Since COVID-19 entered the scene, face-to-face activities have evaporated, and the way we interact with and consume media has been transformed. Because we’re all spending more time at home, total internet hits have grown by between 50% and 70%, and streaming has jumped by about 12%.
These days, many of us have more time to spend reading, binge-watching, checking social media, learning new things — or, in my case, baking. When I’m not creating impactful content designs at Influence & Co., I’m a baker, and Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi is my baking idol.
Recently, she started offering free live baking classes on Instagram. They’re nothing fancy — just unfiltered photos of the ingredients she’s using, plus some extra ones she found just to get creative. But these classes are a great way to engage with her audience while we’re all staying home. I appreciated this approach so much that it inspired me to do my own #BakeWithChels live baking event on Instagram so I could connect with my own audience of cookie lovers.
Christina’s innovative spirit inspired me not only to offer more value to my audience, but also to find out what other brands are doing to provide value through content. I’ve scoured the web and pulled together a list of some brands, organizations, and individuals doing content marketing well in light of COVID-19:
In the spring of 2018, Yale University professor Laurie Santos taught “Psychology and the Good Life” in response to stress, depression, and anxiety among students. That class resonated with students and became the most popular in Yale’s history. As a result, Santos created a Coursera course to give a wider audience access to the contents of the class: “The Science of Well-Being.” Right now, you can audit the class for free.
When I was in college, I always said that I would be a much better student if everything were attendance-based, not graded. Sounds like this is the course for me. Not only can this course allow us to all say we took a class at Yale (channeling my inner Rory Gilmore), but I think everyone could use a bit more of this course’s subject matter — happiness — right now.
By offering this content for free, Yale is showing that it cares and believes in sharing important information with the world. And it’s giving away a bit of its “secret sauce” to benefit the community and the greater good.
The takeaway: In your content marketing efforts, be an authentic thought leader by sharing your knowledge, being genuine, and providing members of your audience with the information they crave.
The Midwest Digital Marketing Conference has gone virtual. The conference is scheduled for May 2020 and will consist of two parts: a free live virtual two-day summit and an “on-demand digital experience” that costs $99.
Rather than canceling, the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference opted to take the event online instead. After all, if planning had already gone into the event, why not take this stay-at-home opportunity to give those who wouldn’t normally be able to spend their budgets on a conference (or hop on a plane) the chance to see what the conference is all about?
The takeaway: Just because your planned event was canceled doesn’t mean you can’t pivot and see marketing results. For example, you could take your slides from a scheduled speaking engagement and turn them into a series of blog posts or guest-contributed articles. Or if you were going to host a conference but had to cancel for reasons outside your control, you could ask a colleague or two to team up with you to host a webinar on the topic the conference would’ve covered. Be creative and find new avenues to provide value to your audience.
Adweek recently published an article showcasing a few brands that have created custom Zoom backgrounds to “class up your quarantine.” I love this idea — mostly so I can hide my dirty dishes or my dog being a bad boy on the couch in the background.
Behr and West Elm created backgrounds showcasing stylish rooms, including a home office, a kitchen, and a log cabin living room. These are great ways to add some personality to your Zoom meeting (and hide distractions in the background) without crossing into unprofessional territory.
The Infatuation, a restaurant review site, took a more lighthearted (but still on-brand) approach and created food-related backgrounds, including pepperoni pizza, sushi, and grilled cheese. While these might not be the best fit for some professional settings, I’ll definitely be trying the pizza one when I have a Zoom call with my family this weekend.
The takeaway: Find ways to respectfully, genuinely, and creatively create relevant content that’s related to the current moment. Just make sure that it actually aligns with your brand’s goals and voice and creates value for your audience.
In these days of social distancing, most of us are spending more time at home than normal. IKEA recognizes that and created an ad encouraging people to reconnect with their homes.
Some timely ads can seem cringe-worthy and opportunistic right now, but this ad leans more toward connecting to IKEA’s audience and encouraging them to find comfort in their own homes. The ad is relevant to IKEA’s audience and its mission, but it didn’t try to directly sell viewers. Plus, without being too straightforward about it, IKEA also encouraged people to stay home.
The takeaway: Create content that connects with your audience members where they are right now. Don’t just try to sell.
Need some creative inspiration? Whether you’re looking for drawing classes or you want to virtually attend a read-along with an illustrator, there’s something out there for you! Fast Company compiled a list of famous illustrators offering free virtual classes and resources for adults and kids alike.
This is a great example of content marketing because it’s taking what these illustrators do best and sharing it with the world through different platforms. I’m sure most of these illustrators’ main jobs aren’t teaching online classes or leading social media campaigns, but now is the time to get creative. These illustrators are finding a captive audience, building community around their craft, and strengthening their own brands while they’re at it.
The takeaway: It’s time to get creative. Try video content, even if the cameraman is your spouse or your roommate. Maybe it’s time to start that podcast you’ve always dreamed of or test out some new email campaigns. Whatever you do, flex your creative muscles to craft content that your audience will find immensely valuable.
We’re in uncharted waters, so what used to work for reaching our audiences isn’t gonna cut it. These days, we have to find ways to connect with our audiences on a more personal level and provide even more value. I hope these content marketing examples inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.
I’m a senior PR strategist at Intero Digital's Content & PR Division. I have a passion for pop culture, crafting, and desserts (usually chocolate). When I’m not emailing journalists, you can find me making progress on my “to be read” book list or walking my dogs around the neighborhood.