emotions in marketing, emotional-based PR

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Don’t bother trying to reason with people. To persuade consumers, reach their emotions. An array of research concludes that emotions are paramount in forming opinions and making purchase decisions.

“Contrary to what many of us may believe, buying decisions are 80 percent emotional and only 20 percent based on logic, says Susanna Gebauer, a marketing blogger at The Social Ms.

The Importance of Audience Research

Because emotions vary strongly based on location, age, background interests and other factors, tapping emotions to promote a product or idea requires extensive research into the brand’s audience.

“While the emotions may sound straightforward and it seems logical how they trigger consumer behavior, it is not so easy as you might think to use them in marketing,” Gebauer says. “To figure out what kind of content inspires the right emotions with your audience, you have to listen carefully and analyze their reaction to everything you do.”

Market research, including surveys and social media analytics, can help brands better understand their audiences and their emotions. The importance of emotions means it’s essential to monitor emotional reactions online through sentiment analysis. Define specific metrics to track. Metrics could include social media comments, customer complaints or employee or customer retention.

Emotions for Earned Media

Emotions are also valuable for winning earned media mentions, as publishers run stories that incite emotions of their readers. Anger and love were the most common emotional reactions to media articles this year, according to a Fractl analysis of 10 major media outlets. The prevalence of anger is not surprising, given this year’s divisive politics and frustrations over Covid-19, but people also like good news, Fractl Marketing Director Amanda Milligan writes in The Next Web.

Fractl recommends:

  • Understand the emotions media outlets elicit. Different publishers tend to incite different emotions more frequently. The Washington Post prompted anger; CNN aroused sadness, and BuzzFeed incited laughter.
  • Seek unexpected findings in your analysis of data. Surprising findings spark emotions.
  • Determine what emotions to arouse when you consider ideas for content. They’ll help guide your research and content creation as the project develops.
  • Keep the emotions top of mind as you develop the content.

Sometimes content includes emotions “accidentally,” but if you’re deliberate about prominently featuring emotions, your content can be significantly more compelling, Milligan concludes.

The Power of Stories

Storytelling can inject emotion into PR and marketing content. People empathize with people much more readily than they do with companies or products. The solution, therefore, is to let a real person speak in most all PR stories – and not just a pro forma quote. A great story needs an involved storyteller to tell a gripping story with genuine passion.

Showing your humanity can raise storytelling to another level. But most business executives hide their humanity, often intentionally. Reveal something personal about yourself. Lines such as “That reminds me …” or “Let me share a quick story …” can serve as transitions.

Storytellers often recommend following a traditional plot with beginning, middle and end. Marketing consultant Heidi Cohen recommends the PAR structure that stands for:

  • Problem: the core conflict that the hero must tackle.
  • Action: the smaller steps that the hero takes to resolve the conflict.
  • Result: the end accomplishment.

The structure clearly sets up the conflict and underscores the need for a change in your hero.

The Value of Empathy

The ability to feel empathy enables PR pros and other content creators to devise content that connects with others on an emotional level. Empathy should infuse most PR and marketing stories.

Empathy should not be confused with sympathy. Sympathy is understanding and perhaps feeling pity or sorrow for someone else’s struggles. Empathy means understanding the person’s feelings and thoughts from their point of view. It means seeing things from the other’s viewpoint.

Understanding the audiences and empathizing with their situation form the hallmark of great PR and marketing content.

Bottom Line: Emotions drive social media sharing and purchase decisions. That’s why PR and marketing content based on emotions works so well. Determining what kinds of emotions resonate most with a particular audience poses the major challenge to emotion-based marketing. That calls for attentive listening and careful analysis of customers’ actions.

This article was first published on Nov. 6, 2018, and updated on Dec. 1. 2020.

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