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The scale of the coronavirus outbreak is shifting daily, hourly even. With most countries now focused on containing and delaying the spread, it is clear that the first half of the year is not going to pan out as expected.

It has left many marketers scrambling to find a Plan B for the first six months of 2020, notably as many trade shows and conferences have been cancelled or currently in doubt.

Marketers are now searching for credible alternative strategies that will help to grow engagement and awareness and ensure they still hit their KPIs despite the exceptional circumstances.

Time and money have been spent to create content for conferences and shows, which now needs to find new ways to reach its audience. With many people expected to be deskbound and likely to be working remotely, appetite for inspiring digital content will only increase.

According to Jonny Boufarhat at online events provider Hopin, even before the coronavirus outbreak, people were becoming more selective about which events they attended. “Technology means people no longer have to spend a lot of their time and energy going to physical conferences. They can now have the same engaging experience from their home or office via platforms like ours.”

Like Hopin, The Drum also provides alternatives to live events online. Taking existing live event content and turning that into webinars, whitepapers and video, can often drive even greater reach and engagement in these formats. The same entertaining, informative and influential conference keynote for instance, doesn’t just reach its original target audience, but it has the potential to go much further.

The Drum’s own webinars regularly attract hundreds of registrations and attendees and remain online to be accessed later and surface for people searching for case studies or best practice.

Video has fast become the king of digital content for many publishers and The Drum also hosts a rich video library which includes panel discussions with senior CMOs, features on specialist subjects and learning and development content, which regularly rack-up 7,000- plus views.

This rich multi-media content approach has led The Drum to launch its first ever online festival on the theme of digital transformation.

Gordon Young, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Drum says: “The main idea of the Festival is to give our readers, fans and followers the opportunity to stay connected and to continue to have conversations about the important topics and challenges that our industry faces right now.”

As the year progresses, there may well be a return to some form to normalcy, of course. Still, there is already speculation that there will be a long-term impact on workplace behaviours. Quarantine and self-isolation, aided by the use of digital tools, are proving mass-remote working is possible.”

According to Boufarhat, “We built the product well before coronavirus – we found that there was already a demand.”

He adds: “Travel distance, time pressure, and environment should all be factors when businesses consider attending conferences. I think that behaviours were already changing, but it has been expedited due to the coronavirus.”

Young added “Even once the current pandemic subsides, I think that the accelerating change we are experiencing now is going to continue.”

The future will hold more unexpected events, from extreme weather to further potential health scares, but the behaviours are already changing. Movements like Extinction Rebellion have meant that the impact of our travel, on the environment has been front of mind for instance.

It’s clear that digital tools and content are increasingly facilitating our ability to do more and learn more without leaving our desks.

This presents an opportunity for marketers, who can now take leadership and ownership on any chosen subject, trend or issue via content formats like whitepapers and reports. Well written insight or research in a downloadable long-form format continues to offer deep engagement with an audience and even qualified new business leads.

A robust and well-rounded content marketing strategy is simply good practice at all times. 2020 is teaching us a well thought out Plan B is essential for when the unexpected does occur.

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