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Flowchart: Should I Mention the Coronavirus in My Content?

On April 23rd, sports were back. Sort of.

It was the NFL Draft—a three-day event when teams select which college players they want on their team. For fans, it’s an invitation to imagine a better future. Draft picks are a blank slate of potential and possibilities.

The draft was supposed to be a welcome escape from COVID-19, except it wasn’t at all. During every commercial break, I got hit with a series of copycat ads from brands dead-set on reminding me that there was a pandemic raging outside my apartment.

They were all exactly the same. Take a look:

“A pandemic is here, but we, a brand, are also here. And while we are apart, we’re also together.” It’s unclear what these ads are intended to accomplish, besides making consumers feel like they’re in a purgatory produced by BBDO.

Over the past seven weeks, every piece of brand communication has been infected by a long preamble about COVID-19. The group consensus seems to be that this is the safe thing to do. But at this point, it’s not safe at all. It’s just annoying.

Cut the coronavirus content preamble

Over the past two months, we’ve been encouraging marketers to adjust their content strategy based on the new challenges their audience is facing. It’s silly not to make any adjustments because as our personal and work lives have changed, our behaviors and needs have too. Marketers have a great opportunity to create new content that answers new questions.

But you can still create content that doesn’t mention the coronavirus. I want to learn how to collaborate better with my team now that we’re all remote, but I don’t need a 4-paragraph preamble about “these unusual times.” It’s the COVID marketing equivalent of the 1,000-word essay that precedes every online recipe.

Just get to the point. People want to find answers, learn new skills, and escape from the bad news lurching around every corner. Your job is to help them do that.

Create content with a purpose

If you are going to focus on the coronavirus, it should be because it’s central to the story. GE has been producing inspirational coverage of the fight against COVID-19, which makes total sense. The company has a unique perspective and the ability to break news about efforts to fight the virus. But GE also don’t bog down its content with an obligatory preamble. They launch right into the story, engaging their audience from the jump.

Similarly, MD Financial (Full disclosure: a Contently customer) has been producing incredibly helpful resources for Canadian doctors. The content team is stepping up and meeting a huge need for doctors across Canada.

If you’re going to focus on COVID-19 in your content, do so with a clear purpose. Just don’t do it to check a box.

When in doubt, here’s a flowchart

It’s Saturday, I live in Manhattan, and everywhere outside my apartment is mildly dangerous. So I decided to make a flowchart to help with your decision-making:

coronavirus content

Remember, no one is going to think you’re ignoring the coronavirus if you don’t acknowledge it at length. Your audience won’t be mad at you. They’ll thank you.

Image by Kubkoo
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