Your Guide to Telling Your Brand’s Empathy Story

Building a brand is hard. And it’s even harder when you don’t know what a great brand looks like, sounds like and feels like.

After 10 years of building brands for startup and scaleup companies, I know that stories build brands. In fact, I believe that there are 5 Stories every business needs to nail if they want people to care about them.

Here, I’m going to share how you can bring your 5 Stories to life in your everyday marketing. I’m not here to preach to you with a load of wanky marketing words. Promise. Instead, I’m here to help you get super clear on how your brand stories can go from a brand book to real, tangible marketing.

Let’s start with our first brand story: the Empathy Story.

Your Empathy Story isn’t about what you have to offer. It’s about the person you’re offering your product or services to and what they’re going through. It shows you’re present and actually listening. Your Empathy Story helps you belong in your customer’s world.

How to create your brand’s Empathy Story

Get clear about your customers’ why before you communicate anything to them.

Start by answering these three questions:

  1. How are they feeling right now?
  2. Why are they feeling that way?
  3. Why do they need your help?

Some tips for this:

  • Write down what comes to your mind first. If your product or service is out there in the world, you should be able to answer these questions quite easily, especially if you have testimonials and feedback.
  • Search the internet, look at relevant hashtags and screenshot what people are saying, sharing and commenting on — this will help you to get in their minds.
  • When you feel good about your answers, I recommend you pick up the phone to 5 customers to validate your insight. You can only get a true Empathy Story with real, human insight. You MUST talk to your customer and get obsessively curious about them. You will not succeed in building a brand people care about if you don’t do this.

An example of a powerful Empathy Story

The Macmillan, Whatever it Takes campaign video is, in my opinion, an incredible example of an Empathy Story in action. When I watched it, FUCK, I cried so much because it brought back everything I felt when my grandad got cancer and died right before my eyes.

I didn’t just see myself in the story, I felt myself in the story. The girl right at the end. That was me. I felt myself in her. Her facial expressions. The awkwardness of her hands. THAT’S what a powerful Empathy Story does.

Granted, we don’t all have Macmillan-sized budgets. But we do have an opportunity to learn from this incredible piece of storytelling for our everyday marketing.

That was me. I felt myself in her.

How to apply your Empathy Story to your everyday marketing

Practically-speaking, here are some examples of how your Empathy Story can show up in your everyday marketing efforts:

  1. Organic social media content: Identify a problem your audience is currently dealing with and start a social media conversation with them about it. This can look like an Instagram TV series sharing problem-solving content, a carousel social media post answering your customers’ FAQs, or even a short video of your founder(s) speaking directly to your followers that says: “welcome, thank you for being here”.
  2. Website homepage copy: Your homepage is an amazing place to get super clear on your Empathy Story and why your customers should care. When writing your homepage heading and subheading, challenge yourself to write copy that directly addresses the problem you’re solving for your audience — in their own tone of voice — and watch how your on-site conversion improves.
  3. Paid social content: The same rule for website copy applies to your Instagram, Facebook and Google ads. Creating online ads with empathy means listening to your customers through research calls — and answering their questions in your ad copy. It’s the difference between speaking at a prospective customer and starting a conversation with them.
  4. Newsletter series: Every brand needs an onboarding newsletter series. If you’re pre-launch, your newsletter should be your ultimate way of starting to build your database. If you’re already out there, use your newsletter series to strengthen customer relationships. An empathy-driven newsletter means using social media data to identify the kind of content your customers care about — and delivering it consistently.
  5. Listening circle events: The ultimate way to bring your Empathy Story to life? A listening circle event. Our client, District34, run events for people who don’t know where to start with their property proposition. We also recently held a (virtual!) listening circle event for over 100 prospective customers for a client. The purpose? Inviting customers to share their questions, thoughts and the things they care about — and listening with true intention.

That, right there, is empathy. Communicating your Empathy Story is a practice. It’s intentional. It’s in the NOW. It takes time, attention and care. And a bloody good set of ears.

Thank you for being here. I hope you enjoyed reading this piece.

Here’s a little bit about me…

I’m the co-founder of Make Us Care — a strategic creative partner for businesses doing good in the world. I work closely with founders, leaders and marketing teams to build brands people care about. My magic sauce is a communications framework I created called the 5 Stories.

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Founder and creator of 5 Stories, a methodology I use to build brands people care about. I write about storytelling and being an entrepreneur 🙃