What’s Trending: Adapting to a New Normal

March 30, 2020

Adapting to a New Normal in Marketing

Congratulations, you’ve made it through another week of exploring uncharted territory. It’s likely in the first week or two, you were simply trying to keep balance while dealing with feelings of grief, loss and anxiety. 

These emotions are not only natural, they’re necessary. We have to feel them to move past them and into some semblance of normal.

If you haven’t started creating new routines yet, I recommend it. Find ways to establish a feeling of normalcy and stability. You may not wake up, exercise, or take a lunch break at the same time as you did at the office. But it’s worth figuring out what works for you right now.

That doesn’t mean you will never go back to the old normal, of course; it just means you are better equipping yourself for what’s happening now. 

This week’s roundup collects good advice on helping your customers find a new normal, too. You’ll find some deep thoughts on content marketing, a guide to providing accurate and timely content, and even some industry analysis.

1. Content Marketing in the Age of Coronavirus

In our last roundup, we talked about the existential question: “Should we continue marketing during this crisis?” The consensus is that yes, we can and should keep communicating with people in a helpful, trustworthy manner.

Dennis Belogorsky puts it even more strongly:

“YOUR CUSTOMERS NEED YOU,” he emphasizes. “With so many people today hungry for guidance and leadership from industry leaders, now is the perfect time to elevate your organization above business as usual, and double down on your expertise, thought leadership, and mission.”

Dennis offers a four-point plan for making sure your content stays useful and relevant during the crisis. The most crucial step for me was number four: Plan way ahead. He recommends using this relatively slow time to build a solid framework for content marketing during the crisis and well beyond it. Says Dennis, “Start by laying down the foundations while things are in a relative downturn. Because once the tide turns there’ll be other urgent needs that will prioritize your time and resources.”

2. Content Marketing and They Ask, You Answer in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis

Marcus Sheridan is a legend in the content marketing world, and for good reason. Way back in 2008, in the middle of a financial crisis, his content turned a struggling business into a powerhouse. The simple framework that he developed helped define what content marketing should be. 

Marcus’s big idea was, “they ask, you answer.” In other words, address your audience’s burning questions about your business. This strategy led him to talk about things his competitors didn’t — like providing pricing information without capturing leads for a quote. He found that letting his customers set the terms of engagement led to more traffic and more sales than a hard sales pitch ever would.

In this interview with John Becker, Marcus talks about how “they ask, you answer” was crucial for the 2008 crisis and for our current one. He encourages companies to engage with their customers’ questions about the crisis, rather than attempt to ignore it. 

“Everyone is focused on what’s happening in the world, and concerned about their health and wellness,” he says. “I think it’s important to consider all of the possible ramifications for your industry, and then address those openly and specifically on your website — and do so as soon as possible.”

3. Get an A for Accuracy With This Fact-Checking Content Checklist

Getting the facts straight is one crucial aspect of providing valuable content in a crisis. Misinformation is an all-too-common part of online discourse in general, and it’s worse in a crisis. Brands that attempt to grab attention with misleading headlines or misinterpreted data risk losing credibility with their target audience (at best). And that’s not even counting brands that click ‘share’ on a trending article without checking its veracity.

Now is a good time for a refresher on fact-checking, and Ann Gynn’s list is a fantastic resource. She brings a journalistic eye to verifying content — something we all could stand to develop as we seek to inform our audience.

One item of particular interest is how to identify and avoid questionable statistics. “Every piece of data-backed information should cite the original source or it shouldn’t be used,” she says. “Don’t cite a stat cited by someone else that was cited from a mega infographic that didn’t include the original source.”

What’s more, Ann says, beware of the context of your data, too. If you cite a survey of salespeople in a marketing blog, for example, it’s important to note where the data come from. Or if you’re citing an informal survey, don’t present it as a statistically significant, scientific report.

And, of course, while these tips are especially relevant right now, content creators should make fact-checking a regular part of their routine. It’s a discipline we could all stand to brush up on.

4. Publishers Put Virtual Events to the Test

The past few weeks have seen a boom in virtual events. Everyone from theater companies to bands to event marketers are trying to bring content to their audiences without meeting in person. But can a virtual event really substitute for an actual conference? 

In a well-researched post for Digiday, Kayleigh Barber evaluates the current landscape for virtual events. She quotes Larry Weil, an events sponsorship consultant, on the economic potential: “‘I don’t believe you can take a three-day conference and put it online,’ Weil said. ‘Sponsorship is definitely going to take a hit. But those who have a digital strategy, and can scramble, can defer a lot of the loss.’” Larry estimates that companies can recoup a third to one half of the revenue they might have seen from an in-person event. 

Kayleigh explores the different ways that companies can hold virtual events, too. It’s good to see a wide range of options, depending on the budget. Your brand might not have its own custom live-streaming solution, but you can still host through free options like LinkedIn Live, YouTube Live and Google Hangouts, or a low-cost alternative like Zoom.

Regardless of how you go about hosting a virtual event, it makes sense to focus on the value you’re providing your audience. Instead of trying to replicate every aspect of an in-person meetup, challenge your team to think of ways you can add value that’s unique to the virtual setup. For example, you could host interactive text chats with speakers, bring in two panelists from different sides of the world, and enable networking through social media.

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