Content strategy during COVID-19

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: Your customers – what questions is your customer service team receiving? What are people asking of you as a brand on social? 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?   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? Social listening – what are customers saying on social, and how can you create content around that to mitigate fears or concerns? 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 Your website and owned properties need clear navigation to useful content 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 Your content needs to be able to be indexed by Google so it can be listed and customers can find it 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. In addition to this, journalists want positive, non-Coronavirus stories:   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. 0

7 mins read

At CES, Smart Products and Privacy Concerns Remain King

At CES, Smart Products and Privacy Concerns Remain King

Attending the Consumer Electronics Show is always an inspiring way to start a new year, let alone a new decade.  Major tech companies showcase their shiniest new products (and—let’s face it—concepts that will never make it to market).  Start-ups try to create buzz, sometimes with brilliant new solutions, but often with ideas that are simply bizarre.  Threaded throughout, the titans of Google and Amazon continue to integrate deeper across appliances, cars, and any other device that has evolved to be “smart.” After many hours spent meeting with companies and exploring the showroom floor, I came to the conclusion that this year’s event was a time of incremental evolution.  Sure, there was plenty of jaw-dropping tech on display—Samsung’s “The Wall” television was every bit as incredible as you’ve heard—but the overall sense I got was much different from past years.  It seems as though every major player is rethinking alliances and re-evaluating their position in the market, perhaps due to the arrival of CCPA (the California Consumer Privacy Act) and increasing consumer concerns over privacy. That’s not to say there were no fascinating trends at CES 2020. Below are my top five take-aways from both the showroom floor, and the conversations with key players throughout the week. The Smart Home Bandwagon:  Solutions in Search of a Problem Connected smart home products continue to be a big focus for brands exhibiting at CES.  Some solve for a specific need, like The Motion Pillow, a pillow gently adjusts head position when it detects snoring in order to improve airflow (and potentially improve marriages).  Some products are more like interesting novelties, like Kohler’s Smart Speaker showerhead.   Other products on the showroom floor feel more like a solution in search of a problem.  For example, the SimpleHuman smart trash can, which doesn’t sound like too bad of a proposition until you realize that it utilizes proprietary trash bags (which is either the “printer and ink” merchandising model or, if you’re feeling less generous, the Juicero approach).  Or if that’s not wacky enough, how about a $13,000 smart toilet?   Connected smart home devices will continue to be a major part of CES, but for many consumers the novelty of the basic concept has worn off a bit—meaning manufactures will have to level up their storytelling in order to truly demonstrate the value their products bring to everyday life. The Battle for the Smart Home Ecosystem In the spirit of the classic format wars of VHS vs Betamax and HD DVD vs Blu-Ray, Google and Amazon have been battling to stake a claim as the central hub for all the connected devices in a smart home.  In addition to those two titans, power users have a handful of other home connectivity options—but based on my personal experience, none of today’s solutions play nicely with the devices on the market today, let alone the new concepts showcased at CES. So, it’s fascinating to me that these companies (Google, Amazon, Apple (!!!), and more than ten others) have partnered to begin constructing a standard communications protocol to enhance device compatibility and cross-system integration.  This partnership is called Project Connected Home over IP (the unfortunate acronym “CHoIP”).  A universal standard would not only make smart home devices easier to set up and use by consumers, but since it is built on IP-based networking it would offer end-to-end security by default. However, CHoIP isn’t the only new solution on the horizon.  Smart home solution provider Z-Wave, a competitor to CHoIP partner ZigBee, is opening up their previously proprietary specifications to other chip manufacturers.  Many smart home products, including those by Amazon and Google Nest, already include Z-Wave radios as part of their connectivity.  Confusingly enough, Z-Wave’s parent company, Silicon Labs, is actually a participant in the CHoIP partnership. Lost yet?  Don’t worry—the space is incredibly confusing, primarily because unlike the format wars mentioned at the start of this section, this battle is over intangible network communication protocols, not physical media.  However CHoIP, Z-Wave, and other solutions wind up playing out, increased standardization of smart home connectivity is purely a good thing for consumers—and for the manufactures building products they want to sell (like, for example, that $13,000 toilet mentioned above). Surprising Exhibitors One of my favorite things to do at CES is keep an eye out for companies that seem like an odd fit for the showroom floor at the world’s largest tech conference.  Both Oral-B and Colgate unveiled new smart toothbrushes with features like detecting plaque in the mouth and connecting to your phone to track and coach good brushing habits.  AARP had a booth showcasing how they plan to use artificial intelligence to help improve elder care, but it felt very conceptual. Delta Airlines was the biggest surprise of the show for me.  Every time I stopped by, there was a long line outside their space, and inside they demonstrated a new smart display that tracks an individual’s location in a room and displays personalized information about their flight on a wall-mounted monitor.  The impressive part is that it does this for multiple individuals at a time, and each person sees only their information on the monitor, as it adjusts in real-time based on their movements—two people walking next to each other would see two totally different things on the monitor.  For a proof of concept product, it worked very well, and was even more impactful than the man outside the Delta booth demonstrating a powered exoskeleton that enables baggage handlers to move heavy luggage efficiently and without injury.  New Takes on Old Music Experiences As a musician, I’m always curious to see what the Roland Corporation brings to CES, and this year’s booth didn’t disappoint—a live band featured the latest electronic drums, digital amp modeling, and a “concept piano” that takes the mechanics of a traditional grand piano and wraps them in a futuristic package.Victrola showcased dozens of new takes on the classic turntable, integrating wireless connectivity into a record player with a variety of looks that were both classic and modern.  It was interesting to see how many other companies showcased record and cassette players with upgraded connectivity as well.  However, the most confusingly ubiquitous products scattered around the showroom floor were light-up speakers.  I saw at least a dozen of them at different booths, and outside of professional DJs looking to streamline their equipment cartage I’m not sure who the target audience for these strange devices is. The Looming Privacy Concerns Google didn’t have many gigantic announcements to make at CES this year, but one particular feature launch was quite telling.  Any time the Google assistant activates at a time when a user didn’t speak to it, users can now simply say “Google, that wasn’t for you.”  The Google Assistant will then apologize and delete the request from its history.Giving users this quick, real-time way to respond to smart devices triggering accidentally is a savvy move in a time when major tech companies are struggling to find the balance between privacy and personalized utility.  Over the next three years privacy is going to become one of the key differentiating features consumers look for when purchasing connected devices and choosing which framework to connect them through, yet privacy is one of the hardest features to showcase in the flashy way brands typically approach CES.  Throughout 2020 all of the major players will be navigating evolving legislation, but they should view adherence to the law as the minimum required action.  As our lives become even more interconnected with our devices, the companies that win will be those who actively showcase to their users that privacy is a priority, not just a legal requirement.  0

7 mins read

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