A key to successful engagement in public relations is to provide meaningful content that also takes into account the evolving habits, preferences and values of today’s multiple audiences. One useful way to define those audiences is to understand how members of each group have been influenced by the era in which they were born and raised, and how their experiences growing up have shaped their view of the world.
Identifying Generational Markers
While there is some debate as to the start and end dates of each generation, these are the generally accepted demarcations usually associated with each American age cohort:
- The Silent Generation or Traditionalists (born late-1920s through 1945)
- Baby Boomers (born 1946 through 1964)
- Gen-X (born 1965 through 1980)
- Gen-Y, or Millennials (born 1981 through 1993)
- Gen-Z, or Generation Next (born 1994 through 2004)
Winning Tactics for Communicating With Multigenerational Audiences Today
1. Understand your audience by demographic. Determining the gender, age, and other key characteristics of your core audience is the first step in building an effective campaign. By working with other departments within your organization, you should be able to construct a clear picture of your target market and be confident that you're proceeding in the right direction. Even a little research can go a long way when getting to know your audience.
2. Consider audience traits in shaping messages. Take, for instance, Gen-X and the gamification of communications via geo-location sites such as Foursquare—understanding the distinctive preferences and values of each group can help you form messages that are precisely aligned with each constituency.
3. Avoid unexamined assumptions about an audience’s preferred media channels. It’s risky to assume that all members of a generation would rather receive, say, an email instead of a phone call, even if their generation is perceived as preferring one over the other. Instead, begin to build your own library of research (including customer surveys and testimonials), which can be a more reliable guide to the preferences of your target audiences.
4. Identify the generations most responsive to calls to action. It may be that you are aiming a product promotion toward Gen-X, but it is really the Baby Boomers who are the most responsive. Rather than continue to push the brand on someone who isn't interested, recalibrate the campaign to focus on those who are listening and engaging.
5. Look beyond generalizations. While some Millenials, for example, seem to need more attention and praise than, say, members of the Silent Generation, there are always exceptions to the generalizations. Gen-Yer Kristin Piombino, editorial assistant for Ragan.com, challenges people to move beyond "millennial myths and stereotypes" in this article. "We don’t want you to treat us differently than anyone else in the office or look at us like we’re another species," she states. "We just want your respect, and a chance to prove ourselves."
Indeed, respect and being heard are really what any audience or person wants, regardless of generation or industry. Communications professionals who truly listen to their audience and view their constituents as individuals with specific needs—and not just another set of data—can enhance the conversation and foster engagement with important communities across multi-generations.
BurrellesLuce is the U.S. media content monitoring leader, providing curated, copyright-compliant content from local and national print (traditional and online), broadcast, video, proprietary online content, blogs and social media sources. Our comprehensive suite of affordable services is fully integrated in one convenient and easy-to-use portal, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™. BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™ gives you everything you need to organize and manage your media relations and public relations efforts.