Brand Content & COVID

Where Does Brand Content Fit in a Media Landscape Dominated by COVID-19?

With the rise of COVID-19 in early 2020, it became increasingly difficult for brands to connect with consumers — and the way forward rested on unstable ground. Federal and local governments were taking action to keep people safe, while striving to mitigate the economic impact on the business community. Still, opportunistic brands were able to navigate a crowded media landscape with the right content plan.

I compiled some common questions that we saw come up about branded content and paid media campaigns. We were living and working through a situation that was unprecedented in our lifetimes, but by looking to consumer trends — and by following our gut instincts — we were able to find the right choices.

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Q: Given all the media attention to the coronavirus, does it make sense timing-wise to push out brand content to secure media placements?

A: While COVID-19 understandably dominated the headlines, there was a growing desire for content that allowed readers to take their minds off the global pandemic for a while.

According to an article in MediaPost, traffic to publisher websites was up 60% in May 2020 vs. the onset of the coronavirus. Granted, much of this increase was related to readers looking for news content related to the pandemic.

That said, traffic was up across the board. As a major publisher commented to me, they were seeing increases in visitors to all their sections, from health to home improvement, and food to technology.

The increase could partly be explained by the fact that people were simply online more as they adhered to shelter-at-home practices across the country. Even as this policy eased up in the spring and summer, though, readership numbers stayed higher than normal.

Given this increase in readership — particularly with online media outlets — it made sense for brands in many industries to reach out to their target audiences. Some industries would fare better than others, so the messaging needed to be appropriate for the times.

Takeaway: Most people were at home and online more than ever before, so tone-sensitive brand content was perfect for timing and placement.

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Timing for branded content

Q: What type of brand content will work best right now?

A: Consumer interests and activities shifted dramatically due to shelter-in-home and social distancing guidelines.

Not surprisingly, everyone was spending more time online streaming movies and TV shows, video chatting with family and friends, and playing video games. And social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat were seeing record amounts of viewer engagement. Brand content tied to these online activities had a massive advantage.

At the same time, some offline activities were spiking as people had more time at home. Surveys from Comscore indicated that cooking and home organization/cleaning were the two most popular activities.

This trend boded well for brand content focused on recipes, food preparation and cooking techniques. Save entertaining tips for better times and focus instead on family meals. What are simple meals where kids can help on the preparation? Is there a perfect recipe for a romantic date night at home? As warmer weather leads to more outdoor cooking, what are helpful tips for grilling the perfect steak?

Brands with products that helped families stay organized and clean at home also had a huge opportunity. They did best when leading with content tied to closet organization, de-cluttering and cleaning tips for the kitchen, bathroom and beyond. With considerably more time at home, families had time to tackle bigger projects. What’s the best approach for cleaning out the garage? What are some smart tips to “Marie Kondo” or apply a minimalist approach to organizing your home?

Other offline categories that scored well in the surveys included family time, pets, home exercise, reading books and listening to music.

Takeaway: Content focused on at-home activities that align with shelter-at-home guidelines, such as meal preparation, cleaning and organization, and family time performed well.

Branded Content 2020

Q: How confident can I be that I’ll secure online media placements?

A: It depends. You could boost your odds if your brand was related to stay-at-home activities and could produce content that was in demand from media outlets. But other savvy marketers were doing the same thing.

It was crucial to search out partners that could point to strong success rates. Better yet, to find offerings (like Guaranteed Media Placements from Brandpoint) that included assurances on metrics that drive awareness and engagement with your content on premium media sites.

And for those that needed help, it was useful to lean on consultants who specialized in securing media placements. They could offer advice on story angles, timing and more.

Takeaway: By selecting the right paid distribution tactics, you’ll be able to guarantee media placements in a crowded online space.

Brand content during COVID

Q: What types of content are print newspapers looking for currently?

A: It was worth noting that print newspapers (especially smaller ones) knew that coronavirus would be covered thoroughly and up-to-the-minute by online media sites. Print newspapers took a more local angle on coronavirus, while featuring other topics of reader interest.

At Brandpoint, we were fortunate to count thousands of print newspaper editors from dailies and weeklies across the U.S. as members. Tracking their activity on gave us insights into high-demand topics from the the onset of COVID-19, which helped us consult with brands and the agencies that represent them accordingly.

Our research showed that the strongest interest from print newspapers lay — somewhat predictably — with home-related content, including home improvement, decorating, lawncare and gardening. Content with helpful tips on such topics as spring cleaning, DIY projects, trending paint colors, kitchen makeovers, lawn fertilization, weed control and garden maintenance performed well.

In addition to home and garden content, print newspapers had a solid interest in content related to food, senior living, education, parenting, health and technology.

Takeaway: Print newspapers are looking for local and reader interest angles as opposed to up-to-the-minute coronavirus updates, such as home-related content, food and senior living.

brand content during coronavirus

For some tips on the best approach to writing to audiences in these categories and others, check out this recent blog post from the Brandpoint writing team.

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