The COVID-19 pandemic has placed both content marketers and PR professionals in an awkward position.
Creating marketing or PR content that ignores the coronavirus is virtually impossible; the impact it’s had on humanity is simply too significant. At this point, it’s almost impossible to be hyperbolic about how it will affect almost every aspect of modern society.
Deliberately overlooking the pandemic’s influence on the relationship between a brand and its followers is risky. The last thing a company needs is to create the impression that it has its head in the sand, continuing to create messages with the exact same content and tone as before the pandemic struck.
At the same time, being too direct about the matter could very well signal that the brand is cynically cashing in on a global catastrophe just to raise its profile.
In the wake of COVID-19, a brand’s marketing content should be sensitive to the ways in which the disease has affected its followers. Many people have become risk-averse, wary of misinformation, aware of mortality, and conscious of how their attitudes affect society.
It’s vital for brands that want to create genuine connections with their target audience to bear in mind these shifts in global attitudes—and to do so in a tasteful way that doesn’t paint them as heartless opportunists.
Let’s take a look at how content marketers can best approach this challenge.
Highlight scientific credibility
Companies that create marketing content with a clinical or scientific angle need to be exceptionally confident of their opinions, facts, and figures.
For various reasons, and to the world’s detriment, the COVID-19 pandemic has been politicized by many highly influential figures. A lot of this was achieved by deliberately spreading misinformation that helps these people score political points against their rivals or support their ideologies.
Fortunately, there’s been a backlash. People are becoming increasingly aware of these tactics and are developing a healthy resistance to pseudo-science and clinical claims that can’t be backed up.
Respect this evolution in your audience’s expectations. In fact, embrace it the way Sleepjunkie has. A large proportion of the company’s marketing content has a highly scientific angle. Take this piece on autism and sleep, for instance.
In a pre-COVID world, a blog could present semi-educated opinions or aggregated content scraped from any dubious source as “research” without much fallout. Nowadays… not so much. That’s why sites like Sleepjunkie shine a spotlight on the credibility of their content. As you’ll see in the autism article, the content has been reviewed and fact-checked by a bona fide medical professional.
In fact, Sleepjunkie has an entire page dedicated to its medical review board—a group of doctors and scientists who advise and endorse the content created by the site’s marketing team.
Make security accessible
With the world’s population hyper-aware of personal health and safety, brands that operate in the security space should focus on making their content as accessible as possible.
Concern over the risk of COVID infection could easily evolve into a more general concern about security. People are becoming increasingly risk-averse, a mindset that should be catered for by smart, empathetic content strategists.
Cybersecurity experts Havoc Shield is a great example of a brand doing exactly this. The company’s blog has done a terrific job of addressing complex issues in a way that people with a new concern for cybersecurity can easily digest.
Havoc Shield doesn’t shy away from the big topics. Their blog is full of complex, niche articles that would seem too specialized under different global circumstances. However, the world’s focus on safety and security, along with their writers’ ability to make the content palatable, helps ensure that these topics won’t alienate the target audience.
Appeal to people’s renewed sense of responsibility to the elderly
One fortunate consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a renewed visibility of the needs of the elderly—a demographic whose wellbeing society has been overlooking in recent decades.
Public interest regarding the impact of the coronavirus has been enormous. Agencies like the WHO and CDC have done a tremendous job of providing facts to help people keep themselves and their families safe. With people over the age of 60 clearly identified as being most vulnerable to the virus, it stands to reason that people are more concerned about the health of their elderly family members now than they were in December 2018.
A company that’s harnessed this rejuvenated awareness in a tasteful, effective way in their content marketing is MedicalAlertBuyersGuide.org. The brand’s blog is crammed with exceptionally helpful information about elder care, but without relying too much on COVID-19 as a topic.
The company’s content marketing goal is clearly to shine a spotlight on a subject that’s becoming increasingly important to the families of the elderly – ensuring their wellbeing during a time when they’re most vulnerable.
Some final thoughts
There’s no paint-by-numbers approach to this issue. How a brand should work awareness of the pandemic into its content depends on variables like company culture, audience demographics, and attitudes in its industry.
Marketing teams that have done this successfully have erred on the side of subtlety, seldom discussing the virus directly in their content. Instead, they have responded to the ways that the pandemic has changed their audience’s mindsets.
The optics of associating a marketing angle with an event that’s killed millions of people aren’t great. The reputational damage could be tough to recover from. That’s why playing it safe here is the best approach.