Like the rest of the media industry, The Globe and Mail has been caught in the coronavirus maelstrom. Ad campaigns have been cancelled or put on hold, events have been postponed, and our newsroom has been working tirelessly to feed reader demand for the most up-to-date information about the pandemic and what it means for them.
All this occurred as we moved our entire staff to remote working — many with children whose schools have shut down — in a matter of days.
It’s inevitable that, as we adjust to our new normal, we look for ways to maintain what we, and our clients, value about our business. Rocketing digital readership shows the importance of journalism in a crisis. That journalism is supported by our subscribers and advertising clients, and The Globe has been focusing on how we can serve both during this unsteady period.
I spoke with Sean Stanleigh, head of the Globe Content Studio, our in-house content marketing division, about how his team is helping custom content advertisers navigate the new terrain.
First, we know the bad news. Is there good news the industry can look to in this crisis?
There is: Readers are engaged with content at a volume we’ve never seen. The Globe is tracking at about three times its normal pageviews. We’ve removed our paywall on COVID-19 news, but people are at home, hungry for stories not only about COVID-19 but the new norms of leading their lives. Can they have playdates? Go for walks? What’s the dress etiquette for remote working? Is it safe to go to the grocery store?
These are all questions people are asking, and they’re turning to The Globe and other media to get the answers they seek.
How is the Globe Content Studio working with clients?
It was expected that some of our clients would reassess their campaigns for 2020. We’re doing our best to keep in regular contact and pass on information they may find useful. We’re sensitive to the fact that this is a hard time for organisations across the board — particularly our clients in the retail and hospitality industries. Our goal is to do our best to be available.
Some of them are also looking at opportunities to connect with their audiences in a way that resonates but is sensitive to what’s going on in the world. Again, people are looking for answers. One question any brand should consider is whether they can contribute meaningful information related to conversations people are having.
For example, if they’re involved in childcare, tips on working from home with kids would be a welcome addition and support their brand values — if they’re communicated honestly and in a straight-forward manner.
What about brands that are deciding against all advertising?
That’s a very specific decision for each brand, and we know that it’s not one they take lightly.
What I would point out is that it’s easy for your audience to forget about you. It’s seems like a long time ago, but only a few weeks back, the Globe Content Studio advocated being in the market at all times with a flexible campaign matched to business objectives. But we’ve obviously walked that back a bit.
The basic premise remains valid because, when the crisis is over, brands are going to restart their campaigns at the same time, and those that maintained a regular presence will have an advantage.
What are Globe Content Studio clients looking for right now?
We focus on the content creation side, and there’s no denying that the messages brands are communicating are much different than several weeks ago because their business objectives have shifted radically. But according to Edelman’s recent Trust Barometer for COVID-19, we also know a brand’s response to the crisis will be important to its future.
We’ve become even more creative in the storytelling opportunities we offer. Obviously, an in-person event is not on the table at the moment. So how can we guide clients toward options that match their brand message authentically — often messages of hope and action — while connecting with their target audience?
The Globe is fortunate because of its proprietary data analytics tools (Sophi) and reader research that provides a rich stream of audience insights the Studio can use to our clients’ advantage. We’ve seen significant upticks recently, for example, in any content related to investing and careers, and we can drill deep into the particular subsets of those topic areas that Canadians want to consume.