Empathy – one of the most important qualities for marketers and PR professionals
08/18/2023 • Profession news
You don’t have to be an emotional intelligence guru, although you have to have it if you aspire to be a leader in the field of marketing and communications, in order to realize that probably the most powerful and most effective advantage that one PR professional can have – a strong and expressed sense of empathy. Especially bearing in mind that artificial intelligence is getting its place in marketing, that sense is something that a machine or an algorithm will never be able to replace or, in the worst case, it will take a lot of time for them to achieve it.
Role of empathy in loyalty and trust of consumers
There is no doubt that empathy is what enables PR professionals, marketers, and their clients to establish a genuine connection with consumers and that in a modern world that emotional connection is worth its weight in gold. Consumers are wearied by something always being sold to them, by feeling deceived and their money being taken from them at every step. That is why today brands strengthen the sense of responsibility and try to always act with integrity and transparency. In other words, they wholeheartedly put an effort to fulfill their promises and meet customers’ expectations, always treat their consumers with respect, and empathically voice their communication. Ultimately, a strong sense of empathy will enable any marketing professional – and, indeed, any professional or business person who appreciates its customers – to establish those coveted relationships with careful consumers.
Solving client’s needs, both spoken and unspoken
On the other hand, a PR professional or marketer has to be empathic with the client who engages him as well. If you are engaged in marketing and communications, you had to deal with a client’s specific inquiry that makes no sense, at least once. It could be anything – a media request you consider unwise, a statement distribution that is not right, or anything else that is unpleasant for you.
After you take a step back, turn on a sense of empathy and examine the situation. You will eventually identify the client’s basis, perhaps not so obvious, need or concern that led to that inadequate request. That is supposed to help you find an alternative solution that will, although it differentiates from the original one, be more efficient. Hence, you suggest an alternative approach, the client accepts it, and the order in the client-agency relationship is restored. Considering that there is a wide range of similar situations, it is clear to you to what extent bending your strong and sculpted muscle of empathy can be crucial for solving some problem or crisis.
The sense of empathy is also important in relationships with media
The same concept applies to your relationship with media. Regardless if you want to identify an appropriate reporter for an exclusive, create an adapted presentation, or widely distribute a great announcement, your ability to reach journalists can make a big difference in whether you will be accepted or rejected.
In order to evade the second outcome, it would be ideal to turn on your sense of empathy and, prior to sending a request, try to answer some of these questions: in which aspect of my client would this journalist be the most interested, which journalists’ biases should I take into consideration while I approach them, what are my own prejudices and how could they potentially act against my efforts, etc.
Asking these questions regularly – adapted to the context of the relationship with media and to the context of the relationship with clients and colleagues – will strengthen your empathy muscle for public relations, preparing you for success in those moments when using it is most important.
With empathy, one should also be careful
Kim Scott, the author of the book “Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity”, says that one harmful form of empathy is destructive empathy, the term that he uses to categorize behavior or feedback that is “pretty and good, but in the end useless, even harmful”. Hence, you should always bear in mind the danger of misuse or overuse of empathy.
In the example of marketers and first of all PR professionals that would mean that a surplus of empathy can lead PR professionals to put others’ feelings, thoughts, and views before their own. Where that road leads is the practice of pleasing people, which will significantly hinder your ability to do your job with credibility and influence which is the trigger for your clients.
A signal that a surplus of empathy is leading you in the wrong direction could be some of these situations: a feeling that you are responsible for the happiness of your clients, perception of everyday failures as big, existential crises, restraining from giving your honest opinion in situations with high stakes, prioritizing other people’s time instead of your own, etc.
Therefore, the role of empathy in the arsenal of activities of PR professionals and marketers is enormous, but it is not everything. It is best to apply empathy when it is balanced with healthy limits and supported by wisdom that points out what battles are worth fighting, and what are not. After all, that is just another thing that comes along with true growth and progress. For a start, it is only important to have a developed sense of empathy, and the rest regarding handling it in the field of marketing and communications comes along with time and experience.