I’ve talked to company founders, marketers, and other content creators over the past few months, and there are three big questions on top of people’s minds when it comes to content creation:
- Should I be making content right now?
- What kind of content should I make?
- How should I do it?
In any other time, these questions might feel pretty basic. But given the high-stakes of the moment we’re in, these are all reasonable questions to ask. Doing something tone-deaf or off-brand is more likely than ever to hurt your reputation. On the other hand, content has become a lot more powerful as a marketing tool over the last couple of months, and the best content is more likely than ever to be amplified and shared widely.
There are certainly challenges when it comes to finding your voice as a business today in a global pandemic, but now is not the time to go silent. It’s the time to embrace our new creative constraints and create content that’s genuinely useful.
As a form of marketing, content is far more effective than it was a few months ago — in large part, because other forms have been so badly hamstrung by the pandemic.
Advertisers don’t want their ads to show up next to anything that has to do with the coronavirus, which has fueled broad cutbacks in spending. Interruptive advertising also just feels worse when much of the economy is still shut down and so many folks are are actively concerned about their health and the health of loved ones.
Cold calling and emailing is much harder with so many people at home juggling multiple responsibilities and guarding their time more closely. Events are obviously nonexistent and will be for some time.
On the other hand, more content is being consumed than ever — people are spending more time watching videos and more time on social media as we search for entertainment and distraction in our day-to-day.
Content is winning because it can be consumed asynchronously (in between other commitments), because it can help us escape (unlike advertising, which interrupts escape), and because our virtually nation-wide quarantine makes some forms of it easier to create.
“Content is winning because it can be consumed asynchronously, because it can help us escape, and because our virtually nation-wide quarantine makes some forms of it easier to create.”
Create content that’s genuinely useful.
At work, people are struggling with all kinds of new, urgent questions: how to work from home effectively, how to think about adjusting paid marketing spend, whether you should freeze hiring and/or promotions and/or pay raises, how to run virtual events, and many more.
If you don’t know what your customers need help with, ask them (that’s what we did). Opening up a line of communication de-risks the practice of content creation and keeps you focused on people’s real problems.
If you’re not sure what you made is good, there’s never been a better time to send it to friends and coworkers first for feedback. Your main distribution goal should be making content that’s so helpful people share it with their friends and co-workers. Don’t get discouraged if that’s not happening right away, though. It will take some time to tinker with your content and find out what works best.
Any way you can. The playing field has been leveled.
We’re all at home with limited-to-no equipment, trying to figure out how to create great content — whether that’s getting the best shot in our home offices or building a DIY sound booth to make our podcasts sound better.
Some content formats, like podcasts for example, are actually well suited to be made in this environment. With altered schedules and event cancellations, more folks are willing to jump on a Zoom call and have a casual conversation that can be edited and shared with the public.
Whatever content you decide to create, one thing this moment has made clear is that production values aren’t everything. John Krasinski’s show Some Good News has about 2 million subscribers even though the quality of the video is worse than that of your average YouTuber. Artists and actors are making great content for Instagram with the cameras on their iPhones.
If you’ve hesitated to make content because you don’t think it looks professional enough, then this is your time to shine.
“Whatever content you decide to create, one thing this moment has made clear is that production values aren’t everything.”
The last thing to remember about making content right now is that brands exist in the context of the world, which has shifted dramatically over the last several months.
Before you start producing content, take a step back and look at what conversations your brand has the right to enter in this moment. Then, think about what your customers really need help with — and what you are the best positioned to address.
Stay true to your brand, make content that’s genuinely helpful and valuable, and people will remember.