Author, Đặng Đăng Trường
When Covid-19 hit the region 6 months ago, like many other communications professionals around, my team were left scratching our heads. We knew it was not the time to market our products. But we did not choose to sit around. With people staying at home and spending a significant chunk of their time online, there was an opportunity to engage through digital contents.
The main issue was how to keep things sensible and sensitive.
After much consideration, I went ahead with carefully crafting 3 contents and published them right at the height of social distancing in Asia. It was a big risk that paid off, and here is the entire step-by-step process and what I learned from it.
Reading the room
In Rand Fishkin’s amazing blog post, he correctly pointed out that the world was experiencing a crisis and every communications should be examined within that context. From utilizing this advice, I ‘read the room’ and observed two important facts.
The first one is more obvious: any companies doing marketing now have to be very mindful of the pandemic situation. A global crisis is clearly not the place for pure self-promotion. The second one is harder to see: a global crisis is also NOT the place for companies to keep chanting about how bad things are. People want to read about something other than the increasing infection counts or the looming economic recession.
With those two observations, I concluded that striking a balance between talking about the crisis while not contributing to the public’s anxiety is the path to create relevant content that people love to read.
Choosing a relevant angle
If you think back to that one brief period when social distancing just began, you’ll remember that it was not all doom and gloom. People were worried, but still tried to distract themselves with at-home entertainment. Some streamed Tiger King on Netflix, some organized virtual events through video games, some went on online shopping sprees.
These stories were fascinating, and as I realize later on, relatable to a lot of people. They give us a rare sense of companionship and hope. So that was what I chose to talk about: how people around the world were coping with life at home.
Choosing the right niches
Not all those stories were equal opportunities, however. Some were too obscure, while some were too publicized, like in the case of streaming shows. After much researching, I finally found two niches that were perfect for what I wanted to achieve, online shopping and gaming.
They are popular, super popular in fact. Especially with social distancing, online shopping and gaming were clearly thriving. But at the same time, those topics were somewhat neglected as media was spending all their time covering the virus. Therefore, if we could come up with good content regarding these niches, we would be in for some huge successes. The question was how.
Filling in the gaps of information
The first content I made for this project was ‘Check out what Southeast Asians are buying online during Covid-19 lockdown.’ This idea came up after I saw people lining up to buy face masks and thought there must have been online scavenging for face masks as well.
Yet news reports were only discussing offline shopping behaviors, no one was looking into online shopping. So, I did. This content was later published by VnExpress, the most read news website in Vietnam, among others.
The second content was ‘Interests in gaming consoles skyrocket in Southeast Asia amid Covid-19 lockdowns.’ Similarly, this idea materialized when I encountered sales records for gaming consoles in Japan and North America, but none specifically for Southeast Asia. The content helped put us on IGN, GoNintendo, NintendoWire, and many other big gaming news websites.
Both contents were successes for us because we discovered information gaps in media reports & filled in those gaps with our own content.
Telling stories and entertaining readers
Throughout all the 3 contents, I maintained a single approach: telling surprising & entertaining stories. The clearest example for this strategy is the third and final content I created, ‘Vietnam’s e-commerce missed opportunities during the pandemic?’
Although there are other companies who came up with similar market reports, ours was the one chosen to be featured on major business news publications such as VnExpress, Vietnamnet, and Vietnam Television.
The reason is with this content, I did not merely report numbers, but instead used the numbers to tell a story that surprises people and compels them to read till the final paragraph. This approach makes our contents a lot more readable and shareable.
It led to many readers sharing our content while making jokes about condoms being sold-out. It also led to gamers arguing passionately on Twitter about our gaming data.
Those are signs of a potential viral content.
And they all went viral, one after another. After one month of execution, the project brought us over 100 organic backlinks. It also boosted our brand recognition and media relations across the region. More importantly, my hope is that with these contents, I was able to provide our readers and followers with just a little bit of positivity when the whole world seems like chaos.
Đặng Đăng Trường is iPrice’s Regional Content and Communication Specialist