If you’re a social media manager or a content marketer, you know: A well-planned content calendar is a thing of wonder.
In a great content calendar, the big picture meets the details and goals rub elbows with tactics. You’ve thought of what your audience will be paying attention to and when. You’ve tried to imagine what competing voices will be saying and how they’ll be saying it. And you’ve brainstormed ways to approach those things you know you have to talk about over and over—while making every new piece of content seem fresh.
You’ve also taken a lot of care in creating the content and making sure it all gets rolled out on schedule. After all of that careful attention and planning, it’s tempting to breathe a satisfied sigh, let your media management software release your content into the world, and start thinking about what’s next.
But what if the world you’re launching your content into suddenly changes? What if there’s a global pandemic, or a nationwide swell of protests seeking racial equity and social justice such as the country hasn’t seen in generations?
You’ve got to consider hitting the pause button and taking the time to think things through.
Step back and assess
As people, we’ve gotten used to sharing the social media experience with ads and content from brands we follow—and those we don’t. But that’s not the reason most people spend time there. Most people go to check in with their friends and the groups they belong to—and to share about their lives. And some do go to share their personal and political views.
As a brand, you should always be attuned to your audience and its mood as you think about what kind of content you’re sharing and the time you’re sharing it in. In truth, a widespread event like a pandemic should just make that mood more obvious. When you recognize that your audience is in a different frame of mind than they were when you planned your content, it’s time to make sure it still makes sense.
During the first months of the pandemic, our healthcare clients—in accordance with national guidelines—had to temporarily shift away from providing a lot of the care we’d been helping them promote. They wisely shifted to sharing reliable and timely information on the virus and their response, as well as tips on staying healthy and safe while flattening the curve. Now that they’re opening up more services and facilities, we’ve had to figure out what previously developed content still works—and when to use it.
The nationwide protests have been another situation where companies and organizations have been well advised to think through the content that they’re putting out. Change nothing, and you definitely run the risk of seeming oblivious, or even callous. But brands who want to respond to great social anguish also have to walk a fine line between genuinely championing the cause—and looking like they’re scoring points off of it. And what about saying nothing at all? Is this complicity? Or can companies and organizations genuinely stop talking to make space for people to have a conversation?
INDIVIDUALs > audience
The best advice we can give is this: Remember that you’re not really talking to an audience. Each and every individual person you care about reaching is just that: an individual person. In a time of crisis, those people are experiencing emotions you can only guess at: confusion, excitement, anger, worry, fear, hope…probably a mixture of many of these.
It’s a good time to listen. Maybe ask questions like, “What should I know?” or “How can I help?” If you have information that you genuinely think people need, put it out. But if you catch yourself just grasping to take up space, think twice.
And if you have a message you’re duty-bound to get out, it might be a good time to think about places that are more advertising-centric, like billboards or bus clings.
Above all, marketers, take time to be a person yourself. You’re living through some very important moments in our history. There’s a lot happening. Take time to take it in and think about what it means to you. Then decide how you’re going to respond.