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Digital empathy: 7 ways for PR pros to foster meaningful connections virtually

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Public Relations

In today’s virtual world, it is more important than ever to practice digital empathy in order to foster meaningful connections with clients, colleagues, and the public. The rise of virtual communication has significantly impacted human connection, and PR professionals need to be aware of the potential challenges and opportunities that come with building relationships online.

As PR professionals, it is our job to not only represent our clients effectively but also to connect with and engage their target audience. This requires understanding how to effectively communicate and relate to others through virtual channels.

So we’re here to help! Let’s delve into seven ways to practice digital empathy and make meaningful connections.

Digital empathy: 7 ways for PR pros to foster meaningful connections virtually

What is digital empathy?

Digital empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others through virtual communication. It involves being attuned to the nonverbal cues, tone, and language present in virtual interactions and using this information to effectively respond to and connect with others.

Digital empathy differs from in-person empathy in that it relies on verbal and written communication rather than facial expressions and body language. However, it is still an essential aspect of building and maintaining relationships in a virtual environment.

Let’s say you’re currently dealing with a digital crisis communications campaign for a client. Building digital empathy with their stakeholders is essential to ensure that all parties are heard, respected, and taken into account in the process. From virtual focus groups and interviews to digital surveys, listening and empathizing with people’s feelings is vital to build trust and confidence in your efforts.

7 ways to foster meaningful connections virtually

Now that we’ve established the basics of digital empathy let’s explore seven ways to foster meaningful connections online:

1. Pay attention to nonverbal cues

Just because digital communication is mostly text-based, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore nonverbal cues. Pay attention to the tone of voice, word choice, and body language while communicating virtually, as this will give you valuable insight into how people feel.

For example, suppose you’ve been liaising with a client about a press release you plan to put out on their new business phone system in Canada. You’ve noticed they seem hesitant or less than enthusiastic in their response—maybe they’re not quite sure about the press release’s wording or angle. This is your digital empathy cue to ask more questions, be open and understand their concerns, and work with them to ensure that you are on the same page.

Digital empathy: 7 ways for PR pros to foster meaningful connections virtually

2. Practice active social listening

Social listening is key to digital empathy. Through active social listening, you can gain insights into what people say and think about your brand or your client’s brand online. This allows you to better understand their feelings and respond in a meaningful way.

For example, suppose your client has been receiving negative feedback on Twitter about their new product launch. In that case, digital empathy means you need to listen actively, identify the sources of the criticism, and take action. You could reach out directly to those who shared their feedback and ask for further clarity on their concerns.

3. Research your target audience

An important digital empathy skill is to understand and research target audience before engaging with them. This could be as simple as reading through customer reviews or as complex as conducting digital surveys and interviews. This research will give you valuable insight into their needs, values, interests, and opinions that can help you tailor your message and better understand their perspective.

By understanding who you are speaking with online, you can create content that resonates with them on a deeper level. This is essential in digital communication, as it helps to create an authentic connection with your audience.

4. Use video whenever possible

Video is an invaluable digital empathy tool because it allows you to communicate with body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. This can be incredibly helpful when conveying emotion and building a rapport with your target audience.

For example, suppose you’re brainstorming campaign ideas to position your client’s product as the best Canadian VoIP phone service. Using video calls will help foster digital empathy between you and your client, as well as any other stakeholders involved. Seeing each other’s reactions to ideas can help break down communication barriers, create trust and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Digital empathy: 7 ways for PR pros to foster meaningful connections virtually

5. Create a supportive and inclusive virtual space

Creating a supportive and inclusive digital space when engaging with your stakeholders is important. This means respecting everyone’s opinions, avoiding any form of digital abuse or discrimination, and using language appropriate for the virtual environment.

For example, if you’re sending out an email marketing campaign on behalf of your client, make sure that it’s free of any gendered language and offensive jokes. This will help to create a safe digital space for everyone involved in the conversation.

6. Show vulnerability and authenticity

When communicating virtually, it’s important to be open and honest about your own thoughts and feelings. Showing vulnerability is a powerful digital empathy tool because it allows you to make a genuine connection with your stakeholders.

Some ways you can do this include using storytelling to share your experiences, being open about mistakes you’ve made, and inviting feedback from your digital audience. This will help build trust and create a deeper understanding between you and your stakeholders.

Digital empathy: 7 ways for PR pros to foster meaningful connections virtually

7. Measure digital empathy

Finally, you should continuously monitor digital empathy to ensure it is effective. This means regularly evaluating digital interactions and measuring the impact of digital campaigns on your target audience.

You can use tools such as sentiment analysis to measure digital conversations, while surveys and feedback forms can help to see how stakeholders have responded to digital communication initiatives. This data can then be used to refine digital empathy strategies and ensure that digital connections are meaningful and impactful.

Final thoughts

So there you have it. Digital empathy is an essential digital communication skill and can be used to create meaningful connections with your digital audience. By researching your target audience, using video to communicate, creating a supportive virtual space, showing vulnerability and authenticity, and measuring digital empathy initiatives – you will be able to foster powerful digital relationships that drive real results for any PR campaign.

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Grace Lau
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration with powerful features built for internal communications and integrating CRM. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.

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