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The Lessons We Learned In 2020


Carm Lyman is President of Lyman Agency.

Whew. We made it. Also, what just happened? 2020 was a whirlwind year for us all — one that brought endless challenges and unexpected twists and turns, both personally and professionally. Despite being one of the most unusual and challenging years of our lifetimes, looking back, there are a lot of lessons about communicating and marketing that can be applied as we continue to traverse this terrain in 2021. Here are the marketing strategies we are taking into 2021 about communicating directly with customers and communicating with, and through, the media. 

Connect in a way that matters, but break from the serious.

Working from home and quarantining made consumerism a healthy part of 2020, with many people looking to their favorite products and services to bring more meaningful interactions and enrichment to their day. Still, dollars only go so far, so it’s important to connect in a way that matters. 

Lazy or noisy “look at me” content likely won’t cut it anymore. From what we’ve seen, many people want deeper knowledge that helps them enjoy their hobby or leisure time better, especially while their normal lives are disrupted and constricted. They want to know how a product/service makes their day easier or more enjoyable. They want to consume it in a way that feels personal, so aim for less marketing flash and more authenticity. 

Meaningful connections will likely continue to play a big part of marketing in 2021, as 2020 was just so heavy. As marketers, try to balance compassion and empathy with the effort to provide some relief by being fun, irreverent and creative. We all need the levity. 

Measure and monitor your customers’ attention spans and interests.

With a constant barrage of increasingly bad or tense information being served on an almost daily basis, many people are naturally feeling information fatigue. For brands, it’s been difficult to know when and how often to communicate. Keeping on top of key performance indicators like email open rates, website landing page performance, time-on-site statistics and interactions on social channels are as important as ever to check the pulse of an audience’s appetite and attention span. As we enter a new year with some light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to continue to observe any shift in consumption and to adjust tone, frequency and timing accordingly.

Look harder at affiliate marketing.

If you aren’t looking hard at affiliate marketing, you may soon be behind. We’ve noticed that more sites than ever have dedicated commerce writers and deal sections, and many are already using the Amazon affiliate program for commissions on products they cover. Establishing your own program gives you greater control of the publishers you want to work with and the incentives you’re able to offer, while helping you grow your brand, collect valuable data on where and how your customers are buying and improve your SEO. 

Put yourself in a journalist’s shoes — do everything possible to make their job easier.

As mentioned earlier, many of your customers are feeling information fatigue, but perhaps no one is more overwhelmed than the journalists and bloggers working to keep up with the daily dose of breaking news. They are likely feeling challenged in their personal lives too, as we all have been, so think about how you can make their jobs easier. Media organizations have advised this for years, and now is the time to shine: Be as concise as possible in your pitches to break through the clutter. Challenge yourself to limit your communication to three or four sentences max.

Even when budgets are tight, don’t scrimp on good photography.

The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words still holds true. And it’s particularly true for earned and owned media, especially given that many media outlets often have a small budget for photography. We all know that one of the best ways to engage your customers is through beautiful photos. The same can be said for PR. Push your pitch through with an included drive of downloadable media-quality photos. Members of the media will probably appreciate that you have already checked that box for them, and providing photography upfront could help your story get published faster.

As we all move further into 2021, and are more than ready to turn the page, let’s remember what worked and sustained us in a year we’ll never forget, and focus on making all of our communications meaningful. Happy New Year.


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