Empathy in PR: an essential guide


When it comes to PR, empathy matters a lot. Only by better understanding individuals can we begin to understand how we communicate. How can we begin to understand communications if we don’t understand people?

Empathy isn’t only required for effective PR, it’s an essential part of it. Its happened to a vast majority of companies. If you haven’t taken the time to fully understand your target market, you can easily end up making mistakes.

Coca-Cola fell into this problem back in 2004 when they launched the C2, a drink that fell somewhere between normal and Diet Coke. It was a huge flop as there was no USP or market demand. Overall, this blunder cost the company $50 million and exemplifies the need for fully understanding your audience, before launching your product.

However, if you put in the effort to understand the mindset of your audience, only then can you begin to market your services more effectively. Understanding the underlying emotions that trigger your customers can help humanise your marketing campaign.

A practical way of building understanding is to simply ask for feedback. And rather than just implementing yes/no polls, provide an opportunity for your customers to detail exactly what they think of your business or what they need from your product. This gives you insight into better decisions, which in return, gives them a more polished product or service.

Kevin Murray, chairman of PR firm The Good Relations Group, agrees that ‘being able to empathise with your audience is critical today’. He goes on to say that relationships are ‘the engines of success’, underlining the importance of understanding others in PR.

What’s important to note, is that understanding others doesn’t mean agreeing with them all the time. As Murray says ‘you don’t have to agree, but you must understand each other in order to make better-informed decisions’.

So how can you be more empathetic?

It’s key to actively listen and develop a genuine interest in the affairs of others. When pitching your services really listen to feedback. Developing a genuine interest in customer feedback will help with retaining information. The more you care, the less you’ll be bored. And the less bored you are, the more information will stick.

Similarly with pitching journalists, send emails that are researched, personal to them and from a place of authentic interest. This will demonstrate to the journalist that you are sincerely engaged with them, which in turn, will strengthen rapport.

Also, don’t forget to be empathetic towards fellow team members, especially if your team is small. It’s easy just to apply the skills mentioned above to clients and journalists, but your team is your base. Your whole professional ecosystem will be largely dependant on the quality of your interactions and your team will be the people you interact with the most. Don’t forget to show them understanding as well.

* This post was originally published in our newsletter The Communications Workshop. Sign up to get more free tips about communications and marketing here!