Human Empathy Is One Of My Most Important API Outreach Tools
I am an empathic human being. It is one of my top strengths, as well as one of my top weaknesses. It is also one of the most important tools in my API toolbox. Being able to understand the API experience from the position of different people throughout the world of APIs is a cornerstone of the API Evangelist brand. Personally, I find APIs themselves to be empathy triggering, and something that has regularly forced me out of my silos, then allowing me t put myself in the shoes of my consumers. Something that when realized in a perpetual fashion can become a pretty powerful force for dialing in the services you offer, and establish, maintain, and strengthen connections with other people within the community.
Being able to listen to people in the hallways of conferences, and within the meeting rooms across enterprise, institutions, and government agencies, then internalize, process, and position my writing from what I learn from people is how I have written on API Evangelist for the last nine years. I rarely am positioning my narrative my own vantage point, or that of a company. Most of the time I am channeling someone I’ve met along the way, speaking from their perspective, and analyzing the world of APIs as they would see it. While I wish that the world always resembled my view of the API landscape, from experience I know better, and that there are many diverse ways of seeing the value or damage APIs are responsible for.
While API design, and the overall user experience around API service and tooling goes a long way to speak to end-users, I still think the human touch, and positioning our messaging from the vantage point of our consumers will have the greatest impact. Making a person connection will last much longer than any single blog post, advertisement, Tweet, image, video, or other common unit of engagement. Of course, what you gather from putting yourself in the shoes of your consumers should feed into all of these engagement areas, but ensuring they are rooted in the reality of consumers, possess the right amount of context, and speak in a personal tone will be critical to completing the empathic loop set into motion when talking with customers and conferences and within the companies, organizations, institutions, and government agencies where users work.
The downside of relying on empathy is it can be exhausting, and it is only something you can properly accomplish if you care, making it very challenging to scale. I think many people can be taught empathy, but some will never get it, and even fewer will be really good at it. Those who are best at it will burnout much quicker, and will need more careful oversight, as well as opportunities to recharge. However, if you can work to ensure your in-person evangelism approach is empathy centered, and you work to weave what you learn into your overall messaging, outreach, and engagement practices, it can make a serious impact. This type of outreach can’t be faked. It has to come from an honest place. Which can be hard to find depending on where you work, the type of environment that exists, as well as the industries you target. I know that many folks who read this will dismiss this as too simplistic, and not easily measured, but I know from experience it is the most important thing I can bring to the table when reaching out to my audience.