7 Content Marketing Lessons 2020 Taught Us


  • By Kevin Dunn
  • January 21, 2021
The year 2020 written out in colorful yellow letters with emoji in place of the zeros

Our MSPC team reflects on the upsides of a downward-spiraling year.

A Deeper Belief in the Why

In many ways, 2020 strengthened our resolve. Early on, like everyone, we weren’t sure how our business would be impacted. After the initial shockwaves and chaos settled into the routine disarray we’ve been enduring since March, we began to understand our work with the clarity that only crisis can bring.

The need for our clients to produce useful, informative and relevant content to attract and retain customers is more important now than ever. High-performance digital properties and careful distribution strategies are essential. It’s been cathartic to affirm our purpose, which has led to richer conversations with our clients and prospects about their own “whys.”

You will not have effective marketing without answering your why.
–Kate Rogers, vice president, digital strategy

Produce with Purpose

Amid a turbulent year, the power of connection was reinforced again and again. Stories matter. Showing vulnerability matters. Authenticity matters. Meeting customers where they are mentally and emotionally matters.

The best content marketing puts those consumer mindsets front and center, and without that layer of humanity in 2020, our content would have fallen flat—or worse: been disingenuous. This shared experience will change us forever—something I consider a silver lining.
–Amanda Welshons, associate content director

Read the Room

Last June, I wrote that trust and authenticity were everything for companies looking to connect with the public. Seven months later, it still rings true.

2020 was a true test for content marketers, first as COVID-19 hit, and then as the country erupted in protests of all sorts. The events were too big to ignore, and content marketers had to figure out how to speak to potential and existing customers in a way that was sensitive to the turbulence outside their windows yet in line with their companies’ values.

This will continue to be a challenge throughout 2021.
–Molly Bennett, senior content director

Limits Breed Creativity

If you’re looking for great ideas, go ahead and tell a creative team what they can’t do. And isn’t that what most of last year was—an exhausting list of can’ts, don’ts and “for sure avoid that”?

For (nearly) every limit imposed by the virus, we found creative workarounds in our content creation and programming. Can’t safely fit a full team into a photo studio? We took the shoot outdoors and FaceTimed art direction and approvals. Don’t have the ability to offer tastings in-store? Hello, virtual happy hours with experts who can now be in every market at once.

In 2020, content went on. And I’d argue it got stronger.
–Kayla Knudson, senior content director

Reevaluate Content Strategies

In March 2020, as states began issuing shelter-in-place orders to try and contain the spread of COVID-19, many brands used the opportunity to reevaluate their content marketing strategies. They began to think about quality versus quantity; doing more with less. Some simply tweaked content processes and approaches. Others took a more holistic look, rethinking their end-to-end planning and engaging with agencies to help them find a new way forward.

MSPC performed a number of Catalyst projects for clients in 2020. These deep dives into all aspects of a client’s content marketing always yield surprises, but more importantly they provide a new content strategy that serves needs well into the future.
–Evelyn Hoover, senior content director

Turning on a Dime

Before COVID, it was only the rockstars in business that seemed to consistently evolve and innovate to meet the needs of our ever-changing world. You know the ones: Apple, Disney, Amazon…companies that aren’t afraid to “turn on a dime,” to shift their business models, to throw out one idea at the drop of a hat because another idea came along.

This ability to adapt, to be comfortable with change and to challenge your strategy is no longer optional in the business world—it’s table stakes.

If 2020 has taught me one thing it’s this: be flexible, take risks, and turn on a dime.
–Bridget Kaminski, marketing and strategic growth director

The Gains in Loss

The loss many of us experienced in 2020 was almost too much to bear. Our business wasn’t any different. Like other marketing agencies, we saw client budgets tighten—or disappear altogether—while mass layoffs or hiring freezes stalled enterprise projects that’d been underway for months or even years.

We said goodbye to two key accounts—one virtually overnight, after 11 years and global renown, due to COVID. Not having time to mourn professional loss on that scale is hard; even harder when remote teams were already struggling to make sense of a rapidly altered reality.

Despite 2020 doing its best to break spirits, the resiliency and ingenuity that our teams have shown, as well as their commitment to telling stories that matter, further proves my point that journalists make the best content marketers.
–Erin Madsen, vice president, content

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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