The data around the return to work contains mixed messages. 

For instance, The National Association for Business Economics says that just 11% of companies expect their employees to return to the office. But a different survey found that 70% of respondents plan to have employees back in the office by the fall of 2021—if not sooner. 

There are even ambivalent outcomes around whether employees want to continue being remote. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 52% of Americans would choose to work from home permanently given the option. But another study reveals that 72% of employees are ready to return to their company's office. 

These statistics tell us that we’re still in a state of flux. But regardless of which path your own organization chooses—whether that’s continuing to be remote, returning to the office, or turning to a hybrid setup—there are a few changes we expect to see in the world of content marketing. 

Content Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World 

Marketers Will Invest Heavily in Content

You’ve likely seen first-hand the negative impact COVID-19 has had on the live events industry. With in-person gatherings being canceled and postponed, many marketing teams are reallocating their events budget to their content marketing efforts instead. Why? 

Content is one of the most direct, powerful ways for brands to reach their target audiences wherever they are—and more and more company leaders recognize this during the pandemic. So even if live events start to return, we predict that marketing teams will continue to invest in content. In fact, 68% of marketers expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2021, and 14% of marketers expect to significantly expand their content budget by an increase of over 25%.

Proving ROI Will be More Important Than Ever

While it’s exciting to see that marketing teams are doubling down on their content, this also means it’s more critical than ever to prove the value of this increased investment. According to Kim Moutsos, Vice President of Editorial at Content Marketing Institute:

“Yes, content rushed in to fill the chasm left by canceled in-person activities this year. And, sure, that might translate to more content investment in 2021. But those new dollars arrive with added scrutiny. Be ready to show how everything you’re doing has a real impact—whether building an audience, motivating one, or mining their activities for insights that help the business...” 

This means that proving the ROI of content is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have. While 65% of marketers expect to use martech to improve ROI, choosing the right tools is key. To demonstrate the value of your content, we believe a Content Intelligence platform needs to be an essential part of your martech stack. Not only can this tool help you tie your efforts directly to ROI, but it can also provide insights into what your competitors are doing and how your target audience is responding to your content.

Consumers Will Demand More Authentic, Inclusive, and Valuable Content

The pandemic introduced a significant shift in sentiment among consumers—not only in the United States but worldwide. A survey found that consumers today prioritize values like ‘quality’ and ‘purpose’ over ‘convenience’ and ‘availability.’ Similarly, rather than returning to the pre-COVID status quo of prioritizing profits over people, 86% of respondents said they wanted to see the world become more sustainable and equitable.

So what does this mean for your content? Essentially, your content needs to deliver on three criteria: 

  • Deliver value. Brands need to shift their focus from quantity to quality when it comes to content production. During the pandemic, most companies increased the amount of content they put out, which created more noise for readers. This means your target audience is going to be even more selective about consuming content that adds value to their lives—whether that’s by introducing a fresh perspective or teaching them something new.  
  • Show up authentically. Your consumers have been physically isolated from the rest of the world for the past year. So it’s no surprise that they value authentic connections more than ever. Now is the time to pull back the curtain and show your readers the genuine, vulnerable side of your brand—not the polished, corporate voice that most of us are used to. 
  • Demonstrate inclusiveness. People have also recognized the importance of inclusion during this time. As a result, they’re looking for brands that make them feel understood and accepted. So every time you put out a piece of content, ask yourself: is this inclusive and representative of our audience? Are we speaking to their values? Is our content accessible to the people we want to reach? 

Content Marketing Will Peak in Creativity

A silver lining of the pandemic is that times of transition lead to increased innovation. Kathy Klotz-Guest, Founder of Keeping It Human, predicts that more marketing teams will be willing to take risks with their content in a post-pandemic world: 

“I think we’ll see more experimentation and rule-breaking AND…better storytelling to meet people where they’re at. We have to create teams that are not afraid to fail and think big. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, and yet marketers haven’t been willing to do it. The time is now. We’re in the midst of a big change, so why not burn the house down by doing things differently?”

The post-pandemic world offers an opportunity to test out new ideas. So if you have a unique storytelling idea or a content strategy you’ve always wanted to try, now is the time. 

It’ll be fascinating to see how the return to “normal” will unfold over the next few months. While nobody knows for certain how the world of work will change, we believe these four content marketing trends will hold true—regardless of which path your organization takes.

P.S. Did you miss our virtual conference, Insight 2021? Here's your chance to access all the candid conversations, industry perspectives, and insights drawn from the event. Watch now.