What I’ve learned about content marketing in a COVID world

As a digital content manager in the tourism industry, it’s my job to create and implement a strategy that not only sells but also elevates brand awareness, educates, offers deep feelings of connection and wanderlust. 

But how do you do that in an age where travel is so closely related to a global pandemic? Travel content marketing in a COVID world means that none of the usual rules applies and you have to adapt quickly during a highly sensitive time. 

The ability to pivot quickly allowed me to learn some valuable lessons about travel content marketing in a COVID world; however, these insights can be easily applied to most businesses and services.

Now is not the time for a hard sell

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It’s not business as usual. As much as you may be tempted to get aggressive and ramp up your marketing, you have to remember who you’re talking to. You’re talking to real human beings who may be financially, mentally and/or physically impacted by the global pandemic. As much as you’re a business, you have to show your customers that you’re empathetic and that you care.

You have to adapt your marketing plans to match the real world that people are living in. Some are on the breadline; some may have friends or family who have been infected by the virus. If you continue to market your brand, services or products as though this hasn’t happened, you run the high risk of showing your clientele that you’re tone-deaf, unsympathetic to a very real crisis, and only care about your sales. 

Be careful, they will remember after this is over. 

Choose your words wisely

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Words and phrases like “COVID-19”, “global pandemic” and “deadly virus” can be triggering for some. On an almost daily basis, we’re surrounded by news and updates of the major impact this phenomenon is having on public health, basic human interaction, the economy, and even death. 

You don’t want to associate such loaded words with your business so it’s best to avoid using them when you communicate with your clientele. Instead, of saying “During this global pandemic”, use phrases like “During this difficult time…” or “In this unprecedented period…”

Don’t ghost your clientele

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You may think that because everyone is at home it means no one is frequenting your storefront, so you ask yourself why bother to post. Think of it this way: because everyone is home, you have more opportunity to increase brand awareness. A brief pause in posting followed by a conciliatory post (eg. We’re away at the moment/We’ll see you soon) goes a long way. It shows your audience that you’re passionate about maintaining relationships, not just their dollars.

Now is the time to be human

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You may not be in a direct position to sell but now, more than ever, is the time to harvest and nurture customer relationships. As humans, we all crave human interaction and there are many people who are in isolation alone. Use the downtime to interface more with your clients. Q&As, throwback posts, lives, tutorials, reviews, etc. are great ways to keep the interaction going and keep your brand top of mind for your clientele.

Create a recovery plan

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As a business, it’s understandably devastating, both emotionally and financially, to have to postpone or flat out cancel marketing plans. Business may be slow but now is the time to restructure those marketing plans. Admittedly, we’re living in a very uncertain time which means you don’t have the advantage of putting absolute dates and timelines for execution, but it’s still vital to have things in place when things go back to ~normal~.

Set real expectations

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We’re living in a period of not just uncertainty, but one where our new norm means we don’t have all the answers. Many, if not all businesses, simply don’t have a rulebook for these type of circumstances and it’s okay to let your customers know this. Letting your customers know that given the fluidity of the situation, there may be delays in responses or fulfilling orders isn’t bad for your images, it’s honest and transparent. Everyone is impacted by this crisis in one way or the other so it’s okay to ask for some patience. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you have a pass to ignore queries or use the situation as an excuse not to follow up. 

Build your community

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Now, more than ever, people want to feel connected. Use this period as an opportunity to invite your audience to join a community you’ve created. Whether it’s a Facebook group, email newsletter, inviting them to post visuals or reviews of your product with a branded hashtag, give them the opportunity to share, discuss items within your niche. User-generated content has proven to be one of the most effective tools of content marketing; it helps followers feel like they’re involved and a part of something. 

As businesses and brands, we’re all in this together and now is the time to share what’s working and not working in these highly unusual times. What lessons in content marketing have you learned during this unprecedented period?

Let me know if you found this post helpful!

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