Why Telling Won’t Cut it with a Youth Audience

Originally written for the Amanda Coleman blog

Matt Hancock may be pleased he didn’t totally stumble through an interview this week but his narrative around young people “not giving the virus to their grandparents” felt as relatable as Gavin Williamson’s sympathy to A-level students. So, in a crisis when you need to engage a youth audience how do you do it?

One of the biggest failings of engaging youth audience is the lack of readiness to properly consult and engage young people to develop a message. A token image, quote or approval of a message simply won’t cut it. Working with young people to develop your message and inform how you’ll get it out is time well spent, particularly with messages deemed critical.

Having grown up in a time of austerity, single-issue politics in the UK (Brexit) and differences in the way they communicate with friends, family and with the news and wider society, their ecosystem is totally different to other audiences. Ignore this and you’ve failed before you’ve started.

The data surrounding physical and mental wellbeing, educational gaps, social inequalities, youth violence and life prospects as well as preferred content channels, trends and innovations can be overwhelming when wanting to ‘get it right’ with a youth audience.

So much of the narrative to youth audiences is from a ‘telling’ viewpoint. Young people are told that they are too young to vote, that they are ‘snowflakes’ for speaking out, ‘idealists not realists’ when they are passionate about a cause and have been on the frontline of the virus in terms of education, care, emotional and physical wellbeing and overall development.

I’ll be sharing some of the key themes from data leading into and during the pandemic and what crisis communications should consider when they want messages to land with young people at the Crisis Chat Webinar on 23 September 12noon BST to join me (for free) check out the link