Views: How Gen Z consumes news and what it means for PR

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In a world where information is just a swipe away, the way younger generations consume news has undergone a dramatic shift, writes Alex Wiltshire. Gone are the days when families gathered around the television to watch the evening news or flipped through the pages of a morning newspaper. Today’s Gen Z have grown up in a digital age where social media platforms reign supreme and news consumption is a 24/7, on-demand experience.

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For public relations practitioners, understanding and adapting to these changing habits is crucial for effectively reaching and engaging Gen Z audiences. A recent report funded by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Research Fund and authored by Rebecca Roberts sheds light on Gen Z’s unique news consumption habits and offers valuable insights for PR professionals.

Start with social media

One of the most striking findings is that Gen Z’s news consumption is primarily driven by a “social media first” journey. A staggering 83 per cent of 16-24 year-olds consume news online. Of that, 71 per cent is driven by social media platforms. That’s a wake-up call for the industry. When crafting and disseminating news media content, it’s time to put social media at the forefront of strategy if you want to meet Gen Z where they’re already scrolling and tapping.

Authenticity is key

Having a presence on socials is just the beginning. In times bygone, Millennials were drawn to the polished veneer of traditional media and reality TV. Now, Gen Z demands something different. Authentic, raw, and genuine content that tells a human story. Gen Z want to feel a connection. To be moved by something real. In fact, OK Cool’s 2023 TikTok report found that a staggering 80 per cent of TikTok users prefer raw, unfiltered content over a polished equivalent. 

Hit the audio button 

Podcasts are also a new frontier for reaching Gen Z. 66 per cent of Gen Z tune into podcasts to stay in the loop on the latest news, while 61 per cent use them as their go-to source on pressing social issues. This provides a golden opportunity for PR pros to tap into the power of audio and connect with younger audiences on a deeper level.

Think about it: podcasts are like having a personal conversation with your audience, allowing you to build trust and loyalty in a way that other shorter-form mediums just can’t match. And with more than a third of Gen Z plugging into podcasts every single month, it’s clear that this is a channel that can’t be ignored.

How can practitioners make their mark in the world of podcasts? Create content that is engaging, informative, and most importantly, authentic. Partner with established podcasts that share your brand’s values and resonate with Gen Z audiences. By embracing the power of audio, you’ll be able to effectively communicate your message and build a genuine connection with this influential generation.

Align your values

In addition to leveraging social media and podcasts, PR practitioners should also consider the tone and style of their communications. Gen Z values authenticity, transparency, and social responsibility. They are more likely to engage with brands that take a stand on important issues and demonstrate a commitment to making a positive impact. PR professionals should aim to create content that not only informs but also inspires and aligns with the values of a generation more socially conscious than ever.

Navigating new landscapes

As the media landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, PR practitioners cannot afford to be left behind. To stay relevant and effective, we must keep our finger on the pulse of Gen Z’s media habits and preferences. 

By adapting strategies to meet the unique needs and expectations of Gen Z, organisations will be able to build meaningful connections and drive engagement that truly resonates. Remember, this is a generation that values authenticity, transparency, and social responsibility above all else. They want to engage with brands that stand for something, that aren’t afraid to be raw and authentic.

So, don’t be afraid to take risks, to experiment with new platforms and formats. The key is to stay agile, to keep learning and evolving alongside your audience. Because in today’s digital world, the only constant is change. And the PR professionals who thrive will be those who aren’t just keeping up, but who are staying one step ahead.

Alex Wiltshire is public relations and policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).