By Justine Arscott, Senior Marketing Manager | Content & Campaign Strategy, Refinitiv 

I took a moment the other day to review the 2020 goals I set back at the end of last year. It feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? I suspect, like me, you’ll find that your goals seem disconnected to the day-to-day reality we’ve all been living with over the last two months or more. The fact of the matter is that the COVID-19 outbreak has turned each and every marketing function on their head. Budgets have been cut, campaigns abandoned, fire-fighting mode fully engaged. 

Since the outbreak began I’ve seen some remarkable work done, both within the business I work for and from the brands and organisations I follow. From that work I’ve identified some key principles that I think are worth sharing. In many ways, and despite the daily fire-fighting, there has never been a better time to be activating digital and content marketing strategies. I hope that this article will spark some discussions on how your business can take advantage of this challenging situation.

Language: Firstly, take great care in the language you use when discussing COVID-19. The brands getting it right are focused on how they can best help their clients and their wider audience at this time. Think carefully about how your company can help, what you can offer and how to share that message in your content cross-channel. Are you able to offer a free subscription to your services for a set period of time? What about connecting up your existing CSR efforts with your brand content? Are you in a position to allow the deferral of payments or support essential workers on the frontline? 

A few brands getting it right include:

  •  Linkedin – offering 16 of their learning courses for free.
  •  Adobe – enabling distance learning globally for schools impacted by COVID-19
  •  Google – establishing a COVID-19 fund that enables all temporary staff and vendors, globally, to take paid sick leave if they have symptoms
  • Cushman & Wakefield, who have produced an extensive guide for landlords and tenants on how to safely return to the workplace. 

Community Driven Content: For those of you still looking for a prime opportunity to shift focus and bring your personas to the forefront of your content strategy, now is the time.  How is COVID-19 impacting your audience in a different way? What matters to them and what do they need right now to navigate these changes? Take this and harness it in your content development, by continuing to focus on your audience’s pain points, business challenges, and wider needs.  This will provide the hook to then eventually introduce your products and solutions.

Embed don’t duplicate: Assuming you have an existing content strategy as part of your wider marketing plans, look at how COVID-19 and the content that can be created and developed fits into these wider plans.  Yes, COVID-19 is a huge topic and will demand its own suite of content to be produced. Yes, it is dominating news cycles and will continue to do so for months into the future. But don’t think of it as separate to the work you have done to date.  The same principles and framework will still apply. 

You are still reaching out to a key audience and you are still focusing on your business goals. The pain points might differ now, but overall your COVID-19 content should be embedded rather than looked at as a separate entity.  There will be a point where we are all COVID-19’d out and ready for any other content that relates to us.  Think about how you balance COVID-19 content with your regularly scheduled and planned content, and how this aligns as part of a wider customer journey. 

*Extra Thought: There will be many more COVID-19 situations that impact wider audiences, including  election cycles, large government initiatives and, major market moving events. Think about how you will be presenting this to your audience over time – ideally not as separate stories, but as part of one bigger story on your products and solutions and how you help benefit your audience. 

Digital, Digital, Digital: As physical events were taken abruptly out of the marketing mix, now is the perfect opportunity to focus on the customer journey across your existing digital ecosystems, whether that be a blog, website, social channels, or online advertising. Think about how a user will be exploring your content – what is their overall experience and is it consistent across channel? Does it visually flow from one channel to the next, and tell a holistic story? Think about your channels, their key purposes and always ask ‘so what?’  What do you want someone to do next at each key point of their journey? Be clear about your CTA’s, and as mentioned above – embed your COVID-19 content and messaging in with the rest of your messaging for a particular audience to create a clearer user experience. 

Resourcing: More of an internal consideration, but how are you utilising your event marketing managers at this time? How could they provide a different level of value to the marketing function and content creation/development during this shift towards a more digital approach? As a previous event marketing manager myself, I can assure you we are more versed in digital marketing channels and strategy than otherwise assumed and, as marketers, are fast learners.  How can this resource be brought into the work of content strategy and delivery, and help bring this to life on digital channels instead of physical events? This could take the shape of live streaming videos or series, virtual events, webinars, podcasts, etc.  The possibilities are endless. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  I’d love to hear from others in the field, to find out what challenges and opportunities you are seeing surfaced and evolving over time.  Please feel free to reach out in the comments section.

For more on developing a global content strategy, you can view my previous blog here.