Strategy and trends

Don’t just see millennials as an audience — employ them. Here’s how.

Millennials are a bit Anakin Skywalker-ish these days. In some instances, they’re the Chosen Ones — crammed with clever ideas and dripping digital know-how. Other times, we accuse them of giving in to the dark side of laziness and entitlement.

Full disclosure: I myself am a millennial, just barely. A millennial elder, if you will.

Clearly, the decision-makers in the media industry are struggling to find out what they want. It’s certainly not print (except when it is), it’s certainly not real news (except when it is), and CERTAINLY not actual work (except that’s not true, either).

We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach this group. And some of us spend time trying to figure out how to get them to work for us.

What millennial wants to work for a stodgy old print company, anyway? Well, no one. Not unless we frame it the right way.

John Battelle — journalist, professor, author

In a blog post this week, John Battelle serves up some advice for companies looking to lure millennials to the table.

“To win talent, companies must compete on purpose, authenticity, and organizational structure. Millennials are now the largest force in the global economy, and they have a markedly different view of work: Purpose and “making a difference in the world” are central in their work-related decisions.”

You guys. That’s us.

Our work is filled with purpose — every day. We report on decisions made by local school boards that redirect the lives of thousands of students. Our investigative work reveals troubling weaknesses in the mental health field. We hold politicians accountable, demand transparency from policymakers, champion the neglected and abused.

Every good journalist I have ever known has a raging passion for her work. And every good journalist with experience can tell you about the one story she wrote that made a tangible difference for someone, some community.

If we’re going to recruit and retain this generation’s top talent, here are four things we need to do:

    1. Brag about our impact and accomplishments. Our work changes the world we live in, and we need to be vocal about it. Call attention to your enterprising projects — promote them, give them flashy design treatments. Follow up often, and take credit for prompting change. Potential hires need to know we are a catalyst for change.
    2. Play to this desire for creativity. Reporters should be pitching ideas, relying on new mediums to tell stories. They should incorporate photo and video, and a variety of digital tools in their work. Let applicants know that they will have the freedom to create.
    3. Be flexible when it comes to traditional work norms. There’s no need to have reporters tethered to an office. Commit the resources to put laptops and smartphones in their hands, and turn them loose. Let them work weird hours. Don’t bat an eye at their tattoos, piercings and blue hair.
    4. Be transparent about our digital prowess. Our “stodgy old” newsrooms are using some pretty legit technology. If your newsroom uses or another audience data platform to track metrics, explain it during the interview. Emphasize your commitment to video, and covering things live. Explain how you’re experimenting on new social platforms.

Our industry depends on many of the ideals millennials allegedly hold so dear. We need to make that apparent if we’re going to catch their attention.

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