How to unlock brand relevance in a changing world
The expectation for companies and organisations to show empathy across points of engagement is growing rapidly.
But the solution won’t be found in endless optimisation. What companies and organisations need is a new approach for building relevance in a digital world. We call it digital empathy.
Thanksgiving always gives me a moment to pause and reflect. As retailers announce the first Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, I can’t help but think that communications is too often focused on leading people down a marketing funnel. Sales and donations matter, but they can’t happen without a strong brand and reputation. In today’s world, this means that companies and organisations must speak up and take action on issues that matter to their stakeholders.
People might accept the titles ‘employee’, ‘customer’ or ‘partner’, but they want more. They want to be seen, heard and valued as human beings with changing interests and concerns. This reality calls for companies and organisations to show empathy across points of engagement. But the solution won’t be found in endless optimisation. What companies and organisations need is a new approach for building relevance in a digital world. We call it digital empathy.
Digital empathy is a communications approach that uses digital technology to understand and respond to people’s values and priorities. It builds on transparency and authenticity to win trust. And it leverages shared content and experiences to fuel emotional connection. Companies and organisations can practice digital empathy by taking these four steps:
Step 1 – Listen
Listening is a commitment to seeing the world through the eyes of your stakeholders. It’s about gathering insights outside your company or organisation so that you can understand the big picture and connect them with the small details. Start with digital listening to find out who is influencing the discourse and what they’re sharing. Analyse the issues that matter to your stakeholders. Then conduct interviews and surveys to explore the nuances of what people think, feel, say and do. When companies and organisations understand the landscape, they can avoid blind spots and proactively empathise with stakeholders. Listening, done continuously, unlocks much needed organisational agility and resilience.
Step 2 – Integrate
Integration is focused on laying the groundwork for a successful communications programme. Begin by harmonising communications objectives with organisational objectives. Then develop a narrative that explains the value you offer and how you benefit the world. We are now in the Decade of Action, so use the SDGs as a framework to showcase your care for people and the planet. Integration also calls for companies and organisations to revalue leaders and employees. Use digital learning to help your people master new skills. Make it easy and fun to share brand messages on social media. Companies and organisations that follow-up listening with integration are more likely to come across as approachable and human in an omnichannel environment.
Step 3 – Share
Sharing involves moving from user experience (UX) to human experience (HX). People might accept the title of ‘employee’, ‘customer’ or ‘partner’, but they want more. They want to be seen, heard and valued as human beings. Use videos, podcasts, shoppable content and augmented reality experiences to engage people’s emotions. Explore how blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual beings can reward behaviour. It’s also important for you to address the human experience beyond brand interactions. Nurture communities of trust through user-generated content and co-creation. Create a space where brands and people can develop reciprocal relationships that stay resilient in times of uncertainty and change.
Step 4 – Evaluate
Evaluation is a holistic approach to the measurement and evaluation of communications. Consider editorial content, public relations, digital, social media, partnerships and advertising. Use the Barcelona 3.0 Principles to create organisational value and drive positive outcomes. Then explore how predictive analytics can help you to adapt to evolving needs and issues. Evaluation also invites companies and organisations to cultivate a learning culture. Communicate shared goals and develop shared accountability. Empower your employees to run weekly experiments and fail forward. When companies and organisations combine empathy with data, they are well positioned to provide meaningful input for strategy.
The expectation for companies and organisations to show empathy across multiple points of engagement is growing rapidly. Those that ignore digital empathy are more likely to operate on false assumptions and alienate their stakeholders. Those that practice digital empathy are more likely to create emotional connections with the people they serve. Choose wisely. The reward of digital empathy will be nothing less than brand affinity and organisational agility.
Managing Director / Deputy CEO, based in Geneva
Łukasz is Managing Director of International Strategy and Client Service. He is based in Geneva and leads an international team across Geneva, Brussels and London.