To say life is the same after COVID-19 is an understatement, and for many of us — the bottom is still yet to come. With some projecting 30% unemployment from what used to be 3.5% just a month ago, many are uncertain what the future might hold.

Content marketing professionals are no different, especially with so many taking their best shot emailing the database, or not emailing, and determining how to calm the storm at this time.

But one thing is clear — it’s tough to know what is ok to say right now and what will be ok to say tomorrow. What might have been politically correct yesterday, might not be the case today or in a few months. Adapting daily across all industries is just required right now.

So here are the top do’s and don’ts for content marketing during a crisis, and also advice on how to measure and advise on the best strategy for your own company.

Note: Following the tips below will likely result in additional work as you update articles, drafts and tone in the coming weeks.

Provide product value, but don’t sell

Empathy is critical to content marketing. But empathy becomes tricky when the receiving ends of your audience vary so greatly. For instance, a healthcare company might be in a totally different place than a retail business or a restaurant right now. Ensuring that you are segmenting the message and asking yourself before each send or post how the receiving end might feel will undoubtedly help.

One message that resonated for me recently as we re-aligned on goals without knowing the real business impact from coronavirus yet was from Mailchimp. Every team is made of people and it’s one resounding truth that I think we can all relate to. The message was that we’re in this together — the stress, the adaptation of plans, and the unknown of how long this might last and what the true impact will be for all of us. Some that are sick might not be as productive. Don’t get me wrong, creating content goals will still be important in the coming months, but being more flexible with those goals will allow you to navigate a new content world.

>>Pro tip: At Lever, I recently posted an article on how empathy can help companies survive hardship. It’s based on varying stats and intel across generations that value empathy — likely now more than ever.

What content metrics to measure during a crisis?

  • Open rates: An email from our CEO at Lever about our Zoom offering to customers had an over 40% open rate at launch. Good is typically around 30% or more
  • Response rates: See if your audience is interacting with you on a webinar, opting-in for a demo or asking questions. 
  • PV traffic conversion: In this new world, just seeing what topics or themes are resonating for people can help, but don’t just look at traffic. Analyze referral traffic and how that traffic converts. This will help you confirm that those people are your target market.

(Description: Blog subscribes converting to business opportunities for Lever in 2019)

Tailor the message to build brand and community

Content plans need to have flexibility to be constantly iterated upon. This is why content metrics and goals are important, but in my experience vary based on the times, key objectives you want to drive and the audience in which you’re trying to convert. We in marketing also love to automate and trigger campaigns, so during a crisis is the time to ask yourself — what nurtures are automated? What actions are they based on? What do they say? Is this still relevant to our buyer?

During a crisis, don’t put together a list of resources with links to out-dated articles about the topic. What was relevant just a week ago might not be today and teams need to be meeting regularly to stay in sync on the new content plan. For some, that might be pumping the breaks for a minute depending on the products you provide or audience receiving that message.

Organizations failing to serve Gen Z or Millennials and putting business needs over health right now might not succeed in the long run. This audience deeply cares about culture and your overall brand. For example, 71% of millennials want their workforce to feel like a second family. Think about what you might be able to give to people for free during a crisis? How can you help businesses maintain continuity and are there themes to write about there?

What content metrics to measure brand relevance?

  • Free signups: Focus on community and brand building during a crisis.
  • Overall page views: How many views is your blog post or web page getting right now?
  • Social shares: How much are people sharing the message on social media outlets?

Prioritize and share learnings as you go

When economies and businesses slow, it’s important to keep in mind that in uncharted territories that we don’t know what results are going to render the best for companies just yet. Remember to breathe and apply that 80/20 rule like you never have before. Now is not the time to spray and pray your audience with too many messages.

Some meaningful questions to ask:

  • What’s changed for our brand today?
  • What results are most important that content marketing can drive?
  • What are the results telling me that’s working today and what’s not? How has that changed from months before?

There is no better time to implement a weekly digest or content scorecard and start recalibrating on your strategy. Provide others with a way to see all the great stuff your content is driving. The key is speaking a content language that other departments can also read and understand.

Some metrics to consider sharing around:

  • Sales tiers responses to content campaigns
  • Global response to content campaigns

Responses could be quantified by leads, downloads, pipeline, sales calls from campaigns, etc.

Creating a content scorecard is a great way to keep people in the loop each week/month. These are just sample ideas for areas to include, and again — high intent buyers (or HIBS as we like to call them) are always more valuable than just eyes and leads in the long run. Awareness and community metrics may be where you want to focus in crisis. Be nimble. The more you can help your brand and business, the better results you’ll drive in the long run. It’s all about building the funnel and converting better as time goes on.

The recap: Keeping content relevant during uncertain times

1 Provide product value Sell the product
2 Tailor the message to keep relevant  Keep the existing content plan
3 Prioritize and share learnings Focus on the same results


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Stay safe out there!

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