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Empathy, Identity and Community

Outrospective Marketing in the 21st Century

Conversion levels, effective mixed-media strategies, integrity of core brand promise, optimization…and synergy, what does all this jargon actually give you? As a company, we talk a lot about starting within and focusing on an organizations core values and then using that information to create integrated and authentic marketing solutions, but what does that really mean and how do you know we are “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk?” The answer can be somewhat nebulous and subjective, but it is empathy.

Our tagline is “Collaborative Communications” and we mean it, but what does it mean to make that kind of claim? Let’s start by defining empathy. In a recent video by researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown, she defines empathy as fueling connection. That it is the ability to recognize another’s perspective as truth, to stay out of judgment, relate to others’ emotions and then be able to communicate. This is different than being sympathetic (for a person or cause) because sympathy is more about having compassion, whereas empathy is more about identification. Empathy is more creative, it leads to effecting change in human relationships because there is an absorption that occurs—an empathetic experience teaches what it is like “to be” —it is transformative.

The digital era allows us to extend our empathy to larger communities. We can use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to read, watch and share our experiences with others in a way that used to be limited to your country, neighborhood or family. However, if unmanaged—as we see more often that not—this sharing and connecting turns into narcissism and messaging that is just more noise for us to “tune out.” So how does one build the groundwork for empathetic communications?

When we begin a project with a new client, we call it “Val’s Sponge Phase.” It is the time when I am listening and absorbing not just the values, vision and philosophy of an organization, but I am experiencing what it is like to be that organization and to do the work they are doing. I am bringing empathy into the conversation and extending my personal identity to now include this new organization as part of myself. Ok, yes, this might sound a little oogee woogee or granola, but how can we expect new people to want to join your community if we do not do it ourselves? Empathetic marketing is about nurturing curiosity in others, it is about helping new people want to join your family. It is human nature to want to connect so we need to give them the opportunity to think viscerally… to think as family— to experience of your “truth” we need to guide them to engage their empathy.