Bringing More Empathy into Content Marketing

Content Creation Content Distribution Content Engagement Content Marketing Content Strategy COVID-19 News

We think it’s safe to say that no one expected 2020 to unfold as it has – between catastrophic wildfires, COVID-19, the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people, it’s been a collectively emotional and tumultuous time for everyone. Most content marketers create content calendars to plan out distribution plans months in advance, but may be struggling to decide if their “previously planned posts” would work in this quickly changing world we are all evolving in. How can you create & distribute content that not only meets the moment and new needs of consumers, but also conveys a sense of empathy and compassion for the current events we’re all facing?

Our friends over at the Content Marketing Institute did a perfect job of defining empathy in their recent post: “Empathy is not about pretending to feel something. It’s about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes by connecting with their point of view, thoughts, or feelings about the situation.” This definition is imperative to understand when it comes to content marketing in 2020, because it does NOT mean you have to completely stray from your previously planned content calendar, but it does mean that brands and marketers need to take a close look at the messaging they’re putting out to ensure it’s in alignment with their core values and beliefs.

A May 2020 survey taken by Good.Must.Grow revealed that COVID-19 has affected how consumers view brands and decide if they will continue to shop with them. As seen in a recent article from Forbes, Good.Must.Grow discovered that even during a time when most Americans have been impacted financially due to the pandemic, more are “evaluating their responsibilities to society;” which includes looking at the companies they typically purchase from to further understand their POV, as well as charitable contributions.

Another reflection of the shift in consumer behaviors due to COVID-19 can be seen in a recent report from Google, as reported by Search Engine Journal. Their May 2020 report found the following five key trends:

  1. More consumers are using multiple devices.
  2. There’s an increased reliance on Google searches for information.
  3. People are creating & fostering relationships virtually.
  4. Adjusting routines to be at-home-first.
  5. People are practicing self-care more than before.

So, the question now remains: How can marketers incorporate these new consumer habits into a content marketing strategy that still remains authentic to their brand yet conveys the compassion and information their customers are craving?

Look at Your Existing Content Calendar and Expand on Topics You’re an Expert On

What topics are you already an expert at? Expand upon areas in which your brand is an “authority” and make more of that. No need to re-invent the wheel, but instead look at ways you can update existing content that’s worked well in the past to address the new needs of consumers.

Evaluate Tone & Messaging

It’s more important than ever to come across as humanistic and not sounding like a corporate machine. Take out terminology that comes across as inauthentic or confusing and re-write your content as if you were addressing a close friend.

Examine Data Closely – Know Your Customer

Data is an extremely valuable resource for marketers to truly understand where their customer is coming from. Do you know their location, habits, average spend and interests outside of your brand? Dive deep into who your “target customer” is based off of data collected and reframe your content to address these individuals. Don’t forget the importance of creating a symbiotic customer journey! 

Make it Bite-Size and Actionable

With the onslaught of information and content coming head-first at consumers on a daily basis, attention spans are at an all-time low. Make sure your messaging is concise, to-the-point, and easy for consumers to digest. Video content is also stronger than ever so consider putting your written statements into a more interactive medium. It’s also critical for brands to express how they are solving the pain points + problems of their “new consumers” and make sure to include that in messaging.

 Which brands are already doing a great job at creating and distributing empathetic content to their customers? Some of our “fan favorites” include:


One of the soda giant’s primary focuses has always been on providing empathy in its messaging to consumers, employees and business. They recently decided to take things a step further and conduct a nationwide survey, appropriately titled “The Empathy Imperative: Consumer Perceptions On Brand Empathy Through a Pandemic.” Their results were eye-opening, finding that 94% of Americans say empathy is important in today’s society, with 79% believing it is even more important in light of COVID-19. Only 50% feel that our society is empathetic, a small increase from a previous study taken pre-COVID. In response to this growing call for more empathetic marketing, PepsiCo has stepped up as a leader within the industry and business world – in addition to donating $50M to local communities hit hard by COVID-19 through their charity (The PepsiCo Foundation), which is regularly updated on their landing page dedicated to these efforts; they’ve also utilized their customer reach to provide vital resources like PPE equipment and meals to food banks & global partners. The brand has taken a more light-hearted approach when it comes specifically to content marketing, using empathy as a vehicle to drive more light-hearted content in such a globally heavy time. They’ve collaborated with live music festivals such as the Global Citizen and also been featured on the widely popular “Some Good News” program featuring John Krasinski. Keep it up PepsiCo!

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

The Vermont-based ice cream company has a longstanding history of being vocal in support of political initiatives and current events, but recently they’ve taken things to the next level of digital activism & empathy. They recently published a long-form article on their media center page titled “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy – Silence is NOT an Option” which outlines four policy-based calls to actions for the public to take in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. They also have pushed this messaging out on their social channels and actively engaged followers with informative infographics. The cherry on top of this constant stream of empathetic content? This past week, Ben & Jerry’s released a series of politically-focused ice cream flavors to encourage consumer activism against racism. A recent article in Forbes highlighted how through the years of its public stance on progressive issues, they’ve actually seen not only an increase in customer loyalty, but also stronger relationships with its employees and business partners. Their emphasis on mission-based content marketing has made them an ally with consumers across the globe and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. We’ll be buying pints in bulk for the foreseeable future!

As we continue to see society shifting towards an increasing emphasis on equality and human rights, marketers need to remember to stay agile, continue evolving and keep a focus on their customers. Now is not the time to sell but rather create space for consumers to know that they mean more to you than their dollars or purchases.

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