The COVID-19 pandemic has, in very short order, completely changed the way many companies do business. Communicators, marketers and other external spokespeople are, as a result, left trying to quickly figure out how to develop content that not only connects with their audiences, but does so in a thoughtful, empathetic, actionable and engaging way.

With the already overwhelming amount of information out there, let’s keep it simple: the best way to create a successful content strategy – during a period of crisis and beyond – is by understanding your key audiences through media analytics.

A powerful analytics program identifies keywords, messages, trends and topics that interest your audiences. Gathering and analyzing this data helps you identify the content that drives engagement, especially during times of uncertainty.

Armed with these insights, you can build a data-driven content strategy. This approach helps you to craft valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract loyal and engaged audiences, as well as push through the noise of today’s unprecedented and chaotic media landscape.

Understanding Your Content

Whether you are creating a new content strategy or updating an existing one, your analytics program should start with a content audit – an in-depth analysis of the content you’ve already created, how and why it’s resonating with your key audiences and what content could be repurposed to quickly have an impact.

At the same time, you can evaluate the media channels most frequently used by your audiences, along with their interactions with your competitors’ content.

Here are ten steps to get started:

  1. Define your business and communications goals. Make sure your goals are specific, meaningful and measurable – this will help create clarity in chaos. Measuring against defined goals is fundamental to any good content strategy.
  2. Find the best analytics platform to report on your current content. Be sure to also spend time developing refined search strings – this is necessary to eliminate noise and return quality data and relevant information.
  3. Select only the metrics that matter. An abundance of metrics sometimes makes analytics overwhelming. Consider metrics to uncover message pull-through, brand reputation and preference, endorsements, recommendations, competitive intelligence and industry trends and topics. Leverage sentiment scoring to understand what content drives higher levels of engagement.
  4. Analyze the resulting data. Track the reaction to your content, in relation to its relevance, tone (e.g., serious, empathetic, factual), category (e.g., educational, sales, business, trending news), and media (e.g., blog post, video, images, podcast). Find out what’s working, what isn’t and where there are gaps – you might need content that hasn’t yet been created.
  5. Review your target audiences. How are consumers, partners, stakeholders, influencers and industry leaders reacting to your content? How are they responding to the narratives of your competitors? Who else do you want your messages to reach?
  6. Discover which media channels are important to your audiences. For example, just because Twitter generates a high volume of conversations doesn’t mean that your target audiences are listening to them. A 2019 Pew Research study shows only 22 percent of American adults use Twitter, and the most active – just 10 percent – send 80 percent of the tweets. However, Pew also noted that Twitter stands out as one of the social media sites with the most news-focused users. Are your audiences on Twitter or are they more likely to be part of larger share of U.S. adults who use YouTube (73%) or Facebook (69%)? Or perhaps they frequent mainstream news sites?
  7. Develop an overarching strategy. Use all of the above intelligence to provide insights and recommendations for a detailed strategy that details topic, tone, category, media type and the channels to share your content. These insights also inform the development of future content based on the types of posts most responded to by your target audiences.
  8. Follow up with a content calendar to execute your plan. Outline a distribution plan, including when and where you want to publish each piece on content.
  9. Determine how to best reflect your brand’s personality in each type of content. Develop content that 1) embraces the intelligence you have gathered in your audit, 2) adds value to your audiences and 3) encourages engagement with your brand. For example, a thought leadership message or educational post will have a different personality than a trending news piece or details about an event or product release.
  10. Measure media data on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Stay nimble and adjust your content strategy and calendar as needed.

No Magic Bullets

These steps form the foundation of a strategy to craft captivating content built on strong messages, trending topics and industry opportunities. But it is important to note that while a strong content strategy can guide smarter decision-making, there is no magic bullet or grand plan that works for everyone, especially during rapidly evolving times of uncertainty.

Your strategy is unique to your company. With a comprehensive analytics program in place to constantly and consistently monitor audience engagement, your content strategy will help demonstrate, over time, why your business has a solid reputation and is an authority in your market.


When your audiences are more distracted than ever, it’s critical to have a content blueprint to capture attention and build loyalty. Don’t count on your intuition or a gut instinct. Create a new content strategy, or update your existing one, by setting goals, researching your audiences and conducting a meaningful content audit.

Evaluate the data from your content audit and use the insights to help both create a content strategy and produce content. But don’t leave that plan to gather dust on a shelf. Continue to measure the results and outcomes of your strategy on a consistent basis, tweaking and informing your ongoing content strategy as needed, even after the current crisis is over.

Your content strategy should be nimble enough to change with the times. Make sure it’s up-to-date, innovative, authentic, personalized and smart. Attracting and nurturing dedicated and engaged audiences is critical to ensuring business success.

For more information and resources, please visit Zignal’s dedicated COVID-19 Response Page, where you’ll find best practices, data-driven analyses and shareable content you can leverage in your response to COVID-19.

To learn how public health best practices can help you create an impactful communications strategy fit for these unprecedented times, please join Zignal Labs for an exclusive virtual town hall on Wednesday, April 8th – reserve your spot today.