(Or, “I went to Journalism school and here’s what I can teach you about Content Marketing”)

For my first paid gig as a writer, I made a mistake that I see countless businesses make every day in their website and social media content.

I learned from that mistake, and so can you.

It was back in 1987 and I wrote a newspaper article about a survey on college student personal hygiene (edgy stuff, huh?).

I learned two important words that day:

“So what?” 

Note: It’s much more effective if you read that in the crabby, disinterested voice of my editor.

So what?

What I learned that day was a mistake many brands make today. In essence, I was reporting facts—parroting them actually—and not giving the reader a reason to care. 

Think about that for a second. Imagine I met you at a party and recited facts at you... 

  • “I am 6-foot-3.”
  • “I had brown hair and experienced male pattern baldness in my 30s.”
  • “My right foot is slightly longer than my left.”
  • “The sun is hot.” 

Fascinating stuff huh? Would you spend more than 2 minutes listening to me? If anything, you’d probably walk away thinking I’m a bit of a flake.

You’d be all like: “Why are you telling me this?!”

Every day, brands post paragraph-after-paragraph of content that does nothing but recite facts about themselves and their companies. It’s mind-numbingly bad. 

It’s because factual conversation has no attachment point for an audience to engage with. It’s not a conversation at all, to be honest.

How do you give your readers--and your customers--reason to care? Read on...

5 keys for grabbing your customer’s attention

So, after attending every journalism class my degree had to offer I came away with a basis for reader engagement. What I learned were the 5 Ws—a cornerstone of journalism that I’ve found extremely applicable to today’s content marketing.

Check it out (with examples):

  1. Who: Talk about yourself, but do it with empathy. Discuss why are you in the business you’re in. Share what have you learned in working with customers. Humanize your brand by sharing your story.


Harry’s sells razors, but to better tell who they are they created a website dedicated to the “pursuit of making today better than yesterday.”

  1. What: What you do should be the easiest story to tell, but be sure you’re including the ways you can help the customer. Yes you have service offerings and product features, but explain them in a way that is attached to reader outcomes. 


  • “A greener lawn your neighbors will envy.”
  • “Better fuel savings over a 6-month period.”
  • “More time to spend with your family and friends.”

  1. Where: Your audience will respond better when you give it locational context. This is especially true if you’re trying to appeal to a regional audience. Discuss location-specific issues. Talk about their homes, their offices, and their neighborhoods. Help people understand they are part of a community. It’s a meaningful message.

Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms

Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms is a business owned by a major brand, but does a great job creating a localized message.

  1. When: Uncover the Whens of your message. This is important because you need to set a tone of timeliness. When will you help them get their degree? How quickly will they see weight-loss results? When is the best time to start saving money? Be specific.

Nutrisystem Nutrisystem’s product descriptions are based on urgency. It’s a motivational pull. 

  1. Why: Last but certainly not least, you need to detail the Whys of your message. This means telling your audience why it’s important to them. How will you hit a pain point in their lives? Tell them what you can do to help them live more meaningfully, while saving time and money.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods does an excellent job of telling the Why. Healthy food tastes good and makes you feel better. 

So that’s what!

Learn the 5 Ws and you will give your readers a reason to care about what you are saying.

Please keep in mind your content may not feature all 5 Ws. By no means think you’ll need to crowbar all of them in. Do make a habit of considering them when planning your next article, blog, or other website content. 

And, if you can’t do that then, please make sure you’re answering the “so what” being sent your way from my Not-quite-so-crabby voice.

Additional reading:

Need more help? Get in touch with our expert content marketing team to give your message what it’s been missing.

Jeff Doubek

About Jeff Doubek

Jeff Doubek is the Manager, UX Design and a Senior Content Strategist at Liquid Interactive. Jeff helps to produce content plans and UX strategies for client target audiences. Overseeing all content deliverables, Jeff manages all requirements across the project lifecycle and maintains strong relationships with clients to exceed expectations and goals.