I came across this model whilst I was listening to a webinar on brand development techniques. It is a tool called Empathy Map developed by XPLANE, a US-based company that focuses on business design thinking. In a nutshell, it provides companies with a process to understand their potential clients better. I’ve been working with the map for a few weeks now and have found it extremely useful.
What I like about it is that it provides you with a systematic approach to analysing your target audience by asking questions such as “What motivates X?”, “What challenges is X facing?”, “What is at stake for X?”, “Who is X influenced by?” and so on. You can use it to identify your key stakeholders when you’re developing a public affairs campaign plan, and it’ll also be useful when designing a marcoms strategy as it’ll help you formulate more resonant and compelling messages to address to your target audience.
Those that are unfamiliar with EU public affairs and who, incidentally, tend to be the budget gatekeepers (trade association members, agency clients, etc.) tend to judge campaigns by the length of the stakeholder list. Or rate their visit to Brussels as successful when their day is packed with meetings. But here, less is more. A couple of meetings with the top decision-makers and thought leaders will be far more effective than a room full of random people.
Use this model to prove that you have done the necessary research and analysis and haven’t just been cutting & pasting names from a directory or online portal. The Empathy Map will help you anchor and validate your strategy vis à vis your clients/members.
And the beauty of it is that the Empathy Map can also be applied to studying not only external audiences, but also your internal stakeholders. This model can help you understand the people within your organisation better, improve your working relationship with colleagues, help a team get over toxic communications cycles, and so on.
Finally, it is a very visual tool so it makes it easier for right-brain thinkers (like me!) or people working under time pressure to dive into the essence and get the bigger picture straight away.
Sounds like the obvious thing to be doing anyway? Well, yes, in theory. Using this tool might avoid more than one embarrassing mismatch in Brussels!