5 Types of content that hard-hit brands can create to stay relevant and strong in a global crisis

2020 has been a bitch of a year that no one anticipated would kill thousands, isolate hundreds of millions of people in their homes and cripple economies all over the globe. With many brands and businesses forced into survival mode, they’ve had to dig up their dusty, cobweb-covered ‘how to do marketing during a global pandemic’ playbook to recalibrate their marketing efforts. Oh, wait – there isn’t one! Maybe that’s because pandemics on the scale we’re experiencing right now happen about once a century, so we’re a little rusty on our grasp of global-pandemic-consumer-psychology. For the most part, marketers are figuring it out for themselves by observing their peers and competitors and using common sense to reshape their messaging and navigate the ‘New Normal’ that’s evolving all around us, in a bid to keep their brands strong. Ironically, it’s usually the marketing department that’s hardest hit when companies are forced to cut costs.
As a marketer, content creator and writer, I am instinctively drawn to looking at the situation with my ‘Marketer’s Hat’ on, in order to create my own playbook for marketing during a global crisis. I understand that it’s important for hard-hit businesses to cut costs to mitigate losses and reallocate budgets to prevent layoffs and ‘save’ other areas that are literally tantamount to keeping the business afloat (if possible) – even though their products or services have suddenly become temporarily irrelevant. Those that haven’t shut down permanently have halted trade indefinitely, but they are not ‘dead’. They still have a recognizable brand and even stock to sell either now or once they start trading again. The most important thing for those brands is to stay relevant rather than ‘go dark’ on their audiences, by creating content that keeps their customers and followers engaged despite the temporary demotion of their offering to a low-priority product or service. And to do that well, you need savvy marketers and content creators who know their stuff.
According to research from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) on messaging strategy during the current crisis –
  • 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands they “know and trust” as COVID-19 pandemic spreads.
  • 40% want to know how companies are responding to the coronavirus pandemic
  • 15% say they don’t want to hear from companies at the current time
  • 43% of consumers believe coronavirus messages from retailers sound too similar and “are losing their impact.”
Bearing this in mind – whether you’re a business owner or a content creator looking for some direction or inspiration, here are a few ways to approach content creation that can help your brand stay strong even if your products or services have been deemed temporarily irrelevant or ‘non-essential’.
5 Ways for (temporarily) ‘irrelevant’ brands to stay relevant and strong in a global crisis:
1) Make sure your company announcements are genuinely purposeful.
If there’s something that’s absolutely certain in all of this pandemic mayhem, it’s that there is plenty of uncertainty about how long it will last, what’s supposed to be happening in the meantime, and what life will look like on the other side. So, to bring clarity to your customers and followers about what’s going on with your company, communicate updates from time to time about how the crisis has affected your business and what the plan is for riding out the storm so that you can be there for your customers once the crisis subsides. Remember that most other businesses will be doing the same thing, so you don’t want to add to the noise unless it’s in your audience’s interest, so there’s no need to communicate every little company decision or update, just the ‘big ones’ that affect how they can continue to enjoy your products or services either now or in the future.
2) Produce practical, useful information that’s relevant to your niche.
Many well-meaning brands are creating content they think might be useful to their audience, but which has no connection to what the company actually does. A ‘how to’ guide with ‘Tips for working from home’ sounds like a great idea (which is why every second company has already done it and why this topic has already been well and truly exhausted) – but the guide doesn’t make sense coming from a hardware supplies company, or a dog grooming boutique. Instead, use your in-house expertise to create useful content that relates to what you do and is useful during this period of self-isolation indoors. So, the hardware company could create a series blog posts and/or videos featuring ‘DIY Tips for fixing urgent stuff around the house’ and the dog grooming boutique can create a similar series on ‘DIY Tips for grooming your dog while our boutique is on hiatus’. You get the gist.
3) Create thought-leadership content that’s interesting and entertaining, and unrelated to the current crisis.
Not all content you produce during this time needs to relate to the pandemic or the current situation in general. In fact, one might argue that it’s the content that isn’t about those things that provides a ‘breath of fresh air’ to people online who are bombarded with COVID-19 messaging at every turn. Instead, demonstrate your authority in your niche by creating content that’s either interesting or entertaining (or ideally both!) about your industry, your company, products or services. Check out this post for some content creation inspiration.
4) Adopt a cause that’s relevant for your brand to support during this challenging time and communicate your progress to your audience.
If your company offers products or services that have been deemed as relatively non-essential or ‘low priority’ at the moment, like umbrellas, for example – you’re likely to see a sharp drop in sales, with most people staying indoors and ordering everything from groceries to practically everything else – online. People aren’t going out for long walks in the rain, or going anywhere, really, so you’ll most likely find yourself stuck with stock that won’t be flying off the shelves any time soon. You might even consider halting trade, temporarily.

But even if you’ve closed your bricks-and-mortar operation and your team is working remotely, you can still endear yourself to your audience by making your brand relevant anyway through contributing relief or supporting a worthy cause. For example, you could team up with a courier or postal service to provide umbrellas to folks in the delivery business who could really use them (in areas where it’s winter). Or if you have a food-related company that’s still open for takeaway trade, maybe you could donate your unsold food at the end of each day to the staff at your nearest hospital. Or if you’re an airline that’s been forced to ground its entire fleet due to travel restrictions, you could donate the toilet paper from the grounded planes to vulnerable members of the community (well done Virgin Australia!).
Usually when you partner your brand with a worthy cause it’s not only so that you can lap up the praise, because hopefully you really do care about the cause, but if you’re using company resources to make it happen, it’s definitely appropriate for you to share it with your community of customers and followers. The fact that you can still think of ways for your brand to ‘give back’ in times of hardship even though your business might be struggling as well, is certainly endearing and praiseworthy, and it will be remembered. It doesn’t matter if your contribution is huge or modest, obviously you can only help to a certain degree depending on the size and health of your own company. But a brand is often a reflection of the people behind it, and customers tend to appreciate a well-meaning gesture regardless of its monetary value, so brands with a genuinely big heart are often the ones that inspire the most adulation and loyalty whether they’re big or small.
5) Create a more personal connection to your company by introducing your team to the world and sharing their experience of the crisis.
Most marketing campaigns are product-centric or service-centric because the aim is to sell something or accomplish some sort of other business goal. But during a time of crisis when the aim isn’t necessarily to “just” sell, but rather to nurture your audience’s connection with your brand, the rules are different, which means you could also create people-centric campaigns, putting your team front and center and showing your customers and followers a different side of the business. You could do this via a series of blog posts and/or videos based on fun interviews that show a glimpse into your team members’ lives during the crisis, or you could create “what our team is into right now” content to inspire and entertain your audience. For example, “Our team’s selection of top viral feel-good/funny Coronavirus-related videos” or “Our team’s top tips for keeping the kids entertained at home” or if there’s a holiday coming up – “How our team is planning to celebrate <holiday X>”, etc.
The other way to create a people-centric campaign is to make your existing customers the focus. Invite them via your newsletter or social media channels to participate in a testimonial campaign where they talk about how they’re benefiting (or have benefited in the past) from using your product. It may not suddenly boost sales for a product or service that’s considered low-priority right now (although it might!) but it will definitely keep your brand on your audience’s radar. Just make sure these campaigns don’t come across as self-serving because they’ll backfire. The messaging has to be about how ‘even though you’ve temporarily ceased trading because of the crisis, you’re committed to resuming trade and welcoming more happy customers once things are back to normal’. People will appreciate that you’re in a tough spot finanically, so if you’re sensitive about the execution of the campaign, they won’t hold it against you, and at the same time they’ll be impressed with the glowing customer testimonials so that when the time comes to buy your product or use your service again, your brand will be top-of-mind.
So those are just a few ideas for the type of content you could create, but just as important – is the tone of the messaging, because the usual tone that might have been appropriate during the ‘Old Normal’ doesn’t quite fly in this ‘New Normal’.
Here are some things to consider when crafting crisis-appropriate content:
  • Try to always create content that’s creative and unique, especially if it relates to COVID-19. Even just a month or two into ‘self-isolation mode’ in many parts of the world, the topic has been exhausted, so if you’re going to create yet another piece of content relating to the “New Normal”, give it a genuinely fresh edge to avoid major eye-roll action from your audience.
  • My go-to writing style is to use humor, but it’s not always appropriate to do that for certain messages, so if you can’t use humor, soften the blow of difficult or disappointing announcements by using a conversational, heartfelt tone rather than clinical, corporate language that appears detached and unsympathetic.
  • Consider your campaign timing based on real-time events, especially if it’s light-hearted. Even a well-executed campaign may be deemed inappropriate if you choose to launch it on a particularly depressing news day (e.g. high death toll, huge stock market plunge, etc.), so make sure you’re informed about what’s going on in the world to avoid insensitive timing for what might have otherwise been a well-received campaign.
  • Don’t create campaigns around content that’s outside of your wheelhouse. If you’re not an expert on a particular topic (especially if it involves scientific, medical or economic insights), leave it to the experts and focus instead on your own area of expertise.
  • In all of your communications, aim to demonstrate empathy, compassion, confidence and a sense of optimism. That’s not to say that you should sugarcoat everything that’s crappy with a ‘rainbows and cotton candy’ outlook. But as much as people appreciate it when you demonstrate vulnerability, honesty and transparency – most people are doing it tough right now (one way or another) and the daily News is depressing enough as it is, so they don’t need marketing messaging to bring them down even more. Try to find the ‘glass is half full’ angle as much as possible and to frame everything in a way that gives your customers and followers hope (and even joy!) rather than despair.
  • This one might sound a bit corny, but… make your campaigns human. Remember that although everyone is preoccupied with what matters to them most, which is generally their own and their families’ wellbeing both in the short and long term – they’re also sensitive to the fact that brands that are struggling right now due to economic hardship are doing their best to stay relevant. If you can communicate a sense of empathy, usefulness and pride through outstanding, creative and memorable content (as opposed to content that’s tacky, insensitive, self-serving, repetitive and unoriginal), your brand will be much better positioned to bounce back post-pandemic than it will if you disappear off your audience’s radar completely while your competitors continue to keep their brands visible and strong.

Other posts you might like

Noya Lizor - I'm all about creating standout content that helps businesses grow

Hey, I'm Noya

I’m a marketer and copywriter based in Sydney, Australia. I’m all about creating standout content that helps businesses grow.

Want to hear more from me?

Join my mailing list to receive updates about new content & freebies, and the occasional rant about whatever’s irking or inspiring me enough to want to share it with the world.
** Wondering why I’m asking for your favourite colour? **
It’s because after you subscribe, you’ll be receiving my free, 7-part E-course on “how to add ‘oomph’ to your marketing emails” (you’re welcome!) and the ‘favourite colour’ thing will make sense in email #6 ;-)
Note: By signing up you are agreeing to my Privacy Policy.

I'm on YouTube!

Recent Posts


Scroll to Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience and to help it run effectively. For more info check out the Privacy policy.