Stepping up to better communication with the 7 Ws

Isn’t it that all-important first impression and great communication skills that can make you so much more effective in business – and life in general?



We communication specialists think we know all about presentation skills, stakeholder maps, inter-cultural communication do’s and don’ts and creating great communication plans for each project that comes our way.

Having these skills in-house is our bread and butter.

And yet ...

How many times do we catch ourselves sending out purposeless communications into corporate oblivion, realising shortly after that they have only added to the noise our communication was actually supposed to cut through?

As trusted advisors to business and senior leaders we know what the ideal framework for any communication is. And yet, how many times do we apply that?

Don’t let your name become associated with timewasting communication. This will lessen the chance for you to make an impact when you finally do have something important to share. 

It’s good to refresh your fundamental techniques from time to time and check whether you can be confident that your communication will do its job.

Stepping up

This is what my training programme Stepping Up To Better Communication is about. The trademark of Stepping Up To Better Communication is a structured approach to ensure messaging and delivery are optimally aligned for effectiveness. The approach is called the 7 Ws.

It works under the assumption that there is a huge difference between simply broadcasting your message and doing so in a way that gets results.

The 7 Ws didactically lead participants towards ensuring that every aspect of their communication aligns with their audiences’ trigger points, which will eventually stir them into action. And that’s the essence of every communication effort, isn’t it?

"If you can’t identify a valid 'Why' for your communication it’s better to keep silent"

The 7 Ws dance through every step of effective communication planning, reflecting on the seven pivotal questions to ask before jumping into action-mode.

Considering the Why, Who, What, How, by Whom, When & Where and How it Went of every communication you initiate will give you the most useful level of understanding of how to answer all of these seven questions.

From emails and newsletters to presentations and sales and marketing efforts, following the seven-step plan is the key to generating the impact you desire.

The 7 Ws

Why are you doing this?

If you can’t identify a valid “Why” for your communication it’s better to keep silent. Starting with the Why means establishing the purpose of your communication – before you even enter the first sentences into your presentation software.

Who will receive your communication?

One size fits all does not work. Identify your audience and divide it up into the smallest possible target groups. A useful set of templates helps you map your stakeholders and defining what their relevance is to what you want to achieve.

But it does not stop there. This section of the 7 Ws also addresses a communicator’s soft skills set, such as generous listening or giving constructive feedback. The Who also relates to the ability to provide a concise 60-second pitch; that all-important first impression again.

What do you need to say?

Can you tell what the one thing is you want your audience to take away from your communication? Or do you ramble on the subject matter without a thought as to how well your key messages will be remembered? It is important to formulate and express the one key message that is at the very heart of your communication.

How will you deliver your message?

This begins with the most fundamental considerations about which channels and tools are most appropriate for your communication situation. You must consider which of your options will make the right kind of impact. Creating impactful presentations, giving engaging presentations, composing emails that get read, using social media tools effectively, and organising memorable events are all essential ingredients to the How of communications.

By Whom is your communication sent?

[email protected] does not establish any connection with your stakeholders. It is best to assign an accessible human contact for your communication. Who can recipients respond to with questions, answers or comments? The following anecdote nicely depicts the dangers of not appearing personally in your communications.

"There once were four people named
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody
was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when
Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”


When and Where will you bring your communication to life?

Avoid an overhasty mix of unaligned actions – and put the 7 Ws to work. It’s all about orchestration. Time your communication activities right, for everybody, and match it with different geographic routines – and you can get the most out of your communication plan.

Location and timing says something about your communication intent, and checking for appropriate timing and location relevance pays off.

How it Went

What gets measured gets done. Often the forgotten step in communication planning is perhaps the most important. How else can you possibly find out whether your objectives were met? This leads back to the Why, and thus the beginning of each new communication campaign.

Defining how success will be measured and putting it on paper builds the strongest business case and most effective argumentation for funding you can imagine.

A chance to learn

If you want to learn more about how you can implement the 7 Ws into your life as a communication professional, then the Stepping Up To Better Communication training programme is available to you. The next danibu training takes place on 27 November 2015. For the training flyer and more details, check


Dani Buijtenhek

Dani Buijtenhek is founder and owner of danibu, an international communication consultancy based in the Netherlands. She has 18 years’ experience managing international communication initiatives with some of the world’s leading brands, such as Roche, DSM, adidas and Danone. danibu helps companies of all sizes and individuals get the best out of each other through communicating more effectively.