Focus Your Content by Asking ‘The Five Whys’

5 whys









Okay, so we’ve all read about the importance of creating great content – how content is crucial to your social media and SEO efforts, how you need to be creating awesome, shareable work in order to build brand awareness and authority. We’ve read through all the data, it all makes sense, now it’s time to get on with the doing. So where do you start? The actual creation of compelling content is a challenge in itself, but even before that, you have to determine what you’re content’s going to be about. You want to build community engagement, you want to expand reach – it can’t be just product and company news alone. It needs to be fresh, it needs to stand out. It needs to be something people are going to want to share with their friends.

A good place to start in your content marketing process is by defining the core mission of your brand, and one way of doing that is by asking ‘The Five Whys’.

Defining Core Purpose

A Harvard Business Review paper, authored by James Collins and Jeremy Porras, identified that ‘companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remains fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.’ The closer you can narrow down to a singular core purpose, the more targeted and consistent your branding efforts can be. For example, here are the core purpose statements of some of the world’s biggest brands (from Collins and Porras’ ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’ report):

NikeTo experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors

3MTo solve unsolved problems innovatively

Wal-MartTo give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people

Walt DisneyTo make people happy

One way of narrowing down to a singular purpose statement is by using Collins and Porras’ ‘Five Whys’ method. The ‘Five Whys’ are answers to a question posed to your business. You start with a statement, either ‘We make X products’ or ‘We provide X services’, then you ask ‘Why is that important?’ and you provide five answers to this question. From those five answers, Collins and Porras determined that companies could reach a better understanding of their actual purpose and, from there, narrow that down to a singular statement, enabling them to unify company activities in working towards that goal.

From Collins and Porras’ report:

The five whys can help companies in any industry frame their work in a more meaningful way. An asphalt and gravel company might begin by saying, We make gravel and asphalt products. After a few whys, it could conclude that making asphalt and gravel is important because the quality of the infrastructure plays a vital role in people’s safety and experience; because driving on a pitted road is annoying and dangerous; because 747s cannot land safely on runways with poor workmanship or inferior concrete; because buildings with substandard weaken with time and crumble in earthquakes. From such introspection may emerge this purpose: To make people’s lives better by improving the quality of man-made structures.’

The Importance of Defining Purpose

From a digital marketing standpoint, this is very powerful. You’re looking to create community engagement, establish your brand identity and maximise reach – your content strategy forms the backbone of these efforts. Having a singular purpose allows you to focus on how you support it, solidifying your options on what content you can create and share. Once you have a core aim, you can write brand stories that show that mission in action, the human side of your business. It enables you to highlight your brand’s place in the consumer’s world – what you do and how you do it – and with a consistent purpose behind each piece, you’re reinforcing your brand identity post by post, tweet by tweet. Having a clarified ambition is an important step towards establishing an authoritative and trusted presence, and can also serve as both a guide and inspiration for all team members in how they approach engagement and communicate with clients.

The Proof is in the Process

It’s important that all your efforts, business-wide, reinforce your purpose statement. Companies aren’t defined by their words, they’re defined by actions, and as noted by Influence & Co CEO John Hall, ‘when [staff] have a clear understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, they’re more likely to take emotional ownership of the work’. Your mission statement provides that understanding and should be front of mind for all staff as they interact with clients, particularly through social media profiles. Every post, every update, every time you share someone else’s content, it should always be cross-checked against the purpose statement to ensure it reinforces the mission of your brand. This ensures consistency, but also eliminates the sharing of personal updates and off-focus information that’s not relevant to your audience. Of course, there’s always some room for lighter, off-message updates from time to time (particularly on Facebook, where users want to see more personal interaction) but if you’re ever unsure of whether you should post something, check it against your purpose statement and see if it fits. By aligning to that goal, you’re aiming to make your brand the go-to source for your niche – your audience should know, through your content and actions, who you are and what you stand for, whether your purpose statement is public knowledge or not.

A concrete purpose statement is a significant step in your online strategy. Blogging without a definitive intention is sometimes too broad and can lead to you drifting from your audience wants and needs. Narrowing the focus will help you stay ‘on point’ in all interactions, whilst also enabling you to unify your teams behind a single, guiding goal. Purpose, consistency and awareness are the factors that drive great results, and you can start along that path by establishing just one critical sentence.

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