It’s what you say—and how you say it: 8 content marketing best practices

by | May 26, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

It’s easy to be at a loss for words. The economic and emotional toll of our current situation has kneecapped markets, societal structures and our collective sense of safety. Trying to make sense of it can feel like an exercise in futility.

That said, as proven by the medical professionals working tirelessly around the clock, what we’ve seen before when faced with challenging times is no different from what’s needed now: resilience. How we emerge stronger on the other side is by mourning the losses and celebrating the wins together as a community—the words we use to tell those stories will determine that legacy.

When the world feels upside-down, how do you as a marketer build valuable brand content? Like our friends who specialize in media relations and social strategy, we’ve compiled a list of time-tested best practices that serve as helpful reminders about shaping brand narratives and developing content strategies with impact, whether it comes to life in a blog, byline, social post, open letter, etc. Check them out below:

Best practices for crafting impactful content:

Keep your content actionable

Because things are moving so quickly—specific brand/industry responses, federal social distancing guidelines or the day-by-day infection count—everyone is searching for something they can do right now. Short-term action items add value to marketing departments within their wider organization, which is especially important given the reality of pausing marketing budget. There is no playbook right now, so use this as an opportunity to keep your content actionable.

Align messaging with the correct channels

Keep an eye on matching the message to the medium. While you may do this on a normal day, the current situation has dialed the need for sensitivity up to 100. Rather than a stock “employee audience,” marketers have to consider that different employees could be impacted differently under new brand policies. Suddenly what was once appropriate for an all-staff town hall event might be better served for an internal email. Be vocal in counseling your teams to think through all of your options.

Leave time to “over-communicate”

We can’t be as proactive or flexible as we need to be if we don’t have the latest and greatest from the subject matter experts on the front lines. We need to change the way we position in-take sessions with experts beyond the marketing team as “nice-to-haves” to core elements of any program. With everyone looking for productivity hacks, it’s even more important to carve out 30 minutes to keep everyone on the same page by connecting your marketing team with your bench experts.

Let data drive your content efforts

Your department is operating on all cylinders right now. Customer success stories, product developments and all sorts of valuable data points are being generated throughout the organization. A critical part of your job is to sift through that information and find the compelling narrative, but you can’t do that if you’re left in the dark. Partner with your team to assemble those puzzle pieces, with the right context surrounding them, so you can tell the best story possible.

Humanize your content

Empathy is the difference between making a connection and sounding tone deaf. It’s an exercise in putting yourself in another person’s shoes and respecting their point of view. It is impossible to know the personal COVID-19 experience of your readers, so make zero assumptions. Instead, be as inclusive as possible, especially in your marketing content. This is something that is happening to all of us, and content should reinforce that we’re all in this together.

Know when and how to promote your content

Your marketing team is bunkered down, churning out some truly spectacular work—whether that be a LinkedIn post or an open letter from a CEO outlining brand response. We always want to make sure our efforts see the light of day, but promotion comes with a pretty big caveat these days. Remember this: there’s a way to be tactful. Make it about the audience, not the brand. 

Eliminate “unprecedented times” and “uncertain times” from your vocabulary

These two phrases, while true, have been overly used. We all know the situation is dynamic and ever changing. At this point, it’s redundant in a global scale. Give yourself the creative license to frame your messaging authentically for your brand and have faith in your audiences.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong

We move fast and your customers might be moving even faster. You never know when messaging will change, and that’s okay. As a marketer, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. Just because things have evolved, doesn’t mean that it won’t be valuable down the line. Save everything!

We’re all getting by day-by-day, working, living and occasionally laughing through a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis together. That said, we’ve found ourselves in similar situations in the past and have emerged stronger by listening to the lessons learned. Partnering with our teams, our customers and our fellow marketing colleagues, we’ll continue to find and elevate the human stories that bring out the best in us.

Dive into our 7th annual Content Fitness Test to learn how your peers are adjusting to today’s ever-changing content landscape.

This article originally appeared on the PAN Communications blog; reprinted with permission.

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Matthew Briggs
Matthew Briggs is a Vice President at PAN Communications in Boston.

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