When it comes to content over the past 4+ months, the Covid-19 pandemic has required us to pivot hard and fast. Creating agile new strategies that serve user’s rapidly changing needs.

Whilst it’s unclear just how long unpredictability will remain, what’s abundantly clear is that customers’ expectations have changed. Many brands have adapted (like creating content around working from home) but are now looking to differentiate and gain relevance.

As ever, doing this starts with knowing your customers, their changed needs, and how your content can best serve them in this new world; and why, when it comes to successful content, investing in the long term will reap benefits.

How did we get here?

It’s a funny old world. We’ve gone from non-stop creatures of productivity to being forced inside, away from our colleagues and creative hives, in a mere matter of months. The changes to society and culture stripped us of our once-dependable plans and strategies, and what made sense for brands only a few weeks earlier had little relevance within this strange new landscape.

But as humans, it’s in our nature to evolve and adapt in order to survive. We may not be able to talk through ideas face-to-face with our colleagues but you can bet we’ll Zoom and Jamboard our way to creative content solutions.

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And that’s where we’ve been for the past 4+ months. Creating content that problem solves in the most immediate way. The idea to expect the unexpected makes a whole lot more sense now. Thanks to the recent relentless stream of it, we’re used to life-changing - almost daily - news that requires us to think and act fast. And now brands must use this agility to move forward and make firmer plans within an ever-changing world.

The world’s a different place

Your audience aren’t the same people they were before Covid-19. Their attention and worries have changed, becoming bigger and more immediate. No longer that concerned with good-for-the-’gram wardrobe updates but instead focused on their family, friends, colleagues, jobs, the economy, and future ie. the biggies in life.

In fact, 38% of people polled for Harris Interactive’s ‘Consumer Reactions to the Coronavirus Globally’ research said they want to put more money into savings, with 28% planning to get better at budgeting in the next few months. Gone are the days of spur-of-the-moment purchasing.

Knowing this is a good place to start when thinking about how to approach content now as, for the most part, people no longer see it as just entertainment or information. Through this period, brand content has stepped up to become a lifeline for many. So yours, first and foremost, needs to serve a purpose. When people see the value of your brand, they’re more likely to stay invested.

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Take fitness coach and social media influence Joe Wicks who, upon closure of UK schools, took up the mantle of ‘the nation’s PE teacher’. He launched what would become a live, daily YouTube workout sessions called PE with Joe; running for (at the time of writing) 17 weeks and hitting 75+ million views from people from across the world.

An impressive feat made possible largely due to the groundwork already put into Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach brand. He’s been an established fitness authority since 2015, building his follower base on free online content around fitness and healthy eating. Without such prevalence in the sector, PE with Joe wouldn’t have made much sense as a content series, or resonated with so many people.

What we already know

Since lockdown, we already have an immediate idea of how things have changed and are continuing to do so.

In the article ‘Learning On Lockdown’ our Search Marketing Manager Neil delved into the stats behind search behaviour, identifying what people were looking for online with heaps of time on their hands and nowhere to go.

The results showed that the increases in change were most beneficial to brands who had already invested time into their content marketing. Not only did this confirm their position at the top of search results but it solidified their authority in whichever area or sector.

Basically, baking websites who already had banana bread recipes published prior to all this, fared better than brands (with little-to-no relationship to the dessert sector) who rushed out a quick recipe to try and capitalise on the rising search trend. All in all, it’s simply another way to explain why Joe Wicks’ venture into PE lessons was so successful.

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We’re always keen for a metaphor, so another way to look at it is by thinking of the supermarket’s ‘just in time’ approach to stock. At the beginning of the pandemic, shortages of pasta and toilet paper were commonplace because supermarkets’ product stock used to rely on daily deliveries.

Before all of this there was never a need for them to stockpile. Don’t let your brand get caught short needing to create lots of relevant content all at once, not only is it a time-consuming pursuit, it also won’t do the job you want it to. Our advice? Stockpile your brand’s content.

Looking at content as a long-term investment has always been the right way to go. It can help you determine how best to serve your audience, within the boundaries of your authority, giving them what they want and need. Or in other words, as Neil summarised,

Reactive content can’t compete organically with well-established, highly authoritative content over short periods of time.

Neil Hannam

How does this affect your brand?

During these past 4+ months, people have formed new habits and behaviours. What was once seen as convenience, like a one-day Amazon Prime delivery, quickly became a necessity.

So much so that 35% of all UK online purchases during lockdown were made through Amazon. In mid-April 2020, beauty brands saw a 341% increase in online purchases, most likely because nipping into physical Boots or Superdrug stores was no longer an option.

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Take a look at your customers’ behaviours before and after covid to see the shifts within your own business. However small or seemingly meaningless on the surface, they pose a very real identifier of what new, ‘real-world’ consumer habits may look like.

For example, popping to the shop is a thing of the past. 40% of shoppers who have since returned to the high street following the easing of lockdown restrictions said they found in-store experience ‘less enjoyable’ than before covid. With safety measures, queues, and time slots just a few of the new things in place for shoppers, who can blame them?

A quick browse in store is - for the most part - simply not worth the effort unless a customer is extremely invested. So how do you get them to invest? How can your content best serve your customers and their way of thinking about and navigating through this new world?

Have you wondered why startup company Zoom became the clear video-call platform of choice throughout this pandemic, while Skype - bought by Microsoft back in 2011, with an 8 year head start on their competitor - got left in the dust? The reason is simple.

While Skype started life as an audio-first platform, incorporating video at a later date, Zoom’s founders recognised audiences were looking for a platform that put video at the forefront of the product.

They had listened to their sector’s audience, identified a big problem, and focused the resolution solely on the customer needs. Zoom has since risen to become a unicorn company and one of the clear brand winners from the pandemic.

Right now is the time to listen to your customers and reinvent your content strategy for the better.

So what can your brand do?

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you stay true to your brand’s central objective and purpose and create content that delivers on them, you’re already onto a winner.

Throughout this pandemic we’ve seen that the voices people want to hear from are empathetic and responsible. How can your brand deliver that within the context of your sector? It’s also worth remembering that trying to be anything but authentic may result in - at best - viral memes mocking your attempts.

Your content doesn’t have to be everything to everyone, in fact it most definitely shouldn’t be. Gardening tips, cupboard-staple recipes, at-home workouts - there’s so much content out there already that’s been written by authoritative figures in their respective field. Stay in your lane, capitalise on your authority and content success will come naturally.

This may take a bit of time too. Remember Neil’s advice: “Reactive content can’t compete organically with well-established, highly authoritative content over short periods of time.”. Slow and steady wins the race. Work on building a solid foundation of content that appeals to your audience.

And let’s not forget about content format. Don’t limit yourself to words when a video, infographic, Q&A (the list goes on…) could be more useful to your audience, and shown more prominently by Google search results than typical organic links.

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Final thoughts

The Influencer Marketing Hub has reported that 69% of brands expect to decrease their ad spend in 2020, presumably a reaction to loss in revenue during lockdown. While this could save them money in the short term, the Advertising Research Foundation suggests that "brands who 'go dark' take 5 years on average to recover market share". That’s to say, first and foremost, continue with your content marketing strategy.

Don’t abandon it or do anything rash, there’s no need to scrap your current content and start again… just yet. Instead, be strategically focused on the long term and work on identifying those new habits your customers have developed. Mark Ritson, Marketing Week columnist, echoes this statement by saying,

The brands that keep a marketing budget see a payback in market share post-recession.

Mark Ritson

Now’s the time to deliver an online experience that’s truly beneficial to customers, and highlights the unique benefits of your brand. Invest now to reap the rewards later down the line.

Do you need a hand with your content or have questions about where to start creating a strategy in a post-covid world? We may not be able to catch up over a coffee face-to-face just yet, but we’re always here to help. Get in touch.

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