Marketing Content Under COVID-19 Quarantine
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“I had a content marketing plan and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now what?”
If you’ve had a similar thought, then you sound like many of our clients, and we are here to help you figure out your next moves for content marketing under COVID-19. The good news is that just because you are under quarantine, it doesn’t mean your content has to be isolated from the world! Nevertheless, we’ve seen how the current crisis has required businesses to shift their approaches to content marketing. Through the conversations we’ve had with our clients, as well as our internal discussions around our own content, we’ve come to a few conclusions we’d like to share.
Find Your Fit: It’s Not One-Size-Fits-All
We’d like to be able to offer you “the” solution to content marketing right now, but the right answer for you and your company depends upon business-specific criteria, such as industry, size, and audience. You need to look through the lens of the specifics you’re facing and shift your content plan toward a goal that makes sense for you in the current context.
For example, different approaches for content marketing under COVID-19 are needed for a business that is temporarily shut down (e.g., a hair salon) versus one that’s merely slowed down (e.g., a restaurant offering take-out) versus an organization that’s operating as close to “business as usual” as possible.
Give Coronavirus the Appropriate Amount of Attention
Companies and marketers, understandably, feel obligated to publish “coronacontent” to their channels. How much and how often you should include details about the virus in your content depends on your business specifics. An online business owner, whose processes aren’t impacted by social distancing (as isolation may even be her norm!) might only need to acknowledge the situation and its impact on their audience. Brick-and-mortar businesses need to delve further into how the pandemic is affecting their processes, their operating hours, and their delivery timelines, as well as the steps they’re taking to keep their employees and customers safe.
On the whole, the amount of time and attention you devote to the pandemic in your content should be correlated with the magnitude of its effect on your business. The current circumstances can’t be ignored, but you also don’t have to dwell on them if it doesn’t make sense for your business. Because everyone is writing about COVID-19, it can feel like “the thing to do” [this blog entry is a case in point!], but you certainly don’t have to talk about it ad nauseam. At the very least, don’t write about it just to write about it. Unless you have something new to add to the conversation and it’s relevant to your business operations, “less is more” should be your approach to content marketing under COVID-19.
TIP: If you’re afraid you’ll appear to be clueless or insensitive if you aren’t constantly talking about the virus – but it’s not constantly relevant to your business – consider putting a sitewide notice on your site to acknowledge the situation and how it’s affecting your business or audience.
Publish on Your Routine Schedule
From what we’ve seen, some businesses want to escalate their content, some want to ease up a bit, and some want to virtually halt content publishing (e.g., “It feels icky to be marketing when [so many are sick; when other businesses had to close; unemployment is so high].”). We don’t want to say that all of these approaches are “wrong,” and that “business as usual” when it comes to content is the only way to go. (Because nothing is “as usual” right now – no matter how many times you hear “the new normal”!) However, we believe that sticking to your regular publishing schedule is the way to go. Hear us out!
For one, it’s potentially reassuring to your audience when you continue to show up consistently and in the places they are used to seeing you. Plus, it can show your audience that you still care about them, even if you’re not currently serving them. Also, even if it’s not critical right now for people to find your business online (e.g., your business is temporarily closed), it will be important for people to find you in the future. And the content you produce now builds up the coveted SEO that will drive traffic to your website when you’re back in business. Finally – if nothing else – it might give you and your company some sense of “normalcy” to continue to engage with your audience on your ongoing schedule!
Focus on Your Audience’s Needs and on Offering Value
During any sales transaction, the buyer is exchanging funds for some type of change they desire. That is, every marketing effort, every sale is about solving a problem for your audience. And right now, the whole world is facing problems we’ve never experienced before. Some of these challenges apply to everyone (How’s your inventory of TP?), whereas others apply to specific conditions (Do you think it’s harder to work from home with toddlers or teenagers?). If you have the expertise to help people with their problems right now, you should share it with them. In fact, we’d argue that you’re obligated to share it in your content marketing during COVID-19. People need solutions right now!
But the key is offering the solutions, the value people need. Don’t push content just to push content. When creating and publishing content, as yourself:
- Where’s the value in this to my audience?
- Will this help my customers and how is this helpful?
- What information or resources do people need now?
- What problem does this piece of content solve?
“Most consumers don’t mind hearing from brands as long as it is a solution,
where we are not trying to sell something, but we are trying to solve something.”
~ Kelly Fredrickson, CEO of MullenLowe
In addition, develop a feedback loop with your audience to learn directly from them what they need. This could be a survey you send your email list or a question you ask on your social media channels. Alternatively, it might simply be putting “your ear to the ground” and paying super-close attention to engagement (or lack thereof) on your content.
Now, we said above not to push content just to push content, but to be sure it provides value. Just keep in mind that value comes in many forms, including information and education, but also inspiration and entertainment. Offer different types of value, but if you want to share content that will simply make people smile, go for it! We all need that right now.
Don’t Schedule Content Too Far Ahead – But DO Plan Ahead
Before we say more, if you have content you dropped into an automated scheduler like HootSuite a while back, double-check it to ensure it’s not now irrelevant (things are changing fast) or insensitive in some way. This includes any automated email sequences you have set up. Language we take for granted under normal circumstances might strike the wrong chord right now. For example, we’d think nothing of email subject lines like, “I’ve been dying to tell you my news,” or “How to survive your next job interview.” But right now, even the figurative use of words even remotely related to life and death are best avoided.
Okay, back to the future….of your upcoming content.
We’re big fans of batch producing content. It’s less time consuming and requires less brainpower to, say, hammer out a month’s worth of social media posts over one afternoon than to prepare them just a few at a time. But as the situation is changing so rapidly, you want to be able to assess and adjust a bit more on the fly. For example, we share #MotivationMonday posts on our social channels. Although we have tons of ideas banked, we only prepared posts for the next two Mondays, gearing them toward the challenges we’re facing at this moment. Three weeks from now, something might change in a way that makes life less challenging, and we’d want to shift the focus more toward hope or even excitement. Be agile with your creation and scheduling so that you don’t waste time creating content that becomes irrelevant as things change.
Think: Future Needs
At the same time, start thinking ahead about what kinds of content you may want to be producing in the near and more distant future. Consider the probable circumstances your audience will be facing in two months, in six months, as a year from now. What will your audience need when we get there? What’s the next set of challenges your audience will be facing? What problems are likely to crop up for them where you can provide a solution? What kind of content marketing will help post-COVID-19 crisis?
Don’t create anything just yet but come up with and capture some ideas. Thinking about it now will prime your brain to be ready to respond to your audience’s needs when the time comes.
Wrapping It All Up
We hope this article helped you to think about how you can make your content marketing strategy work during the COVID-19 crisis and that it encouraged you to proceed (with care) with your efforts. As a final note, we’d add that – as always – it’s important to be as authentic and transparent as possible, but you don’t have to share everything. For example, if you’re in a holding pattern with your business and not seeking new clients – as you juggle working and homeschooling – you don’t have to share that with your audience. As you navigate content marketing during the COVID-19 lockdown, share only what you are comfortable with within what’s relevant to your business.