Apr 11, 2024 - Business

Public relations strategies for reaching Gen Z

Illustration of a person looking at a phone with a digital cloud coming from the screen and covering his eyes.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

To reach younger audiences, brands and public figures are going direct through visual communications — like short-form video — and engaging with subject matter experts or trusted influencers across social, digital and audio platforms.

Why it matters: Young people aren't consuming news in a traditional way, which is flipping the public relations field on its head.

By the numbers: Three-fourths of Gen Z, millennials and Gen X use social media to find news, compared to only 44% of baby boomers, according to a recent Harris Poll study.

  • The most popular platforms for news gathering among Gen Z include Instagram (71%), YouTube (69%), TikTok (65%) and Facebook (51%).
  • Only 44% of Gen Z report consuming news on X and 22% on LinkedIn.

Younger audiences are also more likely to follow specific journalists than they are news organizations, according to dozens of Gen Z news consumers Axios spoke with.

  • "Modern journalists are creators too," Jordan Alperin, associate creative strategist at Day One Agency, told Axios. "They have a presence on social media and have branded themselves as experts that we can relate to and trust, which is why we will follow them beyond just the stories they write."

Zoom in: Publications are investing in alternative ways to report news — like audio recordings including podcasts, explainer videos and glossy visuals — and are requesting digital assets from PR professionals to accompany the news stories.

  • "We do a lot of newsroom creation to help the editors tell their stories, because frankly, many of the newsrooms today don't have the time or resources," Day One Agency co-founder and CEO Josh Rosenberg says. "So for us, in order to tell the best stories, we create the best visual assets and pass them along."

What they're saying: Emily Blair Marcus, the 26-year old CEO and founder of PR firm Emily Blair Media (EBM), is best known for helping young creators and influencers extend their 15 minutes of fame through long-tail communication strategies.

  • "Owned and social platforms still remain super important for building a following, but you need traditional media to keep the momentum and give you credibility in certain circles," she told Axios.
  • "And while mainstream recognition will always be really exciting, many of our clients now recognize and understand the power of more niche media opportunities. And at the end of the day, young audiences won't see most of the coverage unless it's included in a TikTok or listed in your Instagram bio."

Yes, but: Partnering with creators, influencers or celebrities can be a risk for brands and these decisions cannot be made in a vacuum.

  • "Brand safety is something that's on all of our minds, so we work really closely with corporate affairs, communications and legal," Rosenberg says. "The social media landscape moves fast and in order to keep up and protect the brand, you've got to get everyone on the same page."

What to watch: The comment sections across social media need monitoring.

  • Young social media consumers are inherently skeptical of what they are seeing online and treat the comment section like their source of truth or footnotes.
  • In response, brands are increasingly showing up in the comments to engage with users, set the record straight or steer them toward their own page or content.

Go deeper: How Gen Z gets news

Go deeper