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How to engage with Gen Z

Gen Z is the first generation considered to be true digital natives. So when it comes to engaging them, associations need an open mind and a willingness to do things differently.

A few months ago, I attended the 2019 ACE conference presented by the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE). The two-day conference was packed with insights from great speakers, but one particular keynote grabbed my attention. Twenty-year-old Alexia Hilbertidou, Founder of GirlBoss NZ, explained how to effectively engage the generation of people born from 1995 to 2005. Throughout her presentation, she posed questions about traits and other common assumptions about Gen Z and the audience had to vote for what they believed was the correct answer. The key takeaway? Gen Z is widely misunderstood by associations.

If 50% of Australian associations say their biggest challenge when engaging this generation is being able to create content that connects with a younger audience, it is crucial we begin to deeply understand what motivates and appeals to Gen Zers.

Here’s where you can start…


1. Refresh your branding

Many associations have had the same branding for more than 20 years. And chances are, it doesn’t appeal to Gen Z. It’s important that your association’s visual identity reflects each of your audience segments, from the youngest to longest-standing member. That doesn’t necessarily mean a complete rebrand. Your association can simply refresh its look by keeping the essence of the logo but making it more modern, and updating the colour palette, font and photography style. Making sure your branding looks fresh is a key element to remaining relevant to a younger audience.

2. Give them a role

Gen Zers want to feel like they are part of something big and they want to be useful. More importantly, they are ambitious individuals. When given the tools and the opportunity, they can be really helpful to your association and become strong advocates. Why not start with giving them a special role in your association? It will be beneficial for their resume and have a positive outcome for you. Win-win. Try these ideas:
Set up a young advisory group
Give them a special title like Brand Ambassador or Chief Instagrammer
Invite Gen Zers to give suggestions for events, content, or even membership strategies

3. Engage Gen Zers with Gen Zers and make it creative

Gen Z are the new generation of creatives and they are mobile-first storytellers. Visual storytelling is ‘their thing’ and their tools are video, Snapchat collages, AR lenses and emojis. To engage Gen Zers with content, it’s important to let them express that creativity and tell their own stories.

For example, an article authored by a late-career member on the art of networking will unlikely resonate with that audience. However, creating a video with a university student sharing how scary networking can be and giving practical tips to do it successfully would be a better option. The tone can be light and humorous, and the story will be relatable because it’s told by a peer.

Finally, don’t forget to create content that can easily be consumed on mobile including vertical video for Instagram Story or Snapchat.

4. Tell different stories

It’s time to think outside of the box in terms of the stories you tell. Gen Z are very focused on their career development but they also want to break out of the mould. How about highlighting people who have an alternative career path and have done amazing things in an unconventional way? Find the Greta Thunberg in your industry. In a period where the future of work is being reinvented, it’s a good opportunity to show Gen Z what their future career can look like and engage them with real stories.

Mahlab’s research partner, Ben Grill, explains why it is so important for associations to be asking questions of their members right now — and the best questions to ask.
Advice and insights from more than 100 leading Australian associations.
This research explores trends in member communications in Australia to reveal insights around the strategies and tactics that are driving membership and revenue growth.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia