Building Authentic Connections: The Power of Empathy & Trust in Digital PR Strategies

By: C Lekha, VP - Corporate Communications & Brand Reputation, IndiGo

Lekha, a seasoned communications expert with over 25 years of experience, excels in influencer outreach, digital marketing, brand strategy, and crisis communications. As VP of Corporate Communications and Brand Reputation, she has transformed corporate reputations, earning numerous national and international accolades for her strategic leadership in both B2B and B2C sectors.

Networking has been the lifeblood of a PR professional role. Traditionally, a great PR specialist would be someone who could boast of solid connections with a host of journalists, columnists and other veterans in the media industry. But despite its exhausting nature, this practice of building sustained connections proved to be exceptionally rewarding for their clients.

From feature stories in newspapers and magazines to brand mentions in billboards and books, their clients greatly benefitted from this enduring connection. Traditionally, these positive stories published in eminent newspapers and magazines were one of the only handful of ways a brand could connect to its mammoth audience.

This scenario was severely jolted as soon as technology came into the picture. With the advent of technological progress, a massive surge in the use of computers, internet, and portable electronics was witnessed. Audiences were drawn to this exciting digital world and before anyone knew it, we stepped into the digital era.

Soon enough, newspapers and magazines were replaced by e-papers and social media. Today, more than half of the Indian users consume news on social media . So, in a sense, technology disrupted the way the PR industry functioned for decades and decades.

The Ever-Expanding Online World

With a shrinking ambit of influence on audiences, print media almost unexpectedly gave way to social media in a massive way. Now, entertainment, infotainment and news stories, audiences are consuming every kind of content through their phones.

Today's public relations landscape is drastically different due to the internet's explosive growth and the emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok, and LinkedIn. In light of this evidently transitioning milieu, the PR strategies urgently needed to be realigned.

The old paradigm of one-way communication is being superseded in favour of ‘dialogue’ and ‘engagement’. As a result of this two-way dialogue, audiences are not just listening to what the organisations have to say, but in turn, they are also being heard by the organisations. As the gamut of influence of the online world continues to increase, it brings about a sweeping wave of transformation in the way communication takes place between a brand and its audience.

On social media, brands must communicate with empathy and trust in order to forge genuine connections with their followers, boost engagement, and eventually spur business expansion. Empathetic communication is built on authenticity and a genuine connection with your audience's experiences and emotions in addition to understanding their needs. Sharing anecdotes of struggles, victories, and the people who work behind the scenes to demonstrate the human side of your brand is crucial when it comes to communicating with authenticity. Here are a few ways brands can build authentic connections focusing on empathy and building trust among its stakeholders.

Building a differentiated communication proposition: A perpetual influx of information and messaging has social media brimming with content. Hence, differentiating brand communication becomes increasingly important in a crowded digital realm. Communicating with authenticity is one way an organization can cut through the digital noise and leave an indelible positive impression on the audience’s mind.

Consistent and clear messaging: Brands that communicate their message consistently across all channels, from social media to advertising, are more likely to establish a strong brand identity and gain the trust of their audience. For instance, Nike's "Just Do It" slogan has been consistently used for over three decades, making it one of the most recognizable brand messages in the world.

Transparency: Brands that are open and honest with their audience about their business practices, values, and challenges are more likely to gain the trust of their customers. For example, Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign was built on the idea of transparency, showcasing real women with diverse body types and skin tones in their advertisements. This approach helped Dove establish a reputation for promoting body positivity and self-confidence. This transparency built over a period of time also stands a brand in good stead at the time of a crisis.

Creating a sense of shared value: Brands that align their values with those of their customers and work towards a common goal are more likely to establish a genuine connection with their audience. An Indian brand that has successfully implemented a sense of shared value is Amul. The dairy cooperative has built its brand around the idea of empowering farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture. By providing fair prices for milk and supporting rural development initiatives, Amul has established a strong connection with its farmer-members and consumers who share these values.

Building emotional connections: Brands that build a strong emotional connect with their audience are more likely to establish a lasting relationship with their customers. For example, Apple has built a loyal following of customers who identify with the brand's values of innovation, creativity, and design. The company's products and marketing campaigns often evoke a sense of excitement and inspiration, connecting with customers on an emotional level.

Humanizing the brand: Brands that show their human side and connect with their audience on a personal level are more likely to establish a genuine relationship with their customers. A brand that has successfully humanized itself is Airbnb. The company's "Belong Anywhere" campaign highlights the unique experiences and connections that travellers can have by staying in local homes. By showcasing the personal stories of hosts and guests, Airbnb has been able to humanize its brand and create a sense of community around its platform.

Any brand or individual hoping to make a big online presence needs to build trust. It's important for people to know they can count on you to be consistent in both your interactions and content. This entails disseminating reliable, factual, and informative content online. Developing a culture of trust and accountability in your community requires being transparent about changes, challenges, and advancements. Furthermore, listening is just as important as sharing information. It's critical that brands respond politely and promptly to their audiences’ asks and queries to foster a seamless dialogue.

Social media shares, impressions, and the amount of time viewers spend interacting with your brand are all tangible indicators of how your brand is perceived by the audiences. By using these techniques, one can gauge the efficacy and obtain insights to further refine the brand's image.


I believe that in order to thrive in today's market, we must focus on building authentic and meaningful relationships with our audience. It's not just about selling a product - it's about creating a connection that transcends beyond being transactional in nature. Businesses must strive to prioritise building genuine and meaningful relationships with its audience to create a strong community that is truly invested in their business.It's clear that social media is proving to be a powerful tool in shaping the contemporary PR strategies.