The Importance of Empathy in Content Marketing

In future pieces we will discuss the application of design thinking to content strategy. Design thinking is a creative framework where you follow the modes: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test to allow for an effective creation process. But the first step, empathize, needs to be examined more closely. It's the one we often forget as builders, designers, entrepreneurs, writers, and really whatever you are—a parent, child, student, or anything. We don’t want to focus on the feelings of others because we prefer to think about ourselves.

How do we put ourselves in someone's shoes and identify their likes and dislikes, fears and confidences, their hopes and dreams? Sounds very, very tough. Almost even hardly doable. But let's try.

Take a person. What's their day like? What's the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning? What's the thing they're missing? What do they want changed? What do they want to stay the same? What do they care about more than anything in this world? What do they love?

You can, if you want, find some answers on social media. Go to a page that people in this community follow. For example, let's say you're launching an urban walking shoe brand. Go to the Adidas page and see what people are saying. Look at their comments, their complaints, and their praises. Who are these people? Are they the same people who prefer microbreweries to Budweiser? Are they on dating applications? Do they have children? Do they stay at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, or do they prefer to stay in a small village to get local culture? Do your research.

Also, talk to them personally, if you can. Interview some people. Get to know them. Ask them what they care about. You can't move forward to defining the problem you're solving with your product, or ideating and developing prototypes until you know your audience, your customers, and what they like, dislike, and care about.

The most important element in the innovation process is humility. If you cannot let go of your opinions and biases, then you cannot empathize with your customers. If you cannot relinquish your self-righteousness, the desire to be “right”, then you can’t get into anybody's shoes but your own.

This is especially true in content marketing, where we create ideas, stories, campaigns, and modes of engagement for people. If we don’t intimately know whom we’re creating for, then how do we create for them? Because the biggest mistake is thinking that you’re the audience when you’re not.