A Case for the Why

October 15, 2019

// By Ross K. Goldberg //

Ross K. Goldberg is president of Kevin/Ross Public RelationsMany of the people practicing health care public relations or marketing communications owe their educational roots to journalism school where they were taught, in no uncertain terms, that the elements of a good story are found in the five W’s. Who, what, where, when, and why became the Bible for everything from crafting a compelling press release to developing collateral copy, to today, when fashioning content for the web is the backbone for many communication programs.

While the five W’s continue to resonate, all W’s are not created equal, and in truth the prioritization of these W’s continues to be sadly misplaced. That’s because most communication is built around the WHAT — what is taking place. But after more than four decades in the field, I have become increasingly convinced that the real story has been hijacked and the most interesting news lurks deep within the WHY.

  • Why is a merger taking place?
  • Why is a new building being constructed or a satellite location being opened?
  • Why is a hospital contemplating starting its own health plan?
  • Why has a payer contract been terminated?

More than simply interesting, it is unmistakably the WHY that is driving strategic thinking and strategic planning. Or put more directly, the WHY is the strategy while the WHAT is the tactic.

It is the WHY that provides a window into the character of an organization. And if we are going to be successful in our communications and in building trust among our various stakeholders — employees, patients, donors, physicians, the media, and others — it is time for health care communicators to cut the umbilical cord that ties them to the WHAT and change the emphasis of their messaging to the WHY.


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