Using empathy in the communication practices

Covid-19 has brought the whole world into an unprecedented situation, world over. People from the big or small businesses, mammoths of the corporates or SMEs, government, or non-government institutions, all of them have experienced a never-before work and life environment. Workers ranging from blue-collar jobs to white-collar ones, employees who enjoyed plush and fancy offices to those who didn’t have the luxury of a great working environment are all going through a more or less similar type of pain, suffering, and emotional upheaval.

While many people at the employee level are experiencing a dearth of work and facing livelihood issues, at the employer level senior management is facing how to ensure the team remains intact and bonds in continuity despite lower revenues, and drastically reduced incomes. Both are living in a world of anxiety and an extremely complicated state of mind that never existed like this earlier. Externally, the customers, trade partners, and other stakeholders too aren’t untouched with this phenomenon.

The managerial task has truly moved beyond observing, correcting, commenting, improving the work-related skill sets of human resources across the board, and probably is shifting towards connecting with everyone with empathy. It has now become all the more important to understand how one feels and what could be the impact of others’ actions on one’s mind. Empathy, in a cut-to-cut corporate environment might not have existed in abundance earlier but has now become an all-important tool to navigate through this humanitarian crisis.

Corporate communicators and brand communicators have a tough task here as they have to ensure the image and perception of the organisations they represent. They need to ensure that this empathy is communicated to the external and internal audiences and continually mitigate the pandemic-induced negativity. The key is to be able to think, feel, and act like their audiences if the corporate communications professionals want to bring in empathy in their communications.

Connecting with multiple stakeholders, asking them questions about how they feel, relating with their mental state, and using the inputs appropriately in the messaging of communication could just become the inner calling of many corporate communicators in Covid times.

It’s going to be a lot about words. It will matter overwhelmingly now, what words are being used, how these words are being communicated, how they are being related with what context, what kind of response they could generate among the audiences, do they relate well with what’s going on in their lives or not, what impact they can make, etc.

Communicating with empathy can bring in great results as far as building trust is concerned and that applies to the entire value-chain that the companies operate upon. It creates a new breed of influencers and develops a fresh pool of likings towards the companies, their products, and services.

Social media, on one hand, adds to the potential of escalating any crisis but it also allows communicating effectively in a short period. A crisis handled with communication full of empathy is bound to make a stronger impact on the management of such a situation, undoubtedly.

Another key role for the corporate communicators is guiding and sensitising the leadership and top management with appropriate communications strategy and enabling them to bring empathy in every piece of communications, internally or externally.

Empathy in communication is when you can put yourself in someone’s shoes, not necessarily agreeing to them but having an open feedback channel through listening, understanding, and absorbing a view that may be drastically different from yours but extremely significant for the other ones. That’s an art, the corporate communicators need to master into, in their practice of today’s times!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Praveen Nagda
Praveen Nagda is the CEO of Peregrine Public Relations, a full-service corporate communications and public relations consultancy firm delivering a pan-India reach to its clients. He also heads White Coffee, an independent events & celebrity engagement company.

Praveen has been closely associated with many national and international events related to cinema for children, art and culture. He has a well-rounded experience that cuts across all key sectors of PR & Corporate Communications.

He started his career with URJA Communications, an advertising agency specialising in technology brands, where he was instrumental in developing the PR division. Post this, he had a stint with Horizons Porter Novelli, a global public relations consultancy. Thereafter, he was heading the IT & Telecom division at Clea PR, a leading Indian public relations and communications company followed by a fairly long stint with Omnicom Group agencies viz. TBWA\India and Brodeur India.

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