The Role of Empathy in Corporate Communication During Coronavirus
Whether speaking with customers, partners, or employees, the way you communicate is as important as what you are attempting to say. To do this, you need to look at communication from the perspective of the audience. This is what we call empathy.
A Brief History of Empathy
The mechanics behind empathy have always been an interest for neuroscientists. To begin with, it was assumed that empathy was an emotion as a result of a logical, mental interpretation in order to predict other people’s actions.
Then, in the early 1990s, Italian researchers discovered that the same area of the brain lights up in monkeys that are just watching their fellow monkeys reaching for food as in those who are doing the reaching, according to Sandra Blakeslee in Cells That Read Minds.
Discovery of Mirror Neurons
These cells allow us to understand other people’s actions, not by thinking through what they are doing but by directly feeling the emotion that they are feeling.
When you see someone frown, your mirror neurones for frowning also fire up, creating the sensation in your own mind that you associate with frowning. You don’t have to experience what the other person is experiencing to make them frown; you feel the emotion directly and effortlessly.
What This Means for Marketers
Storytelling is an essential tool for companies, and when it’s combined with film, it’s the most powerful type of communication.
Research Backs It
In order to understand the chemical basis for empathy, Professor Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, showed Aron Aronofsky’s film Black Swan to a number of subjects, while monitoring their brain activity.
She found that when people watch the scene, their brain patterns resemble those in people with diagnosed schizophrenia.
When asked why this might be happening, she replied, “My suggestion to you is that as Nina is getting crazier and crazier, the audience experiences something like schizophrenia,” Hendler said at a 2014 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences event.
Ways to Show Empathy in Corporate Communications
How you incorporate video into your crisis communication strategy is extremely important. The following are a few ways your company can effectively use video to speak to your internal and external audiences.
1. Send a Face-to-Face Message to your Clients
There are times when a company’s leader should communicate directly to clients and times when they should let their marketing and communications team take the lead.
Right now is one of those times for the former. When a CEO proactively communicates with their clients, that personal transmission of information makes them feel valued and lets them know their relationship is an important part of the company’s success.
In the video above, the CEO of ETB sent personalized emails to help customers understand their first bill.
2. Increase Internal Communication
A big priority for companies should be how communications will flow internally: the channels and cadence that employees can expect, as well as where to go if the normal channels (which may occur in a face-to-face environment) are not available.
Many brands are turning to video communication. It’s evident from the surge in Zoom stocks. The company, which offers teleconferencing services including video meetings, voice, webinars and chat across desktops and mobile devices, has seen its stock soar 47% in a month as the coronavirus has spread and more companies direct employees to work from home.
The following is a video that UBS sends to all new employees.
Learn more about how UBS has already benefitted from increased employee engagement.
3. Make Things Easier to Understand
Things are already confusing enough. Don’t make your customers do more work.
In times of crisis, it’s important to remember that facts and stats aren’t enough. It’s up to companies today to provide this information in simple, engagingand personally relevant language.
See how Aegon acheives this in the video below.
4. Personalize Your Messaging
Your internal and external audiences are hungry for the facts but likely want different facts. There is no such thing as a “general population” needing one single over-arching message because information is processed differently according to gender, age, education, ethnicity, culture, or language.
Information is processed differently according to gender, age, education, ethnicity, culture, or language. Each may require a tailored message to satisfy their discrete needs. But at the same time you must have overall consistency in your general theme.
Reacting to COVID-19 requires brands to communicate with compassion. Luckily, there are tools to help us.