November 29th, 2014 - Public Relations

Care More

Empathy. The simple act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining their journey… their thoughts, emotions, hopes and fears.

I’m beginning to think empathy is disappearing in our modern world where we move too fast to take the time to care. Or is it that I work in a world where everything I do is online and my counterparts have become desensitized to emotions as they communicate through emails, live chats, emoticons and LOLs?

It’s a lot harder to feel empathy when we no longer look eyeball to eyeball with the people we’re selling to.

But here’s the thing. Your clients care. They care a lot about how they spend their money. At our house we call it ‘voting with our dollars’. People care.

I’m surprised when I meet a client and they have little understanding of their target audience… the very people they’re asking to buy their products or services. Sure they might have demographic information broken out in a spreadsheet, but identifying the target audience is just the first step. It’s vital to move beyond these basic facts and internalize what motivates this audience. Quite simply, we need to empathize with our clients and customers. Walk that mile in their shoes.

When we spend our hard earned, after tax cash, we want to be noticed, heard and cared for. We want to be thanked. We care.

Here’s a simple example. Last year, I went to an online website to order our Christmas tree. I met Andrew and John. Two lovely Maritimers who came up with the great idea of Christmas tree delivery for those of us who don’t have trucks to pack a big old tree into, or handy husbands that can get out the saw and trim the trunk and get it in the stand. (OK, I have the handy husband but Christmas tree set up with your spouse should really be avoided at all cost. It’s the season to be jolly after all.)

So there it is… the caring part. I paid a little bit extra for someone to care about my needs. But it gets better. This year when I ordered our tree online and asked about setting up a special delivery date, I got this note back from John: I hope your repairs from the flood went ok. I remember a lot of work going on in your neighbourhood.

Now there’s some empathy. Sending off a note to a client — who you met only once a whole year ago — and remarking on some personal turmoil you remember them going through.

In life sometimes I think I care too much, it’s exhausting especially when teenage hormones are running rampant in the house. But that’s exactly the ingredient that sets

my work apart. At Blackcoffee, we care about our clients and their target audiences … about what makes them tick. And we build brands, reputations and materials that resonate with those audiences – through images and colours, through words, through tone and texture.

Think about what you’re selling and who you are selling to. Do you need to take a walk in their shoes and maybe rethink your approach? We can help.

In the mean time, work your empathy muscle. Exercise it. Daily.

It will help you in business – with clients, staff and customers. It will make you more successful. But most importantly it will make you a better person.

With gratitude,

Shannon Larkins

Inspired by a little blackcoffee

Some of my favourite moments are spent in search of something beautiful while I drink my first cup of coffee and hear the house wake up. From there I move on to the paper and the news of the day. In this space, I’ll share some of those inspirations.

Now that's some good advice

Articles, snippets, or videos that highlight what to do and what not to do in the always changing world of branding and design. 

By Paul Jarvis @

The importance of emotion in design

Business on the Internet is about standing out and being noticed. We want what we do online to be thought of as remarkable and worthy of continued discussion.
Simply put, we want an audience to commit to a relationship with us. Page views, mailing list signups and product purchases are all the result of this pined-for engagement. But to achieve this, we need to show them value, trust and possibly most importantly, create an emotional connection with them.


Shannon Larkins

Founder, Blackcoffee Studio

Over the course of 15+ years, Shannon has grown Blackcoffee Studio out of a love for building brands and reputations. She serves up Blackcoffee as a morning ritual while caffeinating clients and readers on the regular. You can find her at


Blackcoffee Studio

Blackcoffee is a premium brand development agency, offering luxury brand experience to clients at home in Calgary, Canada and around the globe. Brands create experience, set you apart from the competition and drive growth. Anyone can bulid a business but only the exceptional can create a brand. Are you ready?

Shannon Larkins

Shannon Larkins

Hi I’m Shannon, founder of Blackcoffee Studio. A former reporter, spin doctor and politico, I now focus on using my powers for good.

I create mighty brands for clients and share their stories with the world. I’m also rather addicted to my nutty family, dogs with pushed in faces, Mexico and of course coffee … black.