques. She has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies and been a thought leader in the global recruitment and talent space. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and The Red Branch Media Blog.

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