The queue to get into the underground is backed up. More people are pushing ahead. Mumbles are turning into frustrated tuts and darting eyes.
At the front of the queue is a woman fumbling with the gate. She clearly is struggling. You know what this annoyed and crushed swell of people did?
They gave her space. A boy, clearly late for school, asked if she needed help. It turned out she was partially sighted and was confused where she was. She's visiting from America and didn't know she could ask for assistance from the tube staff.
The tense crowd became a wave of helpers. Some helping her, others offering to show her the way.
All it takes is just one person to have that spark. To see the world from someone else's point of view. To take the time to review the situation. That's powerful.
This is the power that all humans have. We forget we have this power and even fewer of us ever think to use it at work. Most ignore it when thinking of audiences and personas.
They're a target market to hit. To impact. To sell to. To persuade.
It doesn't need to be like that and it shouldn’t. Our audiences are amazing. They're living full and wonderful lives without us. We can take time to feel what they feel. Let's not talk at them but listen more. We must stop paying lip service to audiences. They're important. We can understand them on paper, sure, but let’s really understand them by sharing that feeling. The industry has been talking about it for years. So we should start doing it.
It has to start with one little action. One spark that can turn a room around and change the focus from selling to an audience to making the audience’s lives better. Isn’t that what we and the brands we represent should be doing? Making things better?
All I ask is next time you’re in a brief or writing even writing one, is to speak for the audience.
Feel for them. Put yourself in their position. Understand what keeps them up at night, appreciate their needs. Not in a spreadsheet or powerpoint but deep down. Feel it with a human touch.
Then you will see the transformative power of empathy.