Millennials Unplugged — PRSA Georgia Leadership Session

Posted by: in Insights, Millennials Unplugged, Thinking Creatively on October 26, 2016

Recently, Brittany and myself had the opportunity to address the PRSA Georgia Leader Board and the Young Professionals Special Interest Group in a dinner at South City Kitchen in Buckhead.  The subject was “Talkin Bout My Generation: Surprising Truths about Millennials”.

Brittany gave most of the insights in this presentation.  Here is a summary of what she said:

Documenting our daily lives – Although the popularity of Snapchat is constantly increasing, the question of “Why Snapchat over other social platforms?” remains. Through a millennial’s perspective, Brittany explained that Snapchat serves as the greatest hits of the day. It allows us to track everything we do throughout the day and see what our friends are doing throughout the day. From there, our favorite photos are saved and posted to other channels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For millennials, Snapchat is in the moment. Facebook is like a scrapbook. Brittany said millennials also use Snapchat as a quick and entertaining distraction, whether it be to post a story, read interactive articles from media outlets like CNN or ESPN, watch Snapchat live, or send a quick message to a friend. But why send messages on Snapchat when texting still seems quicker and easier? Simple. Snapchat allows for both verbal and nonverbal communication, making a text one step closer to meeting face-to-face.

The definition of a friend – Bob adheres to the notion that if we’ve met and had a conversation, we can be friends on Facebook. Brittany explained this is not the case for most millennials. The standards are the same, but how they approach it is different. Similar to how you talk to someone in person and find common interests, millennials do the same, but online. And they’re comfortable with the same result. For example, when Brittany decides to accept/decline a friend on Facebook, she will look at number of mutual friends, what their interests are, what school they go to, what they’re posting, and any other available information. In doing so, millennials have the same result as a face-to-face conversation. With so many friends, millennials have more reach and are at an advantage for larger networking.

Entertainment habits – At the end of the day when Bob wants to relax, he’ll get comfortable on the couch and watch a movie or TV show, whereas millennials watch content whenever and wherever they go. Brittany explained there’s two different things driving millennials in terms of content: mobile and the moment. Millennials are constantly on their phones and constantly have free moments. Brittany gave an example that if she were waiting at the gate for her flight, she might play angry birds, watch videos on Facebook, or watch a quick episode of Friends on Netflix. Basically if millennials have free time, they’re going to entertain themselves and not wait until they get home to watch a movie. But when millennials do sit down to watch something, no matter what is on the big screen, something is competing against it for our attention on the small screen.

From “Call of Duty” to “Duty Calls” – Many of us grew up playing outside with tangible objects and couldn’t imagine growing up any other way. So Bob asked Brittany why do millennials play video games so much? Why not go outside more and shoot some baskets or throw a baseball? The answer is simple. In our world, machines are part of our life. Whether some form of robot or a machine asking us what to do, it’s not any different than how we’ve been playing video games forever. Growing up in a virtual world allows us to acquire certain skills from video games that we can apply later on. Some of Brittany’s friends love to fly drones and create videos for fun. They could soon be operating drones for a business and flying them over crops for fertilization.

Trusting Brands – Having been brought up in an era when big brands were icons, Bob still remembers the Coca-Cola ad, “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” Do millennials experience loyalty to brands? Do they trust brands? In order to please a millennial, advertisements must be real and relevant. Brittany said millennials really dislike when ads pop out at them. On the other hand, Brittany gave an example of an ad millennials do like. At the hotel that morning when Brittany was taking a Snapchat of her breakfast and swiped through the filters to find a Starbucks filter, it let her know Starbucks was one floor upstairs. Now that is relevant. With so many ads and such short attention spans, millennials are also more likely to pay attention to advertisements that pertain to them in the moment.

Entrepreneurship – Millennials were expected to start businesses at a faster rate than any previous generation…yet they haven’t. Brittany listed three reasons why.

  1. We’re smart enough to know we need experience
  2. We have more student loan debt than ever before
  3. No guarantee that when we graduate, we will have the right job…or a job

It’s not that millennials are any less entrepreneurial, but structural economic challenges are getting in the way. So, we have all this great talent inside companies today…. what if we unlocked it?  It’s a great opportunity for today’s leading brands.

Game churning is a warning to brands – When Bob was younger, if he bought a game, he would learn it, play it, and commit to it. Although with the variety of games, apps, and game consoles available today, it’s impossible to pick a game to play…so millennials usually hop on the bandwagon and play whatever their friends are playing. The actual brand name is much less important. Brittany said millennial’s loyalty is to the quality of the game, our friends, and a good experience with the game.

Giving back – As active participants in civic and philanthropic organizations, Bob claimed his generation sees much more “slacktivism” from millennials. The truth is, millennials care just as much, but are more likely to go online – not in person – to voice their support. Brittany explained millennials are actually learning about philanthropy from the time they first use a device. Maybe this will lead millennials to be more interested and involved later on in life when they actually do have the money and time to contribute.

Overall, I want to point out how wonderful it is that the PRSA Georgia Leadership team reaches out and helps to guide and nurture the careers of young professionals in Georgia.  This chapter is a national example of how to “do it right”.  Thank you to Alison Ilg, Elyse Hammett, Denise Grant and the rest of the leaders who are helping build the future leaders of communications.

Best, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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