Young People Really Kind of Hate Ads, So Turn to Content Marketing and PR

Millennials aren’t huge fans of advertising – particularly what for them is irrelevant advertising – and The New York Times is on it. The changing media habits of those under 30 are causing all sorts of agita for advertisers and marketers who want to reach that group and so are figuring out how to do so using emojis, hashtags and other tactics that they believe will speak to them.

This is, quite frankly, great news for PR and content marketers.

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Let’s address content marketing first. The NYT story points out that many of the people surveyed and questioned said that ads interrupted whatever experience they were in the middle of at best and were completely useless to them and actually annoying at worst. They are intrusive. Ads always have been and always will be, but they’re the price that is paid for “free” content, whether it’s on/in an app or on TV.

But content marketing – the kind of social publishing that we do every day – *is* the experience. And more than that, it’s largely an opt-in experience. Outside of paid posts on social networks (which are ads and therefore subject to the same opinions as any other ad) if someone sees what Brand X has posted on Twitter, for example, it’s because either they’ve taken the positive action to follow that brand themselves or someone they follow has shared one of Brand X’s updates. In the first case, it can be assumed that those people are open to receiving the brand’s messages. In the second case those messages are received as endorsements from those friends and so are more positively received because hey, if that person thinks this is cool enough to share then maybe I should check it out. It’s basic word of mouth.

For PR this is good news because people still do read the news, even if those media habits are changing. A recent study from Media Insight Project shows how this same demographic are finding the news, sometimes purposely sometimes by happenstance. But they are finding it. And since PR’s core mission is to influence opinions through the media, as long as practitioners are aware of these changing habits and are adjusting their strategies then that will continue to work.

Because PR is organic with media it’s not going to be subject to the ad blocking software that is gaining more and more popularity and threatening to upend media business models left and right. And it’s not going to get caught up in however native advertising ultimately gets regulated (because it *will* get regulated…and heavily).

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Even there, though, we’re going to have to stay on the forefront of changing behaviors. The MIP study above shows that people are increasingly – and this has been a behavior that’s increased steadily over the last 10 years – expecting the news to find them instead of deliberately consuming that news. So PR is going to have to make sure they’re working to make sure the stories they’ve secured are reaching the intended audience. And comScore says more and more people are spending more and more time in apps while at the same time mobile website visits are also increasing. So it’s not just enough to push out a blog post. We’re going to have to make sure that content is making its way into a native app of some sort and being shared on platforms that will lead to website visits.

Advertisers are surely freaking out as they try to figure out how to work “on fleek” into their next campaign so it can appear to be relevant and hip to the younger audience. But for PR and real content marketers – those who are concerned about actual content, not just those who have decided their banner ads should be called “content” – this is a time to double down on what we do everyday because it’s those tactics that are going to endure whatever shakes out in the ad-supported media world.