Thursday, August 11, 2011

Advocacy Tips: Capturing the Attention of the All-Important Youngster Demographic

I recently attended a conference about professional speaking, and as I was listening to speakers speak about speaking (confusing, I know), a resounding theme seemed to pop up: it’s time to start appealing to a younger audience, aka the Millennials or Generation Y. To offer an extremely loose and clich├ęd definition, Millennials are those individuals born between 1980 and now, and they tend to be technologically savvy, media junkies, and a crazy combination of easily-distracted multitaskers (I’m definitely guilty of the last one). When they’re not busy getting distracted by shiny things (guilty again), the truth is these young adults are quickly dominating the market, the workforce, and even politics. So how does anyone trying to sell their message, whether a professional speaker, a grassroots campaign manager, or an advocate meeting with those super-young staffers on the Hill, appeal to their sensibilities? Here are a few thoughts:

  •  Millennials enjoy multiple stimuli. Millennials can watch the news, check their Facebook, play Angry Birds, tweet about playing Angry Birds, and listen to music all at the same time. And while it’s true that everyone has more information flooding their brains from various sources compared to a decade ago, Millennials are generally more active about seeking it out. This inevitably causes them to filter the information they take in (as impressive as it would be, they don’t actually retain every tweet they read). So with these subconscious filtration systems set in place, what ends up standing out? How do you get them to remember you and your message? One of the answers is repetition from multiple platforms. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, a blog, and interconnect them whenever possible. If you write a blog entry, tweet and post a status update about it. Tweet your Action Alert multiple times throughout the day using slightly different messaging each time. Don’t just give that twenty-something Hill staffer your business card; make sure they have access to all of these additional resources.
  •  QR codes are the next big thing. I’m willing to bet my future puppy on it, and anyone who knows me knows that’s a big deal. Not only are QR codes the next big thing, but they have “Millennial” written all over them (I assume you know I don’t mean that literally). For those of you that aren’t in on this growing fad, QR codes are those funny-looking black and white boxes that you scan with a smartphone app and a website pops up (like magic!). They are free to create on websites like and; simply enter in the website you want to pop up when people scan your QR code, hit go, and BAM, a custom code shows up on the screen. Now just start plastering it on all of your business cards, one-pagers, advertisements (tattoo it on your body, create custom jewelry out of it, shave it on your head..), and you’ll not only share your resources more effectively but you’ll also be super hip.
  •  Be entertaining and engaging. Just because you are in a one-on-one meeting with a young Hill staffer doesn’t mean you have their undivided attention or that they agree with what you are saying. When you’re speaking to a younger audience it becomes more important than ever to find ways to catch and keep their attention, make creative and compelling arguments, and truly engage them with your message. Once you’ve done that, just hand over your QR code-embellished business card and you will be so in. 

1 comment:

Andrew M said...

Great tips for reaching Millennials! I also venture to add that this demographic expects to have a voice at the table regardless of their age, title, or experience level. Your point about engagement really speaks to that - ask people to join a conversation and really listen to what they have to say. Generation Y definitely wants to be heard.