Content marketing in the year of vaccination

When doing true content marketing a business adopts the freemium business model. Have you realised that? Yes, even in the financial services industry. Read through and discover why.

But in this article we want to move beyond content strategy matters like the one just stated, and have a look at the current context in terms of audience engagement, online content saturation and how to deal with it. 

COVID-19 was the unbeatable script inspirator of the year 2020, giving room for millions of content pieces in varied formats, interactive charts with statistics, articles and videos being the ones we’ve seen the most. 

Far from being over, coronavirus stories will surely be in 2021’s podium of content topics, but people’s exhaustion is becoming more and more obvious. One just needs to ask what relatives and friends feel about it, to get an idea of the general mood. At the corporate level, for instance, we already saw a decline in content consumption linked to COVID-19 matters as of late June last year, which pushed us to rethink the way to address the matter. The COVID issue, then, became the framer or contextualiser rather than the central pivot. 

We acknowledge this statement can be polemic but content about the coronavirus became, somehow, an extension of the disease because it caused, and still causes, anxiety, confusion and depression, and the conspiracy theories have helped little to make people feel positive. 

People are tired of digital events, on the other hand. See, when everyone, understandably, turned to digital conferences and webinars after the summer 2020, someone around us said ironically that she needed a second pair of eyes to attend them all, and a good dose of digital patience. Any of us could have stated the same. 

Digital events’ results have been, so far, assorted, according to our own experience and some informal research we’ve done by asking peers from other businesses. To some, the format worked throughout the semester; to others, it only worked in the beginning, and most of us saw a decline in audience participation and engagement after a certain time. 

“The more time went by, the less people showed up even if they signed up to the event,” a PwC colleague shared with us. It seems like every business event became the trial version of a streaming or OTT service, the couple of weeks or the month when the user doesn’t pay and commitment is low. 

Was the format the problem? To a certain extent yes, even if the software one may have used was one of the best. We aren’t, at least not quite yet, truly familiar with the digital version of anything whose real value wasand isprecisely, the face-to-face human interaction. 

That’s, however, only one side of the coin. The content in itself has at least half of more of the responsibility of that decline. Let’s be honest, how many online events where you have participated were truly remarkable because of how entertaining and insightful they were? 

Content-related truths that COVID-19 made more obvious

Months ago during a webinar, Luis Salerno, who is involved in digital content matters in our firm, shared the idea that “content makes freemium every single business”, but “because many firms haven’t fully figured that out yet, content isn’t good enough. It isn’t a product in itself, like any other the business offers”. 

“Freemium” is for startups and entertainment companies, some may think, not for a serious business, especially if it operates in the B2B market. 

However, perception is not reality. Get back to the introduction, have a second look at the 6th paragraph and come to your own conclusions. COVID-19 has simply made the “freemium status” more obvious, and the flaws of the content we have been producing, particularly in terms of engagement and empathy. Quality and pertinence are likely present, but current times are asking for something more.

The coronavirus crisis has, equally, shored up another bitter truth. We may have already developed one or several audiences on different channels but they haven’t yet become true communities where interactivity and collaboration thrives. 

We aren’t stating so because it reads well and it’s provoking but because we ourselves have realised how much we still need to do to move from and build-an-audience mindset to one of creating communities. 

Decision making is driven by emotions

When doing online marketing in support of business development we all pay attention to which stimulus people respond to in order to take the action we want them to take. Because the universe in which it happens is digital, digital content logically becomes the good for which people exchange time and datathe currenciesif you prefer. What triggers people to take that action falls into the realm of what’s called “transactional analysis”.   

COVID-19 required us to go beyond the transactional focus, and even to go further than simply answering people’s need for insights to better perform their jobs or to get entertained in a way that makes our brands hard-to-forget. A large majority of us have felt, at some point, helpless through this crisis and we needed something more. 

If emotions constitute powerful, pervasive, and predictable drivers of decision making, times of crisis likely amplify that effect. COVID-19 has been an inflection point to the way we have been conceiving content, particularly digital, and the role it plays in the relationship with our audience.

In 2021, we suggest you hold on to your existing audience(s)customers, content consumers, fans, advocatesand figure out how to develop a true community or a deeper sense of community in case you’ve already started with the job.

Consider that emotions and human prioritieswell being, emotional balance, sense of fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, security,  care, stillnessremain constant,  regardless if you operate in the B2C or the B2B realms. In the latter, peers tend to disregard the importance of empathy and emotions, but while the criteria to make decisions certainly have a business focus, the underlying forces that move us are the human priorities. 

Quality content remains a priority

Yes, we want to state the obvious once more in 2021, the year of the massive worldwide vaccination. Look for generating quality content above all in the channels that already exist. That goes for the webinars that are to come as well! 

From the PowerPoint presentation and the choosing of the speaker(s), to the interactivity you want to add to the online event, the duration, the congruence of topics, and the software technology that hosts the webinar, all of them count to make the experience remarkable. Don’t fall into the trap of reproducing the physical version of the event.

And, above all, think of an overarching theme that will glue the event together, and what is in it for the audience. Ask your in-house colleagues who participated in them for true, honest feedback and get better and better. 

Naturally, these suggestions can be applicable to all content you produce but, because the occurrence of online events have skyrocketed in the last six months or so, we’re putting more focus on them. 

We like to recall what Mary Carey, our senior editorial manager has told us several times, “only use a word if it makes the idea clearer, if it reinforces it. Don’t repeat words you see out there just because they sound good. Unprecedented is definitely one of them”. 

Finally, think of what’s in it for you. Never forget what the ultimate goal of your content efforts is. 

No, innovation isn’t gone! 

There is always room for improvement and innovation in your content efforts, and crises are the ideal context for that because the need for survival pushes us to get creative. However, because of the uncertainty and financial challenges more than just a few businesses are going through, be cautious and use the small scale approach that the social media giants commonly use, for instance, before rolling out new features. 

The little achievements or incremental improvements are important.

And co-create as much as you can. Get your users or future customers more involved in the development or upgrade of services and products. That reduces greatly the risk of failure and adds up to the sense of community and belonging we were talking about before. 

For instance, the Environmental, Social and Governance matter (ESG) is now in the spotlight. Indeed, ESG investment is one of the driving forces to the asset and wealth management industry nowadays and it’s set to be preponderant over the years to come. As it is sustainable finance in general.  

The more the regulatory framework is developed and dissipates the uncertainty and shadows, the more ESG products will be launched. Will they differ greatly from each other? Nobody can state that boldly yet, but what will be the key differentiating factor is how asset managers nurture the relationship with their investors based on trust, transparent and digestible information, clear results and—don’t forget this one—content that educates them for better decision making. 

What we think
Luis Salerno, Digital Communications Manager at PwC Luxembourg
Luis Salerno, Digital Communications Manager at PwC Luxembourg

In 2021 I think we should go beyond the transactional focus of content – the stimulus people respond to in order to convert – and be more empathic. We all need that. Decision making is, even more than before the crisis, greatly driven by our emotions. 

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