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Keep Calm And Carry On: Tips For Producing Content In A Sh*tstorm


Content Creation, Content Marketing, Content Planning

At the time of this writing (mid-March 2021), things in the United States seem…okay. *knocks on wood* At least, compared to how things were a few months ago, or a year ago. 

Between COVID-19 fucking everyone’s plans everywhere, millions dying from a preventable disease, a recession and millions of jobs lost, racially driven murders and attacks on people of color, the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack on the Capitol, a presidential transition of power, and navigating our own personal dramas, it’s been a year. For everyone.

Now that vaccines are rolling out, though, many people are feeling like the shitstorm is abating. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t still suffering or that the virus is gone (if you think it was a hoax, please leave our site and forget you ever stumbled across our name). But we are seeing improvement in some areas gives us a little glimmer of hope. It also makes us feel like we’re not drowning in doom-and-gloom. 

Jess here, interjecting for a moment. Even though things have “quieted down,” racially motivated violent attacks against Asian-Americans continue to rise. And that’s not okay.

Learn more about the incidents, actions President Biden has taken against them, and how you can help Asian communities. We said that we were an anti-racist brand here and on social, and we meant it. Our work does not stop when anti-racism stops trending.

Preparing for the next shitstorm

While we might be exiting those “unprecedented times,” it doesn’t mean they’re over. Or that unprecedented times won’t happen again. As a copy and content agency, we’ve seen how much world events and sudden changes can affect small business’s marketing plans. 

We also have seen firsthand how hard it can be to create content and share copy that helps you grow your business when it feels like things are falling apart. It’s a little douchey to promote your offer when people are dying in the streets, right?

With the last year behind us, we have a little bit more insight into socially aware marketing, and how to continue to show up in ways that actually serve your people during times of strife.

We’ve also had a little more time to answer questions like, “How do you keep producing content without losing your mind?” Or “What if I say the wrong thing?” Or “Should I say something, or let other people share their (more educated) opinions?”

The long and short of it? Your business still needs to run. The economy runs on businesses like yours. And depending on your offer, people might still need it. (Sorry, nobody needs a $40,000 mastermind when they can’t pay their rent — if that’s the kind of shit you’re peddling, you can also leave.)

So how CAN you continue to create content in a shitstorm, and what should you be thinking about to make sure your content isn’t offensive or off-base?

First: Listen to what your audience wants and needs

When your audience’s attention and priorities shift, take notice. Your content needs to shift to accommodate those changes.

This already happens throughout the year, sans-pandemic or any other global news event. Maybe you produce a lot of holiday-themed blogs, newsletters, and social media posts in November and December. You change up your content strategy in January and February though, right? Because that content is no longer relevant to your audience’s interests.

When a shitstorm hits, sometimes you have no warning and very little time to plan your content. That’s the difference. We’ll talk about how to deal with that in a second, but our main takeaway for this section is to listen to your audience. Pay attention to what they’re saying—or not saying—how their behavior has changed, and what they want to see from your brand.

Focus on your top priorities

So you have to throw your existing editorial strategy and content ideas out the window. Don’t worry, you can put them on hold to use later. Throwing them out the window seems dramatic; let’s just say put them on a shelf for now.

Now you need new content to fill in the gaps. Where do you begin? With your top priorities.

Try to be specific when using your priorities to guide your content. “Make more money this year” is a very nice objective to have, but that’s not gonna help you plan the next few months of blog posts and newsletters. Priorities like “Boost engagement on Instagram” or “Capture more leads by offering free resources” are better.

Let’s use those two examples of priorities to build your new content plan. To boost engagement, maybe you devote more time to asking and answering questions on social—ya know, having genuine conversations with your audience. What a concept, right? Or maybe you whip up a free resource like an infographic or tutorial to meet your audience’s needs.

(Just remember to cool the sell when things are rough. The last thing people want to see from their favorite brands is a push to spend money when basic needs are challenged. Offer value to your audience, not desperation and guilt.)   

Ask yourself what you want to create

When the ground shakes beneath you (proverbially), consider it an opportunity to think about what kind of content you actually want to create. And if you work with a team of creators and copywriters, make sure to talk to them about it, too.

  • What content have you been struggling with? 
  • What fresh new content ideas do you have? 
  • What content in your industry inspires you and what fuels your rage? 
  • Is there a part of your business, and the way you talk about it, that needs to change?
  • Are your business values front and center, so people can see clearly if they align with them?

These are all great questions to ask that will help you figure out what you want to do next. It can also show you content that will stand out and differentiate you from the people who are keeping things “status quo” in a time where there is no fucking status quo.

Yes, 2020 was a horrorshow, but it did help the Uncanny Content team narrow down what we liked doing and how we were doing it. For example, we nixed social media from our services because the space changes so fast, and it required way too much time and energy from us and our clients. It also led us to have many hard conversations with our clients about what it means to show up and serve, instead of just sell. 

So… Thanks, 2020?

When in doubt, wait it out

We’ve already mentioned this next tip as part of our blog on having a content planning process, but we’ll say it again. Think twice about posting impulsively. And when in doubt, wait it out. Say nothing at all.

Sometimes staying quiet is better than saying the wrong thing. Or saying something wildly inappropriate, or obviously disingenuous. Or saying something that you’ll have to revisit and update over and over again. Wait for the storm to pass instead of throwing out content just to fill the noise. 

Note from Latasha: I often dump out rants that are relevant to trending news (like the use of the phrase “witch hunt” by online influencers during the BLM protests, or on the hub-bub over echo chambers and censorship when Trump was banned from Twitter.)

You’d never know, though, because I rage-write them, send them to Jess, and she—very reasonably—tells me to wait. We sit on the post until we have a clearer, more intentional message to share. We wait until there’s something actionable we can give our followers. We don’t just add to the noise.

Well, I would. But that’s why I have Jess 😉 

Feel free to draft out your thoughts, but wait before you hit “publish.” While you’re hunkering down, use this time to get back in touch with your values and goals. Does that post serve you? Does jumping on a bandwagon really align with your goals? 

Trending content, or a pillar of your brand?

2020 was full of emails from brands, talking about “unprecedented times,” the importance of hand sanitizers, and being in this together. *insert eye roll*

Any time you decide to speak up in a crisis, ask yourself if your brand stands for those things, or if you’re just doing them lip service because everyone else is sharing that message. What do we mean?

Before you post another “We stand with” post, or before you create yet another pledge, ask yourself:

  • Do your clients and customers know what to expect when they work with you? 
  • What’s truly important to your business and brand? 
  • Does your content always reflect those values? Do your clients?

Another note: Are you upholding the values you said you cared about? Or are you creating content that’s simply getting clicks? This is a more nuanced subject than just creating content in a shitstorm, but bear with us.

If your brand doesn’t uphold values like diversity and community before shit hits the fan, it’s going to feel forced and fake when you suddenly start posting about those things when things do get rough. If your content is mostly surface-level and bubbly, it’s going to feel off-brand when you start talking about real shit on your platforms.

We’re not saying either way is right or wrong — we’re simply saying: Think about the brand and the content you’ve created in the past. If the content you want to create when things get rough don’t align with that tone, approach, or standards… maybe sit on it.

And if you’re realizing your brand doesn’t reflect all of the things you stand for, causes you support, or people you want to serve… well. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that, too.

This too shall pass

Not to sound too corny, but keep in mind that this too shall pass. (This is Latasha’s mom’s favorite saying. Mom, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome!) 

When shit hits the fan, try not to overthink about your content strategy, and whether you’re saying the “right” thing or not. Listen carefully to your audience, keep your values in mind, and wait it out if you’re unsure.

If things are dire right now, remember that you will get through it and you will move forward, even if that doesn’t quite look like how you planned in your content or your business. We got through 2020, didn’t we?

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