people on top of an arrow hitting a bull's-eye

Generation Z Wants to Know Your Mission—Are You Doing Enough to Highlight It?

A communications strategy that clearly defines your organization’s values and how you bring them to life can help young members connect with your association.

Even as members of Generation Z have little trust in institutions, they’re also optimistic about their ability to shape a better future. Sixty-two percent of Gen Z-ers say they have the potential to change the world, a figure that rose even amid the chaos of 2020.

Yet only 27 percent of employees strongly believe in their company’s values, and less than half strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for. One way associations can let Gen Z know that they have a partner in positive change is to highlight their missions and core values in their communications.

“You have to build a creative strategy on intention, purpose, and authenticity,” says Ellen Kim, founder and creative director of Graphek, an agency that works with associations and nonprofits to generate purpose-driven work. “We’ve asked ourselves, ‘What’s in it for me?’ as we think about what members want, but that question has shifted through the lens of Gen Z. Now the question we must ask ourselves is, ‘How does this impact everyone for the greater good?’”

Consider these tips from Kim to help your organization find opportunities to leverage its purpose using strong branding and communications.

Define Your Purpose and Involve Your Members

Before communicating your organization’s purpose, define and articulate your values so you can clearly communicate them to members. One way to broadcast your mission effectively is to show how members are a part of it.

Successful purpose-driven companies such as Lululemon see customers as more than buyers, said Bill Theofilou, senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, in a Forbes interview. They treat customers as stakeholders, take time to develop relationships with them, and involve them in future decisions.

In the same vein, associations should see members as more than people who pay dues. They’re also individuals who are important to the association and its values. Once Gen Z-ers see that their voices are heard, they’ll probably feel more connected to your organization’s mission.

“Invite them to be stakeholders and be part of the decision making,” Kim says.

Tell Member Stories

Communicating your organization’s mission or core values may seem inauthentic without tangible examples. And your values probably won’t mean much if they’re just sitting on your association’s website in a bulleted list. Instead, demonstrate how you’re implementing those values. Showing real-world instances of your association benefiting members and helping them enact positive change can prove to Gen Z that there’s meaning behind your maxims.

“[Gen Z] responds to branding and communication that leave an emotional imprint. Without the emotional imprint, your call to action is useless,” Kim says. “Actions speak louder than words. Use your digital platforms to get the word out.”

Meet Gen Z Members Where They Are

How you share those stories and messages is just as important as the messages themselves. If you want to show Gen Z what kind of organization you are, then you need to communicate in a way that engages them. Kim recommends social campaigns with targeted messaging, eye-catching visuals, and snackable content on platforms that are most popular among Gen Z, such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.

“Be bold in your messaging. Get your communications team to understand the latest digital trends,” Kim says. “It’s refreshing to see more associations revisiting their social media outlets and being more intentional in building a social media strategy.”

This is the third entry in our three-part series about Generation Z. Part 1 is about this generation’s loss of trust in institutions (and what associations can do to earn trust); part 2 is about Gen Z and online communities.

(VectorInspiration/DigitalVision Vectors)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!