Marketers tend to think optimistically when planning their strategies, campaigns, and events. A lot of hard work goes into their efforts, and they try to cover every detail they can. Still, they think that in the end their work will pay off and they will see results. They might encounter a misstep or setback, but they can regroup and make the proper adjustments to their planning. Then, once it’s all done, they can look over the results and use the numbers to analyze what worked best and what didn’t and put those insights into improving future promotions.
However, things can happen that are beyond a marketing team’s control. World events, an internal crisis, or some type of disaster or tragedy can occur, at which point, a good number of plans and promotion grind to a halt or at the very least have to be altered or reconsidered. You can expect events to be put off, rescheduled, sometimes made into virtual events, or outright cancelled.
A great deal of how your marketing team goes about its business will have to be reassessed. Your team might have to work remotely (if they weren’t before), and you might have to consider what your priorities are at that time, as it will be more important to be there for customers rather than making a hard sell or introducing a new product, service, or offer.
So, then how does content marketing change during such a time?
After all, you can’t just pretend that it’s business as usual. If something is going on, you have to acknowledge it in some way, even if it’s only indirectly. At the same time, you might already have a few projects in the works that you can’t just drop or that your team (and brand) will eventually need. Of course, you will also have to pay strict attention to your tone, regardless of the project, and some content assets just might not be appropriate for the time being.
How can you decide though?
There is no easy answer for what to do in such a situation. Much of it will depend on you, the situation, what your team needs, and what your customers need. You will have to try and make the best judgement call you can, often in trying and confusing circumstances. Bearing all this in mind, I tried to put together a few general guidelines I thought might help:
- Ease back. You will have to dial down on any fanfare. It is not a time to dress up your marketing and make it as flashy as possible. You do not want to come across as disrespectful or flippant. Take the events that are occurring seriously and allow your content to reflect that. Also, try not to just put out more and more thought leadership, as if acting like nothing has changed. In some cases, business can continue in some form, and people might like a bit of normalcy, so you can publish a few new assets. However, at this time, your content, for the most part, should put more of a focus on how you can help your customers with whatever issues they are experiencing during this event.
- Quality over quantity. Whatever content you do put out during a crisis should focus more on being helpful and of high quality. You do not want to post too much content at a time, especially if it isn’t relevant and you know your audience has other things on their mind and perhaps not the time or are in the right frame of mind for what you have published.
- Tone. Your tone should reflect the situation you find yourselves in. If it a serious matter, you might treat it as such in your writing. Some lightheartedness and humor could do much to add levity and brighten someone’s day when they need, but be careful and make sure it’s appropriate. You do not want to give the impression that somewhere people might be experiencing hardships and suffering and that you might be making light of it. Above all, remain calm and composed and try to be as clear as possible, since that is what customers need at such a time.
- Empathy and sensitivity. When writing content, place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about what they are going and how your content might be able to help. What would they find disrespectful or irrelevant during a crisis? What information would put them more at ease? Remember to be sensitive as well. A crisis might affect certain industries, trades, and professions worse or in different ways than others. You want to always ensure that you are careful with your wording, messaging, and imagery.
- Solicit feedback from your teammates. You are not alone. You have a whole team to ask for input and feedback about your content. If you are unsure of tone, relevancy, and appropriateness, they can give you their opinions and guide you in the right direction. Moreover, your company might also have a PR or communications team, who are no doubt working on a messaging and communications strategy to deal with the crisis. You may have to run your content past them or another approver to see that it fits into that strategy, so be sure to do so. It’s not a bad idea to have another set of eyes on content, and you want to be as cautious and careful as you can during a difficult time in everyone’s lives.
Use common sense and double-and-triple-check everything to make sure that it’s all right. Remember that many people might have being a hard time at the moment, and patience and understanding will be required.