It’s a gut feeling. Scrolling through your LinkedIn feed, mentally sorting the COVID-19 posts into buckets of empathetic and exploitive. The helpful articles with relatable Work-From-Home tips, nestled in between sales pitches with disingenuous headlines. Your favorite industry leader sharing warm personal wishes, next to another CEO with a curt and cold statement, PR department approved. We know that content is necessary to drive demand and engage in the marketplace, and now more than ever, businesses need to keep the lights on. But how should businesses engage empathetically, without sounding demanding of an audience with new and pressing with new needs of their own? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you hit publish, send, or share:
Is this realistically what people need to hear?
People are struggling. With money, loss, health, the unknown, a change of plans, a new normal. From a virtual classroom, to a hospital waiting room, to an empty grocery store, to a makeshift home office, the threshold for what the average person needs to hear has drastically changed over the past 3 months. The humans behind your lead list or LinkedIn connections are likely experiencing extreme circumstances on a daily basis, and their standards for what constitutes a message that is “worth hearing” has gotten higher and higher. To avoid them having to make a judgement themselves and putting your brand on mute, try to think deeply and realistically about what they need to hear. Don’t avoid engaging altogether, but rather engage with your audience’s new needs in mind first.
Are you aiming to give more than you are aiming take?
Your audience is short on bread, home office supplies, and experience with Global Pandemics. They have an abundance of needs, and some of them are likely matched with perspective you can provide. The key is, aiming your content to give them more of what they need, rather than positioning your content to try and take. I recently saw an advertisement from an online clothing store that read: “When That Stimulus Deposit Hits….Save Up to 80% OFF SITEWIDE” -a shameless ploy that I don’t doubt may have worked with bored online shoppers at home. While that retailer may be cashing out by “taking” stimulus-check-funded orders, how did they help their audience? How will the spenders remember their brand when life returns to a new normal? Who were they amongst a catalogue of brands acting or donating in the midst of the crisis? You don’t have to give away the farm or write a love song to show benevolence to your audience. By offering what you can give, even if it’s just a perspective, you can be a brand that empathized before it capitalized.
Do you mean it?
Brands should communicate empathetically, so the marketers behind them must try their best to mean the words they say. However, content strategies are necessary for successful marketing, and with strategy comes the planning and logistics that sometimes removes the meaning from a message. In the throes of content development and promotion, it’s not uncommon for quantity to supersede quality, and for brands to release messages that they don’t necessarily mean. Now more than ever, it’s important to pressure test what you’re saying against what you actually experience and believe. Due to COVID-19, you now have some semblance of a real, shared experience with billions of people, which means they are uniquely positioned to detect any disingenuous garbage on what life is like today. Be honest, and don’t overdo it on the positivity, wisdom, or rose-colored views. You are living in a similar world of stress and grief with your audience, and their radar is in tune to eliminate messaging that doesn’t coincide with reality.
The state of the market shouldn’t put your content strategy into an overdrive of self-promotion, but it also shouldn’t scare you into communicating nothing at all. Brands should speak, and when they decide to, they should do so empathetically, graciously and honestly.