The Hero, Hub, Hygiene model for content strategy

Hero Hub Hygeine

In my last post I said I’d soon be sharing some practical content strategy frameworks that can help you turn the passion that you share with your audience into content which generates clicks, views, follows and, ultimately, transactions. I mentioned it in ‘Sharing a passion creates positive action‘, but in this post I’ll delve deeper into the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model.

What is Hero, Hub, Hygiene?

YouTube came up with this model content strategy as part of their playbook for brands using the video-sharing site. The simple premise is that your campaign should consist of three types of content: Hero, Hub and Hygiene.

  • Hero content: this is your big-ticket, probably expensive-to-produce, featured content which aims to tap directly into your audience’s passions. It’s designed to be shared widely and bring new viewers to your content.
  • Hub content: this is your regularly scheduled content. It develops the shared passion between you and your audience, developing themes and driving subscriptions to your content. This is what keeps your audience coming back to your content once they’ve discovered it.
  • Hygiene content: this is helpful, informative content (YouTube has now renamed this ‘Help’ content in its most recent guides) which targets search terms that your audience might be using. It also brings new viewers to your content, but in a slower, more steady way than Hero content.

So there are two forms of content designed to bring new viewers to you (Hero and Hygiene) and one form which aims to keep viewers engaged with your content over the medium to long term (Hub content).

Of course, a model this simple isn’t anything revolutionary. As Jon Wilks and others have noted, YouTube may have named and popularised Hero, Hub, Hygiene but it’s been around as long as content marketing itself.

Hero, Hub, Hygiene in practice

Now you’re familiar with the basic concept let’s take a look at how it works in the real world. Since this is a YouTube model, and since my focus is on motion content, I’ll look to a big brand’s YouTube channel for an example. Most explanations of Hero, Hub, Hygiene focus on consumer brands but I’m going to select a non-profit with a successful YouTube strategy as my case study.

Save The Children is an international campaigning organisation which fights of the rights of children. They have one of the most successful charity YouTube channels with over 63,000 subscribers. I haven’t worked with the organisation, so I don’t know if they consciously use the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model but I’m going to analyse their video content using that framework to show how it can form the basis of a successful content marketing campaign.

Save The Children’s Hero content

The charity is large enough to be able to produce cinema-quality ads on a semi-regular basis and these form the channel’s hero content. ‘Most Shocking Second a Day Video’ is an innovative short film which shows a second a day from a year in the life of a young child whose life is plunged into chaos by the outbreak of war. Over the course of a minute and a half, a very Western-looking life full of smiles and hope comes to resemble something more like the recent plight of children escaping war-torn Syria.

The video very clearly taps into the passion which the organisation shares with its audience: concern for children who are victims of war. It articulates this passion in a shocking way by transplanting the chaos of Syria to a setting which is much more familiar to its audience, asking them to picture themselves and their own children going through the same experience. It’s presumably brought millions of new viewers to Save The Children’s content and inspired a good portion of them to text a donation to the Syria appeal.

Save The Children’s Hub content

So you’ve attracted lots of new audience members to your content with a show-stopper that went viral but unless you have more content to offer these viewers which develops on the passion you tapped into initially, they’re likely to move on swiftly. That’s where Hub content comes in.

Viewers who land upon the above video, or its sequel ‘Still the Most Shocking Second a Day’, can learn more about the plight of child refugees from Syria through videos like ‘Delivering Hope for Syria’s Children’ and ‘Syria’s Children Under Siege’, which delve deeper into specific issues, show how Save The Children is responding and suggest actions for viewers to take.

These videos keep viewers engaged, developing an initial emotional response into a narrative that demands a satisfying conclusion. To see how this narrative plays out, viewers need to subscribe to the channel or otherwise sign up for updates, like emails, from Save The Children. Either way, they are now receptive to prompts from the organisation to donate, become a supporter or take campaigning action.

Save The Children’s Hygiene content

Realising that people with a passion for protecting the rights of child refugees are already on YouTube, Save The Children has produced videos which aim to capture viewers searching for related terms. A search for ‘child refugees’ throws up five results from Save The Children on the first page, including ‘The Journey of Child Refugees’ and ‘Reality of Life as a Child Refugee’.

These videos answer specific ‘what’s it like’ type questions and so are able to jump straight into the issues, rather than trying to hook the uninitiated viewers who are the target of the campaign’s Hero videos (which also show up in this search, btw). Hopefully these ‘searchers’ will, once captured by Hygiene content, also move on to become consumers of the Hub content and remain within easy reach of the organisation’s calls to action.

Beyond YouTube

I’ve restricted my analysis to the organisation’s YouTube channel for the purposes of this post but it’s beyond doubt that Save The Children are producing lots of content that fits into this framework in many formats besides video. The point being that while Hero, Hub, Hygiene (or Help) has been popularised by video strategists it works for any kind of content.

In fact, mixing and matching content types within a strategy like this opens the door to reaching your audience (and developing your shared passions) at more of the times, in more of the situations, and on more of the devices, where they regularly consume content.

UPDATE: We were recently asked to create a content strategy for Unicef UK, and used Hero, Hub, Hygiene to help them translate their core stories into engaging content for their key audiences.


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  1. […] per YouTube qualche anno fa. Halt me lo sono inventato io per mantenere le tre H. Ma del resto Google prima di Help aveva pensato a Hygiene — e no, non sto […]

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