Insights — Leading with Empathy

Leading with Empathy

COVID-19 , Weekly Brief / April 13, 2020
Matt McFadden
Matt McFadden

Our team, like yours, has spent virtually every day since March 10th trying to understand what was happening. Each day came with new information. Each new piece of information came with major societal effects, many of which impact higher education. The rush of information has been overwhelming, which is where this email comes in. 

For the last four weeks, we've been compiling, curating, and creating content. Over the coming weeks, and possibly months, we'll be sending out this weekly digest of the best and most useful data, trends, and examples of great work from across higher ed. 

I'm writing this first issue from my kitchen, wrestling with 5th grade fractions and setting up Zoom calls for a 2nd grader (I'm here to tell you, 2nd grade Zooms are wild). And I'm obviously not alone. I see the same for my colleagues and clients, and it serves as a great reminder that we are all connected by the chaos that Coronavirus has left at our feet. This situation of balancing work and home life during a crisis sets the tone for a critical need from our brands and institutions: the need for empathy. Empathy evokes trust and understanding. It builds connections and forges a path toward loyalty. We've not had a time when we needed empathy more, and below are a few of our favorite examples from the last couple of weeks plus a free resource from us. 


Within days of stay at home orders starting to unfold across several states, Ford launched a commercial we can still learn from. It highlighted two key things: 1. It served as a reminder to people that we’ve been through hard times before and gotten through them together and 2. It extended a helping hand financially to those who may need it. For higher ed, empathy is critical. But empathy without clear and easy access to resources will fail to build trust. 

Iowa State

Speaking of empathy and resources, Iowa State's Director of Admissions, Katharine Johnson Suski, penned a fantastic letter to prospective students recently. She was human. And then she offered help. Check out the hover states on some of the paragraphs. It's a great technique to get people key information and keep people on the page. 

Butler Blue III

The right messenger can come in any form. Our friends at Butler have always found the best ways to use their best boy, and this thread was a wonderful message to the class of 2020. 

National Student Survey

Lastly, we wanted to get a deeper understanding of what was on the minds of current college students and high school seniors. We released the report this week, which you can download here. And because the intent of this email is to give out free resources and ideas, we're giving away the actual survey instrument to anyone who asks for it so that you can index your institution against the national audience. We also recommend replicating this as significant events or announcements happen. We're seeing tone, sentiment, and decisions change rapidly, so checking in with your audiences will be critical throughout the summer. 

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