If I stated, “the weather’s changeable” you’d probably accept it without challenge, as every day the weather changes. If I asked you to find two snow flakes exactly the same, you would probably agree that’s an impossible challenge. However, if I told you that ScreenAgers know more about digital, media and social and than you (or me) I expect you would, in the politest way possible, move on and find something wholly more agreeable to your views. We have to learn to overcome our inbuilt and significant preference for news that plays to our fears (TED talk) and views that confer with our own views and opinions (Obliquity); we have to think outside of our comfort zone. ScreenAgers don’t have our old models to hang onto; it is worth seeing where they are going, so we can tag along.

Yes, there are new rules for engaging in a digital world that build on the social ones handed down from previous generations (33 new digital rules); but generally the digital age in which we live is creating change. This digital age is making things faster (PEW) and there may well be just too much information (Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice).  How we are dealing with it is widely debated (Nicholas Carr), and some business models and indeed businesses are being cast aside, think Encyclopaedia Britannica and Kodak this year. There are some very contentious issues that we love to debate: privacy, trust, identity and reputation management are the obvious ones that cross marketing, PR, brand, technology, law, regulation and economic boundaries.

Whilst we sit about debating our own personal views, the ScreenAgers are a group of savvy young communicators who have jumped into the fast flowing digital stream and learnt to swim. While they perfect their techniques, we are still deciding if it is safe, if the water’s the right temperature, how deep it is, if we’re insured, what to wear, who’s already in, what the risk is, and who will teach us about this unknown!

Given this change, what is the ScreenAger’s view on branding and trust and what can we learn from them?  Some primary research was undertaken in Q4 2011 by ScreenAgers Trust Model; and the output is quite uncomfortable for hard line traditionalists who still hang onto their management theory from a 1990s MBA. Even the father of corporate strategy, Michael Porter accepts he was wrong about profit being a primary driver (HBR) and his value chain ideal has been tossed into the bin (HBR).

Our findings suggest that ScreenAgers understand privacy and they understand brands. ScreenAgers ‘get’ that they are the product, and advertisers are the customer of their free services. In terms of trust, they have an expectation that brands will exploit their data, and indeed expect them to do so, if they want the brand’s free services and personalisation. However, their willingness to share (share infographic) about goods, services and products is built on trust (45%) and experience of the brand (35%).

The survey looked at what ScreenAgers trust, and the results showed that they understand the balance of what data should and can be collected.  They have expectations of who should get what data; and as regards analysing data and creating value from data for personalisation or customisation, they have strong views on who is good at it, and who is not.

So the message from this research appears to be that there needs to be clear alignment between brand promise and brand delivery, if you expect ScreenAgers to share with you and share your message. A refreshingly honest lesson for PR consultants to think about.




On Thursday 3rd November, we attended a mashup* event about effective public relations with “screenagers”.

Screenagers, generation Y, millenials, digital natives…this group of savvy young communicators have been given all sorts of catchy titles. In short, these are the people who know more about social media than media, more about social networking than networking.

One of the presentations, from a pre-university student, Eleanor Berney to a room full of media and marketing professionals largely in their 20s, 30s and 40s, summed up one of the key topics of the discussion: should we teach screenagers, or should we learn from them?

Certainly, as PR consultants, effective communications with different audiences is our most important tool. These are our top five take-outs for future success.

1. Social media is never anti-social

As social media is the ultimate way of connecting, sharing and consuming, it should be incorporated into all experiences. For the screenagers, what’s anti-social is to not constantly communicate. Tweeting during conversations with friends and Facebooking pictures throughout an event is a way of life and ultra (not anti) social. This is why you’ll never find a screenager in a room without mobile network coverage for long – proprietors, take note.

2. Screenagers do have awareness and discretion

Screenagers know their social media and how to use it. So it’s no surprise that social media is neatly compartmentalised:

Screenagers consider their audience. They are fully aware that they are putting themselves in the public eye and are confident that they know how to best represent themselves on the right resources.

3. Advocacy may be even more important than we realised

Public relations agencies have long been talking about the importance of advocacy and of brand advocates; communicating with the most influential media, the most influential bloggers and driving conversation. But when communicating to screenagers, we need to take this to the furthest possible extreme. The screenagers we talked to, take to Twitter to ask a question, then might try Facebook, and only then might they try Google. They don’t trust newspapers and their motives; instead, they get their information from friends or followers – whom they trust. Plus, when they’ve got so much going on in their world, Twitter’s 140 characters is way more digestible than a Sunday broadsheet’s 140 pages.

4. The restrictions that brands and marketers need to be aware of

Screenagers are not massively concerned about “their” data being sold for money, but more so about people knowing information that they shouldn’t. As a result, they make it their business to stay on top of changes in privacy settings – which Facebook is renowned for. With their confidence high in their own abilities online, screenagers are more concerned about their families revealing all on social networks. They see themselves as the digital angels, who help those who are not so tech savvy to change privacy settings.

5. For effective public relations, digital is the “D” in DNA

These bright young things wouldn’t take a job that doesn’t involve social media. But what PR agency job wouldn’t, now, offer just that? (On which matter, what client brief doesn’t appreciate that digital PR is at the heart, not just a part, of any campaign now?) These days, shared experiences drive consumer communication – and shared experiences happen mostly via social media. A leading public relations agency is one that converges digital and PR for its clients; let’s allow the screenagers to help us keep ahead of the curve.

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