Thanks to the government shutdown this week everything from the National Park System to NASA is out of service. Journalist Kit Eaton speculates on what a government shutdown means for the tech industry, humorously commenting, “Basically, if E.T. tries to dial the U.S. this week, he’ll get a busy tone.”
By contrast, Kate Nesbitt has written about businesses using the shutdown as a marketing tactic. She points to USAA, Hyndai, and other businesses offering discounts to employees directly affected.
The shutdown is a serious matter and we won’t get into politics here. However, it serves as an interesting premise to ask yourself: How would your marketing program run if external pressures suddenly shut it down?
This isn’t an unrealistic thought exercise. Any number of situations could suddenly thrust your marketing efforts in limbo: the sudden departure or death of a key employee, a natural disaster that disrupts business, or even the more common, swift, and unexpected yank of a marketing budget being withdrawn. If you adhere to content marketing principals — which often means a regular, if not daily, production of content — you could be headed for trouble if you don’t have a plan in place.
One of the best defenses is having a corporate blog because older online content continues to perform. Most SixEstate newsblogging clients, for example, continue to receive a fair level of search traffic on older posts even if new posts stop or are reduced. The same is reported by Pamela Vaughan at Hubspot:
Here’s some food for thought. 69% of HubSpot’s blog post visits in July were to posts published prior to July. In other words, just 31% of the overall traffic we generated to blog posts in July was to new posts. How is this possible?
Search engines, my friends… [S]earch engines.
Here are ways to prepare for the unexpected so that your marketing machinery continues to crank throughout periods of unease:
Backload content for emergencies
Keeping a content marketing program rolling means having resources in your back pocket should something happen. If you manage a newsblog, for example, prepare a stash of evergreen material so that if your blogger goes MIA you still have publishing material.
Mine your existing content for “best performers”
Keep a running tally of “greatest hits” — blog posts that inspired the most debate, infographics with the most shares, podcasts or videos with the greatest downloads. All of these can be repackaged for reissue, and updated with just a few introductory words for context if necessary.
Regroup to address the unseen change(s) and make a plan forward
As more companies produce content in-house it is important to have a plan in place that addresses potential problems. Who should run marketing if the marketing person (or blogger, or editor, or videographer, or sound technician, etc.) disappears? Who signs off on the marketing invoices if the budget has suddenly disappeared? Who will continue to monitor social media and ensure the customer service remains? These are questions that are larger than a marketing department but worth considering before a crisis occurs.
Try something new
A crisis can be the perfect time to try something new because your marketing constraints, by definition, have changed. Did your boss kill the proposed video series because the actors cost too much? Maybe a low-fi version of the video featuring employees instead of professional actors will still convey the message in a professional manner.
Whatever “shutdown” emergency you can imagine is probably possible. Do yourself a favor and get a plan in place. Many businesses today rely on content marketing, and that requires consistent application no matter what is happening behind-the-scenes.
Don’t forget that a crisis that seemingly “shuts down” your marketing efforts doesn’t have to be damaging. Look at the crisis and ask yourself how it can be converted into a positive message.
As Nesbitt writes:
Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent, not getting a paycheck sucks. And, when the doors of government re-open and money filters back into empty pockets, I’m sure those affected will remember these establishments and how they had their backs during a hard time.
Will your brand be able to weather the shutdown storm?
Image by Marina Noordegraaf.
Katie McCaskey is SixEstate's content director. She tests real-world application of content marketing techniques using the cafe she co-owns as a laboratory. She was Tech Editor of Chief Content Officer, 2010-2011, and contributes to the Content Marketing Institute. Connect with her on Google+ or @KatieMcCaskey.