A quick and easy guide to empathy mapping


Jill is a single mother of two. Her administrative job keeps her at her desk all day. A creature of habit, she continues to eat the same high-calorie fast-food meals that she did in college. Her clothing size has increased steadily over the past 18 months.

Bob is a recently retired music teacher. For 30 years, his meals at school were sweet treats from the vending machine. He was always too busy to make exercise a part of his daily routine. His doctor repeatedly warns him about his weight and cholesterol numbers.

Your company wants to target both Jill and Bob with your motivational health and wellness coaching program. But how do you help your team truly understand and influence these real individuals?

Walk in their shoes — feel their emotions.

Empathy mapping is a tool that enables you to understand your audience’s feelings. Without this empathetic understanding, your team might develop messages that meet their own needs — not the needs of your ideal clients.

For nonprofits, empathy mapping can be used prior to launching an awareness campaign. This group exercise offers a clearer picture of your potential donors, volunteers and clients.

Changemakers can use empathy mapping in their marketing to:

  • Encourage team unity
  • Paint a very detailed picture of your target market
  • Show the why of consumer actions
  • Immerse your team in the consumer’s daily life
  • Inspire change

How does empathy mapping work?

An empathy map is a simple diagram that allows your team to flesh out the motivations that drive the individuals in your target market (download a sample empathy map). The more ideas and insights you gather, the better.

1. First, define your market segment. Invent one or multiple personas, like Jill and Bob, as examples.

2. Ask and answer questions that get your team inside the minds, hearts and feelings of the people you want to engage. Use sticky notes to record responses.

  • What do these people think and feel? Why?
  • What do they hear? Why?
  • What do they see? Why?
  • What do they say and do? Why?
  • What obstacles, fears, frustrations and pressure points keep them from meeting their goals (known as pains)?
  • What are their goals, desires, needs and wants? What gets them up each morning? What gives them daily happiness (known as gains)?

3. Finally, brainstorm how your organization and marketing can make a difference.

When your perspective evolves, your approach to marketing and messaging will be much more powerful. With true consumer empathy as your guide, you can change your world.

Need help understanding your ideal clients or supporters? Hook PR can help you strengthen your brand story so it resonates with the people you want to engage. Contact us for details.