ContentContent marketing in the COVID-19 crisis: What the hospitality industry is teaching us

Content marketing in the COVID-19 crisis: What the hospitality industry is teaching us

Fractl's Marketing Director, Amanda Milligan looks into how various brands are responding to the COVID-19 crisis through content. Important lessons for other B2B and B2C businesses. 

30-second summary:

  • The COVID-19 crisis is impacting so many incredible brands — from neighbourhood spots to household names — many businesses have been reeling from the impact of everyone needing to stay home for the good of public health.
  • Fractl’s Marketing Director, Amanda Milligan looked into how various brands are responding to this hardship through content to share some important lessons for other B2B and B2C businesses.
  • She mentions how the messaging you use and the ways you choose to help are absolutely essential to maintaining positive relationships.
  • Great examples included right from Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Marriot to humble brands like Orbitz and The Potter’s house.
  • Take a step back and consider how your brand can best contribute to the solutions your clients or customers need, you can form a short-term strategy on how your content can better serve them now.

Everyone is suffering in some way during the era of the COVID-19 crisis, but as it relates to marketing, the tourism industry may be taking the hardest hit. (If you’re one of these marketers, hang in there, and please let me know if I can help in any way.)

So many incredible brands — from neighbourhood spots to household names — have been reeling from the impact of everyone needing to stay home for the good of public health.

In this unprecedented time, I decided to look into how various brands are responding to this hardship through content.

And from what I’ve found, their actions serve as important lessons for all of us.

B2C content priorities: Information and connection

The exponential spread of the virus meant that things changed very quickly, events were cancelled, people were advised not to travel, and more such things that were restricted or curbed. So, from the moment things started to make a shift, consumers turned to brands for information.

Building brand loyalty should always be a priority, but especially in times of crisis, when timely information needs to be communicated ASAP. Aside from the customer service related queries, a brand new set of questions and concerns appeared because of Coronavirus, and if brands were in a good position to answer those questions, they could be extremely helpful in a tumultuous time.

Rather than dealing with everything through customer service, for example, Orbitz put together a blog post that explains what consumers need to know about changing their travel plans.

content marketing in the COVID-19 crisis - Example Orbit

But it’s not just about providing information, either. If people can’t spend money on your products or services, one of your top marketing priorities should be maintaining communication and connection with them in the midst of this hardship.

I’ve personally seen places in D.C. doing an excellent job at this. For example, The Potter’s House, a nonprofit cafe, bookstore, and event space, closed down their location on March 13 for public health and safety reasons.

However, they’ve been in contact via email, using personable, human language, explaining what they’re doing to give back during the COVID-19 crisis, and talking about ways they’re trying to keep the community together.

Potter's Community emailer that sets an example for content marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

The subject line of this email was simple: “We miss you!”

And sometimes, short messages can say a lot. Look at the popup featured on the Marriott homepage.

Marriot home page pop up

Brands need to remember that their brand advocates miss them, too. No one wants to be cooped up and worried. They’d much rather be engaging with their communities plotting future plans, and giving back in any way they can.

Simple messages of encouragement, camaraderie, and hope can go a long way.

B2B content priorities: Reassurance and support

B2B marketing isn’t just about getting new business. It can also be about “marketing” to your current clients and customers.

When you work with other companies that are suffering financially, your messaging is critical. If you have a healthy partnership, they see the money they spend on your product/services and your brand as an important piece of their success.

The TripAdvisor CEO presents a good example of how to handle this kind of communication. The message is for all of the businesses that use the TripAdvisor platform in some way.

 

It includes two crucial things

  1. Expression of their desire to help
  2. Details of the actions they’ve already taken

recent letter from Airbnb’s CEO to its hosts around the world encompasses the same elements, though also with an apology for how they handled cancellations in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

The messaging you use and the ways you choose to help are absolutely essential to maintaining positive relationships. This is when marketing overlaps greatly with communications and PR strategies, as it should at times when silos can’t do the trick.

And words aren’t enough (as the Airbnb letter notes as part of their apology). Showing people that you’re going to do whatever is in your power to be their advocate can build massive amounts of goodwill.

OpenTable impressed me from the get-go. They’ve been using their brand influence to encourage people to support restaurants in various ways. Just a glance at their Instagram feed shows how nearly all of their content is dedicated to providing ways to connect people to restaurants in this social distancing age.

If you’re a restaurant that pays OpenTable for reservation capabilities, this is what I’d imagine you’d like to see — those who you work with advocating for you. And yes, of course, OpenTable benefits from these efforts, too, but if it seems like sincere, practical help that they’re providing, it can go a long way in building goodwill.

Conclusion

It’s hard not to get caught up in the stress, especially when facing uncertainty. But if you can take a step back and consider how your brand can best contribute to the solutions your clients or customers need, you can form a short-term strategy on how your content can better serve them now.

Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses.

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