There is a lot of information out there on millennials: how we behave and communicate, what we value, what motivates us, and countless articles with tips about how to interact with this generation in the workplace. One thing is for sure: at about 90 million strong, this generation is the largest in human history and will someday – extremely soon – make up the very vast majority of our institutions’ stakeholders, constituents, customers, staff members and supporters.
Millennials are often defined as folks born between around 1980 and 1995. “True Millennials” – those born between 1981 and 1989 who are included in every millennial definitional timeframe and make up a majority of existing millennial data – are at a critical age for the economy. They are between 23 and 31 years old with the youngest of them graduating college and developing the habits that will carry them through adulthood, and the oldest taking up leadership positions in organizations around the globe. These “kids” are not kids anymore; they are emerging as your primary audience, and understanding this demographic no longer means “preparing for the future.” The future is already upon us.
Qualitatively, I’m beginning to find that when I write an article or present a speaking engagement with the words “millennial” or “generation Y” in the title, the audience, attendees, and evangelists for these forums tend to be millennials themselves. Yes, we have a reputation of entitlement and believing we are important, but will organizations really wait for millennials to infiltrate the highest leadership positions before prioritizing engagement with this enormous audience? In other words, will generational turnover need to fully occur before certain nonprofit organizations pay attention to this demographic? If this is the case, than these organizations – and thus their worthy, social causes – will arrive too late to the “business solvency” game and risk becoming quickly irrelevant.
Here are five critical insights into the millennial mindset (and increasingly, the general public’s mindset) that should be integrated into an organization’s public relations strategy:
Millennials are public service motivated so right now it is cool to be kind. Nonprofits often have social missions, and now is the time to play that up and differentiate yourself from for-profit competition.
Members of Generation Y are increasingly sector agnostic; just being a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily give your organization a competitive boost in the “do good” category. With the rise of corporate social responsibility, and trust, transparency and communication reigning as general best business practices, for-profit companies are increasingly adopting “values” that have traditionally been associated (or hoped to be associated with) the nonprofit sector. If you’ve got a mission, flaunt it. Data suggests that it will help you maintain organizational solvency in the long run – both with millennials and with the evolving public at large.
The Experience Economy is an article written in 1998 by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore that describes the evolution of business economies. In it, Pine and Gilmore predict that the upcoming economy after the current service economy will be the experience economy: an economy wherein businesses must create memorable events for customers and the memory itself becomes the product. There are arguments and data to support that if this truly is the next economy, them the millennial mindset is spearheading it.
But the customer experience does not start and stop when a visitor walks through the door and into a visitor-serving organization. It starts long before (on social media, TripAdvisor, when they call your organization for directions or try to reach you on Twitter) and doesn’t end unless the visitor wants it to end at some point (you must be continually accessible on platforms to facilitate engagement even after the visit is over). For organizations that are successful in engaging millennials, these things will not be considered an “added bonus,” but a continual best practice. Consistent, personal interactionsare key to engaging this crowd.
There’s so much information out there and we only have so many hours in the day. A.O.A.D.D. was coined by Pew Research in regard to millennials, but this “disorder” is thought to be age defying. Millennials have been called “multi-tasking machines.” Keep this in mind when constructing your marketing message or even composing your Facebook statuses.
As we move to a more visual web, pictures may be key. The analytics firm, Simply Measured, found a 65% aggregate increase in engagement for pictures and videos posted on Facebook Pages. Why? Pictures don’t require a click or quick skim of dense content in order to be accessed.
Millennials came of age with social technology. The oldest of us had email in junior high school. Millennials don’t know very much of a world without computers, and data shows that we don’t have that “social media is making us all less connected” mentality that some members of older generations occasionally espouse. In fact, Millennials think technology offers them a way to actually grow closer to friends and family. In addition to the facts above, it’s been uncovered that:
- 33% of Millennials are more likely to buy a product if it has a Facebook Page compared to 17% of non-millennials.
- 43% of 18-24 year olds say texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.
- 47% of Millennials (versus 28% of members of other generations) say that their lives feel richer when they are connected to people through social media.
In other words, the connections that Millennials are making to brands and to one another online are real. Organizations will benefit by understanding this and taking it seriously.
Warholism is a term associated with millennials thanks to Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing. Warholism is “the unending quest for fame and the desire to attract attention by any means.” According to Wells, millennials are using social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to achieve stardom. The lesson for organizations looking to inspire engagement with millennials? Help them be famous. Let them participate. Allow them to have input. Let them be an active part of your marketing and PR plan.
In terms of current trends, a big part of this is knowing how to say thank you. Recently, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese individually thanked 4,800 fans who liked a Facebook status by listing each of them in a 6:42 minute song. Or take a lesson from AT&T who created 500 custom YouTube videos to thank its 2 million fans. Does your organization need to do something like this? Probably not. But allowing your evangelists to be a part of your presence is a good best practice for engaging millennials – and getting creative online usually helps.
*Note: This article was published in 2012. While these best practices hold true for engaging millennials, check out this millennial data round-up for additional information to fill out the conversation.