The 5 Ws of Public Relations

Woman making a public relations presentation

When gathering information for any project, it’s best to start with the core questions. When you begin with the main points, it becomes easier to build a narrative or describe an event coherently. 

The 5 Ws — what, who, where, when, and why — are fundamental questions that help find the essential pieces of information.

In countless professional fields, people use the 5 Ws as a baseline for their research. Each of the 5 Ws asks a vital question, and no story is complete if one answer is missing. 

For example, think about any article or book you’ve read and consider how the content might change if you didn’t know who was involved or where it took place.

Public relations is no different from the article or book that just came to your mind. Public relations officers nail down the most crucial factors to create a campaign that draws attention and achieves the company’s goals. They do so by asking five basic questions.

1. What

The first step in creating a successful public relations campaign is deciding what the main focus and purpose of the campaign will be. Typically, companies use public relations campaigns to influence the general public’s attitude or opinion about a product, service, or company. 

As opposed to advertising, which only aims to drive sales, public relations tries to convince the public to care about something and feel the same way the company does about it. Therefore, the campaign’s focus should be, in some way, educational about the business and its product or service. At the same time, it should find a way to captivate the public.

Drawing the public’s attention and shifting its attitude is no easy task. When deciding what the focus and purpose of the campaign will be, public relations officers must consider what will interest the public. If the message is shallow or untruthful, the public may see through it and brush the campaign aside. 

2. Who

A company has to decide who within the organization will work on the public relations campaign. Professionals with various backgrounds often work on a public relations team to appeal to the large and diverse public. They aim to reach as large an audience as possible and create positive engagement.

Though the public relations team works together on the campaign, they typically have their specific jobs to handle, including:

  • Media relations
  • Social media
  • Outreach
  • Press releases 
  • Market research
  • Crisis management
  • Event planning
  • Web content
  • Speech writing
  • Internal copywriting

When each team member stays on top of their tasks, the public relations campaign has a better chance of success. A crucial part of this is finding a healthy balance in dividing tasks and selecting the correct person or people for each job. Therefore, a campaign manager with a strong sense of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses can aid the campaign.

3. Where

Of the 5 Ws, the one that focuses most on the target audience and how to reach them is the “where.” Since much of the general public is skeptical of campaigns when the company itself advertises them, public relations teams must devise other ways to connect to their audiences. 

For example, when a campaign reaches the public through a news broadcast, blog, or social media influencer, it seems more reputable and helps the people feel connected.

When asking where the public relations campaign will reach its audience, it’s also important to consider regional and global differences. The means of reaching the public may change based on the country or region. 

Regarding social media, news media, and web media, one may be more prominent than the others in a particular part of the world or with a targeted demographic.

4. When

The next question is when the campaign will take place. Usually, the answer is over an extended period. Public relations campaigns need time to be seen and heard by as many people as possible, and a longer run time allows that.

Public relations officers work nonstop during the campaign to improve and advertise it. At any time of day, reception to the campaign or an alteration in the product or services it promotes could call for an update. The public relations team should constantly communicate with the company’s customers to ensure they remain in the loop.

We can answer the question of when the campaign will run in another way. When a company creates a new product or service, it can be the perfect time to run a campaign. As the company advertises the new product or service, the public relations campaign helps educate the people about the company itself.

5. Why

There are also a couple of ways companies ask the “Why?” The first is pondering why public relations is such an integral part of any successful organization, as companies and their employees must understand the reasons behind their work. As an answer, public relations campaigns are crucial in building valuable relationships and creating a well-received image among the public.

Another way to ask the question is to wonder why people should care about a public relations campaign or the company. The public has no reason to care if the campaign is dishonest or simply a means to increase product sales and revenue. 

If instead, the campaign aims to educate people about the business, its history, and its goods and services, the public may have a reason to be interested.

How the 5 Ws Can Help Your Business

Public relations is at the forefront of creating meaningful communication and relationships between businesses and their customers. Campaigns, when properly run, educate the public about the company in question and give people a reason to care about a particular product or service. With the 5 Ws, public relations campaigns can more easily meet their goals.

Using a method of questions to gather information and create a project is vital for any business. The 5 Ws get to the core and assess the most critical aspects of a story. Whatever your business goals may be, consider the 5 Ws as the starting point for your next big project.