Communication Basics: The 5 Ws + How

Who else remembers the 5 W’s? Who, what, when, where, why (and how) are important elements of communication because they cover all the basics your audience needs to know. No good story is complete without them. Likewise, no piece of marketing … including your social media posts is complete without them.┬á

I’m going to break down these communication basics and help you incorporate them into your marketing strategy. So, let’s get started.

Start With Why

The best brands always start with why. As you go through the list below, always keep asking yourself “why does this matter?” People crave connection. Why is the connection to your audience.


What is the worst response my seven year old gives me when I call her name…but I digress. In marketing, what is a fundamental question to answer. And it has two parts.

First, you need to answer what YOU are trying to accomplish. 

Maybe you’re writing a blog post or creating an Instagram post. Why? Do you want to sell more CSA shares? Or get people to visit you at the farmers’ market? Are you trying to drive traffic to your website? Or just stay engaged with your audience online? Before you start,┬áknow what and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Next, explain the what to your customer.

On social media, this is a combination of visuals and written text. If your goal is to get people to visit you at the farmers’ market, you might post a picture of what you’ll have that week. Or, you might post a photo of yourself harvesting in the field. Use the caption to explain what they’re looking at. What also tells the customer what you want them to do.

For example: “Harvesting spinach for Saturday’s market. Come visit us from 9am to 1pm….” Here, you’re explaining what you’re doing and what you want them to do.


From the marketer’s perspective, when is an important question to answer. When should I publish this blog post or when should I post this photo on social media?┬á

When I interviewed David Hancock of Hancock Family Farms in La Plata, Maryland, he very wisely told me that he’s strategic with his content marketing. David’s farm market is open on Saturdays. He said that on Mondays he tries to just talk about what’s happening on the farm, whereas on Fridays, he focuses on what product he has to sell over the weekend.┬á

Be strategic with the timing of your communication. 

From the customer’s perspective, when equates to a call to action.

In the example above, we were talking about the photo of your harvesting spinach. The caption reads, “Harvesting spinach for this Saturday’s market. Come visit us from 9 am to 1 pm…” You’ve told them when to come buy your freshly harvested spinach.


Again starting from the marketing perspective, where answers where you’re putting the content. Is it on your website? Your social media? Both? Not all messages are right for all places. A long form article about your farm history makes more sense for your website while a short post about what’s in season now can go on your blog or be made even shorter for social media.

The customer needs to know where they can connect with you (if that’s what you’re trying to get them to do.)

Continuing with our example above, we can add a where into the caption:┬á“Harvesting spinach for Saturday’s market. Come visit us from 9 am to 1 pm at the Main Street Farmers Market in Our Home Town.” You’re telling them where to buy your spinach.


Ok, this seems like a basic question. In most of your marketing, you’re talking about yourself or your business. But, you might have occasions when you’re introducing your audience to a partner or a member of your team. You might also be introducing them to animals on the farm.

Again, I emphasize that people crave connection.

When you communicate the who, you’re helping your audience form a stronger connection with you and the people behind your brand.

You can also use who to help you define your audience. No, your audience is not everyone. If you’re trying to reach everyone, you will dilute your message and you won’t be as effective. Be specific in the audience you’re trying to reach. Some posts might be for foodies while other posts are for aspiring farmers. Each audience connects with a different type of message.┬á

Revisiting our example, we have a who built in already. The photo is of you harvesting spinach. You’re also asking “them” to visit “you” at the market. You’ve also defined a “who” by adding the location. Your potential customers (for this post) are the ones who are in the area of the Main Street Farmers’ Market and able to visit on Saturday.


How tells someone how to connect with you. If you’re trying to sell product, it’s how to buy it. If you’re trying to engage the audience, maybe you’re asking them to leave a comment (that’s how they engage.)

The example we’ve been using tells the audience how they can get your freshly harvested spinach: by visiting the farmers’ market.


To recap, all of your marketing — whether it’s in a brochure, on your blog, or on social media needs to include the 5 W’s plus How.

  1. Start with Why. Always know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And let your customer know why they should engage with your brand. What’s your value beyond the product or service? Incorporate this into everything you do.
  2. Answer What. What do you want the customer to do? 
  3. Define When. Be strategic and specific with your timing. 
  4. Identify Where. Know where you’re publishing your content. And also tell the customer where they can connect with you.
  5. Know Who. Also be specific with your audience. Know who you’re trying to reach.┬á
  6. How Now. Ok, I just wanted to write “how now.” But how is important because your audience needs to engage with you.

Now get out there and make some great content! 

What other marketing questions do you have? What are some of your challenges? I want to hear from you. Reach out to me by email or on Facebook and Instagram.


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