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Producing effective content for communicating in the time of COVID

Producing effective content for communicating in the time of COVID

This insight was originally published by Communicate Magazine.

As the world prepares for 2021, it begins to acknowledge that Covid-19 is an ongoing reality, rather than the short-lived 2020 crisis. Laura O’Connell, Head of our Corporate & Capital Markets UK team, explores how businesses can respond to this crisis as corporate communicators focused on protecting reputation.

All organisations, companies and individuals have been affected, as economic disruption, remote-working and home-based living have become the norm. It seems likely that even if medical breakthroughs help us begin to defeat Covid, nothing is ever going to be the same again.

So as communicators, how does this impact our plans? I think our Covid-19 experience has brought two fundamental long term changes to how we need to adjust; first that the content we produce will always have to be considered through the ‘lens’ of Covid-19, and second, the dramatic shift to digital consumption, which has changed how we reach key audiences.

With these parameters in mind, there are five steps to achieving highly effective content:

Steps 1-2: Using the Covid-19 lens

Covid has been shocking and tragic and has up-ended how audiences feel about every aspect of their lives, including businesses and organisations. It is vital to show deep integrity. The world has become a darker, less certain place, and we need to consider communications against this sensitivity.  It is critical to consider how an organisation has and is responding to Covid-19, and why and how audiences will evaluate whether they wish to interact with, be employed by, or do business with it.

Step 1: Care

Content must be anchored to an organisation’s purpose, and how that translates to its audiences. Some companies are having to re-examine and work out how to better articulate their purpose as a result of the shockwaves from the pandemic. Think through the reactions that the planned content could create – ‘How is this a positive? What if someone dislikes what we are saying? Are we being opportunist or does this feel true to what and who we are?’

Step 2: Clarity

Be crystal clear of the content’s aim, specifically who it is targeted at and the intended response. Map your audiences and their motivations. We work with clients to identify and define the personas of their targets, to enable content to be tailored to these characteristics. And plan so that the content is synchronised with other activity across the organisation to ensure clarity of message.

Steps 3-5: Driven by digital

One of the impacts of Covid-19 is that digital communication consumption has accelerated across all age groups and audiences. As a result, brands looking to stay front of mind must be designing content to follow a strictly digital first strategy.

Step 3: Create

With purpose and objectives established, content should be developed that will be both authentic and valuable to the audiences – and above all, digital. To be effective, the creative idea must be anchored in the organisation’s strategic purpose and communication objective; the creative applications – whether visual, interactive, or written -follow from this.

Step 4: Connect

The beauty of digital content is that it connects dynamically to audiences through the feedback loops and transparent measurement that digital platforms provide. The implementation plan should be designed to use the channels relevant to your audiences (as  identified under Step 2).  The plan is likely to blend earned, owned and paid channels, depending upon whether you are targeting internal or external stakeholders.

Step 5: Collate results

Digital first programmes are ideal for the volatile Covid-19 circumstances. Live feedback and measurement of how content is performing means that the content, its volume and the channel mix can be adjusted rapidly.

As corporate communicators, we are all facing a communications landscape that has drastically altered from when we set last year’s strategies – but it is clear that brands with a strong purpose will be the ones that endure the uncertainty, and it is our role to ensure that that purpose is embedded in everything we say and do.

Instinctif Partners has created a “Covid-19Optic” diagnostic tool, which provides an analysis of how well an organisation has responded to the crisis arising from Covid and highlights specific actions needed to protect reputation. For more information email

Instinctif Partners is sponsoring Communicate Magazine’s Corporate Content Conference.

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