Communicating with Empathy During Crises

The biggest misstep companies can make right now is communicating without empathy. When people are in survival mode, recognizing their situational uncertainty and showing empathy is the way to gain their trust. Consumers want to feel understood.

Let’s go back to Psych 101. Do you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? The theory states people won’t be happy or well-adjusted unless their needs are met. Basic needs like food, water, shelter and safety must be achieved before humans can be motivated to pursue higher needs such as social interaction, personal/professional accomplishments and self-actualization.
The current crises caused the hierarchy to crumble, taking many consumers’ mindsets right back down to the basic needs. Brands who had gotten used to crafting top-tier messaging for their audiences are now shifting to address the pyramid’s basement.
The biggest misstep companies can make right now is communicating without empathy. When people are in survival mode, recognizing their situational uncertainty and showing empathy is the way to gain their trust. Consumers want to feel understood. Now’s not the time to try to sell aspirational lifestyles — it’s the time to show support and be comforting.
Honesty and transparency are still important, but showing heart, compassion and understanding is vital to long-term survival. Making business decisions without those feelings and thoughts in mind has the potential to harm a brand’s reputation indefinitely.
Audiences are taking notice of companies’ true core beliefs and values during this crisis — communicating without empathy speaks volumes, in a negative way.
The marketing landscape has shifted, and it could stay that way for a while. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs during this period can help brands set realistic expectations and better communicate with empathy.

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