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As our collective self-isolation due to COVID-19 morphs into daily routine, it’s now clear we’re all spending more time online. Twitter says 23% more on its platform. Facebook says 50% more messaging across Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook proper.  

While some position this as an opportunity for brands, this increased usage comes with baggage. The swirling uncertainty is making trust a highly-valued commodity. Forrester recently stated that during this global pandemic “earning trust is [a brand’s] metric for success.”

So what are the brands that trade in trust — Forrester, Gartner, and HBR — publishing about in this new COVID-19-shaped reality? And what can you learn from them and apply to your own marketing and communications?  

To find out, we reviewed the top shared headlines from each of these brands’ thought leadership articles over the last seven days (specifically March 21, 2020 to March 27, 2020) and ran them through a word cloud generator. Then, we removed mentions of “COVID”, “COVID-19”, “corona” and “coronavirus” to get a clearer indication of the kind of content marketing each one is focusing on. 

From there, I looked for insight about what the content our trusted advisors are publishing is telling us about our current situation and what lessons marketers and communicators can take from it.

Yes, it’s more art than science. But we think it provides a peek into what’s resonating with audiences over the last week. 

When considering top shared content from all three brands, what stands out is:

  • The Asia-Pacific Region as a source of answers, insights and hope.
  • Being a source of context mapping will break through the noise.
  • People want support on how to be a leader in times of crisis. 

For marketing and communication professionals, this review reveals considerations to reflect on for your own content, including:

  • Keep publishing content that delivers on your brand promise for audiences.
  • Original content that’s not about your products or services and provides value for your audience is a very powerful marketing tool.
  • Deeply understand your audience so you can move fast to provide context and answers in times of crisis.

Read on for a closer look at each brand.

Forrester: Lessons from APAC and the rule of three to break through the noise

This word cloud makes it clear that Forrester is continuing to publish content marketing on a diverse mix of topics. 

The sheer amount of small-sized words indicates a lack of topic density. They have not halted their content publishing in the wake of the pandemic and, instead, have folded in COVID-19-related content across a mix of topics. 

Word cloud showing top shared headlines from Forrester's website.
Forrester’s most shared content from the last week.

What appears to be resonating for Forrester is content:

  • Aimed at technology and business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC)
  • Digital and marketing insights
  • Market forecasting

One word that stuck out to me was “three”. Forrester is relying on the rule of three — a principle that says a trio of things is more effective and memorable than other amounts — to break through the noise. 

What matters here: While your audience is likely hungry for answers, insights, and forecasts during this unprecedented time, it doesn’t mean you should pivot all of your marketing and communications initiatives to COVID-19 information. Continue to publish content they know and trust your brand for, but make sure it’s not tone deaf to the current environment. 

Gartner: The power of original content that’s not about your brand

Gartner is well-known for its software reviews and Magic Quadrant research methodology. (You know, those squares that plot players within a specific market.) 

Word cloud showing top shared headlines from Gartner's website.
Gartner’s most shared content from the last week.

This word cloud shows how powerful those content marketing efforts — which do not focus on Gartner itself — are for spreading awareness for a brand. Even in the world of non-stop COVID-19 content, people are still sharing software reviews and Magic Quadrant analysis reviews regularly.   

Impact is the word that jumps out in this word cloud. Gartner is making an effort to provide understanding for its readers by contextualizing the impact of COVID19 for leaders in management.  

What matters here: Building a strong, continuous content marketing vehicle, like the Magic Quadrant, that delivers value to your audience and is not focused on your products or services and can deliver brand ROI in times of crisis.      

HBR: Shepherding leaders

HBR knows its readers. Or maybe what its readers aspire to be — leaders. 

The word cloud here shows HBR’s content is focused on helping people lead through this crisis. Either by supporting teams or by avoiding issues. 

Word cloud showing top shared headlines from HBR's website.
HBR’s most shared content from the last week.

The words “need” and “now” stuck out here. HBR is tapping into the urgency around COVID-19, maybe as a way to stand out and capture readers’ attention. 

What matters here: Know your audience. A deep understanding of who your audience is, the problems they are trying to solve and what they are aspiring to be will give you clarity about what content they will need in times like these. 


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