When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdowns were ordered nearly everywhere, website content, blogs and social media posts needed to make a fast, hard turn so the content remained relevant as the ground shifted around us. Not proactively acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic could easily have appeared tone-deaf. So, our advice to clients was to make themselves invaluable to their clients.
The first step was to help them create new COVID-19 operating practices. PSM clients needed to let their clients and contacts know how they were going to continue serving client needs during the pandemic. Many law firms and lawyers seamlessly operated from home offices while other companies needed to communicate their social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizing practices. The whole goal was to let people know they were still in business, pandemic or not.
During the height of the shelter-at-home mandates, content marketing had to focus on what mattered most to their readers. So, for instance, we wrote blogs and communications for clients that offered ideas and information relating directly to COVID-19. A few examples include:
- COVID-19 Marketing Toolkit – At the beginning of the pandemic, PSM Marketing committed to providing its clients with pragmatic ways to maintain and grow their practices during COVID-19, and created a blog series called “The COVID-19 Marketing Toolkit.” We also created a series of free webinars dealing with how to maintain your sanity working from home, build SEO and focus on specific tips and strategies during the pandemic.
- Solar Energy Company Social Distancing – We created client communications for a company in the solar energy industry, Cedar Creek Energy, to reassure current customers that installations were continuing with crews using hand sanitizers frequently, wearing masks and social distancing themselves from each other and from homeowners and their families. In addition, we posted COVID-relevant blogs.
- Creating a Virtual Law Office – For a family law firm in the particularly hard-hit state of New Jersey, PSM helped create a “Virtual Law Office,” featuring a new e-Divorce service. The new service was further supported with blogs, new website content, and targeted client communications.
- Promoting Acts of Kindness – One of our clients, Hogan, provides managed IT services and technology consulting to clients across the country. During the pandemic, the company served nearly 1,000 local healthcare workers with food sourced from local restaurants (a win win!). We created a blog to communicate their kind act. We were also able to help them promote their core business: the virtualization of workforces so employees can work anywhere on any device.
- Offering Free Services – Another law firm practicing in the area of criminal defense decided, since business was down (no drunk drivers on the streets who needed defending), to offer free expungement services for a limited time. PSM helped its client create two different surveys for the website. Not only were they able to help a few clients at no charge, but for those that didn’t qualify for the free offering, they attracted a few paid expungements.
Looking Beyond the Crisis
Now that businesses are slowly coming back to life, another shift is required.
Altering the direction of content does not mean pretending COVID-19 has gone away. Rather, it means helping customers and clients use the breathing room they now have to prepare for the next phase of each state’s reopening.
For example, a smaller management consulting company that focuses on HR-related matters created new website content explaining ways it can help companies review, revise and recalculate policies and procedures that will be applicable whether employees are in the office or working from home. The new website content also suggested how to accommodate staff members who liked working at home during the lockdown and want to continue doing so one or two days a week without disrupting an entire department or the organization.
A plaintiff’s employment law firm focused on creating a blog series on “Going Back to Work: Your Rights as an Employee.” The series addresses what rights employees have if their workplace reopens, but they do not want to go back into the office. It discusses the rights these employees have and provides direction on how to stay home if they need to.
A small manufacturer added pages to its website and intranet to reassure customers and employees that it is adhering to guidelines published by the CDC and OSHA designed to keep workers on the factory floor and in its offices healthy.
Until a vaccine is developed and widely available, COVID-19 will continue to be a part of business and of life. As a result, content marketing – webpages, blogs, client mailings, social media posts – need to take this into account. For most every business, it means developing a very different approach to content leadership.
Rethinking Strategy and Direction
It will be crucial for businesses, firms, and other organizations to have a nuanced understanding of the issues being faced for each of the three unfolding elements: Recovery, the long-term impact of the crisis, and new expectations of customers and clients.
More than ever, the strategy and direction of content marketing used by smaller businesses and professional services firms needs to be in a kind of lockstep alignment.
This can manifest itself in several ways, including:
- Website pages must inform, educate, and serve as a resource to readers – not overtly sell services
- Blogs need to provide pragmatic, how-to tips on how to operate in this new reality
- Social media posts need to support the overall website, blog and communications strategy by linking readers to information of value to them as we move to the next phase of COVID-19 mandates
The adage “give to get” takes on a new and even more important meaning for professional services firms and small businesses who produce relevant content in a post-lockdown world.
While the definition of opening the economy “too soon” will be debated by politicians and public health experts, it is not too soon for law firms, accounting firms, financial planners, non-profits and all other smaller businesses to rethink their content marketing strategy.