Using the “5 W’s and the H” to Build Your Content Strategy

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By Peter Decoteau

In modern marketing, the adage “Content is king” is as prevalent as it is misrepresented.

After all, content for content’s sake is just noise, and such a scattershot approach can have negative effects that outweigh the positives. This can include wasting time, money, and other resources, and confusing, or even turning off, potential patients.

That’s why, before writing that next blog post or posting that next video, you should have a strategy that gives structure and purpose to your activities.

Content Strategy versus Content Marketing

Most people assume that a “content strategy” and “content marketing” are one and the same, but in a practical sense, the latter is an actionable part of the former, much like how tactics are actionable ways to achieve goals and objectives. This means that you should build out a content strategy for your clinic(s) that touches on the why, who, where, what, when, and how of everything you produce—written, digital, photo, video, etc.—before engaging in the act of content marketing.1

Building out your content strategy

The motivation behind your content strategy should be directly related to your high-level marketing goals and strategies. If, for instance, your primary goals are to increase patient volume by focusing on self-referred patients, patient reengagement, and doctor referrals, then your content strategy should address these goals in a way that is both targeted in message and audience, and consistent with your brand.

There are a lot of different approaches to building out an effective content strategy, some of which may suit you and your team better than others, but if you can at least answer the “5 W’s and the H,” you’ll be on the right track to successful content marketing. For example, a content strategy for increasing self-referred patients may start with these considerations:

Why are we creating this content?

Consider the primary functions you want your content to fulfill. Examples include:

To educate the general public about:

  • The benefits of physical therapy
  • Our clinic locations
  • The treatments we offer

To differentiate ourselves by highlighting:

  • Our personality
  • Our people
  • Our clinical spaces

To position ourselves as a valuable resource by:

  • Establishing expertise
  • Solving problems
  • To stay in front of potential patients and get in front of new potential patients

How are we measuring success?

Typically, the “how” comes last in this particular sequence—hence the name, “5 W’s and the H”—but for our purposes, the answers to this question will largely influence the rest, so it should be one of the first questions you tackle. In this case, the measurables should be listed from specific to broad to mirror the user flow.

If the goal is to increase self-referred patients, and the “conversion points” are scheduled evaluations via online form submission or direct phone calls, then we may measure content success like this:

  • Content engagement (views, “likes,” comments, shares, clicks)
  • Website referral traffic by content source
  • Conversion rate (phone calls or online submissions)
  • Scheduled appointments

Content success may not always be tied to such concrete data; while implementing specific tracking measures is ideal, it’s not always possible, and so the aim is to zero in as much as possible on the data that indicate a successful piece of content as it relates to your identified goals. For instance, content aimed at increasing broad brand awareness within younger demographics may not yield immediate, quantifiable results, so measurable success will relate to broader data points such as average time spent watching a video, pages per user website session, or “amplification” via shares and overall reach.

Who is the primary audience?

Create your primary customer “personas,” or tap into those you’ve already created in your general marketing activities, to give substance and depth to your audience. (To learn more about marketing personas, read our previous article from the March 2019 issue of Impact: “Create a Marketing Persona in 5 Simple Steps.”)

Who is creating the content?

Okay, we’re cheating a little by adding a second “who,” but it’s one of the most important questions your strategy needs to answer. After all, a great content strategy with good ideas is meaningless if you don’t have the talent or resources to execute on them. Your answer to this question is valuable in two ways: It assigns roles and responsibilities to your team, and also helps to prioritize your content based on what’s important to the success of your strategy and what can realistically be accomplished. If the importance is high but the capabilities are lacking, you may need to outsource the content creation.

Where is your audience and What types of content will they engage with the most?

These answers will likely differ for each individual persona, so at this point your content strategy may break out into separate verticals.

For the “where,” do research, ask your current patients, and use current data sources (such as website analytics and social media insights) to find out where your personas would most likely be.

The “what” will largely depend on the “where,” as platforms often dictate media. With that in mind, consider the topics that are most likely to garner interest and engagement from your designated audiences, while adhering to the “whys” already listed. Will your content reach the right audience on the right channel in order to educate them about physical therapy? Will it help to differentiate you from your competition in a way that is meaningful to your target audience?

Remember that the right content on the wrong channel, or vice versa, will likely underperform, or fail entirely.

When will this content be shared?

The “when” is most often dictated by the answers given. This can refer to:

  • Season- or holiday-specific content
  • Time of day users are most likely on a designated platform
  • Content based on news and events (e.g.: anniversaries, grand openings, etc.)
  • Availability of resources (staff, budget)
  • Goal priority

Creating a timeline based on these and other factors, broken out by week, month, quarter, and year, will help you stay on track in the creation of your content, the consistency of your messaging, and the diversity of your audience targeting.

All Hail the King

“Content is king” only when it is used strategically. Blindly putting resources toward blogs, videos, social media posts, and other types of content yields sporadic results; while it may succeed every once in a while, often the cause and replicability of its success are unclear. By having a content strategy that ties into your overall brand identity and marketing strategy—even one based on simply asking “Why, How, Who, Where, What, and When?”—you create purpose and consistency in your content, which will more effectively help you reach your goals.


1Rose R. How content strategy and content marketing are separate but connected. Content Marketing Institute website. Published October 16, 2013. Accessed October 2, 2019.

2Collie M. Create a marketing persona in 5 simple steps. Impact. March 2019.

Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the director of marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at

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