November 2, 2020 Why and how to communicate with empathy

by Tom Halpin

three women sitting by the table having coffee and smiling

Being empathetic makes it easier to understand the challenges, fears, anxieties, or worries that others might be experiencing. Done in the right way, empathy marketing and communications can tap into what your readers might be experiencing.

Honing your ability to walk in your clients’ shoes has many benefits, including building trust with your brand and identifying pain points. Explore why communicating with empathy is important, and how to tap into it when you write.

Why communicating with empathy is important

It builds trust with your customers

Good writing can often elicit strong emotions, such as joy, excitement or even sadness. In a marketing sense, this is a tool that can be used to encourage your reader to engage with your product or service. Be warned, when your writing is more about the needs of the organisation and not about the customer, it’s easy to lose your audience’s trust. To avoid this, you need to understand your audience’s needs. How? Well, do your research. For example, you might conduct an interview or data-driven survey to identify your customer’s pain points. Knowing more about your customer can help you to better anticipate their needs, provide clarification about the problem you’re solving, and build trust.

For example, if your prospects aren’t receiving support at a critical stage of the customer journey or sales process, find out why. Maybe the messaging isn’t clear, or you’ve made the process so complex that even people in the business can’t understand it. Listen to the language your customers use to describe their problems. And then borrow it in your marketing copy. Show people you truly understand and feel their problems, and you’ll find your prospects are more receptive to how you can solve it.

Remember, put yourself in their shoes! Tap into that emotional state and write to fulfil the gap they’re experiencing.

It establishes a relatable voice and tone

Once you know your audience inside out, you can figure out a genuine tone and voice your readers will likely relate to, care about and trust.

For example, in times of distress, what do you want to feel? Reassured? Valued? Understood? It’s a safe bet that your readers want the same things as you. Tone is the attitude your writing employs. It’s crucial to convey it consistently, whether a positive, neutral, or formal tone suits your brand’s voice best.

If you’re writing a thank you letter to your customer and your brand’s tone is more corporate in style, writing with empathy can help you adjust the tone to speak directly to your reader. The same goes for your brand’s voice, too. Writing with empathy can help to soften your brand voice’s edges to address the personal values of your reader.

MailChimp’s Voice and Tone is a helpful, interactive guide for its writers that taps into readers’ emotional states.

It can help you share personal stories or anecdotes

Stories and personal anecdotes provide a sense of connection and shared meaning to your work. Think of your own lived experience and how you can weave memories, events, and relationships in a way that will connect with a reader.  

If you have to write about buying your first car, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. When did you have to buy your first car? What advice and resources did you receive? Relate that to what your reader’s car-buying struggles might be. Even if you’ve never bought a car, research what people say on forums, or talk to a friend or family member who has gone out and done it. The point is that you don’t have to be in their position to appreciate what they’re experiencing.  

While you’re busy sharing meaningful content, you can also elevate your brand through word of mouth marketing. Brand advocates can share their own stories through your social media, leaving positive reviews and creating content on your behalf. For example, Airbnb offers more than just accommodation. They offer experiences, as well as places to eat, shop and meet other travellers. Instead of telling the company’s story, Airbnb encourages their customers to tell their stories. In fact, they have a whole section titled ‘Stories from the Airbnb Community’.

Brands with stories have an ability to cut through the ‘noise’, reach a more diverse audience and build an emotional connection. And knowing what stories are right for your business to share is crucial. Again, this largely comes back to understanding who your audience is and speaking to them directly.

5 tips to write with empathy

Writing with empathy isn’t easy, especially if your messaging conveys a lot of information. We’ve prepared some quick tips to help you to tap into it:

1. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes

‘Would they get it?’ You may find that your content doesn’t always speak to your reader directly. Better yet, create a buyer persona of your intended online audience so you know exactly who you’re targeting with the aim of making your reader feel listened to and understood.

2. Set a goal for your content

To make your writing flow, you need to understand the goal of your piece. This gives you a clear purpose, and when you have to dig deep to finish your first draft, it’ll bring you back to your goal. You may find it helpful to write it down to keep it fresh in your mind.

3. Share personal stories or anecdotes

If something doesn’t come to mind, you can always create a storyline with a fictional or real-world example to pull your readers in. For example, if your business sells accounting software, your story could involve frustrated accountants who don’t have time to keep track of their billing and accounts receivable.

4. Be intentional with your words

Although your audience won’t register every single word, the language that you choose creates a flow that the audience will recognise. Plain English, and the ability to write in a clear and concise way will generally do the trick.

5. Think less promotional and more educational

We’ve all read something so ‘salesy’ that it wasn’t worth our time. If there’s a lot to digest in your content, be sure to reward the reader and give them an insight or key takeaway. For example, you could help them achieve a goal they have or include something worth retelling.

Get help to tap into the power of empathy

Empathy is a powerful tool to help you connect with your customers. Don’t have the way with words? No stress, we do!

At Avion Communications we have a dedicated team of content strategists and copywriters who know how to speak to your audience. Contact us today.