Putting Empathy at the Heart of Content Marketing (Part 1)

By Posted in - ALL & Content Marketing Resources on January 10th, 2016 0 Comments

Part 1 of 2: empathy mapping for your content strategy

Successful content marketing occurs when an organisation really understands what matters to their target audiences and produces content directly aligned to their interests, issues, and to their state of mind. They know what motivates them, they know what they are passionate about, and they know what keeps them awake at night. By knowing this, they can create content that really hits home.

By knowing what is really preoccupying or exciting the minds of your target audiences, you can begin to build a content market plan bursting with content ideas that will draw your audience firmly towards you, make them feel that you really understand them, and – ultimately – convert them to become customers or supporters. From there you can nudge them to become advocates for your brand, product or cause by producing content that really resonates with them and their identity.

The pursuit of achieving empathy with your audiences should underpin your content strategy and content marketing strategy and plan. It should be one of the single most important goals of a content marketing strategy, alongside your business goals such as selling more products, or receiving more donations (if you’re a charity).

Introducing Empathy Mapping
Audience research is a crucial step on the path towards achieving empathy. Without research on your audiences, how will you ever really know and understand them? Empathy mapping provides a simple but useful framework for thinking through what is really going on in your audiences’ lives, and structuring the things that you should seek to find out through your audience research.

Pop “empathy mapping” in your search engine of choice and you’ll find plenty of resources and useful downloadable templates to get you started with this. Here’s our own version of the empathy-mapping template for you to use. In this blog post we’re starting simple, but in a follow-up post we’ll explore this in greater depth and take it a step further.

the empathy map template

Completing an Empathy Map
Take the template and sit down and think long and hard about your audiences. You might even want to think of a persona – someone who is representative of your ideal target audience member. Once you have that audience in mind (and ideally informed by actual audience research), you’ll then start to complete each of the four boxes.

We’ll think about this more in part 2 of this blog post, but the real secret to completing your empathy map in a meaningful way is to forget about your organisation, forget your goals in reaching this audience member, and forget the messages that you want to communicate with them. At its most useful, an empathy map should be entirely about them, and not at all about you (to begin with).

The four quadrants that you need to complete are:

Thinking: what kind of things is your audience thinking about? What’s on their mind? What interests them? What kind of things might they be searching for? What problems do they have?
Feeling: what emotions are they experiencing and why? Are they frustrated? What’s frustrating them? Are they elated? Why? What emotional triggers encourage them to act in a way similar to how you need them to act?
Seeing: what are they looking at? What do they read? What websites do they visit? What billboards do they walk past every day? What are they watching? Who are they following online?
Doing: what is taking up their time? How are they spending their time? Are they spending it all playing games online? Are they drowning in an overflowing email inbox? Are they caught up in the school run for an hour every day?

Using the Empathy Map to Develop Your Content Marketing Plan
From here, you need to take your empathy map and look at everything that you have revealed about what’s going on in your audiences’ lives. From there, take each item one at a time and come up with content ideas that will help them solve those problems that they have, sit well in the spaces and places that they are in, play to their interests. For everything that you’ve written down, use it as inspiration for 2-3 content ideas (articles, blog posts, white papers, videos, discussion topics… whatever you like, or – more to the point – what your audience would like)

To begin with, try not to come up with too many ideas that are close to your own messaging needs. Just ask yourself the question: if there was one piece of content that this audience would read above all others – anything at all – what would that be? Don’t worry if you’re in the business of selling dog food, but the first idea you come up with is “Top 10 tips to make the morning school run more efficient”. Once you begin by thinking along those lines, then you can gradually think about how to craft and shape those winning pieces of content in a way that also conveys your messages too. Just keep it subtle. Then your “morning school run” idea, suddenly becomes “How to use the morning school run to boost your own and your dog’s physical and mental health”… you see how we’re now moving closer to your objective of selling dog food (hey, what’s wrong with tip number 7 being about feeding them a great dog food?!).

In part 2 of this post we’re going to consider how you can apply the empathy mapping model to think more closely about content about your own business, products or causes too. Keep a close watch out for it and follow us on Twitter for all of our latest updates, blog posts and industry insights on content marketing from around the web.

If you need help with your content marketing, audience research or even just to get started with empathy mapping, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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