When dealing with a crisis, content teams have to be ready for rapid change. Whether grappling with a singular incident such as a cyber attack or a severe storm or facing a massive global news event such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis will bring unique content challenges.
Content professionals in crises have to get the facts straight. And, they need to understand how to let customers and readers know their content is trustworthy and reliable.
Here are five practical tips to help with crisis content creation.
1. Be flexible (but set boundaries)
When a crisis happens, content teams immediately start to hear from their CEOs, presidents, and senior leaders. “What should we say?” “How soon can we get out our message?” “We need this out on social media today!” Whether you have a team of two or 10, you have to be ready to drop what you had planned and cover the crisis.
During a crisis, team members may need to temporarily change focus. Or you may need to pull in talent from other teams. For example, if you no longer need new online advertisements for some time, ask for marketing copywriters to jump in and help write crisis content for social channels.
In the case of an ongoing crisis, as with COVID-19, which could last for months or even more than a year, you may want to establish a shift calendar. Content teams across the world are being asked to work around the clock. No matter what the size of your team is, creating a rotating shift system can help content teams:
- share work evenly,
- take turns with nights and weekends,
- and empower individuals to choose the times when they can work.
It is also essential to share your content team’s shift calendar with other partners in your organization so that they know who is on duty when and will reach out to the right person. Creating and sharing a shift schedule is especially important for content team leaders who need to establish clear times when they are unavailable so they can have a break.
And, even though a crisis means customers and readers need more information more quickly than ever, content teams should set boundaries with their leadership. Taking on too much, too fast, for too long will cause burnout and mistakes. Telling leadership that you need more time or need to choose which communications are most important will ensure your team puts out accurate error-free content.
2. Make crisis content easy to consume
In a crisis, customers and readers may start frantically looking for information. They will not have the patience to figure out where you put that message from your CEO about how the company is handling the crisis. And, an analysis of data from Content Science’s content effectiveness software ContentWRX reveals that if your customers had trouble finding your content but eventually did, they are less than half as likely to view that content as accurate. Nothing is more important than accuracy during a severe crisis.
Organizations are reacting quickly to the COVID-19 crisis to help users find essential information. Many are putting a prominent banner on their homepage or pinning messages and links to critical updates on their social media feeds. For example, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is displaying a link to COVID-19 information for the Johns Hopkins University community at the very top of their homepage. They also have created an online hub that is pulling together all of their information about COVID-19 so users only have to go to one place to get what they need.
4. Put on live events (and repurpose them into more content)
Just 3 months ago, if you told us about digital talk-shows, court trials, and local news, we’d probably laugh.
Here’s where we are going with this.
If you’ve never thought about live events as part of your marketing or business model, you might want to reconsider. And if you have, now’s the time to double down on live interactions with your audience!
Live events come in many, many formats (especially now!), but we’re going to recommend just two — because they fit pretty much any brand. They are…
- Workshops/webinars/trainings — if you don’t have the time/budget/energy/all of the above to create a mini-course from Strategy #4, hosting a live workshop is a great alternative. You can pack a lot of value and education in 1-2 hours and teach your viewers something useful. All you need is a webcam, a mic, a PowerPoint presentation, and your vast expertise to pull it off.
- Q&A sessions/fireside chats — step 1: show up. Step 2: spend 30-60 minutes talking to your audience and answering their questions. Step 3: there is no step 3, that’s it! Q&As are probably the easiest form of live content to produce, and even tiny one-person businesses can host them easily. They work best on a regular schedule — say, once a week, every other week, or once a month.
Another great thing about live content is — you can record it and repurpose it into something else. Your masterclass can be turned into a mini-course or an ultimate guide. Your in-depth Q&A answers can be transcribed, edited, and published to your blog. That time your cat jumped on the table and demanded you pet her? That’s a blooper for your social media!
4. Use credible sources
If your users do not perceive your content as accurate, it might as well not be. This is especially true at a time in which misinformation is spreading like wildfire. For example, social media is overrun with myths about “cures” for COVID-19, from bleach to alcohol. So, you need to use credible sources before providing any information. People needs to trust and have faith on the information that you are providing.
5. Craft a mini-course to help your customers
This is a more advanced technique that expands on what we’ve shown you in Strategy #1. Just like before, find the “sweet spot” where your customers’ needs during this crisis intersect with your industry expertise…
…but instead of creating one-off pieces of content, make something more ambitious, like a mini-course or an ultimate guide.
It should teach your customers a specific skill (or even a set of skills) to:
- Solve a painful problem they’re struggling with, or
- Capitalize on a new opportunity that wasn’t there before
Said problem or opportunity could be anything. For example, we’ve seen an awful lot of free courses about starting an online business pop up. There’s also a booming demand for courses on remote productivity, all kinds of hobbies, home cooking, working out, taking an existing business offline — everything you can think of.
Do some digging, discover what your audience cares about learning right now, and help them scratch that itch if you can. Just make sure to keep your mini-course:
- Short: no more than 14 days.
- Focused: deliver one specific result.
- Relevant: to your audience and to your business.
- Free: just do your best to help people, no strings attached.
- Public: because now is not the time to gate your content!
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