How COVID-19 Killed The Webinar: Content And Its Marketing In The Time Of The Virus


Marketers and brand owners often ask me in today’s time of the COVID-19 pandemic: do we need to change our messaging? When they hear the affirmative reply, the next, inevitable question is: how?

Like all of you, the unprecedented pandemic is new to me. And so is its impact on content and digital marketing. The fund crunch has forced many brands to drastically cut spending on PPC and advertising, leaving them with largely “organic” ways of reaching out to audiences.

Here are some lessons learned in the first months of the virus:

Forget the long term for now as the situation is evolving almost every day. Learn to adapt and be even more agile. You cannot afford to drop the ball.

Be sensitive in your selling. Keep a tight rein on the copy. Humor is fine, but to a degree. In-your-face and over-selling are a complete no no so back off.

Your content pillars, the foundation of your content marketing activities, have served you well so far but use this time to have a re-look. Eg: Long-form articles running into 2k-3K words, white papers, e-books and so on. Maybe they need updating or reorientation. Or embellishment in the form of a new video, perhaps?

In normal times, your content should be ideally geared to fetch results but that becomes even more imperative in today’s coronavirus times when demand and supply chains lie broken. Ensure all content put out is solely result-focused.

All messaging must be conversation-oriented and targeted.

With WFH and more time on people’s hands, re-check your messaging platforms themselves. Are they still good to go? Does X social media channel fetch you results even during these perilous times? If not, do not hesitate to switch to address the right community.

Re-think your content forms. Enlarge your distribution pipeline. Do not over-rely on just one.

Which is where I come to webinars. Every day, I get 20 webinar invites on an average. Initially, I would try to attend a couple till webinar fatigue hit me. Now, my eyes glaze over when I see a webinar invite. Some companies are holding a webinar almost every 3rd day, thinking they can capitalize on the “captive” audience. What they forget is that the basic principles of a webinar still hold. Which are: (a) only if the topic interests me and has the potential to add to my knowledge repository (b) only if my profile matches that of the enterprise’s target audience.

I’ve heard people griping and groaning, “Oh, no mate, not another webinar”. Even during normal times, webinar as a marketing form was fast threatening to turn into this dull, post-lunch activity that our blood deprived brains barely registered. The over-kill by over-zealous marketers during COVID-19 may hasten its end?

Webinar may be a COVID-19 victim but it can be replaced with a podcast or a video newsletter. An occasional “live” stream may also not hurt. Try it if not done before.

Content creators and marketers must look at COVID-19 as an opportunity to hone their audience engagement skills. Use the period to start providing (if not done already) a highly personalized experience. Nobody on your contacts list wants to get the exact copy of content that everyone’s getting. Customizing the message for individual customer should be the mantra.

There’s nothing like video to personally reach out to your audiences. Figure out which video platform suits your brand because YouTube may not always be the go-to channel. Think Snapchat, TikTok. Do they work for your one-on-one messaging? Hundreds of brands are pushing out short, 15-second videos with some pretty powerful messages. Maybe even LinkedIn for B2B products or services?

In all this, don’t forget your website, the centerpiece of your content marketing activities. Do a hard review. Try and figure out if the content there remains relevant in today’s abnormal times. If not, try and re-shape it either by adding or deleting.

Unlike the “webinar people”, do not put all your content marketing eggs in one basket while the COVID-19 pandemic lasts. (Not a good idea even in normal times.) Diversify, test the waters, figure out very quickly what’s working and what’s not. Change, accordingly.

Personalized messaging to targeted audience, and the tone of the message are things you need to focus on as a brand marketer in order to survive and fight another day.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

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