Content Marketing in the Age of COVID

I am writing this post as we are now about six weeks into a pandemic like we’ve never experienced in our lifetimes. People around the globe have added words and phrases (social distancing) to their vocabulary and changed their behaviors (work from home) in ways they never had imagined at the start of 2020. So what does it all mean for business? For marketing? And specifically content marketing?

While we are all operating at a distance, content marketing is no less important and is, in fact, perhaps even more important than ever. Marketers are struggling to strike the right balance between sensitivity to the crisis we’re in and trying to maintain their businesses.

Should we be marketing as we had planned right now? Can we afford it? Can we afford not to? What is appropriate to say in these difficult times?

It’s not an easy line to walk, as you’ve surely seen from the deluge of email messages early on from brands letting customers know what they were doing followed by silence on social media from some brands and business as usual from others. It is important, essential really, that we walk this line. Driving business forward as much as possible can help us all return to normal more quickly rather than halting everything and sinking farther and farther into recession or depression. However, we must and desire to acknowledge the suffering and anxiety many families feel as they worry about illness and income as well.

Here’s where content marketing comes in. Content marketing exists to tell a story and to build relationships, increase engagement and strengthen connections between brands and their customers. We need connection and engagement more than ever. We need brands to be authentic and honest. We need them to tell us where they see their place in the world. How are they making it and our lives better? Do they exist to do more than just sell a product?

Brands should invest now in building a content library that feeds its funnel from brand awareness to ultimate purchase decision. Sales might be slower at the moment, but many businesses are still operating and there will be some amount of pent up demand as the economy reopens. Additionally, this unexpected crisis has revealed many holes in companies’ resiliency planning, so now they are: 

  • Looking for new solutions to problems they might not have had or thought about just weeks ago (think about video conferencing and Zoom’s overnight success)
  • Using extra time they may have currently to evaluate their options for future purchases
  • Reimagining the way they will do business in the future and understanding what tools they might need to implement those changes

A brand’s content library should include a robust mix of:

  • Pieces that showcase thought leadership through blog posts, white papers, ebooks and more
  • Demonstrations of products, services and solutions such as introductory and how-to videos as well as thoughtfully curated user generated content
  • E-newsletters that keep customers and prospects connected to the brand
  • Pieces that highlight its connection to its community and the world—the ways it is giving back to society, supporting and/or empowering its employees or impacting the environment in positive ways. I think this type of content is more critical than ever before. Brands that will survive must have a personality that inspires and comforts people and makes them feel good about aligning with the brand through their purchases.

Content marketing is right for both global companies and small businesses. A hairstylist making videos to help her customers when they can’t come into the salon or preschools sending daily e-newsletters with ideas to help busy parents manage the sudden and stressful reality of working from home while caring for children are great examples of content that works!

Long-term, as life slowly progresses to our new normal, content marketing will remain an important tool for marketers in all industries to embrace. They will need it to convey their value to their target audiences. Face-to-face events will come back, but slowly and perhaps different than they once were—smaller and more focused on niche markets or geographic areas. Money will be spent on traditional advertising, but splashy messaging only makes sense when backed by solid, meaningful content. 

No one expected this. And our new reality is not yet established. We don’t know what opening the economy back up will look like, but as we shape the future, those brands that invest in content marketing now will be in a strong position to rebuild as b-to-b and b-to-c consumers come back into the fold.

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