Brand marketers had to and are still shifting their communications quickly. We’re in week seven of lockdown, and conversations are now including whether or not to mention coronavirus at all or how to balance acknowledging the gravity of the pandemic while still publishing value-added content.
We’re all wading these waters together and here at Sociality Squared, we by no means have all of the answers either. We do have some recommendations to help you decide what to do right now based on our experience, starting with an audit of your current plans and making sure that nothing is being automated that may need to be paused.
We all need to support each other during this time.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Before diving into these specific questions to ask about your brand’s marketing, whatever role you play at your company, it is important to acknowledge where you’re personally at right now. This may change hour by hour or day by day. Some of the crisis communication scenarios we potentially could be writing as theoretical exercises and then may have to publish as reality unfolds are devastating and heartbreaking. As social media marketers, we’re online constantly because it’s our job and that means we’re seeing all of the news as we’re working. There’s an energetic and mental toll that being plugged-in can take on you. It’s important to acknowledge this and give yourself permission to not be “on” 24/7 – you shouldn’t be anyway. Openly communicate with your team. Lean on them and act as a unit to support one another. If the whole team needs more time off, consider really pulling back your content or bringing in extra support or just acknowledging that productivity expectations should not be what they were pre-coronavirus.
Here are the questions we’re asking ourselves and our clients on what to consider before publishing or scheduling content.
Questions to Ask Before Creating Content During the COVID-19 Crisis
Assessment: What’s Your Current Content?
What’s Being Automated?
Have you done an assessment so that you are aware of every ad, drip campaign, and scheduled post that’s running or in the pipeline? If you haven’t done this, you may have a few things on auto-pilot that may not be at the forefront of your mind. Check all of your platforms, systems, and partners to have a clear idea of what’s being automated right now.
Even though we’re weeks into the coronavirus, I’m still receiving content that should have been paused.
Make sure you have a full picture of all of the moving pieces in your marketing communications.
What’s in the Pipeline?
Beyond what’s automated, what do you have planned? Again, this goes beyond just communication calendars. What are agency partners planning? What are other departments and teams expecting? Having a clear idea of everything in the pipeline will help with the assessment.
Does the Content Still Work?
Once you have a clear idea of everything being automated and planned, then take a good stock of what the content is and evaluate if it still works. When did you first draft the post, ad, email, or blog article? Does it still make sense to publish it?
This can be tricky if you invested a lot of time and resources into the content and want to merely tweak it instead of dropping it when it should really be dropped.
Don’t fall into the sunk cost fallacy trap.
Sunk cost fallacy is where your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.
If you’re not sure how to answer if the content still works then take off your brand marketer hat and picture your content in-between COVID updates. Is it welcome? With your personal hat on, ask yourself: would you want to see this content?
Does this Content Need Legal Approval?
You should already have an approval process in place to know who needs to approve what. Given the pandemic and extra sensitivity around information being shared, double-check with your legal team if the old approval process still holds up or if more attention or processes are needed. This is especially important for content related to your brand’s coronavirus stance and health and safety related to all stakeholders – workers, customers, partners, etc.
Content Pivots: To Publish or Not to Publish?
What’s Your Goal?
Always start with what goal you’re looking to achieve from your overall content strategy down to the goal of each post. What are you looking to achieve with your content? Is to maintain current customers or try to attract new ones? Is it to let people know you’re open for business, supporting a non-profit, have new digital offerings, or are closed?
How are You Adding Value?
For the content you’re creating, how are you adding value so that it resonates with your community? Is it entertaining, informing, inspiring, or offering empathy and community support?
Are you publishing just to publish?
If you’re publishing just to publish, it may be better to pause communications until you have a clear understanding of the value you want to deliver with your content.
Are You Being Empathetic?
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and empathy is needed more now than ever before, but what does that actually mean?
The best rule of thumb here is to not assume anything about who is going to be receiving the content. There’s a universal experience that we’re sharing, and, in one form or another, we’re all being impacted by COVID19. In addition to the universality, there’s also specificity to how people are experiencing it: Do they have a loved one they may have lost or is battling it? Or are they sick themselves? Do they have family or are themselves on the frontlines as an essential worker? Are they antsy and don’t agree with being on lockdown? Are they dealing with loneliness, depression, or domestic abuse? Are they exhausted from working from home, schooling, and parenting? Did they lose their job due to this? Are they worried about their finances? (And the list goes on and on.)
To be empathetic, one must imagine what it must be like in someone else’s shoes and as marketers, we have to look into a prism of scenarios and be as empathetic as possible to all members in our communities.
Be incredibly mindful that everyone is experiencing this together but in different ways. With empathy in mind, ask yourself again: How are you adding value? Some posts, even though they may have good intentions to be light-hearted, backfire in times of crisis. This is why it’s crucial to make sure that everything – from values to content – is aligned and that you’re adding value.
Are you Being Transparent?
Transparency is always a principle when it comes to social media marketing and it’s no different now. If your business is struggling, it’s ok to ask for help. Do it tactfully and open with how people can support you. If you’re asking for donations, be clear about where the money is going. If your team is pulling back on content to allow for more mental health days, that’s okay. Be open and communicate with your community so that they know and expectations are set.
Is the Content Forced?
When creating content, does it feel forced? We love memes and funny hashtags as much as the next person, but don’t just hop on a meme or a hashtag if it doesn’t make sense and especially if it’s off-brand. “Because everyone else is doing it” didn’t work on mom and it doesn’t work on social media.
A good rule of thumb is: if in doubt, leave it out.
Have You Pressure-Tested the Idea?
More than ever, we shouldn’t be rushing to publish content. Yes, it’s a crisis, but taking a little extra time will proactively put measures in place to prevent more harm than good from your content. One key consideration is making sure you’re not operating in an echo chamber. Have you floated your ideas by anyone outside of your team’s echo chamber to make sure it’s not tone deaf? A diverse team is important for many reasons, but hearing from different perspectives is key. If you’re operating as a skeleton team or a one-person-show, lean on your network to run ideas by them. And again, if in doubt leave it out.
What Could Go Wrong?
Another exercise that can help determine whether to publish or not to publish content is brainstorming and asking what could go wrong with this content and what are the possible responses we could receive? If any of the content your brand is publishing ended up as a headline story in the news, would you be okay with that and what would the story angle likely be?
Is Your Content Accessible?
If your content strategy includes sharing infographics to convey information quickly visually, remember to also include the full text in posts so that it’s accessible by all viewers, including those who consume web content through screen readers. Some of the social platforms automate alternative text, but it’s often not enough.
For your video content, are you using captions? This not only makes it more accessible, it also conforms to the fact that we know most people watch videos with the sound off on Facebook and Instagram.
Response Plan & Community Management: Are You Ready?
Tools and Team
Do you have the right tools and team in place for community management and social customer service? Do you need to widen and expand your social listening?
Are you ready to pause or change content quickly?
With everything rapidly changing, even after you’ve pivoted your communication plan, you still need to be ready to pause, change, or drop content in a moment’s notice. Do you have the plan and systems in place for this?
Systems and processes are your best friends when is comes to preparedness.
Automatic Page Moderation and Filters
When was the last time you looked at your privacy and security settings like Facebook’s automatic page moderation and profanity filters? Do you want to filter stronger now?
Hands on Deck
Are you ramping up your community management efforts to be able to respond and connect with people who are engaging with their content or deal with trolls or an unhappy audience?
Response Plan & Escalation Process
Do you have a response plan and escalation process in place? What are all of the FAQs and scenarios that you can imagine and how you’ll handle them and what to do for those that aren’t on your list? We are in the middle of the coronavirus and still don’t know the full toll and there’s a lot of confusion about safety concerns. Just the other day I saw that a Bojangles location published a PSA that one of their employees tested positive for COVID only to have those posts removed. Was this the right thing to do?
Prepared to be Roasted?
In the end, you have to ask yourself: Are you ready to be roasted no matter what? Are you ready for trolls and the bots to come out? There’s more than usual right now. You can answer every question here and more but still someone may find an angle that you haven’t thought of, and we all know that you’ll never keep everyone happy. Be ready for this mentally and know when and how to respond…or when not to respond!
Navigating the Waters
The news is fast-moving and always changing so brand’s need to be on top of their game more than ever to ensure content makes sense and is appropriate at any given moment. There’s a lot to figure out when planning communications during this pandemic, and we understand it can be difficult to navigate these uncharted waters. The above questions provide a framework to examine your social media marketing. Go through the steps of assessment, pivoting where needed, and being prepared on the community management front with a response plan and the right processes. Expect the unexpected and give yourself permission to unplug when needed too.
At Sociality Squared, we always remember that behind every screen is a person, and right now, we’re all experiencing this pandemic together while through our own lenses.
We need our communities, networks, teams, family and friends and support for one another. We hope these questions are helpful and we are happy to answer any questions that you may have related to content strategies right now.
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