Changing the Conversation! Reflections on my National Millennial Community trip to NYC

Last week I had a truly life-changing experience. I went on my second National Millennial Community (NMC) trip as the advisor to our university’s chapter. The trip was to Manhattan where we met with major brands, non-profits and agencies including: McCann World Group, NBC Universal, BuzzFeed, Condé Nast, Barnes & Noble, the Ad Council, Pfizer, Droga5, Wells Fargo, Nielsen, among others.

The BuzzFeed offices in Manhattan
The lobby of One World Trade Center at the Condé Nast entrance

What is the National Millennial Community?

The mission of the NMC is to change the conversation surrounding the Millennial generation. Currently, the organization is represented by students and alum from 40 campuses across the U.S.

As you probably know, the Millennial generation (and Gen Z behind them) have been maligned as lazy, selfish, and disruptive. They ruin industries and don’t buy homes or cars.

So how do we change that conversation? By meeting with executives and authentically sharing the Millennial perspective.

As a think tank, the NMC members engage in many fascinating conversations about the state of the media industry, including offering insight into the views, trends and habits important to young adults today.

NMC members learn a ton on these trips. Organizations offer an ‘under the hood’ at projects they are working on and often seek our members’ feedback on how the organizations can better connect with the Millennial and Gen Z generations. In this spirit of sharing, both our members and the organizations we meet with walk away having benefited greatly.

On this trip, we also participated in the GenWorks 2 conference with Wells Fargo, Nielsen and the IW Group. The purpose of GenWorks is to rethink how generations work. I had the opportunity to co-lead the discussion around stages in life and media consumption with a very sharp leader and student from UNC Greensboro, Gene Mance. I have no doubt that Gene is poised to do big things!

Co-leading the discussion on Stages in Life and Media Consumption at GenWorks2

Below, I’m going to share my key takeaways from the many conversations we were apart of over a busy 3-day schedule all over Manhattan from Wall Street to midtown.

While I can’t go into any specifics (I signed several NDAs), let’s look at a few themes that emerged across the conversations as a whole.

Here are my 5 takeaways from this NMC trip to NYC:

  1. Stories Are Tops – When it comes to what type of content works best, a common point of conversation was the power that stories have in resonated with Millennials. Millennials like them and companies find they work best.
  2. Empathy: There is no Substitute – We heard a lot about the importance of understanding the audience and the common human experience that binds us together as humans. If you want to succeed working in communication, you need to have emotional intelligence. While Millennial media habits create challenges and opportunities, what hasn’t changed is that great communicators see the world through the eyes of their audience.
  3. Simplicity is Power – You may have heard this famous quote by Pascal: “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter.” Another theme I took away from our meetings was that the successful companies thrive when they take complex ideas and make them simple. Simple language is a key part of this. But that’s not the only thing. A complex idea can be confusing and when too much nuance is presented, learning gets lost. Take a complex product, service or problem. Take the core of human emotions and needs. Put them in a pot. Boil them down and you’ve got your message.
  4. Enthusiasm Wins – Certain types of content do well at certain times. This is a content cycle. That means that the type of content that’s popular now might not be popular in a year. One executive we met with stated that while irony and cynicism were popular a few years ago, “we’re in a content cycle where people want enthusiasm.”
  5. These students are going places! – Now this takeaway is a bit different than the list above. But I’ve got to make a sidebar. The students that were on this trip came from universities across the country, including Alaska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wyoming, New York, Florida, California, and more. I am impressed with how professional, sharp, kind, and ambitious they all are. I am proud to be an advisor to the Shepherd University chapter of the NMC. I can see both the impact the organizations we meet with on these trips have on these students but also the impact these students are having on these organizations. These students are poised to offer diverse, unique, and exciting perspectives that will continue to change the field of communication in the years ahead. What does the next 5 years hold for PR, advertising, and related fields? If these students are any sign, the future is bright. There certainly is no shortage of young talent.

– Cheers!
Matt

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