Fine-tune Your Content Marketing to Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

By Helen McCrone, Copywriter and Content Writer | Word count 1,677

Businesses around the world are being disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. It’s hard to resist being swept up in the ensuing panic.

So, maybe marketing – in particular content marketing - is not a priority for you right now. Yet content marketing is within the reach of every business, and it’s an effective way to remain in touch with your customers and nurture leads during these extraordinary times.

Below are six helpful marketing insights from various experts. I hope they will help you navigate this crisis – at least from a marketing perspective.

1. Don’t be an ostrich - believe the Coronavirus crisis will impact your business

In ‘Why the Coronavirus Affects Your Business’s Online Strategy’, Jason Yormark remarks that most people seem to be falling into one of two camps: either ‘toilet paper hoarders’ or ‘conspiracy theorists’.

Personally, I think most people are somewhere between those two extremes (although there is an alarming lack of toilet paper in the supermarkets). 

But whatever the truth is about CVOID-19, there’s no escaping the fact that the pandemic is affecting our businesses and our way of life in extraordinary ways.

“We’re already seeing additional markets enter the threshold of “restricted living”. As patterns begin to emerge in response to news events of this nature, it will be imperative for companies to learn from these scenarios so they can sustain growth, even in times where COVID-19 has uprooted people’s lives.” 

Scott McKenzie

Nielsen’s Global Intelligence Leader 

Whether you’re a believer or a doubter, you can’t deny the impact of restricted living on our online buying behavior. And it’s having a truly multiplier effect, as this graph from Numerator, a global market intelligence firm, shows:

COVID 19 Impact on Consumer Behavior

Numerator analyzed the recent purchase behavior of Americans. Around 1 in 4 consumers who had made in-store purchases in the first week of March 2020 said they were replacing in-store shopping trips with online. Among those who had bought online in the same period, 22% said their purchase was influenced by the news of the Coronavirus crisis.

Bear in mind that this particular survey was taken before restricted living conditions were imposed on most of the United States, so it’s pretty safe to assume that those numbers have skyrocketed in the meantime.

What does this mean for you?

That it’s the moment to redesign your online strategies and make sure you’re prepared to meet the changing needs of your customers. What are you waiting for?

2. No more excuses - review your online marketing strategy now

In ‘B2B turns to digital marketing in the wake of coronavirus outbreak’, Dan Gerstenfeld suggests that a downturn gives companies a great opportunity to tackles all those content marketing jobs that are put on the back burner. You know the ones. The jobs you’re always too busy to do because you’re so overloaded with other ‘stuff’.

“This is the time for marketers to revisit the corporate site and make sure that your company is well presented… to reset goals for your marketing campaigns and take an in-depth look into the performance of past efforts.”

Dan Gerstenfeld

Online PR & web marketing expert; founder of Interteam Content Services

If the pandemic has caused you to suspend normal business or marketing activities, this could your chance to tweak your company’s visibility and promotion strategy. Dan recommends the following:

  • Update your website content: Does every page have a call to action? Could you add some new product and information pages? Maybe the design and navigation need a refresh.
  • Check your website’s performance: Use Google Analytics and Search Console to see what is and isn’t working. Introduce SEO best practices when creating content to improve the quality and quantity of your web traffic.
  • Expand your content marketing: Generate ideas for new blog posts, write the next few newsletters, create a few videos, start an email campaign, develop an ebook to download from your website to generate leads.
  • Issue press releases and articles: Write about topics that are suitable for this period. Inform the media and your clients of any changes to your business; reassure them you’re still open for business.
  • Upgrade your marketing materials: Replace those old presentations, brochures and other marketing materials that are knocking around. Go take some decent promotional photos or videos while you’re at it.
  • Engage on social media: Strategize how you can improve social media engagement. Not yet tried Twitter or LinkedIn? Need to pick up some new skills?

3. Don’t cancel your event - turn it into a digital event

In ‘The Importance of Content Marketing During Coronavirus Pandemic’, Shohei Fukano explains how marketers of big tech brands are scrambling to redistribute their marketing budget tout suite. These companies set aside around 30-40% of their annual budget for trade shows and events, but the coronavirus has blown that up in style as events get cancelled left, right and center.

Instead, marketers are turning to digital technology to stay engaged with their customers. A prime example is Think 2020, IBM’s premier client and developer conference, which has been recreated at astonishing speed as a global, digital-first event.

Now, I doubt your company has the budget of IBM, but as we see more event closures, there’s no reason why you can’t follow IBM’s innovative lead and adapt your plans.

Think digitally when it comes to your events
Think digitally when it comes to your events

Take advantage of companies that offer digital technologies at very affordable prices. Companies like Zoom Video Communications, which provides modern enterprise video communications, via an a cloud platform and across a range of devices and systems. 

Zoom says it will help event organizers quickly adapt and host trade shows, user conferences, sales kickoffs, and other events online. It can even let monetize your event by charging people to attend.

The package for small and medium businesses costs just $19.99 a month, so  digital events are not just for the big boys.

4. Be smart - invest in high-level strategic PR and marketing activities

In ‘How to Survive a Brand Quarantine During Coronavirus’ Kristen Ruby sounds a note of caution. She reckons that amateur marketers won’t change their marketing approach. They’ll remain tone-deaf to how people are feeling about the chaos going on around them.

However, the professionals will know it’s time to pause and reflect. They’ll understand that the beautiful creatives they’ve been working hard on will have to be put to one side.

“Strategy means knowing when to stay silent just as much as it means knowing what to post and when.”

Kristen Ruby

CEO of Ruby Media Group, an award-winning public relations agency

Kristen also warns against cheap marketing ploy to acquire more customers. “Unless you are a medical professional,” she says, “tread lightly with the content you put out.” After all, consumers have long memories. Get your message wrong and you could suffer irreparable brand damage.

So, spend this time as effectively as possible. Focus more on strategy and less on quick marketing hits. As Kristen reminds us, a national health crisis and pandemic is not a marketing opportunity.

5. Be appropriate - don’t be tone-deaf in a pandemic

In ‘Twitter Gives Brands Advice on How to Communicate in This Coronavirus Climate’, Garett Sloane advises that all companies need to double-check their marketing to see if they are still appropriate. He gave a couple of interesting big-brand examples:

  • Hershey has pulled ads showing people hugging and touching (a little insensitive when people are practicing “social distancing”.)
  • Coors Light has pulled the plug on a March Madness campaign whose slogan was “Official beer of ‘working’ remotely” (since we’re at home to avoid contracting a disease, not watch college basketball).

Not coming off as tone deaf was also mentioned in ‘Marketing Your Business During The Coronavirus Crisis’. Jeff Leo Herrmann reminds us that our prospects and customers will be spending more time at home with the news media. Two of his tips include:

  • Using the right tone and posture to maintain or increase your presence on trusted local media platforms.
  • Checking your pre-scheduled social media posts to make sure they match the tone of the current climate.

Wise words, indeed.

6. Be inventive - help your isolated consumers stay loyal

In ‘Brands pivot their marketing strategies in the wake of the coronavirus’, Aaron Brooks highlights the savvy brands that are adapting to the sudden change in consumer behavior. These adaptations aren’t always big. But they are helping customers cope with a new lifestyle.

For example, Mercedez Benz ran a digital campaign in China to let customers see a 360-degree interior view of its GLB SUV. Meanwhile, Nike has been posting at-home workout videos on TikTok, replacing weights with water bottles.

Inform and entertain your customers using digital content 
A surprised woman watching a video on her smartphone

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As Aaron points out, these brands are helping people not only deal with their isolation but also feel entertained. In this day and age, what could be more natural than turning to your smart phones to alleviate boredom and loneliness?

Think your company isn’t big enough to adapt?

Any business can participate in microblogging. By sharing short messages on social channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest you can keep in contact with your customers (In China, the microblogging platform Weibo has seen usage grow by 31%).

How about creating some how-to videos that are related to your industry, product or service? Apparently, skin care purchases in China are down 30% year on year, but time spent watching skin care-related video is up 300%.

“There may be a downturn in customer spending, there is an increase in customer touchpoints and attention.” 

Aaron Brooks

Co-Founder of Vamp,  an influencer marketing and content platform

The message from China appears to be that your customers will spend again when normal life resumes. In the meantime, adapt if you can by staying in contact and offering them a little added value. They’ll reward you with loyalty.

Well, I hope this round up of marketing advice during these extraordinary times has sparked some ideas for you. If nothing else, it’s made you realize that now is not the time to carry on as normal. What's more, it's not just the big brands that can adapt. We all can. 

So, stay safe. Don’t panic. And though you may not be able to share the same physical space as your colleagues, you can still share this article safely. Thank you!


Helen McCrone has been helping businesses communicate effectively in writing since 2004. She writes promotional copy such as websites, marketing emails, and brochures as well as marketing content such as case studies, white papers and blog posts. Born in bred and bred in England, Helen now lives in the sunshine state of Florida. She relies on yoga, her faith, her American husband and her British sense of humor to keep her sane.