Talkin’ Bout My Generation: Y Gen Y?

I’m an outspoken, attention-craving, authority challenger.

Hi, my name is Kate and I’m a Gen Y.

“Generation Y” refers to those individuals who were born somewhere between the mid-1970s to the early 2000’s. Ladies and gents, I fall into this category and want to share my thoughts on Gen Y’s and our role in the future of communications.

(Should we start with a little musical inspiration? I think yes) My Generation – The Who

I originally started writing this post because I was feeling a little bit defensive about Gen Y’s being stereotyped as brats in the workplace – outspoken, lacking in work ethic with tendencies to be attention-craving authority challengers. As a Gen Y myself, I’d like to think I’m a whole lot more than that – but I also realize we must humbly admit that we have a lot to learn. However, half-way through my original draft, I realized that when considered objectively, some of these seemingly negative characteristics actually work towards achieving communication goals.

For example:

  • As a PR practitioner and as a Gen Y, it’s in my blood to be outspoken – to say what I think (appropriately, of course). Being a little outspoken allows means we are unafraid to advocate on behalf of our clients, especially in the online world.
  • Alright, so maybe I crave attention but I feel this typical Gen Y need to feel important and unique blends into my work in PR.  In the same way that I enjoy doing it for myself, I feel fulfilled when I can share with others the unique personalities and qualities of my clients – especially when I can help them gain attention that goes beyond hype or curiosity. I’m interested in the art of resonating with consumers simply by being socially-driven; talking with them instead of talking at them. Social attention feels good :)
  • And lastly, about challenging authority: communicators who are dauntless when it comes to challenging the status quo provide their companies with fresh, objective opinions and ideas. Companies who fail to innovate are left in the proverbial dust.

Looking past the stereotypes, what else is there to know about Gen Y’s?:

  • Grew up with computers and the Internet. They are plugged-in 24/7 and digitally sophisticated.
  • The typical Gen Y values: independence and autonomy, challenging work, rewards/recognition, networking, continuous development of skills, work/life balance, new technology.
  • They are said to be: optimistic, globally connected, adaptive to change, entrepreneurial, creative, independent thinkers with a strong ability to multi-task.
  • Socially-driven with a strong desire for a sense of community.
  • According the Harvard Business Review, Gen Y’s account for 50% of the workforce.

The Future of Communications (and where Gen Y’s fit in):

First of all, we get that one-way, faceless messaging is dead. Gen Y’s have grown up in a world full of advertising hype, making us a rather skeptical bunch. As some form of Darwinist adaptation, Gen Y’s have developed a hype-filter that screens messages that seem untrustworthy or false. When communication has a hidden agenda, or is less than transparent, you’d better believe it will be noticed. Progressive companies have realized that the more authentic and transparent their motives and style, the more successful they are. Those who are socially conscious, connected, and careful to avoid faceless communication are forming stronger B2C relationships than ever before. (Think BestBuyIKEAGatorade, etc). Businesses, regardless of size or impact, who shy away from progressive communication are making a conscious decision to ignore what consumers really want – and likely, have always wanted: to be heard; to know who they’re doing business with; to feel comfortable and empowered to provide feedback. This is an exciting time for communications as social media has turned this once giant world into a new global village. Social media, in combination with a savvy Gen Y communicator who knows how to use it gives us the chance to better listen to our audiences, share our brand personalities (increase transparency) and provide opportunities for feedback.

As Comet Branding said in their great presentation on brand personalities, “Do you want to better connect with your customers? Then do it. The answer is pretty simple: people like people. Because of this, people like brands with personalities. And people like brands that treat customers like real people.” As communicators, Gen Y’s are interested in the human connection – we want to present our organizations transparently – the same way we want to interact with brands in our personal lives. In other words, the next communications revolution will reflect how we, as Gen Y’s communicate: with transparency, personality and creativity. Our need to share will transcend beyond our innate qualities and become not just an added bonus but a necessary element in communicating passionately, and with the true PR purpose of creating and maintaining relationships.

In summary…

The reality is that the current communications landscape requires nothing less than tech-savvy individuals who are familiar with modern communication methods. To be truly effective, communications require those who are passionate about sharing, connecting and building communities. Essentially, future communicators will need to be passionate about being social as well as have the technical skills to work that magic online. Since Gen Y’s have lived and breathed social interaction for pretty much our entire lives, this might very well be our time to shine as communicators. It’s not often we get to share wisdom with our elders but given the fact that we are furious digital innovators, I think it’s safe to say we can teach them a thing or two about modern communications.

So, I ask you not to disregard us loveable Gen Y’s but rather to look past the stereotype and think progressively. After all, Gen Y’s are the new communicators. Teach us and we’ll teach you.

@ you: How do you picture the future of communications? How do you see Gen Y’s fitting in?

Thank you to the following individuals for your helpful information:

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