We’re facing an unprecedented, at least in our lifetime, the situation around the Covid-19 pandemic. People around the world are adjusting to a life with limited social contact, rearranged work setups, and uncertain future plans. Content writing in such a situation can seem like a particular challenge.
How do we continue doing what’s the best for our businesses while at the same time alleviating some of the public’s anxieties, all while not coming off as manipulative?
The current Coronavirus crisis gripping the world raises these and many other questions for content writers. On the one hand, it presents a unique opportunity for many businesses. On the other hand, it raises many ethical questions about what role businesses should play in times of crisis.
Below we’ll explore some strategies around these challenges, and outline how content writers can best operate during a time of crisis. You’ll also find a couple of examples and pieces of advice from content marketing experts in various industries that help illustrate these strategies.
Walk a mile in someone’s shoes
All good content writing is centered around a deep understanding of your audience. This is never more apparent than in the current Coronavirus crisis. As a starting point, you should practice your empathy and try to imagine exactly what your potential readers are going through.
As an example, let’s imagine someone forced to work from home for the first time in their lives. There are a number of questions running through their minds:
- How do I set up an office space in my home?
- How will I stay connected with my colleagues?
- How can we ensure efficient inter-office communication while working from home?
- How can I still balance my personal and professional lives?
- How can I maintain my mental health in this new situation?
These and many other questions are currently top of mind for a large part of the public. And the answer to each of these questions is an opportunity for many businesses. These businesses can help this person overcome their anxiety by providing them with helpful and enriching content centered on remote work.
“The most important thing to make sure content writers have during this time is empathy. If content writers have any pre-scheduled content that is to go out, they should be double-checking the copy of it and make sure that it is appropriate to be sending out – the last thing you want is to sound tone-deaf. Only include genuinely useful content when writing about COVID-9. Don’t just share something to share, it needs to be insightful and useful to your audience.” – Kelly Andersen, MBA
Take time to reflect on yourself. Once you’ve thought through your customers’ needs, find 2-3 helpful messages, and stick to them. Tailor your content in the coming weeks and months to these messages, and find the right forums to send them.
Look for the win-win situations
People are to a large part confined to their homes at the moment. This means that they’re turning to things like social media to stay connected with the wider world. A lack of human-to-human interaction means that it’s more important than ever to help people stay engaged.
The need to connect can work to your advantage as a content writer. People are seeking out more ways to feel connected with the world, making them more receptive to social media conversations and engagement.
This all means that you should keep up the conversation on social media. You can provide your community with the connection they’re seeking, while at the same time keeping them engaged with your business. A few approaches you could take include:
- Starting conversations via social media, tapping into your audience’s collective knowledge in order to share strategies
- Sharing daily tips on how to deal with social distancing restrictions.
- Creating and sharing customized resources and blog posts for things like remote work.
Here are a couple of concrete content marketing examples from a content marketing practitioner:
“I am working with clients to develop clear, relevant, and empathetic messages in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. For example, one client has a payment technology that could genuinely help its clients soften the blow of lost sales and revenues, and we developed messaging for them that communicates in ways that sound helpful rather than opportunistic. Another client offers services using distributed, remote teams. Now that its clients also need to adjust to remote teams working from home, I helped by developing materials they can use to share their best practices in remote working with the community they serve.” – Christopher G. Fox, PhD
These are just a few ideas of effective ways of engaging people through social media during these trying times.
Don’t take advantage of people’s anxieties
In times of crisis, it’s easy to use people’s fears as a business opportunity. Just look at all of the fake ‘miracle cures’ that popped up during the first days of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, there are more subtle ways to use people’s fears that aren’t as direct as selling fake medicine. Judging by a recent surge in Facebook and other social media advertisements, some businesses have jumped at the opportunity to sell overpriced masks, hand sanitizers, etc.
Such an approach is not only immoral but inevitably harmful to businesses. In fact, research shows that marketing tactics that people perceive as deceptive or manipulative are detrimental to businesses in the long run.
Fear and anxiety certainly motivate people to take action in the short-run (panic buying is a perfect illustration). However, you should avoid using such motivators during this crisis and instead focus on ways to help your audience cope with their difficulties.
By working to alleviate anxieties and stress, you’ll be building a more sustainable customer base and brand. Here are some thoughts on the issue from an expert in the content marketing field:
“We need to communicate in a way that combines information and needs, synthesizing feelings, and facts. I feel we have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders and brands are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind but also the heart and soul. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness, and timeliness.” – Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO
Add value, not emails to inboxes
If you’ve opened your email recently you’ve surely noticed the flood of emails from businesses informing you of their Covid-19 safety measures. While some may be relevant, the vast majority leave their audience wondering why the business needs to share this information at all.
When thinking of your content writing in this current crisis, always ask yourself whether you’re adding value. People are particularly sensitive at the moment to any feeling of businesses ‘taking advantage’ of the situation. In this case, sending off email communication lacking substance can harm your brand.
Customers will not forget if you take advantage of a challenging situation just to sell more product. Alternatively, they will also remember businesses that focus on providing truly meaningful content.
Words of encouragement, strategies for coping with the current ‘stay-at-home’ reality, and resources that can help support people are just a few of the types of content that you should focus on at the moment.
For example, you can specify the most likely side-effect of COVID on the specific audience you are catering to and share tips on how they can accept it and overcome it with little effort. From purchasing a new mattress for better sleep to adapting to new home-workout routines, you can share actionable tips to help out your audience.
Helping your customers cope with this current crisis is both human, and the best way to build brand loyalty in the future.
Inject rays of hope
It helps to inject success stories into your content. Back up the useful information you’ve shared with examples of businesses and individuals successfully navigating this crisis. This gives credibility to your content and shows that your tips and ideas are truly valuable.
- Find success stories via trustworthy news outlets, blogs, podcasts, and statistics. Input numbers and percentages, especially if your content is targeted toward businesses and financial services.
- Highlight the strategies; let your readers know specifically how these organizations and individuals got through the tough business climate.
- Highlight the need for change. One of the greatest challenges of businesses and individuals in this era will be their willingness to adapt. Doing things differently from the norm will initially be inconvenient and perhaps burdensome, but this change is here to stay – everyone will ultimately adapt to it or remain stagnant. Content writers can help businesses by highlighting successes that have been catalyzed by operational change.
Help your readers to visualize success, and the paths they can take to reach it.
We’re currently in a period of dramatic change, which presents a number of unique opportunities to businesses. You can and should tap into these changes by tailoring your content writing. However, for the good of society, and for the good of your business, in the long run, focus on adding value and helping people, and avoid the temptation to play on fears. If you do this, we’ll all be better off for your efforts.
Nikola Baldikov is a Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix, specializing in SAAS marketing, SEO, and outreach strategies.
Besides his passion for digital marketing, he is an avid fan of football and loves to dance. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @baldikovn.