Why Covid-19 has taught content marketers the importance of going back to basics

A former journalist and features writer, Carrie made the move into digital marketing six years ago and has since gone on to create compelling content for some of the UK’s leading brands. Head of content at The Bigger Boat, Carrie manages the company’s content marketing offering, using her lifelong passion for the written word to pen brands’ stories and build out effective content strategies to help meet clients’ business objectives.

Covid-19 has changed the way in which the world works and, like every other industry, marketing found itself in turmoil in March 2020. As consumer priorities and behaviours dramatically altered, marketing strategies naturally had to fall in line or by the wayside.

Brands navigated forward carefully, questioning whether they should pivot strategy for the climate or even continue marketing at all. Although many campaigns were inevitably scrapped after months of hard work, the answer always was that brands should never go quiet on their customers – certainly not during a period of such uncertainty. Marketing should cautiously carry on.

That said, while the goalposts of the marketing landscape may have been moved slightly, the key principles of content marketing remained the same. And as many now consider the learnings of 2020, instead what teams should take from a tumultuous year is that they need to go back to basics and remind themselves of what’s inherent as content marketers. Nothing has changed in that respect. They simply needed to do more of what’s fundamental in reaching out to audiences and building meaningful relationships.

Provide content of real value

Overarching business objectives tied to content output may be to drive conversions but to be effective, marketers really must look deeper than this – and much more short term. Audiences see straight through self-serving content that’s written for the purpose of clinching their purchase. Instead, content that answers their questions, provides solutions to their pain points and is in tune with their needs builds relationships. For this reason, that laser focus on a brand’s target audience has never been more vital.

Many brands successfully pivoted their content strategies during lockdown to add real value when it came to answering their customers’ everyday problems – becoming a go-to resource. Pizza Express, for example, switched content focus to offer parents inspiration for fun games and activities at home, while Joe Wicks’ almost-overnight online PE teaching success was solely down to his ability to read his audience and provide uplifting content to improve health and mindsets.

Empathy and authenticity to earn trust

In times of crisis, honest and human-centric messaging fosters a sense of community and can only improve and strengthen customer relations. It should encompass messaging that relates to how the audience is feeling. In other words, marketing by its very nature is empathetic.

Good content marketers ensure this type of comms courses through the veins of every piece of published content. It’s the reason brands create content – to be there for customers.

But, before that, it’s important to step into a consumer’s shoes to understand their feelings, wants, needs and grievances. At the height of the pandemic, content marketers simply had to continue to do what they do best and leading with empathy was a sure-fire way to get on people’s radars. But this is the way to nurture great connections, regardless of the climate.

Understand the importance of flexibility

It’s taken a global crisis to remind content marketers of the crucial need for agility and flexibility within strategies. In the last year, there’s been a seismic shift in consumer behaviour and it meant that pre-Covid-19 plans and comms were no longer relevant. Plan B was needed – urgently. It’s impossible to plan for the unexpected in every scenario, of course, but to not adapt quickly (and with confidence) may turn out to be detrimental to a business’ reputation.

From here on in, it’s a wise move to remember that no content strategy or comms plan can be considered ‘final’. Content marketers keep their finger on the pulse of industry news and updates and are alert to events affecting the world – but the ability to quickly pivot existing content and reassess relevance of planned campaigns in these times is crucial.

Content marketing is fantastic for showcasing businesses as the thought leaders they are and ensuring they emerge as a reliable, authoritative resource. But whether brands are in crisis management mode or not, ultimately, it’s not about them. It’s about meeting the needs of customers and helping to address their problems.

Careful reflection and planning, audience insight and flexibility will help teams to delicately navigate unforeseen circumstances – but this isn’t a new learning. Simply put, it’s what content marketing is.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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