I’m still hearing concerns from fellow marketers on how they should approach content creation in this time of crisis. They know that this is still a sensitive time, and they’re afraid of saying something that may jeopardize their entire marketing campaign.

Content marketing is all about creating content that is relevant for both your brand and your audience. In this time of uncertainty, your audience needs content that will reassure them.

But how do you get your content right without sounding opportunistic?

Below, I’ve listed six brands whose content have both moved me and impressed me during this crisis. Let’s look back into these examples, discussing what makes them great pieces and what you can learn from them whether you’re a corporate brand, small business, or building your personal brand.

Ford’s move to acknowledge the crisis

What makes the content great: In its “Built to Lend a Hand” ad, Ford is the first brand to explicitly mention the virus we are dealing with now.

The 35-second video was well-received by its audience. It delivered an empowering message and relief for customers facing the crisis.

But how did Ford pull this off?

As ad-tracking service Ace Metrix puts it, the brand executed a “stronger brand narrative and more stimulating visuals,” making use of information, change, and relevance as its strongest components. “Ford’s ad results suggest viewers still want to be entertained,” it added.

Based on the findings of Ace Metrix — which rates ads using a panel of 500 viewers — 58% of viewers reported a positive change in perception of Ford with only 4% negative after seeing the ad.

Takeaway: Businesses should not shy away from addressing the situation head-on.

And I am not just saying this without basis. Numbers from the ad-tracking service support this advice, with 42% out of 1,000 surveyed agreeing that “yes, any mention is ok,” referring to brands addressing the pandemic. Whereas 44% think it “depends on the message and/or brand.”

The key is to be human, to be mindful of your tone and messaging, to be genuinely useful, and to be socially responsible, which brings me to my next points.

Guinness’ channeling of its human side

Brands are humans first, so don’t refrain from showing your human side in your content. Especially when the world needs it.

With a message centered around human resilience, unity, and spirit, beer company Guinness has hit a soft spot, giving hope in the early days of the pandemic.

What makes the content great: In its St. Patrick Day ad, Guinness’s call for unity amid the quarantine and social distancing has inspired many. While it did not specifically mention the crisis we are facing today, it delivered a clear message: “we’ll march again,” referring to the cancellations of events this year.

With such a human approach to their content, Guinness has earned plenty of positive feedback from people. It even ranked as the number 1 beer ad of all time.

“Guinness today is committing $500,000 through our Guinness Gives Back Fund to help the communities where we live, work & celebrate.”

Aside from the message it delivered, the brand has also matched its efforts with actual action by pledging $500,000.

Consumers said it is “key for brands to show actual action, not just words,” according to recent findings by Ace Metrix. In times of uncertainty, people would want specifics in regards to brands’ actions, which Guinness has done spot-on.

Takeaway: As I put it, “content is what humanizes your brand.” To craft the right content, ensure you understand your audience as well as your brand.

Then, always create content for people. Tell them stories and involve them in your content.

VSCO’s emphatic tone and messaging

If there’s a perfect time to be emphatic, now is the time to do so.

The ability to think about the world from your audience’s point-of-view is critical for content marketers. And we need it now more than ever.

In times of isolation and separation, VSCO gave us some hope in its email content.

What makes the content great: Promotions in times of a crisis may seem inappropriate, but not when you carefully craft a message like what the photography mobile app brand has made.

“As the world slows down, we know that these times can feel difficult and uncertain. And in a small way, we hope our community connects you with others around the world documenting their realities and finding the beauty around them.”

This resonates with me on a deeper level because it hits close to home. Having been separated and isolated is something I can identify with. And I know I am not the only one.

VSCO’s tone and messaging in this email ticked off all the steps needed to build empathy-driven content.

And they pulled that emphatic message off while launching VSCO app’s newest feature, “Montage.” That, without being cringey and sounding opportunistic.

Takeaway: Crisis communication is crucial at a time like this.

Don’t be overly promotional. Be mindful of your tone and messaging as it can make or break your brand.

Speak out when you have something to say, but carefully address the situation. Be compassionate and emphatic in your content not only because your brand needs it but your audience relies on you, too.

William Sonoma’s useful food must-have list

Useful content is great content. That’s already a given, but I can’t emphasize its importance enough especially in times of a crisis.

So, when homeware retail company Williams Sonoma posted a list of must-have food and ingredients in the early days of the quarantine, I just had to put them into this list.

What makes the content great: When a crisis begins, confusion is sure to follow. No wonder why people suddenly started hoarding toilet paper, leaving the shelves all wiped out in most stores.

Amid the ensuing chaos, Williams Sonoma gave us a timely list of items to stock our pantries, fridges, and freezers.

Sure, they did mention some of their products on the post. But it’s a useful list overall, so that is something we can let pass.

Takeaway: Be genuinely useful in this trying time. Provide value whenever you can.

Know your audience’s new needs and fears when crafting content. Perform social listening to discover opportunities to help your worried customers.

Coca Cola’s display of social responsibility

According to the same report by Ace Metrix, 70% of consumers believe that brands have a social responsibility in this time of crisis.

Coca Cola’s recent ad in Times Square is a good example of addressing this social responsibility.

What makes the content great: The execution is simple, but the message is powerful.

In the said billboard ad, Coca Cola showcased its brand’s name in a new light. Usually written in a connected script, the brand’s logo now shows spaces between each letter.

The message is clear: practice social distancing.

While some people criticized Coca Cola’s move as opportunistic, there’s no denying that the brand is still doing its social responsibility in this trying time.

This move influenced other brands to follow through with the message. For instance, McDonald’s in Brazil tweaked its logo, separating the golden arches with the message: “separated for a moment to always be together.”

The change in the logo can be seen in McDonald’s’ official social media platforms.

Takeaway: Do your social responsibility as a brand, not just because consumers now tend to identify with brands that share their values. Do it because you genuinely want to do your part in helping your audience.

Create content that matters

If you’re going to address the situation (which you should), then cheers to you. It’s time for us marketers to provide value now more than ever through content that matters.

Just remember these key points when making a marketing action plan for your brand:

  1. Be human.
  2. Be mindful of your tone and messaging.
  3. Be useful.
  4. Be socially responsible.

Keeping these things in mind will lessen the risk of your content being seen as exploitive. So, create content that will be both relevant for you and your audience.

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