By Ebonie Johnson Cooper
I love talking about millennials. As a millennial myself, I enjoy dispelling myths about my generation and educating the masses about how to better relate to and engage with us. As I previously shared here on the RaceTalk blog, millennials are defined as individuals born between approximately 1980 and 1994 and encompass the largest generation since the baby boomers. And the size of our age group isn’t the only thing that defines us as unique. We are also the most ethnically diverse – and contrary to popular belief, we do not all act the same. For these reasons alone, many organizations are challenged with how to effectively communicate with millennials. I had the opportunity to share five millennial communications tips at the National Press Club’s Communicator Breakfast series last week, which included the following:
#1. Be Authentic.
There’s nothing millennials hate more than being lied to by brands and the news. Elite Daily reports that 43 percent of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. Millennials want to know that brands, and the experience expected when interacting with the brand, are what they promise to be. Millennials rely on the recommendations of their peers in decision-making, and 7 in 10 millennials think sharing experiences – good or bad – with brands is important. Therefore, there is a golden opportunity to establish relationships with millennials and make them brand ambassadors. If you are loyal to us, we will be loyal to you.
#2. Meet Them Where They Are.
Where are millennials? According to the American Press Institute, 88 percent of millennials get their news from Facebook. Facebook is also the number one social network that influences millennial spending habits. As a peer-motivated generation, millennials flock to Facebook because that’s where our friends are. But remember when I said we’re diverse? With the explosion of “black Twitter,” it’s no surprise Pew Research Center reports that 40 percent of African Americans aged 18-29 are, in fact, on Twitter. No matter how communicators are looking to reach millennials, understanding there is no one “millennial social media strategy” is a must.
#3. Your Giving Matters to Millennials
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you currently collaborate with one or more millennials in your workplace. The chances are even greater that you’re interviewing millennials for open positions at your organization. So what motivates millennials in their professional lives? Seventy five percent of millennials find their company’s giving important, and volunteering is the number one cause-related program millennials want to see. This demonstrates millennials’ belief that company philanthropy highly influences their work experience. In fact, millennials’ decision to work at a company is often based on the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. This also applies to brands looking to engage millennials as customers or ambassadors. As much as we want to work for organizations that value giving, we also want to know that the brands we buy and the causes we support are giving back to a greater good.
#4. Let Millennials Lead
Here’s the thing: Millennials don’t want you to hold their hands – they want their hands free so they can lead. I get this may be scary because the assumption is that we’re young and we can’t possibly know how to lead, but au contraire. We lead well, especially with others. Fast Company suggested creating opportunities for mentorship, skills acquisition and co-leadership as a way to retain millennial skill sets. I couldn’t agree more. This type of work establishes two-way learning, intergenerational collaborations and increases cross-functional engagement. This also applies to effectively engaging with us around your brands and campaigns. Focus group our feedback. Let us lead hyper-local initiatives to bring your messages to our community. We want to be involved!
#5. Be a Mentor. Don’t be a Boss
Before you think this is impossible, hear me out. The assumption among many is that millennials don’t want any help, but the opposite couldn’t be truer. Believe it or not, millennials want guidance. We especially want advice and counsel when managers demonstrate they are invested in our skills development. Creating a space for learning AND development opens the door for organic and meaningful communication between millennials and our managers.
Generally speaking, millennials get a bad rap. A few bad apples have seemed to taint the entire generational barrel. But I challenge you, just as I challenged the Press Club audience, give us a chance. As one MCON respondent said, “Stop trying to figure out Millennials and just include them.” Communication, as we all know, is best done when it is a two-way street. If we all work together to close the communication gaps that exist, we’ll all be one step closer to stronger intergenerational ties, better communities, and happier workplaces.