Things are pretty tough right now.
With this in mind, it’s arguably never been more important for creators to ensure their content is sensitive to both their readers and the wider world around them.
As content marketers, understanding your audience is paramount to authentic and successful communications. But this extends further than simply understanding who your audience is. You need to understand their thoughts and their feelings, their beliefs and their opinions, their morals and their vices.
It’s an understanding of your audience on a holistic and human level. An understanding of your audience as people, not consumers.
And only when a content creator has successfully gained this level of understanding can they effectively and utilise empathy. But why does this matter and what benefits does this boast for your content and, ultimately, your brand? Let’s explore…
What is empathetic content?
Empathetic content is best defined as content that is self-aware by being sensitively crafted in line with an audience’s experiences, feelings and circumstances.
Why empathetic content matters...
Powerful empathetic content forges a brand-consumer relationship built on sharing and understanding the feelings of one other, creating greater cohesion and demonstrating the value of your brand to your customers.
How? Well, by demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of your customers’ emotional states and responses, you increase the authenticity and trustworthiness of your brand by addressing your audience as humans rather than a target market.
In unparalleled times such as these (10 months in and we’re proud to say we still haven’t described the pandemic as ‘unprecedented’...), this ability to craft empathetic content also ensures your content isn’t missing the mark when it comes to relatability and intention. As such, it enables your content to become more reactive and, subsequently, more relevant.
That’s not to say empathetic content only has a place in times of hardship, though. On the contrary, ensuring you have this in-depth knowledge of your consumer base, regardless of the context of the times, enables you to better understand and identify who will be most receptive to your content (and when) - a valuable asset for any brand all year round.
...And not just for B2C
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Does empathetic content really have a place in B2B marketing? The answer...yes!
To assume B2B content should be driven purely by business objectives is a misjudgment. Sure, your B2B audience operates in a different sphere to a B2C audience, but the rationale and triggers behind their decision making remain the same. They’re only human, after all.
With this in mind, empathetic content can (and will) still resonate with a B2B audience, as long as you utilise it the right way...
How to utilise empathy
So, we know why empathy works, but how does it work in action? While your approach to utilising empathy in content of course depends on your audience and their sensitivities, some good places to start include:
Knowing your content type
As we touched on above, empathy lends itself to both B2C and B2B content when deployed with the right know-how. Therefore, knowing your content type - and understanding what impact this has on the way you utilise empathy - is key.
B2C content should look to focus on relatability, engagement and understanding through a back and forth between brand and consumer, participating in discourse that demonstrates a ‘we’re all on the same page’ mentality.
That’s not to say this isn’t the case for B2B content, too. When it comes to B2B content, though, the discourse is often more of a one-way street. So, instead of utilising empathy as a means of relatability and engagement, look to utilise it as a tool to spark emotional triggers. Get this right and you’ll tap into those vital decision-making factors that drive the conversions you want to see. Perhaps the most effective way to pull this off in B2B content is a powerful narrative - and you can learn all about how to craft those right here.
Ditching the personas
Here at Paragraft, we love user personas - so we wrote that subheading with a heavy heart!
Yet, while user personas can be a super-effective tool for content marketers in the right situation, when it comes to empathetic content, they can place limitations on your creativity and results.
Why? Because personas work on assumptions. Sure, those assumptions may be driven by a whole library of empirical data and insights, but the fact remains that your audience persona is exactly that - a persona.
In the interest of authentic human content, then, it’s important to ensure the understanding of your audience’s sensitivities come from the audience themselves, and not your team’s conceptualisation of who they are.
Extending your research
So, how do you obtain this accurate, authentic understanding of your audience? Research, research, research!
Yes, yes, we know… ‘but I already research my audience’. And that’s great to hear! But are you always considering the full story?
Valuable audience insights driven by data may lead you to believe that you’re always conscious of being empathetic to your audience’s sensitivities. But returning to the importance of being human, it’s vital to understand that your data is restrictive. Sure, it tells you about the habits and preferences of your audience, but does it tell you why?
And it’s this deeper understanding of rationale, motive and opinion that dictates whether your empathetic content hits the mark. Look to expand your research to ensure you’re accounting for each and every perspective within your audience. Remember, your audience is made up of individuals, each with their own triggers and sensitivities - and successful empathetic content resonates with every single individual, no matter how similar to or different from one another they may be.
In a downbeat world, empathetic content is the key to making sure your marketing remains sensitive to the hardships and turmoils of your audience. Demonstrate a genuine awareness, sympathy and understanding to strengthen brand-audience relations and strike the right chord without fail. After all, we’re all in this together.