As a communications professional, it's your job to know when, how and where to engage with specific segments of the population that your brand or organization wants to reach. One of these segments—the millennials, those born (roughly) between 1980 and 2000—is the target of much of the industry's attention, as this generation gains influence and buying power each day.
Millennials have become one of the largest projection screens in our culture. They are consistently characterized as the group most affected by our society's collectively shortened attention spans. The popularity of social media among millennials—and the comfort with which they use it—has conditioned many communicators to think that the best way to engage with them is through short, catchy, Web-based messages.
A new study from the Pew Research Center debunks this portrayal of millennials on two important counts.
According to the study, 67% of respondents ages 16 to 29 read a book at least once a week, considerably more than the 58% of adults ages 30 and older who do so. Likewise, 43% of the younger group reads a book daily or almost daily, compared with 40% of the older group.
As for the characterization of the Internet-obsessed millennial, the study finds that 62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the Internet." Only 53% of older Americans agree with that statement. What's more, library usage among millennials is similar to older generations, with 50% of those ages 16 to 29 saying that they've used a library in the past year.
What do these findings mean for PR managers? Certainly, the picture of a millennial reading a book is different from the glued-to-the-phone version we've come to accept. And the hint that this group knows that there is more to life than the Internet is encouraging for brands that want more than 140 characters to communicate their value proposition.
For PR pros, it's time to challenge the conventional wisdom when it comes to reaching millennials. Failing to do so comes with a risk of irrelevance.
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene