A man sits in an empty theater, illustrative of event closures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Firstly, I’m really sorry. As someone who spent the better part of the past decade heavily involved in event marketing, I know how it feels to put your heart and soul into an in-person marketing push only to have your plans disintegrate overnight. But marketers, you do have choices. With in-person meetings, conferences, and other events nixed for the immediate future, online is the only way your customers are going to find you. That means that you need to double down on your content strategy. Here’s how you can do that.

Look for Ways Your Company Can Be Useful

Very few of us are making long-term decisions right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a climate of fear that we can’t help but take into our business lives. Many of us are in fight-or-flight mode, desperately seeking information that will give us some confidence that ourselves and our businesses will survive.

Have a little sympathy for your customers. Producing thoughtful media that leads the conversation and informs your audience is the goal of all great content.

The AARP front page was devoted to COVID-19 news.

For example, the retiree portal AARP ramped up its content in recent days and has become one of the go-to sources for COVID-19 information for seniors.

In technology marketing, that means you should be looking at ways your product helps people today and tomorrow. Through email and social campaigns, make sure your prospects know where to find proof that your product can help.

Focus on Content that Replaces What You’ve Lost

If more than 20 percent of your quarterly budget comes from events, it’s essential that you move quickly to replace that experience with content that functions in the same way. If you’re accustomed to selling face-to-face, you will need more sales enablement content like slide decks, recorded walkthroughs, whiteboard videos, and vertical-specific how-to guides. If presentations are a big part of your lead gen strategy, you should look for ways to demonstrate that thought leadership in digital spaces like webinars, blogs, and reports.

Weigh the Risks of a Diversified Strategy Against the Cost of Inaction

The pandemic and its global response are unprecedented, which means it’s hard to know what the best course of action is. I understand the desire to circle the wagons and wait until the situation becomes clearer, especially for companies who were counting on that event income. However, as a marketer, you know some risk is inevitable. Ask yourself: How long are you willing to put your company in a holding pattern? And importantly: How likely is it that things will go back to the way they were immediately after the pandemic? Behavioral science teaches us that habits are formed precisely in moments like these. By holding back, are you allowing your customers to form habits without you?

Tone is Everything

I cannot tell you the number of emails I’ve received in the past few days that come across as utterly oblivious, like the bar that sent an email blast saying it was OK because they didn’t have Corona beer. Maybe that joke would have landed OK two weeks prior but by the time it was sent, Oregon had declared a State of Emergency and public health authorities were pleading with people to avoid all unnecessary movement outside their homes.

The COVID-19 situation is changing by the hour and marketers need to consider the following when messaging their audiences:

  • Add some additional tone and content checks late in the production process to make sure your email and social messaging remains correct, resonates with your audience, and hits the right tone. And for goodness’ sake, pause your Buffer feed.
  • Consider that many of your customers are stressed, worried for their families, and similarly risk-averse. That means messaging that is funny, challenging, or that swings wildly in tone will land less well than on an average day. Come to your messaging with sympathy for your customers and try to be straight with them.
  • If the pandemic directly involves your product or service, bone up on crisis communications best practices and let them inform your messaging.
  • This is good advice for every day but especially now, make sure your messaging adds value to your customers’ lives. Trying to pivot an angle where there isn’t one will do more brand damage than good right now. It’s better to play a straight bat.

If content strategy isn’t a big part of your day-to-day, here are some resources to get you started:

Contact us to find out how Lyndal Cairns can support your strategic content pivot.