With the rise of COVID-19 in early 2020, it’s become increasingly difficult for brands to connect with consumers — and the way forward rests on unstable ground. Federal and local governments are taking action to keep people safe, while striving to mitigate the economic impact on the business community. Still, opportunistic brands can navigate a crowded media landscape with the right content plan.
I’ve compiled some common questions that we’ve been seeing come up about branded content and paid media campaigns. We’re living and working through a situation that is unprecedented in our lifetimes, but by looking to consumer trends — and by following our gut instincts — we feel confident about making the right choices going forward.
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 has understandably dominated the headlines, there is a growing desire for content that allows readers to take their minds off the global pandemic for a while.
According to a recent article in MediaPost, traffic to publisher websites is up 60% since the onset of the coronavirus. Granted, much of this increase is related to readers looking for news content related to the pandemic.
That said, traffic is up across the board. As a major publisher recently commented to me, they are seeing increases in visitors to all their sections, from health to home improvement, and food to technology.
The increase can partly be explained by the fact that people are simply online more as they adhere to shelter-at-home practices across the country. Even as this policy eases up in the spring and summer, readership numbers will still be higher than normal.
Given this increase in readership — particularly with online media outlets — it makes sense for brands in many industries to reach out to their target audiences. Some industries will fare better than others, and the messaging needs to be appropriate for the times.
Takeaway: Most people are at home and online more than ever before, so tone-sensitive brand content is perfect for timing and placement.
Q: What type of brand content will work best right now?
A: Consumer interests and activities have shifted dramatically due to shelter-in-home and social distancing guidelines.
Not surprisingly, everyone is 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 are seeing record amounts of viewer engagement. Brand content tied to these online activities have a massive advantage.
At the same time, some offline activities are spiking as people have more time at home. Recent surveys from Comscore indicate that cooking and home organization/cleaning are the two most popular activities.
This trend bodes 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 help families stay organized and clean at home also have a huge opportunity. Consider 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 have 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 include 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 will perform well.
Q: How confident can I be that I’ll secure online media placements?
A: It depends. You can boost your odds if your brand is related to stay-at-home activities and can produce content that’s in demand from media outlets. But keep in mind that other savvy marketers are doing the same thing.
Try searching out partners that can point to strong success rates. Better yet, think about offerings (like those from Brandpoint) that include guarantees on metrics that drive awareness and engagement with your content on premium media sites.
And if you need help, don’t hesitate to lean on consultants who specialize in securing media placements. They can 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.
Q: What types of content are print newspapers looking for currently?
A: It’s worth noting that print newspapers (especially smaller ones) know that coronavirus will be covered thoroughly and up-to-the-minute by online media sites. Print newspapers may take a more local angle on coronavirus, and they will feature other topics of reader interest.
At Brandpoint, we are fortunate to count thousands of print newspaper editors from dailies and weeklies across the U.S. as members. Tracking their activity on BrandpointContent.com gives us insights into high-demand topics since the onset of COVID-19, which helps us consult with brands and the agencies that represent them accordingly.
Our research shows that the strongest interest from print newspapers lies — somewhat predictably — with home-related content, including home improvement, decorating, lawncare and gardening. Consider content with helpful tips on such topics as spring cleaning, DIY projects, trending paint colors, kitchen makeovers, lawn fertilization, weed control and garden maintenance.
In addition to home and garden content, print newspapers have 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.
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.