Needless to say, as the Chief Communications Officer of Deutsche Post DHL, Christof Ehrhart knows a thing or two about corporate communications. In fact, he's so good at what he does that just last week he was recognized with The SABRE Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for his decades of experience and excellence. The topic of his acceptance speech? The most critical quality for corporate communications today is empathy.
“Communicators need the ability to put themselves into the shoes of the person they are communicating with in order to make a meaningful connection with the expectations of that person," he stressed.
Ehrhart has been making the argument since as early as 2007, when he published "Against Corporate Navel-Gazing," an article ahead of its time that argued new media would demand that PR professionals make a big, big shift. Core to that shift would be empathy.
"We are moving from the structures of an anonymous mass market towards--some might rightfully say backwards --to the direct conversation between producers and providers on the one side and customers on the other," he wrote.
Translation: For the first time in a long time, businesses aren't talking at their customers and clients; they're talking with them. And conversation is a whole different ball game, one that requires not lecturing but listening, not regurgitating but relating. One that requires the empathic skillset.
artwork by Burkhard Piller from Ehrhart's original article in Communication Director magazine