What brands can learn about content and COVID-19 from #SNLAtHome

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Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!

This line, signaling the end of the Saturday Night Live cold open and start of a new episode, has marked weekends for 45 years.

It’s also marked many laugh-filled moments for me personally as I watched reruns with my mom at a horribly inappropriate age.

Unfortunately, as COVID-19 (coronavirus) took hold of the world — and especially of New York City, the home of SNL — production of the NBC staple came screeching to a halt.

With social distancing orders in place, the SNL cast couldn’t be together, let alone welcome an audience, so three new episodes were put on hold.

Then, on April 10th, it was announced the show would return with an all-new, pre-recorded episode dubbed SNL At Home. 

SNL Cast gathering on Zoom for an unconventional opening

Hosted by Tom Hanks (recently recovered from coronavirus himself) and featuring a number of original skits filmed by cast members and guest stars in their own homes, the episode ended up being the second-highest rated of the entire season. 

Now, with two episodes under its belt, SNL At Home has become a prime example of how brands and creators can pivot their content strategies during the coronavirus pandemic and do so well. 

Here are three lessons businesses of all sizes and budgets can take away. 
1. Use what you have
SNL is normally filmed in front of a live studio audience using what I’m sure is some of the best video equipment available. It also features elaborate sets, costumes, and audio and visual effects. 

With SNL At Home, all of that is thrown out the window.

Skits featured in the first episode varied greatly in production value. Many were filmed using webcams and Zoom, and all of them relied on household items for props and kitchens, bedrooms, and basements for sets. 

While things got a touch more formal in the second episode, these homey touches were still prominent. 

What does this mean for you? 

While COVID-19 does present a challenge, especially when it comes to creating video content, it doesn’t mean you go dark.

Take photos and film on your smartphone. Use Zoom to record interviews or discussions. Use GoVideo to record yourself and your computer screen. 

Hang a sheet or blanket to create a clean background and take advantage of natural light. 

Related Article 🔎: How to produce high-quality video content at home (Film School for Marketers, Ep. 41)

Use what you have to keep your content production up and deliver information to your audience. 

If these options are good enough for a Hollywood-level series, they’re good enough for your SMB. 

That being said...
2. Value trumps all
While the skits on SNL At Home were dramatically different from what audiences typically enjoy, they still delivered on what mattered most — the value, which, in this case, was entertainment and a sense of normalcy. 

A vast majority of the global population is currently social distancing. They are confined to their homes and are limited on resources.

They understand that others are too. 

Video, written, or otherwise, even if the production value of your content is not quite up to par with what you usually share, it likely will still be effective and appreciated if it delivers value to the audience.
3. Lean into it the climate
These are difficult times; there’s no way around that, even in your content. 

In fact, ignoring what’s going on in your messaging or the content you create can come off as insensitive and out of touch with your audience’s greater needs.

Recognizing this, SNL stars and writers didn’t run from the circumstances created by coronavirus.  

Rather, they used them to create truly relatable content that resonated with viewers on a more human level. 

They filmed skits set entirely over Zoom calls, told stories highlighting the challenges of being stuck at home, and poked fun at trends that have emerged like online fitness classes.

They played characters who themselves were in self-isolation and embraced their blurry footage. 

This Zoom sketch is GOLD! #SNLAtHome #SNL pic.twitter.com/oG7kZrOEtZ
— Caitlin (@kikabelle) April 12, 2020
But it wasn’t all laughs and jokes either.

Though not overtly addressed as the cause, the cast took the time to honor two members of its extended family who passed away recently from COVID-19. 

Then, in the second episode cold open, host Brad Pitt broke the fourth wall to directly speak to viewers at home and thank Dr. Anthony Fauci and first responders for their service: 

SNL isn't shying away.

The cast and crew are leaning into the current climate and concerns of viewers to show that they understand — that they know times are tough, but that they’re still here to make us laugh and relax even if just for a moment. 

When it comes to creating content for your business during the coronavirus pandemic, pause and consider what value you can provide your audience during this time. 

Even if your particular product or service is not a top concern currently, perhaps you can share advice, create free resources, or even pivot your services. 

Any of these efforts will help you stay top-of-mind with your audience and show you care. 
Your content can create normalcy 
In these times, people crave a sense of normalcy. They are looking for routines and thankful to anyone who can provide them. 

Remember this as you plan your next few weeks or months of marketing. 

Your content can not only help keep your business moving and your website traffic alive, it can also offer comfort. 

Like the millions of SNL fans who are used to tuning in to the show on Saturday nights, your audience is used to watching your videos, reading your articles, listening to your podcasts, and opening your newsletters.

Yes, it may not be realistic to produce things at the same level of quality or cadence at this time, but you can put your best foot forward. 

Your audience will thank you for it...

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