COVID-19 didn’t just capture the global spotlight – it became the global spotlight.
With economies in turmoil, businesses shut down, and a general sense of uncertainty, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting further and further away.
The good news (which seems to be in short supply these days), is that chaos always presents opportunities – in some form or another.
Every generation that has ever lived has faced times of mass chaos – in some place or another. Each time, it tests humans on a personal, emotional, and professional level. And each time, the most resilient and innovative rise to the top.
Content marketing is how today’s brands can do just that.
Content Marketing Is How Brands Become Leaders
Ok, so before we dive into this, I want to make one thing clear: sales-focused content marketing is not going to thrive in a lot of industries right now.
In the United States, unemployment is higher than it has ever been in history. Now is not the time for many to push sales-oriented campaigns.
It’s no secret that there’s a general sense of fear looming over humankind right now – both personally and professionally. Businesses across the board are experiencing nose dives in revenue – and left to pray for a miracle. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of brands simply shut down their marketing efforts and go into hibernation.
This is the wrong move!
Now is the time when brands need to focus on themselves and showcase leadership in the field. Things will go back to normal – or a new type of normal. When this happens, brands should have some momentum built up.
Take Ahrefs for example.
During the COVID-19 crisis, they decided to offer their “Blogging for Business” course for free. This is normally an $800 course! While they are missing out on good revenue in the short term, the long-term impact of this will likely be huge.
Think about it.
Blogging for Business is nearly five hours of branded, expert-level interactive content. As it’s being offered for free, marketers across the industry are going to take it. In the process, they will become familiar with Ahrefs’ program, learn valuable skills, and build up a monumental amount of trust.
When this whole thing is all said and done, who do you think those marketers will turn to for an SEO software?
This is content marketing at its absolute finest!
How can you use content marketing to add value to your industry as a whole?
What is The Outlook Per Industry?
On the surface, the current outlook for businesses is looking pretty bleak for most industries.
Neil Patel recently published a post on how COVID-19 is impacting organic traffic growth/decline across multiple industries. Here’s what we’re looking at:
He also provided a chart related to conversions across these same industries.
If you take this at face value, yes, it’s scary as hell (unless you’re in food, healthcare, pharma, or media)!
According to Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, “We’re seeing revenue down 75% plus, probably I suspect nearing a 90% decline in the United States. And obviously, at those levels there just isn’t any business in hotels.” Sorenson recently suspended his salary for a year.
It’s easy to look at these numbers/news stories and see the glass half empty. I get it. In the short term, things are looking bad – there’s no denying this.
But this doesn’t mean the long term needs to look bad.
Most businesses are going to experience a fair amount of hardship in the next few months. When we look back on this crisis (in however long), we’re going to see a list of brands that did a lot of great things when the chips were down.
Content marketing is how brands set themselves up for the long term – both in times of pandemic and not.
Tactics Will More Than Likely Require Some Change
COVID-19 is forcing consumers to change their habits – which is forcing companies in all industries to rework their marketing approaches. As significantly more people are stuck in their homes, we’re seeing business models like DoorDash, UberEats, Instacart, and Amazon experience massive spikes in demand.
Other businesses have two choices: adapt or be left in the dust.
Before COVID-19, everyday life involved going to work, school, the gym, the grocery store, malls, restaurants, movies, etc. These days, consumers are adapting to working, shopping, exercising, and more in isolation. Digital experiences have abruptly replaced in-person experiences.
Once the crisis passes, some things will go back to normal. But many things will be forever different. The brands that will come out on top are vigorously preparing to meet a new set of demands. No matter the medium – whether it’s email, video, sales copy, blog posts, etc. – the underlying approach will likely need to shift.
Now, finding new ways to reach customers with marketing during an economic crisis is definitely nothing new.
Let’s go back to the Great Depression.
After the crash of 1929, Proctor & Gamble – along with most companies – were looking down the barrel of serious financial hardship. Many of P&G’s competitors were cutting advertising and essentially going dark.
Instead of retreating into the shadows, the marketing brass at P&G decided to completely change their playbook.
As many people were laid off and spending significantly more time at home, P&G started sponsoring radio broadcasts – which were relatively new at the time – with messaging to promote the basic necessity, soap. The shows they sponsored were primarily geared to families and homemakers.
This bold (and risky) move ended up paying off big time! When it was all said and done, P&G came out of the Great Depression in much better shape than before! In fact, this was the origin of the term “soap opera”.
Once COVID-19 is (finally) in the rearview mirror, the biggest shift in content marketing is going to see a new emphasis on digital experiences. The name of the game will be delivering real-time connections – with bigger importance on meeting consumers where they are.
Gyms across the world are currently doing amazing things to cater to the stuck-at-home population. For example, Planet Fitness is offering free “work-ins” on Facebook Live every evening.
They’ve even partnered with big-name athletes – like New England Patriots’ star receiver Julian Edelman – to conduct these work-ins.
COVID-19 is ushering in a fascinating new era of content marketing. After a mass crisis, fortune tends to favor the bold and adventurous – while leaving the ones that fail to adapt behind. Which category will you fall in?
Opportunities Are There – Can You Find Them?
As is the common theme with this post.
The most important thing brands need to understand now is that opportunities are out there – no matter what industry you are in. Content marketers are only limited by their own creativity.
The common thread we’re seeing in content marketing strategies boils down to a single message: “We’re all in this together.”
From a creative standpoint, how brands present this message in their marketing varies based on products, service, values, goals, and more. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?
The Boy Scouts:
In addition to clever copywriting, imagery, and so on, there are all sorts of opportunities to showcase philanthropic values and make a lasting impact.
I’m going to give you another history lesson.
During World War 2, luxury clothing brand Marks & Spencer did a lot of amazing things for the greater good during the England bombings. As people’s homes and businesses (including 16 M&S stores) were getting destroyed, the company made a huge effort to produce ration clothing, take part in fire watching, open soup kitchens, and help care for wounded soldiers.
Basically, M&S was there for the people in a time of desperate need – and people remembered it. The company saw massive growth in the decades following the war, with a lot of admiration stemming from their efforts during the bombings.
Here are a few brands currently taking this approach in COVID-19:
Keen Footwear – Gifting up to 100K free shoes to workers on the front lines of the crisis.
Christina Karin, Chicago-based fashion label – Shutting down stores to focus on sewing face masks for hospitals in need.
RepairSmith: Offering free car repairs in California and Las Vegas to people severely impacted by COVID-19.
These days, content marketing can be the key to giving your brand’s acts of kindness the traction it needs to stand out.
True, this is probably going to be a big investment. But if you do it right, it will pay off for years to come!
Over to You
These are crazy times we’re living in. The mass crisis is truly when we see the best (and worst) sides of humanity.
As businesses and agencies – we’ve learned that content marketing is one of the best ways to grow a brand. This foundational reality has not changed during COVID-19.
History will remember the brands that stood up and did something great – and forget the ones that did nothing.
How will content get your business through these tough times?