As a communicator, understanding your audience is key to implementing a successful plan. We all know the basics of researching audience demographics, the communication tools they use and how their job, colleagues, community and media influences a message. But what about the generation they come from? This can be useful data when trying to figure out what messages resonate and how best to send out communications.
First things first, what generation category does your audience fall into? We have four generations in the workforce although the Veteran generation is only three per cent of Canada’s labour force and Generation Z is not too far from entering the labour force with serious numbers. Is your audience a mix of generations? Or are you targeting just one? What is your dominant generation if you have one? How does that influence communication strategy? Each generation has a preference for the types of communication they receive and how they receive it and this has an impact on the tools and messages you choose.
The biggest cultural influences for a generation happen between the ages of 11 and 17. These influences shape who a person is… and who they will become. Think about…
- What was it like for your audience growing up? Were they focused locally, globally or somewhere in between? How did they learn? How did they interact? How did they play? Did they use paper, technology or both? Think about how they connected to the world and the people around them and how friends and family may have shaped their beliefs and ideals.
- What was pop culture like at the time? What were they watching on TV? What kind of music were they listening to? What did they wear? The external world has a big influence on what the acceptable norms are for each generation, including language and social interaction. Relationships with family, friends and society and what a generation experienced while growing up shapes how they communicate.
- What were some defining moments? What were the big world events? What did politics look like? What was on the news? Even though major events have an impact on almost every generation regardless of age, they have the strongest impact on youth and shape how they view the world and their place within it.
- What is their experience with work? We have seen the ups and downs in the economy and each generation has felt the impact. Think about how today’s economy is impacting each generation and how their past work experience (if they have any) will help them navigate through it. Also consider how five generations in the workforce impact a company’s culture. What are the assets and liabilities each generation brings that holds back or moves a company forward?
Remember, what has influenced a generation is only one piece of data. People are like icebergs, you only see what’s above the surface like actions and behaviours, but there is whole lot underneath like beliefs and experience. We all want the same thing – to be respected for who we are as individuals and what we can offer to the world.
Jolene Ondrik is the Chief Culture Officer of Eye on Culture Inc. – a company focus on strategic communications, team and leader development and inspiring employees and stakeholders – and is co-director of Career Services with IABC Calgary’s Board.