Discover more from Chief Empathy Officers by Pat Timmons
The First | Chief Empathy Officers | Bryna Corcoran @ Lyft
Through empowering voters, listening to customers and taking action, Bryna Corcoran is a Chief Empathy Officer.
My book, Feel Something: How to Embrace Empathy to Build Trust with Your Audience comes out NEXT week. So I wanted to celebrate by introducing a new series: Chief Empathy Officers. A series that will highlight incredible leaders embracing empathy in their roles. Don’t worry, these emails will come once a month so I won’t clog your inbox. If it becomes too much, feel free to unsubscribe. If you love it, share it with your friends!
I am so so SO excited to kick off Chief Empathy Officers with a brand and social media marketing leader like Bryna Corcoran.
As you will learn in Bryna’s interview below, the work she has done at Lyft and beyond embody empathy every step of the way.
Let’s get into it!
How does your team at Lyft put empathy into action? Can you provide an example of a campaign that incorporated empathy and the results of the campaign? (This can be any KPI).
Lyft was founded on getting people to ditch their cars. The thinking was if we could have less cars on the road, cities could be reinvented around people instead of cars. And if cities are reinvented around people, then that means less parking lots and more outdoor space, bike lanes and parks, which ultimately has a long-term positive impact on the environment and local communities. This insight led to informing the company’s larger mission as a company; to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.
However, a reality for millions of people is that they don't have easy access to transportation overall, which impacts their basic and economic needs. People are losing out on job opportunities because they don’t have a way to get there. They don’t show up for critical healthcare appointments because they don’t have a way to get there. So, one of the things we try to weave into our bigger campaigns is an overall message of transportation access, and an action to give people affordable, reliable transportation options —no matter their age, income, ZIP- or postal code.
In 2018, we uncovered an interesting insight. It’s estimated that 15 million people did not show up to the polls in 2016 because they did not have a way to get there. So when the 2020 general election came around, we believed that transportation shouldn’t be a barrier to having your voice heard. So, we gave access to free and discounted rides (even bike and scooter rides — yes, Lyft has bike and scooter systems across the country) so anyone who needed a ride to/from voting locations, polls sites and drop off mailboxes could get there. Fast forward to 2021, and the newest transportation barrier for some people is getting to/from the vaccine, which is why we announced a vaccine access program in partnership with the Whitehouse last month.
What is an experience that has proven to you the importance of empathy in marketing?
When I was at Stitch Fix (prior to Lyft), one of the insights we uncovered was that plus-size women hated shopping in-stores because they could never find their size, coupled with the feeling of being judged when they tried stuff on. It was always a deflating, depressing experience for them. Stitch Fix’s business model is to have a stylist get to know you, pick out outfits and send them to you so you can try them on in the comfort of your own home. The challenge was though, Stitch Fix hadn’t quite offered plus-sizes yet in all their collections. So, in 2019, we launched a size-inclusive collection that went up to plus sizes 24W. It also happened to be in partnership with high-end fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. The feedback we got from customers was truly inspiring; they felt seen, they felt supported, and they felt beautiful in Rebecca’s designs because the clothes were made with all the different body types in mind.
What are your biggest challenges as a business / marketing leader and how can empathy help you overcome those challenges?
A large part of putting the customer at the center is remembering that what you are creating, and selling is just a tiny factor in the daily life of your customer's entire life as a human being on this Earth. It’s all too easy to think inward. To think “this is how I would or wouldn’t use this.”, but this is where biases come from. To put yourself in an empathetic mindframe, picture choosing the perfect birthday gift for a loved one. When you think less about what you would want and more about how it would make the recipient feel, you’ve unblocked empathy.
What campaign have you worked on that embodied empathy marketing the best?
It wasn’t necessarily a campaign, but a simple tweet. Long story short, an Uber driver had been assaulted and attacked by a group of riders and there was video of it circulating on the internet. It happened in an Uber, not a Lyft, and Uber ultimately banned them from their platform. But, we were so appalled by the treatment of this driver, and just a fellow human being, that I spearheaded a quick response to ban the rider from ever riding with Lyft too. This tweet became one of our most viral tweets ever, and got picked up by 25+ media outlets.
What is something all marketing professionals should read or watch to make them more empathetic?
Two things come to mind.
Get out of your bubble. Whether that’s a networking bubble where you only talk to other marketers, or a lifestyle bubble where you only do certain activities with certain people, or a geographical one (ahem, San Francisco and New York). Seek out new people, new experiences, new places. As the world starts to come back online post-pandemic, strike up conversations with strangers on the bus, or while standing in line at the grocery store. You’ll learn so much about how other people think, feel, live, ultimately widening your empathy aperture.
Watch Documentaries. I seek out new documentaries, even ones that cover a topic I normally wouldn’t come across in my daily life. I treat it sort of like a personal book club, where every month I sit and watch a new one in my Netflix or Prime library. Without a doubt, I always come away with a new understanding and appreciation for the human journey, and for the overall craft of storytelling.
Who are some of the most empathetic people and brands you know and why?
Dove: they have stayed consistent over the years with debunking beauty stereotypes and elevating authentic, real beauty.
AirBnb: They always seem to show up when it matters most, like banning rentals in the DC area during white supremacists gatherings leading up inaguration day this year, or in the past with their “We Belong” campaign after the Trump muslim ban in 2017.
Liked this edition of Chief Empathy Officers? Did something resonate? Tweet about it with the #ChiefEmpathyOfficers and tag me at @pattimmons_.
Thank you for reading. <3
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