News & Views

Coronavirus Content Strategy: Suggestions and Insight

Are you brainstorming a coronavirus content strategy? There’s no writing guide on how to approach media content during an unprecedented health crisis. Still, this isn’t the first time writers have had to adapt to new situations. Adaptability is key to the whole industry as we face the coronavirus together, and any destination marketing efforts are going to have to be prepared to change with the times. If a DMO knows what writers and journalists want, it will be easier to deliver successful content.

While not applicable to all destinations or efforts, it’s good to have some guidelines to act as an effective cheat sheet for how to remain relevant and maintain an effective coronavirus content strategy. We’re here to give you just that.

But why are we thinking about content when we’re in the midst of a crisis?

Marketers need to remain calm and collected during this time. The way you act now might dictate how the media will be willing to work with you as recovery efforts begin to ramp up in the coming weeks. Destinations are realizing this, and some are beginning to provide resources and guidance to media and marketers looking for content. Everything we do now is an investment in the future of our destination marketing efforts.

So, what should you think about before publishing a blog post or pitching content to writers for coverage? We’ve sifted through some of the research, observed what our own writers have responded to, and collected suggestions from destinations to provide some insight.

1. Tone

Your main goal is to be sensitive and, above all, useful in the tone of any and all content going out now. Marketing efforts that stir panic or doubt are not productive and will gain no traction in the media. No marketer wants to come off as tone deaf in their coronavirus content strategy, which will turn off editors and writers whom you’ll want to work with in the future.

Does this mean that every media pitch and piece of content needs to mention the coronavirus in detail? Not necessarily. We’re not saying to push sad sob stories. The point is that people are getting sick, dying even, and businesses around the world are suffering. Acknowledge it at the very least. While we want to keep a positive attitude, content strategies need to defer to a more somber tone than in normal times, even if the story being pitched is a happy one.

2. Audience

To that end, think who you are addressing in your coronavirus content strategy. Audiences these days are not typical travelers – at least they shouldn’t be. While many people report maintaining travel as usual, the ripple effects of the virus and increasing infections will no doubt hamper their plans as the weeks pass. This is an event without a clear end. You need to think long-term.

Frequent fliers and event-oriented travelers won’t be that receptive to messaging now. Instead, think of who will likely be traveling in the future – at least in the North American market. Consider road-trippers, solo-travelers, and outdoor adventurers who will be more likely to head to a destination once it becomes safe to do so. Any messaging that involves crowds or events where people will be in close proximity – think plane travel, music festivals, etc. – will fall on deaf ears.

Just look around you. The Kentucky Derby, French Open, and South by Southwest have all been rescheduled or cancelled. It’s not time to push a local event or gathering by any means.

3. Storytelling

While audiences may be limited for actual travel, armchair travels have always been – and are now to a higher degree – receptive to destination stories. Just be mindful. What sorts of stories will people actually want to read while stuck at home? Will it be an onslaught of arbitrary, dreamy lists? Or will it be a more thoughtfully told story about someone or something in a destination? Journalists are clamoring for unique stories to tell, so why not feed their hunger?

Is someone doing something interesting or innovative, coronavirus-related or not? Narrative storytelling is a way to fill the hours, but writers need characters and plot. Provide it for them. Marketers may need to make a few calls and do some digging, but unearthing those stories that will make future travelers and armchair travelers alike drool, well, it’s a win either way.

4. Differentiate

Prepare for an onslaught of outdoor and wellness themes in the coming weeks and months as people cooped up for days will want to emerge. Every destination will be pushing its green spaces and outdoor adventures. Jump on the bandwagon, but be prepared to distinguish your destination.

What makes your national park different? What makes your gardens special? Why hike/bike/camp/kayak in your destination as opposed to the dozens of others that will be vying for travelers’ attention? Finding these unique angles are always important, but they will absolutely be essential going forward with recovery efforts when a starving industry will be fighting tooth and nail for whatever visitor spend it can attract. Make sure your content is garnished appropriately so that writers can serve it up effectively.

5. Multimedia

Show don’t tell is a common mantra among good writers, so help them do it. While words do most of the work, so do images and videos. We always remind marketers that content pitches need multimedia to go with them, but now it’s more important than ever. Many journalists can’t get to the destinations you want them to write about – let alone outside their homes – so help them out as much as possible.

Provide content, whether it’s a video package, a photo gallery, or even an Instagram at the very least. Don’t make them hunt for it. It may mean digging around a bit, even contacting local Instagram influencers to negotiate purchasing some of their most recent photos for media pitches – these aren’t normal times, so we can’t rely on normal strategies. The goal of your coronavirus content strategy is to provide something unique and useful that will keep your destination top of mind while recovery efforts move forward.

Nervous about how your destination will move forward following the coronavirus? You’re not alone. At DCI, we’ve spent 60 years dealing with crises, big and small. Contact Kayla Leska, [email protected], to learn more about how we can help fill your marketing and content needs during this evolving epidemic.

Written By

Kayla Leska

Kayla is Managing Director of DCI's Tourism Public Relations Division. She oversees communications strategy for DCI’s tourism clients and directs the firm’s tourism crisis and recovery communication efforts. Kayla leads publicity teams in the U.S. and Canada. She earned her BA in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.

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