Content marketing during a crisis Building blocks assembled to show the word "nimble."

Be nimble, not numb: Content marketing during a crisis

How is your company handling content marketing during a crisis?

Just over a week ago my friend Jennifer forwarded an email to me that she received from a natural beauty and wellness business. The email promoted offers that are available in-store only.

Let that sink in. A little over a week ago. In-store only.

Most Americans been asked to stay at home and practice social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Yet a business that is able to accept online orders is luring people into stores where it can be difficult to stay 6 feet apart from others.

I was shocked. Jennifer was so angry she wrote a letter and plans to stop shopping there.

Why didn’t this business pivot its marketing to make sense during the COVID-19 crisis? Why is the company actively encouraging customers to potentially endanger themselves?

The COVID-19 crisis certainly caught companies and people off guard. That’s why communications and marketing teams need to be nimble, not numb, in times of uncertainty.

Here are some tips to help you ensure you’re marketing smartly in times of crisis.

Pivot quickly to meet current buyer needs

In good news, many companies acted quickly and pivoted their marketing to make sense during COVID-19.

Groupon pivoted from featuring discounts on dining out and group classes to offering deals on things people want during a crisis, such personalized cozy blankets and new phones to help people stay in touch. It also started a “Help Save Local” campaign to support local businesses during the stay-at-home order.

Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO) also acted fast and revamped both its event and content marketing strategy.

“We took a hard look at what was planned in our editorial calendar and ‘pressed pause’ where we could to make room (and time) for COVID-19 content, particularly on our blog,” says Barbi Green, Senior Director, Brand & Content Strategy at IMO. “We tapped into the expertise of our subject matter experts to explore the story from various angles including how our coronavirus-related content can help our healthcare provider clients and how our response to the Zika virus in 2015 is informing our response to COVID-19.”

These companies and many others quickly realized they needed to shift their tone and content to meet buyer needs during the pandemic.

Review your buyer personas

What’s changed for customers? Is it what they buy? Is it how they buy? Do they need up-to-date information on how your company is handling the crisis?

Update your buyer empathy maps with all the information you can get. If you think the change in buyer needs is temporary, color code the changes so you can easily revert back when the crisis is over.

Update your Message Map

During a crisis, it’s imperative to pull out your Message Map and review it. Usually your key message, which tells your buyers what’s in it for them, will remain the same.

But does the messaging around how you meet your buyers’ needs and with what need to be modified during the crisis? Did the crisis spur new questions from your buyers that the map doesn’t currently address?

Updating your Message Map can help you quickly revise your content to inform buyers and show empathy during a crisis.

Be careful. Sometimes companies are so intent to show they care during the crisis that messaging from every company starts to sound the same. For example, how many times have you seen or heard “we’re all in this together” during the current COVID-19 crisis?

While you want to reassure your clients, you also want to differentiate yourself by being specific about what your organization is doing differently to handle the situation.

Listen to your buyers

It’s always important for marketers to listen to buyers. It’s no different, and perhaps more important, during a crisis.

Have your buyers’ questions changed because of the crisis? Do they crave new information before making a purchase? Do they have to put their purchase plans on hold due to the crisis? If so, what can you do to keep them informed so that once they can purchase, they choose you?

Several different people with question marks on their foreheads.
Does your content marketing address current buyer questions?

Unsure how to find out what your buyers want to know? My partner George Stenitzer offers several ways to discover buyer questions in this blog.

Review your content marketing strategy

Once you’ve made sure your Message Map is up to date and know what current questions your buyers have, take a look at your content marketing strategy. What changes do you need to make? Do you need to update your metrics?

Green from IMO offers these two tips:

  • Strike a balance
    Much of successful content marketing depends on thoughtful, strategic planning. Don’t abandon your editorial calendar to chase the next shiny thing. Strike the right balance between what’s timely and what’s relevant for your business and your audience.
  • Stay in your wheelhouse
    While IMO has numerous clinicians on staff, none are epidemiologists. We’ve made a conscious effort to focus on what we know, and where we can speak with authority.

Reconsider how you handle announcements

In 1997, I worked at a telecom company. We planned to announce a new offering that we thought would get a lot of media coverage.

But, the morning we issued our news release was the same morning that WorldCom announced it was acquiring MCI. That was HUGE news for our industry.

Our announcement, which would have received media coverage on almost any other day, was buried.

It was a tough meeting explaining what happened to our executives. Some of them just couldn’t understand why our announcement didn’t get any news coverage.

This was an unforeseen event, so our company couldn’t have pivoted in time.

But that’s not the case now. We know we are in the middle of a pandemic that will disrupt us for some time.

Megaphone and the words "Coming Soon"
Consider whether upcoming announcements are still relevant during a crisis.

If you have an upcoming announcement, is it still relevant? If not, can you change the messaging to make it relevant? Is it as important to your buyers during the crisis, or should you delay the announcement?

Content marketing during a crisis: Questions to Consider

These are questions to consider when making announcements during an extended crisis.

COVID-19 has disrupted our professional and personal lives. To succeed during this crisis, we must be nimble, not numb. Nimble marketers who pivot quickly will retain the attention and respect of their clients and prospects.

As for the beauty and wellness company, they lost at least one customer. No one responded to Jennifer’s email. And she continues to receive in-store offers.

For more tips on content marketing during a crisis and communications, subscribe to our blog.