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How to keep your content team on top form during lockdown

The huge changes brought by Covid-19 and lockdown mean that B2B marketers are faced with even greater challenges as they try to create compelling content. Speak Media's Laura Smith shares her insights on achieving this. 

While there is disruption to every aspect of our daily lives, there is still the need to continue to satisfy appetites for relevant and timely content. B2B content teams are having to juggle competing demands to fulfil this need. Here is my advice on how to do this – would love to hear yours.

Over-communication is the new norm

Your distributed workforce will be looking for clear and accurate leadership – now more than ever. We’ve found that over-communication is key. By that, I mean everything from sharing information to giving feedback and managing projects and deadlines. Video calls are good, but an old-fashioned phone call can feel more authentic, particularly as not everyone wants to be scrutinised first thing in the morning! Crucially, don’t think that all chat should be work chat. Remember that for some of your team members, the engagement they get from you and the rest of the team may be one of their main sources of human contact. So look for ways to provide a virtual hug wherever you can.

Empathy matters

Now is the time to engage your emotional intelligence. Mental health issues are very real to people dealing with self-isolation, and by that I mean both your own team and also the people that will be consuming the content that you create. Many people are quite afraid of getting sick and are worried about how long they will be locked up in doors. So, be thoughtful about how you communicate – empathy, understanding, reassurance and humour will go a long way. Keep abreast of the latest changes in the news cycle.

Make sure you and your team keep up to date with what's happening in the news, and anticipate changes in your readers’ behaviour. Let me give you an example. My team has increased its brand content scanning from weekly to daily, so that we can keep our clients in the know about what others in their sector are doing. This helps us to ensure those ideas are fed into our editorial output. Things move so quickly that what might have felt like a good message or an appropriate story yesterday might not be the right thing today. By staying on top of the latest information on the outbreak, brands can ensure their messages align with important updates. At the same time, you shouldalso be aware of the behavioural and emotional shifts of those who consume your content.

Repurpose content, but be prepared to pivot

You may well have found that the lovely bank of content that you’ve been building for the last few months is suddenly impossible to publish. So, your team is going to need to quickly find new things to say. Keep an eye on what others are doing, but you should also make sure your team members are acting as the best in-house journalists.

That means communicating with the right contacts to dig out the strongest stories about how your business is responding to the crisis. Keep looking back through your pipeline of content to see if there’s anything you can repurpose or tweak and repost.

Use your internal channels to build morale

Think about how you can use your internal channels, not just to provide useful information for colleagues, but also as a place to inspire. Community is always important, and when your staff are feeling disconnected, confused and afraid, it becomes an essential way your business is to continue to function. For instance, you could find and share emotive and thoughtful postings by staff members, customers and leaders. Consider using their insights to fuel your social and news channels.

Use visuals differently

Like every business, you will have to use imagery differently, at a time when a nationwide lockdown makes it harder to justify sending out photographers. You may have to think creatively about what you have to use. For instance, Speak photographer Anna Gordon shot portraits through windows on a recent assignment. As the restrictions continue, I expect us to all become increasingly reliant on illustration, graphics, stock photography and the wonders of post-production.

Continue to point out the importance of deadlines

This, of course, is a time for understanding. We all need to be mindful of the issues that team members may be having at home, and flexibility over normal working hours is essential. But deadlines still need to be met. Strong and clear leadership via the over-communication approach mentioned above should help to anchor staff members in normality. When the outside world feels unfamiliar, work can be a great way of grounding people and normalising their day-to-day lives. Be firm but fair about what you want the team to achieve.

Be wary of opportunistic Covid-content

While we’ve found that none of our clients are comfortable with running content that isn't Covid-related, even the content that is related to the pandemic needs to be very carefully considered. You’ll need to throw out anything with the faintest scent of opportunism. Bear in mind that this won’t be the only issue forever, so get a bank of content ready to go for when the picture changes. For our team that has meant running two newsrooms - progressing planned content in the background while getting a whole new set of stories up and running.

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