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Star Trek & the Role of Empathy in Content Marketing

August 31, 2015
Content Marketing, Content Strategy, EQ

Don’t worry, this is not Confessions of a Teenage Fan Girl circa 1989. But, the most fascinating Star Trek character for me was always Deanna Troi. For non-Trekkies out there, Troi was an empath – literally able to feel what the people around her were feeling.

With very little information and even less guidance, Troi was able to broach difficult topics, diffuse uncomfortable situations and make everyone around her feel like the center of the universe. No weapons needed.

So what does that have to do with content marketing? Any content project needs to start with an understanding of your target audience. Who are they? What are they struggling with? What might they be in the middle of when they encounter your content?

Right now, for instance, I’m imagining my audience of healthcare marketing professionals eating lunch at their computers (again) looking for ideas for their next email campaign (which is due by end of day). They don’t have a lot of time, they’re out of ideas and they need some fast inspiration. But they’re also “at lunch” and want something fun.

That might be too specific a target for most content marketing, but you get the idea. Here are three tips for bringing out your inner Troi and using empathy to enhance your content marketing.


I don’t mean putting a glass up to your neighbor’s door or installing bugs in, well, anywhere. I’m talking about old-fashioned eavesdropping. Listen in on the (loud) couple behind you in line at the supermarket. Or, the guy in the waiting room yelling into his cell phone.

These are not people seeking private conversations. They are people going about their private lives unconcerned by what strangers might overhear.

So, listen.

As you listen, try to imagine what those people might be thinking or feeling. Later, replay the conversation in your mind and expand on it. What would they find helpful at this moment? How would you want to talk to each of these people in that moment about your brand?

Talk to Strangers

This is one of those times when your mother’s advice was wrong. You can learn so much from talking to new people, especially those from outside of your typical circles.

Break the ice with a sincere compliment or observation, then get the conversation beyond the weather or latest Walking Dead episode. Now, let go of the reins and see where the journey takes you.

Don’t feel like you have to talk about your company (or even healthcare). You are looking to get insights into the perspective of someone other than yourself – not get an opinion on your brand.

Play Make Believe

Release your inner five-year-old for a round of “what if?” Imagine a person in your target audience. Give her a name, age, ethnicity and background. Then put her in a specific healthcare situation that she might plausibly encounter (for herself or a loved one).

What might she think, do, feel, need? How might your organization respond to those needs differently than your competitor? How might you best communicate that difference to her?

What email could you send her, right now, that she would value?

Practice Makes… 

Forget perfect. What you get from practicing empathy is more interesting content that comes from a place of sincerity and compassion.

Now, there’s a good excuse to go out for your lunch break tomorrow.

Paula Rae Forastiero

Senior Digital Strategist
Paula has spent more than 20 years in health content strategy, building products ranging from patient education websites to mobile appointment scheduling applications. She holds a Masters Degree in Healthcare Administration and Policy and has worked for companies as diverse as healthcare start-ups, iVillage/NBC and PatientPoint.

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