Ananda B Pandit
Pandemic Communications: Adapting Your Content Marketing Strategy During Covid-19
Six months ago, how different our lives were. A deadly virus changed the world as we know it and all things that were considered a norm are just tales from an old world that no longer exists. The name of the game is adaptability; if you don’t try to change, you no longer have any leverage to brave this new world. Yes, we had to find a way to include Aldous Huxley’s fictional book into this conversation! Things have been bad. Really, really bad. Lives lost, livelihoods impacted, the economy is in shambles and in general, 2020 has been a raging dump fire to the point that it has taken a severe toll on mental health. On a personal level, the rules are simple – wear a mask, stay home and if you really must step out, practice social distancing. So, let us turn to things we can have control over.
For businesses, it is crucial to plan, strategize and adapt to the present scenario as well as prepare for a post-pandemic world, which in our honest opinion, will be when many of the real problems start. We have all been witness to the reality that the pandemic has made many a giant player shut shop overnight. However, at the same time, there have been tiny players, who have managed to keep going despite hurdles like mandatory lockdowns, adapting to working remotely, lay-offs and what not. We won’t say this is an equaliser because it isn’t, but it is a strong tidal wave that came out of nowhere knocking us flat on our backs. The winners have so far been those that had lighter loads allowing themselves to propel forward in a slow, and steady race to profitability.
This cause for concern and panic hit us at Amber Lab too! I was getting calls from a few of our clients, requesting to go on hold during this time of uncertainty with an assurance of restarting their marketing efforts once things got back to normal. I completely understood their predicament. Budgets became tighter overnight and saving was the new name of the game. However, on checking with our other clients, many of whom opted to stay on (some with reduced ad spends), we knew that there was an immediate need to outline new goals and promptly adapt to fresh ways of achieving them. A few weeks into the new normal, I even noticed a surge in queries from new brands who wanted guidance on marketing in these uncertain times.
We needed to help our clients in three ways:
By guiding them on how to adapt their content marketing strategy.
Ensuring their brands stay relevant with and empathetic to their target audience.
By focusing efforts on long terms gains and building a loyal customer base.
Persist with content marketing plans – The knee-jerk reaction of many businesses would be to focus their ad spends (if any) solely on ROI driven campaigns. Brand awareness, video content, blogs, and any other content marketing efforts would be the first to take a back seat or even get the axe. Don’t do that. Now more than ever, content is the need of the hour. It is a long-term strategy that reaps excellent results when utilised well. Publishing blogs, sharing organic social media posts and creating relatable multimedia content builds a steady foundation for your brand by creating awareness amongst those might be potential customers. Content marketing allows you to establish a brand voice, and if executed correctly, allows the reader to build a relationship with you based on trust and good faith. Now more than ever, you have a glaring opportunity to make that effort to connect and empathize with your customer base by providing them with credible assurance and value. Show them you care about them more than doing business with them. You will be more likely to end up with a loyal customer rather than a sporadic shopper.
Emphasize on brand awareness, not sales – If your brand provides a product or service that is an essential requirement at this time, you will see sales, lots of sales. However, for those in industries that don’t provide essentials, you will in all likelihood, see a drop in sales. Do not worry, all it requires is a change in your strategy and shift in focus to creating useful, informative and empathetic content. Give your future customers a chance to get familiar with your brand and build a relationship by being trustworthy and reliable communicators. People get tired of continually receiving sales ads, especially when trying consciously to save their money. However, they will click on something that satisfies their concerns. For example, if you are a kitchen appliances brand, serve up useful cooking tutorials – like best hygiene practices for cooking in a pandemic, a list of essential spices to keep at home, recipes or specific techniques and so on. Many people who didn’t cook due to lack of interest or time, are now turning to the kitchen because they don’t have a choice or because they find it therapeutic. As a kitchenware brand, offering content that provides a value-driven solution will attract these people to your business.
Increase your content marketing budget:
As you already know, people are at home, spending a considerable amount of time online. The pandemic has made everyone adapt to new behaviours and habits such as exercising, eating healthy, learning new skills, etc. Being homebound + having time + curiosity = searching for answers and solutions online. Considering this, it would be ideal if your brand serves up useful solution-oriented content. If you were churning out three blogs a month before, consider increasing it to 6. Remember, a writer has a lot more time to create good content and readers, ie. your audience has more time to lap it up. If you are not spending money on sales campaigns, consider reinvesting that budget towards creating more content and building positive brand awareness by promoting your content marketing efforts - it will pay off in the long-term. The more content you create, the better your SEO rankings and traction through organic traffic will be. While your competitors may not be doing so, you would be using this time wisely to edge ahead of them in terms of building a loyal customer base as well as competing on Google Search algorithms.
Take stock of all the content created in the past: Changing a strategy doesn’t always mean you have to start fresh with creating content. Spend some time going through all the content you may have shared in the past. You might have so much more to play with. Old blog posts can be repurposed and used to create social media posts and stories. Video interview transcriptions with opinion pieces can be shared as blogs; the content from a podcast could be used for captions. Old brochures, leaflets, print ads and banners can also provide fresh content - options are plenty!
When writing new blogs, remember to cross-link old ones to keep your website visitors hooked. Another quick trick would be to consider updating the old blogs with new headlines that might be more apt for today’s climate. Don't make budget constraints an excuse. With a little creativity, there is a lot of content that you can repurpose and your brand does not have to go silent. It would, of course, be best if you continued to create new content, but don’t discount older work. The chances are that when an original piece of archived content was shared, you had a smaller audience, and now you might find it resonates with a bigger audience. You might even be inspired to pivot in a new direction based on what you already have sitting in front of you.
Finally, we cannot emphasize enough on how important it is to bear in mind that the content you serve up should build trust, provide assurance, offer support, be educational, engaging and entertaining. If your content can offer all of this, you will see returning customers whose loyalty will be unparalleled.
When the pandemic is finally well behind us, you will be miles ahead to your competitors. Remember, people are at home, they have a lot of free time, and spend a lot of it online. When they ask questions, your brand should have the answers they want.