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Empathy will fuel connection

A word from Kelly Pepworth CMPRCA, PRCA South West Chair, Managing Director Speed Communications.

There is a famous Maya Angelou quote which really resonates in the current environment:

‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. People will not forget how you made them feel.’

I have watched over the past month or so as brands and businesses (and the comms teams behind them) have risen to the challenge and delivered campaigns and comms that is helpful, useful or joyful in a fog of anxiety. And others who have failed dismally with self-promotional, unrelatable and downright wrong messaging.

If we as communicators need to focus on one thing at this point in time, it’s dialing up our empathy and using this innate tool to help us flex and reimagine our comms. In times of change, you need to be sensitive to how your messages will be received and then flex what you say and how you engage. You need to pivot (this word you may have seen a lot recently) your existing engagement programmes to embrace new channels and new formats. In fact, your longer-term business health depends on it.

With online newspapers experiencing record readership levels since the start of the crisis, TV channels reporting huge increases in viewing figures ranging from a third to triple (BBC reached an audience of 20m a week across its evening news bulletins) and social media engagement up 40%, people are listening and watching more than ever to quench a thirst for information and stimulation in their locked down worlds.

But the error is presuming we are all in the same boat. We are not. We might be all on the same Coronavirus impacted sea, but our boats are all very different based on our individual circumstances.

Empathy is and will be everything. We need step into the shoes of those we are talking to, understand their perspectives and use this to guide our actions. Whether you are talking to a fellow team member, Client, media or supplier – empathy and listening are the most valuable tools in your comms toolbox.

The PRCA has worked to do just that. In recent weeks, it has listened to members and devised a whole raft of resources and tools to help PRs in the current environment: from free resources and a GCS portal for those who have lost their job or freelance income to training and virtual events. And there will be more to come.

As Maya Angelou said you will be remembered for how you made people feel. So, think about that in your everyday actions and what you want your legacy to be when we come out the other side.