The pandemic has been a very challenging time for all of us, making 2020 a very difficult year; unfortunately, these challenges look set to continue well into 2021.
During the COVID-19 crisis, digital channels and tools have played an essential role in:
Many digital marketing and communication teams have stepped up to the plate by providing new content and supporting new services, often at short notice. But with some form of lockdown or the threat of a potential lockdown likely be around for several more months, it’s important for teams not to lose focus now and keep on prioritising activities that are especially important during challenging times. Many of these are approaches that web teams should be carrying out anyway but take on greater significance during a crisis.
Here’s our view of seven essential approaches that must still be a priority for digital communications teams during the pandemic, but also beyond it.
The pandemic and the subsequent pivot to everything being online, has meant that the public are more dependent on digital channels than ever before. Here the need foreverybody to be able to successfully access information and then act upon it if necessary is critical, including those people with disabilities. Digital accessibility has never been more important than it is today and needs to be at the heart of what you and your team do.
During a difficult time, the public want information that is up to date, authoritative and unambiguous. Many teams carry out this aspect well by ensuring that content is well-written and also regularly reviewed. However, it is equally as important to keep an eye on the smaller elements such as typos, broken links and page-level performance issues, as this can significantly undermine visitor confidence and trust in a piece of content. A person may perceive that a page with an error on it has not been reviewed or kept up to date; making sure that content continues to be clear and credible is key here.
The tone of voice for content is also important. Marketing teams want content to be able to stand out, but ‘edgy’ and off the wall may not be the right style here, when a more human-centred and empathetic worldview prevails during a global crisis.
For most teams this means an emphasis on changing the tone of voice or style for the new situation, but it also means you may need to make changes to existing content. For example, you may have specific content in the past that refers to health or medical-related terms or themes or similar, that needs to be changed to reflect the new situation. Here, being able to have a comprehensive view of all your content, and the ability to search for it to make any necessary changes, may also be needed.
Access to important information for the public also means an emphasis on good site performance. The last thing you want it to have unintended outages and instances where issues are rendering parts of your site difficult to visit; any issues need to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Here, automated monitoring of your site can make a real difference, supporting continual uptime and the swift resolution of coding issues which impact the user experience.
During the pandemic, lockdowns and other measures that have a major impact on business and organisational operations can be announced at any time. Therefore, teams need to be agile and flexible to be able to make changes to content and websites at very short notice.
Here, content management processes, the way marketing teams communicate, the ability to use automation at short notice and more, can all play their part in making teams more agile and flexible, and therefore able to respond quickly and efficiently to the changes that need to be made. If you sense your team are slow to react, it is worth looking at your processes and the tools you have at your disposal to enable a swifter response.
With the economy in a fragile state and some organisations taking a significant hit on their revenue, it is likely budgets are going to be constrained and limited for some time yet. This means the type of improvements that can be made across your website or other digital channels may need be more incremental, rather than the result of a major investment.
Here, focusing on improving content and getting more out of the tools you already have may be the realistic way forward. This emphasis on more incremental improvement can actually yield excellent results; for example, Sitemorse clients tend to focus on making real-world improvements to accessibility, content quality and internal brand compliance using automation to assess the content, and then fixing any issues and make improvement on an ongoing basis. It is a very cost-effective way to drive continual improvement that has benefits for your users and focuses the team on your actual content.
The pandemic has been personally challenging for many of us in terms of health and wellbeing, changes to working patterns, and the removal of many of the things we take for granted. The pandemic has felt like a marathon and we’re still in the thick of it; digital communications teams, just like everybody else, need to maintain patience with each other and show persistence by keeping the necessary focus.
As the pandemic continues it is essential to take the right approaches to content and website management, providing trusted, authoritative, and accessible content to everybody, while also being able to respond to changes quickly. You may also be working within limited budgets. Some of the approaches we have highlighted in this article can help but even in less extraordinary times, a focus on them will help you to improve your website.