In my old reporting days, I’d get laughed out of the newsroom if I wrote a lede missing at least a nod at Why, or any other W/H. It’s no different now that I help companies build marketing and communications strategies. Miss one and the story remains untold.

I was reminded of this recently during a conversation around the role and importance of analytics. The ask was to discover influencers only, rather than uncovering the context around their influence. It was Who, but not What-When-Where-Why-How.

Looking through the lens of all five W’s and the H helps us better understand influencers and how we as marketers can tap into them. It also underscores the role research plays in developing a tight, spot-on strategy.


Knowing “who” allows us to build part of an influence map. Who informs us of the players. Who puts a face on what’s being said, shared or created. Who are the most influential physicians?
What is their clinical sphere of influence? Who can give us insight into the other W’s and the H, but if we go further than that, they collectively become a hunch. With tight budgets, marketers betting on a hunch are few in number.


A deeper step. What combined with Who gives us insight into behavior, but not the underpinnings of behavior itself. What alone is merely a fact: Jane (who) ran (what). But it’s an important fact which, tied to Who, gives us direction.


Putting communications in the context of time builds relevance where a timestamp is critical to the story. Think about how a market is shaped between anticipating FDA approval and when that approval actually materializes. When matters.


In our business, Where is channel. On Facebook. On TV. In direct mail. Understanding location/destination can reveal community, but community is more than where. Community is behavior, preference, Who-What. Combining Where with When gives us a timestamp with context.


Why often is the most difficult question to answer. Why gets to the root, but almost never stands alone: Sales of a drug dropped. Why? We increased our price, or we went off-patent. Why needs its friends to get by.


How is tactical. We raised the brand’s profile. How? A combination of Paid and Earned tactics directed at the target. Ok. So that’s actually How-What-Who. Like its friends, How cannot stand alone. But without How, relevance is lost.

Next time a spreadsheet is placed in front of you, think through the 5 W’s and the H. Anything missing? If so, put on the brakes and assess. Then have a chat with your analytics and strategy friends.