It’s far from over yet, but 2020 will already be remembered as the year when everything changed.
And the pace and scale of this change are making it increasingly difficult for brands to market themselves and engage with their target audiences respectfully and effectively.
Tragedies and natural disasters happen every year, but the true impact of these events tends to be isolated within specific populations. Not this year.
Countries the world over continue to be drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and events like the murder of George Floyd have sent shockwaves through countless communities, triggering not just concern and platitudes, but ongoing activism and action.
The global scale of these events means that no content is created in a bubble anymore. After all, even materials that don’t directly address or relate to current issues are being viewed through the eyes of people living through them, so an ill-thought-out word or phrase could be hurtful or offensive. The point is this:
As situations evolve, your marketing playbook has to evolve with them—requiring constant education, reflection, and re-evaluation.
The result is that marketing has become both a sprint and a tightrope walk. Move too slowly, and you risk putting out material that feels outdated before it’s even been published. Move too fast, and your content may lack nuance—or, worse, come across as uninformed or tone-deaf.
With that in mind, here are a few strategies you can use to evolve your marketing playbook during this period of rapid, unpredictable change.
Know what matters right now
Having a keen understanding of what’s on your audience’s minds at any given moment is at the heart of any agile marketing approach.
This is true even when you’re dealing with a topic that has been and will be around for some time, like the coronavirus. The public’s level of comfort and understanding is constantly changing, and their anxieties and concerns change in tandem.
This means timing and relevance are everything when it comes to the content you publish. It’s no good providing answers to questions your audience figured out a month ago. Think and look ahead, creating content that’s reflective of the present situation, and delivering solutions to problems as (or even before) they appear.
Example: Choosing a Content Marketing Strategy
Let’s say your company offers a service that supports remote work, and you’re looking to increase your content marketing. Sharing tips around adjusting to working from home may feel like white noise today when many people have long since made the transition.
However, some of your existing and prospective clients may currently be considering extending their remote work policies indefinitely. Providing insights to help them do this successfully can position your company as a valuable resource they can trust.
Publish more, shorter content
One way to deliver more timely content is to switch lengthy campaigns for faster, leaner content cycles. Rather than spending a month creating and sharing content around a particular theme, consider condensing each campaign into a single week. It might be short blog posts or a series of social posts. Comment on a strategic topic every day instead of building anything too robust.
These micro-campaigns can shorten the content creation timeline, making it easier to keep your marketing efforts fresh, sharp, and on the ball. They will also help get as many eyes on your content as possible before it loses relevance.
The unfortunate truth is, a lot of the content you produce during this period will have a relatively short shelf life. Getting comfortable with that fact—and strategically reducing the time you spend creating marketing content—will make your efforts more sustainable and more valuable.
Don’t react. Respond.
Rapid change often elicits knee-jerk marketing messages. When these messages come across as insensitive or clumsy, they can leave a permanent stain on a company’s reputation. On the other hand, remaining silent about or glossing over issues affecting your industry or your core demographic can make your brand feel out of touch.
Agility is the key. Being agile means being responsive to what’s happening in the world, but not reactionary. For issues that need to be urgently addressed, consider putting out a statement in a timely fashion that at least acknowledges what’s happening. This initial statement doesn’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) outline any grand plans, because it’s almost impossible to come up with a nuanced strategy or response in a matter of hours or days. But proceeding as if it’s business as usual may cause some onlookers to lose faith in your brand.
Even if your company doesn’t plan to address a particular event or issue directly, be sure to review any existing marketing content in your pipeline to ensure it still aligns with the current landscape. This might involve editing or temporarily shelving content that no longer feels appropriate. You may also want to add a short “update” section to any recently published related content to either inform readers that it was written before certain changes took place, or advise them how those changes affect them.
When change is constant, agility is essential
None of this is to imply you should be profiting off the back of current crises, of course. But unless you plan to pause your marketing efforts altogether for the foreseeable future—which could be damaging to your business—it’s critical to ensure the words you’re putting out into the world are appropriate and empathetic, backed by an agile strategy.
Developing more agile marketing practices will also benefit your business in the long run, giving you the ability to make adjustments on the fly and making change feel more manageable. But if you need some help adjusting your approach, we’re here to help.