How do we engage an audience who think everyone has let them down?


“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic and act as if the house was on fire” – Greta Thunberg

Arguably one of the loudest voices we are familiar with today on climate change, Greta Thunberg is nothing short of an emblem for young people in getting their message heard.

However, despite her rising notoriety and impressive ability to pursue opportunities to change policy and make a lasting difference to the environment, she is continually critiqued, often dismissed and negatively portrayed in many media circles. OK Boomers.

Sifting through the latest research papers, insight reports and data, as part of my Engaging Youth 2020 report preparation (shameless plug), I’ve found some interesting and some quite worrying things.

Yes, the impressive passion and commitment to changing the world for the greater good is still a strong theme among UK’s youth. But I’ve seen several things which are casting a shadow, here’s just a couple….

Generational Divide: increasingly I’ve found that young people feel older generations are not acting on things that matter and not acting on things that matter for their future. Growing up in austerity is starting to take its toll. From feeling that Brexit was an almighty **** up that they either didn’t have a voice on (let’s start the voters at 16 discussion soon) or that the older generations are voting in an entirely different way to them, both behind closed doors and in the media and wider politics, the generational divide is only going to become more apparent this year.

Mistrust, anger and cynicism: Whilst the Millennials were hopeless optimists, the realism for Gen Z and our maturing Alphas is that the world is a fragile place. From WW3 trending (thank you Donald), raging environmental challenges (every child knows Australia’s story) to the economic uncertainty, political absurdity and fake news in the UK, we have a youth audience that are facing a very different future and share quite a challenging present.

So how do we approach engaging with those audiences we have that are ‘young’. How can we better understand what platforms, content and message are likely to work and if we’re being really dreamy… can we do any of this to actually support them in whatever sphere we’re working in?

As part of getting the next Engaging Youth report ‘out there’ I’m also putting together Thread & Fable and Comms2point0’s ‘Youth Matters’ workshop, with your favourite Comms Pro, Darren Caveney. Last year we ran our first Youth Matters workshop in Birmingham and some in-house activities around the country too.

This year’s one is going to be ace (obviously). Not least because we know it’ll drive a lot of discussion, but we know teams will go on to apply it to their work and that’s the best bit.

And yes, we all feel about 97 when we think about Tik Tok. But when we begin to look at some of the challenges and trends around young people in the UK today, the channels they’re using, the content they’re engaging with and who’s really, really doing this well, we do start to see where our projects and campaigns can maybe make a difference or work a little more effectively.

Book Now: March 25th, Birmingham

Post originally written for Comms2point0