As marketers, we know that sh*t happens; sudden trends or global events divert peoples' attention, or competitors' marketing campaigns get too much hype from your target audience than you originally thought. When circumstances change and peoples needs change consequently (whether they realise it or not), it directly hits your content marketing plans in the feels. While this sucks, its important to be agile and modify your current content strategy accordingly so you can respond to these major shifts. How do you do this? In this article, I'm going to lead you through a quick guide on how to effectively pivot your content strategy in changing times. So, let's get started.
Pivoting Your Content Strategy 101
1. Recognise When To Pivot
First things first is knowing when it’s the right time to pivot. This is also arguably the hardest part of the process (which is good because then you get the tricky stuff out of the way first and all that).
To help you figure out when a sweet pivot is ideal, ask yourself “Right now, can we provide value to our people?” and/or “Can we provide content that will be helpful and welcome in this current social space?”
If you’ve concluded that a strategy alteration is the only way you can deliver helpful, high-qual and timely content to your audience, then it’s time to make your move.
Additionally, while a content strategy should aligned with your business goals, your main goal with a content strategy is sharing worth-their-while, timely content to your target groups in order to strengthen brand-customer relationships. In other words, customers are priority numero uno. So, if your content serves your business goals but isn’t showing up for your customers at the right moment, change it up.
For instance, rather than focusing all energy planning content for new products or services launch, mix up your offerings with information about current industry or global trends and phenomenon that would serve your customer’s needs.
2. Audience is King and Queen
You’ve decided the time to pivot is now, but how are you going to cater this new shift in your audience’s lives? Time to get into your audience’s minds, Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs style (without the cannibal stuff, of course).
First check your audience's behaviour online; what’s your audience researching (think keywords)? Where are they going to find this information? Which social media platforms are they turning to? Are they using mobile devices or laptops? Here is where google adwords and analytics services can aid you in your search.
One discovery you’ll most likely find is that what your people are currently researching conflicts with the content you’ve already scheduled to publish. So what do you do? Cry and weep? Nay! You are a marketer. You adapt.
Hubspot’s social media team found themselves in a similar kerfuffle as just described. Covid-19 and social isolation regulations meant the content they planned to release didn’t match what their audience actually wanted and needed. After analysing their consumers’ online behaviour, the team found their audience sought “tips about remote work and leading with empathy.” So, they pause all publishing and turned their attention to curating and churning out content amalgamated with their peoples’ needs.
"We made that decision by looking at our audience, as we always do, and figuring out what challenges they were facing and prioritising our changes there,” ratifies Hubspot’s social media’s team leader, Kelly Hendrickson.
Get jiggy with your audience and put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to hear from your favourite brands during certain times of year or periods of change?
3. Communicate your Pivoted Content
We've discussed how understanding your customers' needs in response to a change will help you in pivoting your content strategy. Once you've grasped the type of content you need to attract your people, the next step is the actual delivery of these goods. As Kayla Carmicheal from Hubspot writes, "When delivering your content, you're reflecting your brand and your brands' goals." Your messaging should be able to reflect your brand's goals and identity, whilst also a comprehension of the situation that is affecting your customers in real time.
For instance, consider that there is a major pandemic outbreak happening in your country (how relevant) and its being reported on every media outlet known to man. Rather than pretending it's not happening, consider how you provide topical content. Here are some examples of companies adjusting their content to be both timely and goal-oriented:
Junkee Media, Aussie media organisation aimed at Millennials, rebranded its travel blog, AWOL, to temporarily stand for “Activities Without Leaving”. This special edition of AWOL focuses on things to do at home so their audience can keep busy and productive mentally, physically and socially while in isolation. Articles include how to cut your hair at home, where to find free online ballet classes and drinking games to revolutionise your next zoom party. From a content marketing perspective, AWOL's content strategy pivot from travel activities to at home fun and games is a perfect example of how content inline with brand image and goals can also be culturally relevant.
Photo-editing app and every Instagramer's go-to product, VSCO released on March 22, 2020 their brand new feature, "Montage" which makes it handier for users to create visual stories. To promote their product to their user base, they chose to use email marketing campaign. However, the message they communicated primarily addressed the current unique social environment, the challenges we're facing being distant from each other and how VSCO's tool can help us connect.
While only lightly promoting VSCO as a product, the overall message is one thats hopeful, light and (most importantly) empathetic. Its through this empathetic messaging that VSCO is able to subtly announce its new feature with a call-to-action, but it's in the context of giving their users a change to try their product so they can better communicate with each other in an age of physical social distancing.
4. Talk To Your Other Colleagues
If you recall, HubSpots' social media team quickly created content based off the new needs of their target market, which were working remotely and how to lead in increasingly hard times, findings they uncovered via consumer behaviour research. Well, sometimes figuring out what your customers wants is not that easy. In fact in most cases, your team may struggle to collect customer insights, or even may be unsure where begin this process. A good means of getting around this roadblock is consulting other colleagues outside your immediate marketing circle.
If you're a part of your company's marketing team, talk to Sales and Customer service teams. You know, the people that engage with your user base first hand and have a good grip on their pain points. More than likely these bright sparks will bring new awareness on how your customers think and work, which means you're better equipped to create offerings suitable to their new lifestyle.
Even if you are a small business, there is always at least one person on the frontline, constantly communicating with customers and taking the lead on hiring efforts, that you can talk to.
5. Don't Go Crazy
Some people may find this part just common sense, but sometimes you need to reinforce the obvious: when you've identified a need to pivot your content strategy, you need to be rational. Don't throw out everything you've created (i.e. new product and service launches) or completely overhaul your brand identity. This is a big no no.
"Don’t change everything at once. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is pivot too hard and too fast in your rush to meet short-term needs," states Karla Cook, Hubspot's blog team manager.
Any major brand change, especially during a global change, will leave your audience feeling overwhelmed, confused and finding solace with some other business. You know that saying, "don't fix what's not broken"? Same rules apply to a content strategy pivot. A pivot does not mean you change everything intrinsic to your brand, rather your pivot should be a balanced addition to the plan you already have in place. "Remember that content strategy is always a long game," says Cook. "Your short-term strategy can’t compromise your ability to solve for the ongoing, long-term needs of your content property. Find key areas where you can be flexible to meet immediate needs, but know what you can’t budge on."
"Remember that content strategy is always a long game —your short-term strategy can’t compromise your ability to solve for the ongoing, long-term needs of your content property. Find key areas where you can be flexible to meet immediate needs, but know what you can’t budge on."
- Karla Cook, Blogging Senior Manager at Hubspot
The dynamic social, economical and political shifts we've all experienced thanks to good old Covid-19 highlights how critical it is for content marketers to stay alert and relevant so we can continue connecting with our people. Regardless of this crisis, change is a staple in all our lives, meaning pivoting your plans on the fly will be a lifelong practice, so, you better get used to doing it. Anyways, keep calm, carry on and see you on the other side.