Are Millennials, the 18 to 33-year-olds who have grown up with social media and digital devices imprinted on their palms, impermeable to traditional media?
A Social Media Week event I judged late last year called "The Pitch" made me wonder. But I'm convinced traditional media still has a pivotal role to play in how we communicate to younger generations.
Organized by Cision and sponsored by Umbra, Humber and Centennial College, public relations grads vied to win top honours in a PR campaign pitch competition. The challenge? Umbra's launching a new product called "Instapic," a 4x4 frame designed to complement the popular Instagram pictures everyone now takes. Competing teams had to convince mobile phone photographers to put down their phones and both print out and frame their pictures--no easy task in our increasingly digital world.
Not only did the teams have to develop and present a winning pitch, but they had just 45 minutes to build an entire communications plan. Then they had just 10 minutes to present it to all four judges and an enthusiastic audience gathered at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto.
Members of Team Humber included Amanda Bankes (@AmandaBankes), Sonya Furdyk (@Sonyapedia), Alyssa Acorn (@alyssaacorn) and Allison Goodman (@ali_fojla_ann). Their campaign objective was to increase sales during the Christmas season, and they chose a social media strategy to connect with their target audience. They came up with plenty of creative tactics like pop-up shops, hashtags and online stores.
Team Centennial consisted of Nadalie Bardowell (@nadsblah), Tasneem Dasoo (@dasootas), William Sommerville (@Som_Will) and Megan Hawkins (@MHawk100). Their inspired communications plan connected with Millennials by partnering with the 2014 MuchMusic Video Awards show (MMVAs). Their pitch included several planned PR events at the MMVAs, all designed to generate awareness around Umbra's new product.
I was amazed at the strategic and creative ideas both teams came up with in just 45 minutes, but team Centennial was this year's big winner. I was particularly impressed with their use of social media and a strategic partnership.
However, there was one thing I struggled with: both teams identified exciting and creative social media and promotional activities to sell the Instapic, but both teams barely mentioned traditional media.
There were no media storylines, no lists of journalists to target, no discussion around geographic or language focus, no plan to send product samples to media and no mention of campaign evaluation metrics. In fact, traditional media was barely a passing reference.
Here's why I think that happened: Traditional media stories (in newspapers and magazines or on the radio or TV), don't appeal to Millennials the way they do to older generations. Millennials aren't known for flipping through the pages of their favourite magazine, and they don't sit in front of the TV waiting for their favourite show to come on. When they do watch TV, it's "on demand," and you can bet they're fast-forwarding the ads or texting, talking to or tweeting their friends while they're on.
All this, of course, makes it understandable that when Humber and Centennial students were asked to promote a product, social media made the most sense to them.
But guess what? Millennials, like the rest of us, want a compelling story. Social media might be the first place they hear about a new product or brand, but they still want to know why they need it. And that can only really happen with an engaging, entertaining and honest storyline - a cornerstone of traditional media campaigns.
In fact I'd argue that, no matter which social media channel Millennials are into now or six months from now, integrating a compelling story via traditional media into every social media campaign is, and will continue to be, the best way to reach Millennials and get them on-board with your brand.