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Communicating with Empathy: an underrated approach to cut through turbulent times – by talabat’s Osama Sherif

By Osama Sherif – Senior Consumer Communications Manager, talabat

It goes without saying that collectively we are going through one of the most challenging years in our lifetimes. As we continue to navigate through our current Covid-19 situation, and then the path to economic and social normalcy, the truth of the matter is that our journey will reshape the future of organisations worldwide – including how we talk with our audiences.

Pre-Covid, communicating with empathy was never off the table, as we sought to stay relevant and genuine with our audiences. However, at a time where a huge global shift in activities became purpose-led instead of profit-led, communicating with empathy during ambiguous times validated this further as a reliable approach to cut through turbulence.

As we enter the post-Covid era, brands now have a golden opportunity to restructure the way they communicate. Not only for it to be based on compassion and be more human, but for it to genuinely resonate the values of the brand, for it to be purposefully engaging, solutions-driven, and be followed with concrete actions.

As the region’s leading food and grocery delivery app, our core services at talabat assumed a vital role to ensure a level of normalcy for communities – delivering their favourite food and necessities safely to their doorstep, so that they could stay home and stay safe. This meant that engaging our communications with all stakeholders, and truly understanding what our ecosystem and community needed during such an ambivalent period – was key to utilise our communications plan effectively. A plan focused as much as possible towards addressing the uncertain, and encouraging honest action from everyone.

Some of these actions were business-related and required immediate attention such as resolving safety concerns for our users. Not only did we communicate our top priority – safety – but we continued to define best-practice, rolling out concrete examples to our community. Such measures include contactless delivery (allowing for safe delivery of food and groceries, protecting both rider and customer), temperature cards (to show that temperatures have been checked by staff preparing/delivering meals) and personal protection equipment (PPE) for our riders.

Our communications approach also took into account talabat’s push towards business continuity for our restaurant partners who suffered a decline, where we ran marketing and promotional campaigns on our platform and digital channels to drive more orders. Along with significant investments on growth to support our restaurant partners and provide stronger value to the end user, we’ve directed our communications to push more orders through small F&B businesses, where users also enjoyed free delivery charges when ordering from nearby neighbourhood restaurants.

We also ensured our communication efforts addressed pressing topics that arose during this challenging period, impacting the communities that we serve. This includes utilising our app and social platforms to encourage our users to play a role in helping, too. We’ve reached out to local authorities across all markets to see what we can do to help, which led to a series of collaborations with both private and public organisations. Till date, we’ve secured more than 150,000 meal donations and also 5,000 free medicine deliveries during a period where patients with chronic illnesses were advised to stay at home.

Our most recent example of empathetic communications is how we reacted to the current tragedy in Beirut. Even though Lebanon is not a market we operate in, lots of our customers and partners are Lebanese. It felt wrong for us to just share our thoughts and prayers; as an organisation, we wanted to encourage everyone to act. We made it simple to donate – customers could literally order anything from talabat, and we would donate all our profit. The response was phenomenal. More than 115,000 orders were placed region-wide, and while profits are sensitive, we also donated an additional €130,000 from talabat to the people of Beirut.

As communicators, this period is our opportunity to put empathy and purpose, ahead of profitability and publicity. It showcased the true strength behind serving the communities we are involved with and how engagement skyrockets when it serves a relevant purpose. It might have taken a global pandemic for the power of empathy to shine; let’s not let this lesson go unlearned.