Does PR Need to Evolve for the Millennial Generation?

July 13, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer


Let’s face it, the new generation of workers and consumers (those born between 1980 and 2000) is different than their predecessors in some fundamental ways. Sure, every generation is different than their parents, but research shows that this one, the millennials, is even more distinct from their parents than their parents were from their grandparents. It makes sense. They are the first generation to have been raised in a world where the internet has always existed and answers to even complex questions are only a Google search away. They are connected electronically in a way that has profoundly changed the way they form relationships, make decisions, and view the world.

It would be naive to ignore the fact that they also interact differently with brands. Whether they are making a purchase decision for themselves, or as part of their job, they have a collective point of view that behooves PR professionals to try to understand.

They Have Incredible BS Detectors

This generation simply will not fall for marketing speak or slight of hand sales gimmicks. They will fact check you to death and tear apart any attempt to put lipstick on a pig. They value transparency and openness. Smart brands have ditched the buzzwords and corporate jargon of the past in favor of direct, honest and useful information.

You Must Earn their Attention

Steve Rubel of Edelman, spoke about how brands can gain authority in an age of digital information overload. “Attention now must be earned, not bought,” he said. “We used to think of brand trust as a necessary condition for believability. Now it is a necessary condition to be heard at all. Marketers are spending more time thinking about how they can be authentic and add meaning to their marketing, and less on how to ‘break through’ with a message.

Simon Rich, one of America’s most celebrated young comic writers, explained to The Telegraph, “There’s a tendency to accuse millennials of having shorter attention spans. I just think we have better stuff to look at. Of course everyone had long attention spans when their only option was to listen to Homer recite his epic poem.” 

They Rely on the Kindness of Strangers

A recent study by Bazaarvoice found that 51% of millennials trusted strangers' comments and reviews online more than friends and family. While at first this might sound like a nightmare for PR professionals, it doesn’t need to be a bad thing at all. It simply means that brands must have a clear influencer relations strategy, and that they must find a way to turn customers into advocates.

They Care Deeply about Community

Another study found that almost 70% of millennials say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities. This is a valuable clue about the mind of the millennial. Brands should embrace the opportunity to help their audience find ways to connect with the community and support the greater good.

NPR did a great story on marketing to millennials and I think one quote sums up exactly how PR needs to change to address this generation. “Honestly, If I could say anything, it'd be this: Entertain me, make me happy, capture my attention, speak to my conscience, and then leave me the heck alone." - Antonus Siler, 34.


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