Technology

Using PR to Reach Gen Z

As more and more members of Generation Z continue to enter adulthood, this generation adds its distinct perspective to public discourse, joins the marketplace, and helps shape marketing strategies. Public relations and other communications professionals need to keep up to connect with them effectively.

But who is Gen Z, and how can we reach them best? The secret lies in understanding their unique characteristics and developing PR communications strategies with them in mind.

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z (aka the “Zoomers”) is comprised of people who were born approximately between 1997 and 2010. This generation is between that of Millennials and the new kids on the block — Generation Alpha — and their parents are usually members of either Generation X or older Millennials.

So, from a communications standpoint, what do these demographics mean for marketing? One of the most notable things about Gen Z is that they were the first generation to grow up with widespread access to the Internet, smartphones, and social media. They also tend to spend a lot of time on these platforms.

To Reach Gen Z, Stay on Top of Social Media Trends

Studies show Gen Z spends more time on social media than the American adult population on average. In one survey, 54 percent of Gen Z respondents said they spend four or more hours on social media every day, and only four percent say they use it for less than one hour per day.

Members of Gen Z also tend to spread their attention across different platforms. According to another survey, over 80 percent of American Zoomers watch YouTube on a monthly basis, and the same amount visit TikTok and Instagram. In case you’re worried that Facebook is fading away with this demographic, more than half of Gen Z still use it.

Since Gen Z is made up of digital natives, they tend to engage more with quick, funny, engaging content from brands. In general, they boost posts that allude to popular culture and participate in viral trends. They also like posts that demonstrate authenticity — those that show the realities of people and organizations behind the scenes. To reach these users, marketers and PR professionals need to stay on or ahead of these curves.

To Reach Gen Z, Prioritize Corporate Social Responsibility

As a McKinsey & Company report explains, “Young people today have come of age in the shadow of climate doom, pandemic lockdowns, and fears of economic collapse.” In consequence, many members of Gen Z want to help forestall climate change and move the needle further toward equality. To cite McKinsey again: “More than any other generation, Gen Z collectively demands purpose and accountability, the creation of more opportunities for people of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, and rigorous sustainable and green practices.” 

Gen Z is therefore deeply concerned about what big corporations are doing when it comes to climate change, wage gaps, and political donations. Research shows that Gen Z prefers businesses that demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with over 90 percent of respondents reporting not only strong feelings, but also a willingness to hold companies accountable.

As to how they hold these companies accountable, the short answer is by doing their homework. Members of Gen Z are quick to look claims up on their smartphones to double-check their veracity. This is not to say Gen Z tries to catch people out on lies — that’s not their intention — they’re just the first generation to have the resources to hold every person or company in the media to a certain standard. If that isn’t met, they will let you know.

In short, to win their support, your company has to help the world, not hurt it, and words about CSR need to be accompanied by corresponding actions. 

To Reach Gen Z, Don’t Perpetuate Bias

Given Gen Z’s sensibilities, brands also can’t afford to continue trading in outdated stereotypes and discriminatory messages. These risk marginalizing your brand to only the small percentage of Gen Z that continues to adhere to conventional ideologies of previous periods.

In particular, the women of Gen Z are finding their voices. For example, many no longer automatically blame the woman during public controversies. Consider the breakup of actress Sofie Turner and musician Joe Jonas. While Jonas’ team tried to paint Turner as a party girl who isn’t involved with her kids, Gen Z users took to the Internet, dug up videos that contradicted that portrayal, and took this story down with a few TikTok videos. As a result of the subsequent backlash, Jonas needed to distance himself from these previous claims.

Brands should keep this climate in mind while developing their messaging. When promoting weight-loss products, for instance, make sure to stay body-positive, and be conscious of any kind of nepotism to avoid embarrassment. Don’t promote a millionaire as self-made if they actually come from wealthy parents! 

If you want to position your brand as promoting equality, make sure to check what political donations it has made. If these aren’t in alignment with the Gen Z audience you’re trying to reach, they can make your brand’s marketing look disingenuous.

An Emerging Force for Good

Gen Z stands for the environment, equality, and humanity. They are a massive force on social media and in consumer markets, as well as for elections. As more and more of them enter adulthood, their influence will continue to grow.

Brands need to consider Gen Z in their marketing and PR strategies or risk being ineffective, embarrassed, or even exposed. To win this generation over, communications professionals will need to rethink business as usual.

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