How many times have you opened your inbox since the start of COVID-19 and saw another email with the subject: “We’re Here for You” from a brand you completely forgot about; then opened it up to see that it’s full of fluff and no real value? We’ve all been flooded with content from companies across channels since the start of the pandemic, and marketers have had to overcome the challenge of cutting through all of the growing noise. Using content marketing, some brands have risen to the occasion and created strong, authentic connections with their consumers; while we’ve seen the public demise of other companies “cancelled” for their tone-deaf content campaigns. What can marketers do during this turbulent time to ensure they don’t go viral for the wrong reasons?
We’ve rounded up our top Do’s and Don’ts for content marketers to keep in mind when creating & distributing COVID-related content:
Since the start of COVID-19, every business has had to re-evaluate how they position themselves and what content they are distributing. The ones that haven’t…. well, we’ve all seen the increasing “call out’s” some brands have been forced to endure. In order to ensure that this DOESN’T happen, our top tip for marketers NOT to do with their COVID-content marketing is to be self-serving. As this recent Business2Community article noted, being ego-centric and self-serving will quickly turn new + existing customers away. Take a deep dive with re-evaluating the messaging and tone you are using with your content, including copy, images and videos. It’s also important to gauge what’s resonating with this new consumer mindset, and make sure that the right content is being put out on the right platforms and channels.
Even though it seems like every week of 2020 brings a new set of challenges and obstacles for content marketers to overcome; but in the midst of an ever-changing climate, it’s also vital for brands to not go dark and stop their ad/marketing spends. Make sure to regularly communicate with your audience and provide them updates not only on what your brand is doing to help, but also provide actionable items to help your community. Now is the time to be leaning more heavily into digital channels and use content to carve out authentic relationships with both existing + potential customers – everyone is looking for advice to help guide them into this “new normal” we’re collectively experiencing, and businesses can leverage a larger impact through content marketing to cultivate stronger brand loyalty.
It’s crucial for brands to remember that when they are marketing to consumers, empathy is more important than ever. When developing a content marketing strategy, especially in this time of COVID-19, four things should be kept at the forefront of planning:
- Acknowledge the new reality – we are all dealing with a global pandemic, which has affected everyone in some capacity.
- Provide credible detailed and current information to consumers –people want to know what your brand is doing to actually help them during this current crisis.
- Regularly update communications across channels – things are changing on a daily basis, so consumers want to be kept in the loop about what’s going on.
- Be human – help customers with cancellations, refunds and customer service. This is a time to a resource for your community.
Another key element that shouldn’t be overlooked in the content marketing strategy process is attaching a “Call-to-Action” with each piece of content. Not only will this further engage audiences in the media you’re producing, but also provide benchmarks for content marketers to evaluate how impactful their content is resonating. Because of COVID-19, consumers now expect & seek out businesses providing resources through content marketing and helping them to navigate these unchartered waters.
It’s been proven time and time again that the brands who continue marketing during times of crisis come out stronger and with more consumer loyalty. Now more than ever, companies should look at leveraging content marketing strategies to connect and “be there” for their customers (both existing and potential). Why should brands focus on content marketing as the vehicle to drive this communication?
- Consumers have a genuine need RIGHT NOW for information and resources. Audiences are searching online for answers to these unprecedented challenges that they’re facing. Additionally, Kantar reported last month that 72% of consumers even EXPECT brands to be helpful in navigating their new “everyday life.”
- Limited in-person activity creates an opportunity for virtual events. In light of shelter-in-place orders in most parts of the globe, brands can reallocate “in-person” budgets to content marketing and building digital relationships. Remember that this doesn’t mean brands need to “reinvent the wheel” in order to facilitate this type of initiative; look at high-performing blog and social media content that could be translated into a virtual experience.
- As time spent online continues to increase, so does the opportunity for your brand to be misrepresented. Combat negative PR and advocacy efforts by sharing specifics on what your brand is doing to help others during COVID-19. Campaigns addressing this misinformation need to convey the right tone but amplifying this messaging with content marketing provides an opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty.
If you’re looking for COVID-content inspiration, the below brands & agencies are great examples of digital strategies for success:
The Las Vegas-based marketing + advertising agency nails all of our COVID-content “do’s” with their landing page; providing not only a statement clearly outlining their brand positioning during the pandemic, but also a regularly updated library of industry insights, media & publishing updates, as well as CDC/government news. They also have a call-to-action stagnant on the top of their website, guiding users towards their important COVID-19 updates, and actually built out their Facebook messenger capabilities to create a channel for users to contact the agency in real-time about anything crisis-related. The newest innovation, aptly named “RRobot,” is a perfect example of how companies are “meeting the moment” and being of service to people across the globe.
Brandpoint, a leading content marketing agency headquartered in Minneapolis, has done a fantastic job of weaving in thought-leadership to their COVID-content strategy. They have consistently hosted webinars and discussions around a variety of vertical-specific resources for marketers throughout the pandemic, often times involving President Scott Severson in the conversation. We love that this agency is opening the channels of communication with its senior leaders, and how their constant creation/distribution of updated content is organically asserting themselves as experts in the field.
As soon as it became clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Uber re-tooled their brand to state: “a company that moves people is asking you not to move.” While they didn’t pull back their services entirely, the ride-sharing and food delivery app created content specifically going against their original “purpose” and encouraging riders to stay home – a great example is this “Thank You for Not Riding” viral video they created & distributed across channels. They also pledged 10 million free rides for frontline workers, and UberEats has been working closely to grow local restaurant awareness. This company isn’t riding away any time soon, and we give them major kudos for their support towards the stay-at-home movement.
The chocolate titan created a COVID-specific page on their “Shared Communities” page outlining multiple touch points as to how they are reacting to the health crisis. But what we love most about this specific site is how the tone and focus is on being “Stronger Together.” Each section is rooted in caring for their various communities, providing plans of action and prevention for all members of the Hershey family. They also all include a next action for readers to click on and take them further down the user experience. While this situation certainly isn’t sweet, we greatly appreciate the sense of compassion and optimism this CPG company is working to build.
While the COVID-19 crisis isn’t going away any time soon, it presents an opportunity for companies to dig deeper with marketing initiatives and connect with consumers on an authentic, empathetic level. We’re challenging brands and businesses to use this time to level up their content marketing strategies and really meet the moment – are you ready for a digital transformation?