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The future of content marketing post COVID 19: How to use content to lead through crisis and expand your reach

Visionary brands can help others navigate times of crisis by leading the way through their content marketing

COVID 19 has undoubtedly presented the biggest business challenge in our lifetime. Economies in turmoil, business models flipped upside down, and entire industries struggling to stay afloat.

The onset of COVID 19 forced companies around the globe to pivot their business models and adapt their marketing strategies practically overnight. In the unchartered territory of a global pandemic in the 21st century, there was no playbook for how to survive, let alone thrive. Yet, that’s exactly what many companies have done.

Forced out of their comfort zones, businesses had two options. Sink, or learn how to swim against the current of constant change. Change in the way they do business. Change in the way they interact with their team. And change in how they communicate with their customers.

Although these changes have been challenging, they also present ample opportunities for businesses to demonstrate resourcefulness, innovation, and leadership.

One way to do this is through content marketing. By sharing innovative ideas on industry challenges, showcasing their philanthropic values, and responding to the needs of the public, businesses can strengthen brand awareness and build a strong reputation for years to come.

But what does an effective content marketing strategy look like in the (post)COVID 19 era? Is content still king? How can businesses create a timely and compelling content strategy that’s appropriate for the current landscape?

Let’s start by looking at some figures for 2020.

Is content still king? What does the data say?

The latest figures show that content marketing has been one of the most resilient forms of marketing1 through the global pandemic, seeing less negative impact than paid search, social media marketing, PR and communication, and search engine optimisation.

This is not surprising, given that internet usage has soared by a further 50 – 70% since March last year2, and people are consuming more quality, long-form content than ever before.

This trend is also reflected in the Content Marketing Institute’s annual research on B2B marketing, which showed that more companies who invested in content marketing throughout the pandemic successfully achieved their content marketing goals in 2020 compared to 20193 (full report can be found here).

How to create an effective content marketing strategy in the (post)COVID 19 era

Now more than ever, content is the best communication tool for brands. With soaring internet usage, and in the absence of physical events – such as face-to-face meetings, conferences, or industry events – content marketing has become an even more important channel for staying in touch with your audience and increasing your reach.

However, due to the changing needs of your audience – or a shift in your business goals – your pre-COVID content strategy might no longer be relevant or effective. In a time of rapid change, you need an agile strategy, so you can stay responsive to current events and circumstances. Otherwise, you risk coming across as insensitive or out of touch, which could be harmful to your brand.

Bearing in mind these considerations, let’s take a look at the three steps to creating a timely and compelling content strategy that’s appropriate for the (post)COVID 19 landscape.

Step 1: Put your audience in the centre of the equation

The first step to creating an effective content strategy is defining your audience and understanding the problems they face. What’s their biggest challenge? What questions are on their mind? What are their fears and objections? How has COVID 19 changed or impacted the problems they face?

To create valuable content that responds to your audience’s needs, you first need to gain a thorough understanding of the issues they are dealing with. That way, you can create content that is relevant and engaging, and – most importantly – helps them solve problems.

Once you’ve pinpointed your audience and their problem, you can start brainstorming ways in which you can serve them. Ideally, you should attack the problem from several different angles to provide a well-rounded and genuinely useful explanation.

After thoroughly considering the needs of your audience, you can turn your attention inward and identify your organisation’s current marketing goals. Ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve with your content, and whether it aligns with your audience’s goals.

Step 2: Humanise your content

With over 7 million blog articles published online every day, it’s no surprise that many articles sound boring and repetitive. Genuine articles risk being drowned out by the white noise of content junk, and innovative companies are struggling to gain cut-through and reach.

The best way to stand out from the sea of same and carve out your niche is to humanise your content and infuse it with your brand’s personality. This helps you attract your ideal audience and connect with them on a personal level, which – in turn – makes your content more engaging and relatable.

Here are three ways in which you can humanise your content for more impact and reach:

Use storytelling to connect with your audience

Stories are the most effective tool for capturing and holding your audience’s attention and building an emotional connection with your reader.

There are lots of possible stories you can tell in your content, for example:

  • Origin stories outlining how the company started
  • Service to humanity stories showing your corporate social responsibility
  • Product stories: how the product is made; the rare ingredients or unique parts contained in the product; the product’s discovery; the product’s author, maker, or inventor; a story of someone using the product
  • Testimonial stories / customer success stories

When using storytelling in your content, make sure the story reinforces your point and is genuinely helpful for your audience.

Use your brand’s unique tone of voice.

You have a personality. So does your brand. And the way you convey your brand’s personality impacts which clients you attract and how you connect with them.

To make sure you attract your ideal client, you need to clearly communicate what sets you apart. One way to do this is through strong and coherent branding.

Your brand identity is made up of two parts. Your visual identity and your verbal identity. Ideally, these go hand in hand to show your audience who you are and what makes you special.

  • Your visual identity is how your brand looks. This includes your logo, fonts, and
    colours
  • Your verbal identity is how your brand sounds. This includes the words and tone
    you use to communicate through your writing or speech

Talking about your brand identity is one thing, but demonstrating it is another. While many brands describe their personality in a vision statement or a list of core values, few demonstrate it in their branding. Unless you can show your clients what makes you unique, you’ll struggle to stand out or connect.

To create a brand that is memorable, engaging, and trustworthy, you need to consistently convey your visual and verbal brand identity, which means using a consistent tone of voice in your content.

Infuse your content with your core values

Your company’s core values are your guiding beliefs. They determine how you think, speak, and act in all situations, and they dictate how you do business.

By infusing your content with your core values, you can attract more ideal clients who share a similar value base. In turn, this helps you connect with your audience and build a strong brand identity.

Step 3: Stay agile and responsive

In light of the constantly changing global situation, it’s a good idea to create a content strategy that’s agile and responsive to fast-paced change.

That way, you can create content that’s timely and relevant to the current needs and expectations of your audience, which – in turn – conveys your brand’s awareness and sensitivity to the global situation.

To do this well, you need to tune in and react to public sentiment by aligning your brand’s message and mission with the public’s needs. Otherwise, you risk hurting your brand’s reputation by coming across as insensitive or out of touch.

A good way to balance the benefits of a planned strategy with the need to stay responsive is to string together shorter content strategies, rather than creating a comprehensive one or multi-year plan.

For example, you might break your goals into monthly goals (rather than quarterly or yearly) and reassess your strategy every month to ensure your topics are still relevant, innovative, and genuinely helpful.

Summary

While some aspects of business (and life) will go back to normal after the pandemic ends, others will forever be changed.

Yet, it’s clear that content will continue to be a major asset for companies to showcase their ideas, innovation, and leadership, in turn strengthening brand awareness and building a strong reputation for years to come.

If you’d like to leverage content marketing for your business, we can help you put a strategy in place to share your vision and make an impact.

References

1 https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/coronavirus-agency-impact/

2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/markbeech/2020/03/25/covid-19-pushes-up-internet-use-70-streaming-more-than-12-first-figures-reveal/?sh=56da72333104

3 https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2019/10/success-differentiators-b2b-research/

Helena Merschdorf
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