Content Marketing During a Crisis

8 tips for how to navigate uncertainty

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During a crisis, people seek safety: They clamor for reassurance that the actions they’re taking are right and validation that they’re making decisions based on good, reliable information and analysis.

In other words, during a crisis, content — with its power to inform and inspire action — is more important than ever.

As the COVID-19 situation unfolds in real time, and the economic and public health implications evolve, we all want to put our time and money into communications that will matter most to our audiences. We at Imagination have seen this firsthand in recent days and weeks as we’ve worked with clients who are rethinking their carefully tuned editorial calendars and backing away from long-baked content plans.

What matters when the world feels suddenly upside down? What information should you be creating and disseminating? Here are our eight tips for creating content that will make a difference during the coronavirus crisis, and beyond.

1. Have a point of view.

The days of buzzwords and platitudes are over. You’ve been saying for years that you’re a thought leader, but are you, really? Can you offer a perspective unique to your industry or field? Time to put your money where your mouth is. Don’t wait for other organizations to decide how to respond to an unfolding crisis. Be the one shaping the agenda for your customers and beyond.

2. Project poise, not polish.

You want to be strong in the face of a crisis. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. If your organization is shackled by multiweek (or even multimonth) production cycles, now is the time to break free. If you don’t get out there, you’ll be overshadowed, and your voice will be minimized. So don’t worry about a lack of access to recording studios or the best equipment: No one expects perfection.

3. Use what you’ve got.

Not everything you publish has to be brand new and earth-shattering. Shoot for a mix of new and existing content. If you’re a business leadership organization, you probably already have useful content about running a remote workforce. If you’re a financial institution, you may have content about cash flow management for small businesses or tips for consumers when interest rates fall. Write a fresh headline and first paragraph with necessary updates, or take a few key points and turn them into a graphic — and get it out there.

4. Put a face on it.

When our staff, our clients and much of our world are hunkered down, we crave a human touch. This isn’t the time for anonymized posts. If you’re writing something, put a byline on it. When people are literally cut off from physical contact, don’t underestimate the power of a video connection. So talk to your iPhone and post the video in your social channels. Create quick-turn webinars and Facebook Live streams. We’re all hungry for connection, any way we can get it.

5. Keep business as usual — to a point.

Yes, it’s critical to address the day-by-day needs of an unfolding crisis. But that shouldn’t be all you do. Ongoing content, whether it’s a magazine, email or podcast, is a critical audience touchpoint. Don’t let it fall by the wayside. This isn’t the moment to waylay your magazine or your podcast series. You may want to adapt these regular communications to incorporate more time-sensitive material, but keep a healthy mix. It will help your audiences avoid being overwhelmed by the present and prepare for the future.

6. Home in on mindset.

Home is where everyone’s hunkered down now. There’s a good chance multigeneration family members are living and working in tight quarters: the very space they’ll be accessing your content. What will they have time to consume? On what devices? Customize your delivery to their new reality. For example, if many people in your industry are in crisis mode, write short and chunky since most won’t be able to focus on your 10,000-word thought leadership whitepaper this week — or anytime soon. But, if you know your audience is hunkered down with time on their hands because of suspended travel and canceled projects, it may be a great time to produce long-form, thoughtful content.

7. Embrace the ad hoc.

Your customers and employees who are unfamiliar with working from home are away from their comfort zones. For many people, “we can’t do that” is a reflexive response when normal infrastructure and processes disappear. Don’t shy away from getting great work out the door just because you’re away from your regular meeting rooms and recording studios. The world of remote work is becoming more sophisticated every day. If it’s new to you, pick the brains of those who have been doing it for years (call me!) and get some tricks of the trade.

8. Show empathy.

Small-business owners, service industry employees and hourly workers are losing their income, if not their jobs. For just about all of us, both the present and the future are uncomfortably uncertain. Provide quick-hitting takeaways for how and where your audiences can find help, today, next week and next month. Extend your usual channels and rethink your content plans to include longer-term content series that address the changing economic landscape. And make your experts available to your audiences to answer their questions. Don’t shy away from the vulnerability we all feel; rather, let that collective ethos inform your work. Let your audiences know we’re all in it together, and then prove it.

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