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Content strategy during COVID-19

During these challenging times, it’s important to understand what type of content you should be creating. It’s likely you had a content strategy and were working to a content plan, but now is the time to revisit that approach and be cognizant of what will land in the coming weeks and months.

To tackle this conundrum head on, we’ve devised five key considerations for your content team and strategy.

Consideration #1

Refer back to your current strategy and draw up an adapted approach that considers the wider circumstances. There are a number of ways to go about plotting what content you should be creating:

  1. Your customers – what questions is your customer service team receiving? What are people asking of you as a brand on social?
  2. Search listening – what is the current keyword demand for COVID-19 relating to your brand? If you’re a beauty brand, what home tutorials can you provide them? If you’re a bank, how can you assure your customers their money will be safe in these times?  
  3. Your brand – what do you stand for? What topics do you have the remit to talk about and how can that be applied to everyday customer queries and issues?
  4. Social listening – what are customers saying on social, and how can you create content around that to mitigate fears or concerns?
  5. Media interest – what is the media talking about? This seems to change on a weekly basis at the moment, but keeping an eye on the news agenda will help you understand what consumers are reading about

It’s important to note that people’s interest in digital content has increased significantly since COVID-19. Consumers have more time and in the evenings are turning to the web for news, inspiration and humour.

Consideration #2

This is perhaps the biggest consideration: things keep changing.

By that, I mean people’s attitudes, behaviours and journeys to purchase are changing all of the time. The content you created or had planned to create three months ago is probably not something customers want right now, but don’t fear; it’s content they’ll want again one day, so it isn’t wasted.

The search intent around products will change week to week, potentially day to day. If you look at something like travel insurance, terms relating to that broad topic usually mean people are looking to take it out for an upcoming holiday, but now the intent of that topic and terms related to that product have changed massively; it’s all about “Am I covered?” The intent of people’s searches now takes on a new meaning but mostly people are trying to find answers to complex questions, for which, in some cases, there aren’t any answers at all. However, as a brand you have the right and responsibility to provide customers with content that is useful, offers a solution and addresses a fear or concern.

The temptation is to pull back on creating content but, right now, your customers need you more than ever. The relationship you’ve created over years, decades and potentially centuries is always something to think about to ensure you’re still holding a relationship with your customers during these uncertain times.

To summarise, the world is changing and the situation is changing rapidly. We need to be able to understand what people want week to week, day to day, hour to hour, and offer them content that satisfies that need.

Consideration #3

This seems obvious but a consideration that is crucial right now: your content needs to be found. This splits out into two parts:

Website architecture

  1. Your website and owned properties need clear navigation to useful content
  2. Your site must be quick. People have short attention spans at the best of times and what people are demanding right now is answers fast, so you must improve the speed of your site
  3. Your content needs to be able to be indexed by Google so it can be listed and customers can find it
  4. The structure of your page is a hugely important. Think about questions like “How to get Vitamin D in my diet?” or “How to work out at home”. These both trigger a featured snippet in Google, so if you’re a fitness or food brand you can provide genuinely helpful responses to this. However, if the structure of your page hasn’t been set up correctly you’ll never be featured in position zero

Positive PR

It’s likely that your PR activity is paused, cancelled or postponed, and is now only about crisis management, which is understandable. However, people are looking for positive stories. You’ve only got to put the term “positive stories” into Google Trends to see that people want them right now.

Google Trends graph

In addition to this, journalists want positive, non-Coronavirus stories:

 Twitter posts

The media is crying out for content. Remember, most journalists need to be able to produce a new article every 45 minutes, so it’s likely that they’ll run out of COVID-19 stories eventually. What they want is motivating, surprising, useful and positive content for their audiences. There is a captive audience out there right now, and PR shouldn’t stop because of COVID-19. If you want your content to be seen by a wider audience, then PR is the best way to do this. We’re currently working with brands to plan small reactive campaigns that help customers but are also of interest to journalists.

Consideration #4

Google has been quite open about its algorithm and guideline changes over the past couple of years. First we had E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) then there was YMYL (Your Money Your Life) and most recently we had BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) and actually during COVID-19 all of them take on an even heavier importance.

It's now that people are looking for a layer of expertise beyond fluffy content. This presents brands with an opportunity to offer customers expert advice, perhaps in the form of employees who have decades of experience in a sector. For example, do you have a beauty consultant who can offer expertise on skincare at home? Do you have a mortgage advisor who has been at your bank for 30 years? If so, can they give their expert opinion? If you’re creating this content, ensure that readers know who the author is. This builds trust between the brand and the reader, and is widely encouraged by Google.

Google’s approach to YMYL is that every page you create should impact a customer’s Money or Life. So, think about that in relation to COVID-19. Give your customers content that delivers tips on how to improve their life right now (and for the future) but also make sure you’re giving them solutions for intricate financial decisions.

Lastly, BERT is a deep learning algorithm that understands the nuances and context of words in a sentence, to better match queries with search results. Make sure your content is structurally sound and can be processed by BERT so that it can be visible in Google.

Consideration #5

The last consideration for every piece of content, whether it’s on your website, social or in email, is whether it is purposeful or profiteering? If you have an inkling that the content you’re creating doesn’t provide people with purpose or a point (the point could be handy DIY tips or how do your eyebrows at home), then tweak it so it does. Now is not the time to be taking advantage of people’s vulnerability and most customers will see through it. Your content should deliver significance and not be overly commercial. You can absolutely provide customers with products that solve problems and solutions, but don’t piggyback on COVID-19 for the sake of it.

Lastly, it’s important to not go ‘dark’ and turn the lights off on your marketing activity. If anything, now is the time to make sure you’re connecting with customers. There is an obvious temptation to avoid the topic or in some cases withdraw any content at all, but it’s been proven that brands that don’t cut budgets during periods of uncertainty are best placed to prosper when the upturn returns. Numerous studies have proven this over many years.