Empathy in PR is Essential
Tumultuous events from the past two years—from the start of the pandemic to the recent invasion of Russia into Ukraine—have shown us the increasing importance of empathy in business. A culture of empathy cannot take a back seat to other key drivers, as empathy itself is a driver of business impact and performance. Instead of supplanting other aspects of a business, empathy catalyzes and invigorates key strategy and performance advantages, resulting in happier employees. In 2020, 76% of employees believed an empathetic organization spurs employee motivation and workplace contentment, compared to 65% in 2019.
The world has changed, and businesses are adapting, taking a more empathetic approach toward marketing and communication.
What does it mean to be empathetic?
First, it’s important to clarify the definition of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share one’s own feelings while seeing events and situations from another’s perspective. In succinct terms, it means knowing how to put yourself in another person’s shoes and how to actively listen. In a business context, it’s about seeing the world from your customer’s point of view, placing yourself in the perspective of the target customers at the center of your marketing strategy and working outwards. It’s also about being empathetic to the media and analyst landscape, anticipating what makes them interested enough to drive coverage for a product, client or service.
Being empathetic means being genuine — you shouldn’t create emotional marketing campaigns to manipulate customers. Empathy is believable when it creates authentic connections between brands and users. You must build trust through organic relationships at every stage of the customer journey. Trust is earned, and this can be achieved through value demonstration and accessible, self-aware marketing content.
Why is empathy important in modern marketing and PR?
The way we live, and work, has changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. The world went through a mass, traumatic event, as people sequestered in their homes, lost businesses, and became isolated from their family members under a looming, mysterious virus. The colloquialism “Business as usual” is a shortsighted summation of the present; people are more emotional and unsure about the future than ever before — and these emotional uncertainties impact how your customers react to marketing campaigns.
The spectrum of human emotion ranges from positive (joy, interest, and amazement) to negative (fear, anger, or sadness), then every point in between. As any marketer or PR professional knows, anger can be a powerful motivator for sharing content or negative opinions about your company. Campaigns must connect with and address these genuine emotions. Just because an opinion of your company is unfavorable, it does not mean it’s invalid. It may even present an opportunity for improvement, especially if you take an empathetic approach to understanding and solving the concern of the unsatisfied customer.
While tech companies still need to turn a profit through successful sales, the user journey through the funnel has to change. And this approach must start from the ground up. Adapt your content marketing to the changing business landscape, re-examine the customer journey, and educate your employees on the benefits of evocative, emotional, omnichannel marketing.
Here are the key strategies when adapting an empathetic marketing and PR mindset:
Understand your audience’s pain points.
Walk in your customer’s shoes to understand their immediate needs. Now more than ever, we must update buyer personas to reflect new realities our customers are experiencing. You can do this by understanding that customer empathy works in two ways:
- What are the customer pain points in the real world?
- What are the customer pain points regarding your business?
When it comes to customers’ pain points regarding your brand, you need to dig deep.
While most marketing executives have been analyzing traffic and conversion metrics to determine their brand’s most attractive aspects, social listening can provide a deeper understanding of public sentiment around your company. But don’t engage in every conversation, even if you’re feeling defensive. If customers aren’t happy with your product or service, ask why that is and how you can fix it. Do not initiate conflict or argument as this is sure to spiral downwards and negatively affect public perception of your brand.
Take a visually engaging, educational approach.
Your content must be valuable to customers if it’s going to enhance their experience and brand interest. An educational approach is necessary to show the “what” and “why” for your customers’ sake. Audit your existing content for relevant pieces that benefit your audience. You can also update older pieces that may have outdated information but still evoke the right emotional response.
Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of data-focused content on social media. With so much fluff and white noise online, marketers should design content around key, concrete data points to educate audiences.
This is the time to use data visualization skills and create data-related content that optimizes users’ brand understanding. Customers don’t just want aesthetically attractive content; they need content that facilitates an understanding of the world around them.
Another educational strategy is to find the sweet spot between your business’s expertise and your customers’ genuine interests. When sharing educational content, create visuals that help tell your story. This makes your company’s history, values and narrative accessible on a human level. As an omnichannel PR agency, we design engaging social media content and work with clients on identifying narrative-focused visuals. These pieces of content make their stories accessible and appealing without sacrificing informative data points.
Make it interactive and sharable.
Interactive, sharable content has exploded over the past few years with the advent of rapidly advancing technologies, especially within social media., This has made a narrative-based, interactive promotional strategy more attainable than ever for brands of all sizes.
In today’s global climate, interactive content generates empathy in business models better than any other strategy. As mentioned, businesspeople have reduced in-person interactions. They’re now traveling less and increasingly opting for virtual interaction. If your company offers solutions to these new problems, you must highlight those solutions in your marketing content. Customers need tools that solve real problems, and narrative-based, empathetic marketing echoes those difficulties while positing an accessible solution.
Show empathy to each other, especially media and analysts.
Editors and industry analysts are also coping with recent disruptive events on a global scale. Most are continuously reporting on the industry and business impact of global trauma. As a tech brand, be respectful and provide the media with content and information to help them write what they need to write, not just what you want them to write. For the analysts, impart industry insight to help them present and contextualize relevant market research. While there are no guarantees, you will typically establish better influencer relationships by integrating an empathic outreach approach. Again, nothing is certain in PR outreach, but you’ll have earned the respect of media and analysts, regardless.
The ongoing challenges of the pandemic, civil unrest and war in Ukraine have made empathy a top priority for businesses. As a result, technology companies need to connect with customers on a deeper emotional level. Show your audience that you understand their needs and are ready to adapt to them, and they’ll respond with enhanced brand awareness and respect.
Empathy integration is more of a mindset than a technique in marketing and PR campaigns. Each point I’ve outlined above is important because the changes we’re seeing will have long-lasting effects. It’s undeniable; that the world has changed and will continue to change. An empathetic marketing approach can take some getting used to, but it’s not impossible. It’s always worth it.