The Art of Storytelling: Writing with Empathy

storytellingAt every turn, we’re flooded with stories. Scrolling through social media, browsing the web, driving down our streets and walking through retail environments function as dozens of blank pages for brands to tell their stories. With countless others striving to do the same with a distinct voice and message, we have to remember one crucial characteristic when we approach storytelling, copywriting and content creation. It’s empathy.

Empathy: noun

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Chances are, we’ve all heard this before. Though it’s become a buzzword within the marketing and advertising spheres, empathy goes beyond a mere writing trend. It’s the idea that getting down to the heart of what your customer thinks, feels, wants, is of dire importance. It’s not just good strategy; empathy forces us to consider people, not profit, first.

Why empathy in writing matters

For mediums as impersonal as online, we have to let people know they’re valuable and understood. Any other product, service or brand out there can tell you all about what they offer and urge someone to buy. But putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and considering the value that your brand can add to their life, offers a more relatable conversation. It puts the audience first. It means we consider the reason why someone is looking for a new internet provider, or a treatment facility for themselves or a loved one, or the reason why they should choose one home builder over another. We understand their need, and offer an empathetic solution.

In turn, it builds trust. People are smart. And most can spot insincerity from a mile away. By being authentically tuned in to someone’s inclinations and needs, and then offering a considerate and intentional offer, trust begins to build. That trust from your audience can ensure they relate, know and feel comfortable with your brand.

Now, let’s talk about emotion. We’re not talking about getting mushy here, but there’s proof in the fact that people are empowered to take action when there’s a tug on their heartstrings. According to researchers, an ad’s messaging is deemed three times more successful if audiences have an emotional response. This kind of emotion is key, because it adds value to your brand story. If there isn’t an authentic connection, there’s no value in someone considering you and your brand as beneficial.

How to do it

It seems simple, right? Just have more empathy, and your brand’s story will outshine other narratives competing to win your audience. But there’s some practical and intentional ways we can start writing with empathy before we even begin to type out a line of copy or brainstorm for a new piece of content.

Understand your audience

First things first — get to know your people. Demographic information and research is important to find out ages, life stages, locations, gender, ethnicity, online behaviors, and so on. This will help you get a gauge for your voice and tone when creating messaging for them. Does your audience skew older and more established? You’re likely going to speak differently than you would to a young adult in college.

Back it up

Now that you have some concrete stats on who your audience is, it’s time to dive a little deeper. Stakeholder interviews can help give you more context around your industry and gain more insight into your targeted demographics. Focus groups can also give you a sort of “test run” to see how people who closely reflect your audience take in your narrative and approach. You’ll also hear honest feedback on what they felt when encountering your message and content.

Write like a human

I’ll go even further than that: write like a friend. When you sit down to write or are reviewing work from a hired writer, there’s no room for jargon or $20 words. We have to speak casually, but not sloppy. Simple, but not dumbed-down. When we know who our audiences are, and what they need, we can be that friend who can offer a heartfelt solution that skips over flashy features and hands over real and effective benefits.

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