How to get content marketing right during the coronavirus outbreak

Now that so many people are staying at home, there may never have been such a large and hungry audience for digital media.

There’s certainly an irony to this. While the coronavirus crisis has confined more people inside who are consuming more content than ever, for marketers, it has undoubtedly caused stress over what kind of content should be created and shared. Brands are finding it difficult distinguishing between what they want to say (or what they would be saying were things back to ‘normal’) and what their audiences need to hear from them at a time like this.

With the nuances of brand voice more delicate than ever, big-name brands have already found themselves on either the right and the wrong side of content creation. So, given the current situation, what does it take to get content right?

  1. Acknowledge the coronavirus outbreak

One of the worst things that brands can do at a time like this is to not do anything at all. As recent Censuswide research shows, ignoring coronavirus may damage brand trust. Almost half (48%) of respondents stated that they would lose trust in a company if they were to neglect what was happening.

Interestingly, this decline in trust was less prominent in the 16-24 age group, with 37% of 16-24-year olds stating that they would trust the brand less in comparison to 56% of the 55+ year olds. Perhaps most shockingly, a quarter (25%) of Brits would go as far as boycotting a brand if they were to ignore the current climate.

Put differently – while not talking about coronavirus might seem like the ‘safe’ content option, in many ways, it’s one of the riskiest strategies a brand can take.

  1. Be helpful

Brand content shouldn’t attempt to step into the shoes of the NHS or the WHO in providing health solutions or recommendations. Nevertheless, marketers and content marketers shouldn’t be scared to talk about customers and business in the age of coronavirus. Focus on what you know, and how it has been affected by the current climate.

Unlike advertising, the advantage of content marketing has always been the fact that isn’t overtly promotional. It’s one of the few toolkits at marketers’ disposal that allow brands to become storytellers and, eventually, trusted advisers.

Customers and prospects are looking for content that amuses, motivates, informs, analyses, and ultimately, helps them. That still rings true, especially in the age of coronavirus. 

  1. Present with empathy, but be authentic and don’t go overboard

People from all walks of life have been put under emotional and mental pressure because of coronavirus: key workers are worried about their exposure to the virus; those with elderly family members are worried about their relatives’ health and wellbeing; people living alone are worried about living in isolation; parents are worried about educating their children.

Insofar as almost everyone is feeling anxious right now, a degree of empathy in content is critical. Content needs to show humility in the face of a force larger than all of us. It needs to recognise, at least in some small way, that all of us are suffering.

That being said, empathy needs to be genuine. There is a sensible limit. Empathetic content becomes wearing and insincere when it’s forced on people and taken to an extreme.

Many readers will understand this first-hand. In the last couple of weeks alone, the team here at Resonance has been swamped by brands sending emails on coronavirus. Businesses are suddenly getting in touch, seemingly out of nowhere, expressing concern for our wellbeing. The good intention is there, but it can feel forced and insincere.

  1. Don’t shy away from ‘ordinary’ content

People are consuming plenty of coronavirus content, and that’s to be expected – but they’re also reading, listening, and watching a much greater volume of other kinds of content too.

The world of B2B tech is no exception. Industry news and industry content is being consumed at record levels. On some technology news sites, visitors are almost doubling. And as Resonance’s own research shows, these tech trade publications are still focused primarily on their typical news outputs, and not on coronavirus-specific content.

In other words, while there’s room for content on coronavirus if it takes the right tone, cadence, and if it’s authentic, don’t neglect ‘ordinary’ content and channels. Ultimately, a balance needs to be struck, and you must consider what you want your brand to be known for long term.

  1. Be positive

There’s a constant stream of coronavirus news and content on our screens – much of it is negative. Hospitalisations are up. Deaths are up. The ‘peak’ hasn’t yet been reached.

It feels almost endless. It’s emotionally draining, and people need a break. The WHO is now recommending that people limit the amount of time they spend reading or watching things that are negatively affecting their mental health.

Brand content should reflect this need. As Censuswide research shows, almost 7 in 10 (68%) Brits deem the release of positive news from brands as very or somewhat important. Positivity, more than anything else, is what people need right now.

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