By Patricia Rivera, Hook PR & Marketing

Empathy is a critical skill when it comes to effective marketing and messaging. It enables us to understand the feelings, desires, ideas, and actions of others. In marketing, empathy mapping allows us to dive into what our clients think, feel, do, and say. 

With so much ongoing uncertainty – from economics to politics and the environment – it’s crucial for organizations to better understand their clients and their shifting needs. 

Michelle Huff noted in a MarketingProfs article about empathy mapping that the pandemic elevated empathy into the determining factor to evaluate an organization’s services but also its position as a great place to work and a responsible corporate citizen.

“When performing empathy mapping, marketers must acknowledge that the pandemic changed the world forever, and they need to investigate how any lingering psychological effects play out in what customers say, think, feel, and do,” she noted in the article.

Walk in their shoes — feel their emotions

Empathy mapping is a tool that enables you to understand your audience’s feelings. It goes beyond building personas – often focused on demographics and facts – and anticipates emotions and reactions. 

For nonprofits, empathy mapping can be used before launching an awareness campaign. This group exercise offers a clearer picture of your potential donors, volunteers, and clients.

Changemakers can use empathy mapping in their marketing to:

• Encourage team unity

• Paint a very detailed picture of your target market

• Show the why of consumer actions

• Immerse your team in the consumer’s daily life

• Inspire change

How empathy mapping works

An empathy map is a simple quadrant that captures your ideal clients’ experience. You can also study their pains and gains concerning what you offer. The objective is to create a sense of empathy between the people that you serve and your team (download a sample empathy map at

Consider practicing with this scenario: Bob is a recently retired music teacher. For 30 years, his meals at school were sweet treats from the vending machine. 

He was always too busy to make exercise a part of his daily routine. His doctor repeatedly warns him about his weight and cholesterol numbers.

Your organization wants to target both Bob with your motivational health and wellness coaching program. How do you help your team understand and influence Bob? 

1. First, define your market segment. Think about an actual client or use Bob as an example. 

2. Ask and answer questions that get your team inside the minds, hearts, and feelings of the people you want to engage. 

• What do they think and feel? Why? 

• What do they hear? Why? 

• What do they see? Why? 

• What do they say and do? Why? 

• What obstacles, fears, frustrations, and pressure points keep them from meeting their goals (known as pains)? 

• What are their goals, desires, needs, and wants? What gets them up each morning? What gives them daily happiness (known as gains)? 

3. Finally, brainstorm how your organization can finetune services to meet their needs better and develop messaging that addresses their reality. 

Final thoughts 

When your perspective evolves, your approach to marketing and messaging will be much more powerful. As writer Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” reminded us: “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” 

Hook PR & Marketing works with changemakers to build their brands with strategic messaging and campaigns. Do you need help with messaging? Contact us at in**@ho****.com.