Captive audiences, hungry for education and entertainment, have provided unprecedented opportunities to engage and build trust with your audience in 2020. And whilst the pandemic demanded that you fine-tune your approach, scratch below the surface for topic selection and alter your tone, the fact remains that if you weren’t producing content, you were losing out on sales.
So, although 2020 turned much of the world on its head, the importance of content marketing wasn’t diminished.
But have you made the changes necessary to capitalise on its benefits?
Here’s a checklist of just four ways your content could have changed – and still can – to better reflect the last twelve months.
1. Are you doubling-down on content marketing?: In an uncertain economic climate in which outbound marketing sits somewhere on a scale between tactless and tone-deaf, building trust and brand strength through high-quality content that is mindful of readers’ changing needs should have been a priority for your content. It should not have been on pause.
It’s not too late to change tack
Your content should have taken the chance to engage with your readers more.
Because it demonstrates how your products and services make your clients’ lives easier whilst indirectly promoting your business without selling.
Content marketing is a vital part of any marketing strategy at any time. But it really comes into its own at a time when business leaders and consumers are stuck at home looking for information and entertainment.
Since March 2020, according to the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, the average daily screen time for adults has jumped to more than 6 hours. So, with content that is naturally disposed to the long game – and to readers who aren’t yet ready to buy – 2020 has been something of an open goal.
Good, relevant content draws readers in without being directly promotional, nor by shouting at them, but by slowly building trust and loyalty. And whilst 90% of first-time visitors to your website are not in a position to buy immediately, they are open to quality content that engages and helps them. It’s worth remembering that companies that are great at lead nurturing through good content generate on average 50% more sales-ready leads at one third of the cost.
So, if you haven’t been prioritising audiences over services or products, now’s the time to correct that.
2. Are you adapting content topics to reflect employees’ immediate problems?: It’s understandable that a large tranche of content marketing rushed to cover helpful topics such as working from home, but that sort of content was fighting it out for cut-through in a crowded landscape.
Quality content should have been scratching the surface to dig a little deeper; addressing more endemic problems in organisational structures, for example, that were turning an acute problem of employee stress into a chronic one.
How can you fix this?
So, what pressing topics might your content have overlooked?
Let’s look at a few stats from last year, gathered by Harvard Business Review across nearly 50 countries in autumn 2020, to put this in context; they reveal that a massive 85% of workers reported that their well-being had declined; nearly two thirds of the respondents who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous quarter; a staggering 90% said their work life was getting worse; and more than half said their job demands had increased.
If your content hasn’t been engaging with readers to address those concerns, it should start to focus more on the stories behind the stats; for example, why are businesses still allowing more and more meetings, unhealthy levels of screen time and longer working hours?
And everybody’s dealing with the pressure of video calls – far harder on employees both physically and mentally – and the extreme difficulties of running effective meetings when people are denied even the most basic cues of non-verbal communication that successful business relationships have always relied on.
But it’s not too late. Try and refocus your content on topics that will help people address the increased stresses of their new environments, and you’ll engage them even more.
3. Is your content addressing upstream mental health interventions?: Mental health was a topic covered widely in the press, but plenty of content was light on specific upstream solutions. The absence of invaluable advice for remote managers and team leaders on how to recognise and act on worsening mental health in already over-stressed employees was startling.
Upgrading content to target mental health topics
As discussed above, we already know that many employees were struggling to achieve a work-life balance. Thanks to mental health training in the workplace, some now know how to spot early signs of depression. According to the UK’s Mental Health First Aid organisation, the basic signs to look out for in remote-working employees are slowness in thinking, talking and moving; an unkempt appearance; and a lack of attention to physical appearance and personal hygiene.
It logically follows that employees who keep their webcams off – perhaps citing a poor internet connection as an excuse – should be an alarm bell for bosses. Those experiencing the early stages of depression from burnout are sometimes embarrassed to reveal their physical appearance, they prefer to avoid eye contact, and are uncomfortable revealing a messy or dirty home.
So whilst it might have felt edgy to have your team on a video call in their pyjamas every morning, it wasn’t really doing anybody any favours. Content that did address solutions all too often offered downstream advice – essentially, self-care – instead of upstream interventions. It made a bad problem worse by shifting responsibility onto the employee. In other words, much of the content prescribed self-care cures like meditation apps, yoga and well-being programmes to cure what was clearly not a self-care issue but an organisational problem.
4. Are you going big on video content?: Considering the increase in adult screen time in pan-global lockdowns, video content allows organisations to demonstrate their concern for clients and customers in a more direct way whilst offering intelligent solutions to their problems. And not forgetting that content plays the long game, your brand will simultaneously benefit whilst building that trust.
Why you need to take action
Video is a reliable means of enhancing content marketing performance.
Because it allows you to build a more emotional connection to your audience. Even if it’s just an animated infographic to introduce written content, research has shown that clients and consumers are 50% more likely to read an email if it contains a video link. In short, it’s an effective means of boosting conversions and improving ROI.
But what happens if you rely exclusively on text for your content marketing strategy?
Research proves that the average individual will read only one fifth of the words on a web page. The other 80% is lost, so video or animated infographics give you the chance to get your message across succinctly and memorably. According to Animoto, the creators of DIY video tools, 50% of people have shared a company video, and around 80% have “liked” one. And the more video content is seen and shared, the more it’s trusted.
Figures from Wyzowl, an explainer-video production company, show that nearly 90% of video marketers report an increase of traffic to their website. And its costs aren’t prohibitive; you can repurpose written content to save money and time in production.
Talk to your readers
The uncertainties of a possible exit and recovery from the pandemic still offer the chance to focus on the deeper and more engaging needs and interests of your readers. And whilst content that has intrinsic value is important at any time, during periods of crisis, chaos and uncertainty, it’s indispensable.