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Content in Crisis: Best Practices for Trying Times

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Author: Matthew Briggs, Senior Vice President, Healthcare at PAN Communications, headshot
Matthew BriggsSenior Vice President, Healthcare

Marketers have never been strangers to navigating complicated situations and negative news cycles. That said, the past two years have been a particularly grueling gauntlet. We’ve learned, however wearily, that life has to go on. But in the face of grave real-world challenges, the responsibility to create and share meaningful work can feel more urgent — and more daunting — than it does in simpler times. How do marketers build and distribute meaningful content when the world feels upside-down?

Like our friends who specialize in media relations and social strategy, we’ve compiled a list of time-tested best practices that serve as helpful reminders about shaping brand narratives and developing content strategies with impact, whether it comes to life in a blog, byline, social post or open letter. Check them out below:

content marketing best practices

Best Practices for Crafting Impactful Content
  • Keep your content actionable. Things change quickly — be it COVID cases and regulations, inflation news cycles, or developments from the war in Ukraine — and everyone is searching for something they can do right now. Short-term action items add value to marketing departments within their wider organization, which is especially important given the reality of pausing marketing budget. There is no playbook that works for every scenario, but keeping content actionable can keep it relevant.
  • Align messaging with the correct channels. Keep an eye on matching the message to the medium. While you may do this on a normal day, compounding situations have dialed the need for sensitivity up to 100. Rather than the stock “employee audience” of years past, marketers have to consider that different employees could be impacted differently. What was once appropriate for an all-staff town hall event might be better served for an internal email. Be vocal in counseling your teams to think through all of your options.
  • Leave time to “over-communicate.” We can’t be as proactive or flexible as we need to be if we don’t have the latest and greatest from the subject matter experts. We need to change the way we position in-take sessions with experts beyond the marketing team as “nice-to-haves” to core elements of any program. With everyone looking for productivity hacks, it’s even more important to carve out 30 minutes to keep everyone on the same page by connecting your marketing team with your bench experts.
  • Let data drive your content efforts. Maybe you’ve had to downsize, maybe your content cadence has picked up, or maybe you’re in a constant state of pivot. Whatever the reason, it feels like your department is operating on all cylinders all the time. Customer success stories, product developments and all sorts of valuable data points are being generated throughout the organization. A critical part of your job is to sift through that information and find the compelling narrative, but you can’t do that if you’re left in the dark. Partner with your team to assemble those puzzle pieces, with the right context surrounding them, so you can tell the best story possible.
  • Humanize your content. Empathy is the difference between making a connection and sounding tone deaf. It’s an exercise in putting yourself in another person’s shoes and respecting their point of view. It is impossible to know the personal experience of your readers, so make zero assumptions. Instead, be as inclusive as possible, especially in your marketing content. Life is happening to all of us, and content should reinforce that we’re in it together.
  • Know when and how to promote your content. Your marketing team is churning out some truly spectacular work — whether that be a LinkedIn post or an open letter from a CEO outlining brand response. We always want to make sure our efforts see the light of day, but promotion comes with a pretty big caveat these days. Remember this: there’s a way to be tactful. Make it about the audience, not the brand.
  • Eliminate “unprecedented times” and “uncertain times” from your vocabulary. These two phrases, while true, have been overly used. We’re going on 24 months of a “dynamic and ever changing” situation. At this point, it’s redundant in a global scale. Give yourself the creative license to frame your messaging authentically for your brand and have faith in your audiences.
  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong. We move fast and your customers might be moving even faster. You never know when messaging will change, and that’s okay. As a marketer, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. Just because things have evolved, doesn’t mean that it won’t be valuable down the line. Save everything!
Learn more about how to ignite your content strategy with our guide.
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