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Ten tips for engaging Gen Z in general election news coverage

Ten tips for engaging Gen Z in general election news coverage

A few days ago, my 13-year-old son was reading The Week, a weekly news round up magazine, when, after spending less than half an hour with it, he closed it ceremoniously and proclaimed that he was done. “The only articles left are the boring politics ones about the general election. I don’t want to read those,” he announced. After some probing it became apparent that his refusal to engage with those articles was based on their emphasis on high-level policy and party issues, which he felt bore no relevance to his interests. “It’s always about Labour vs. the Conservatives and their bickering”, he commented, dismissing this content as irrelevant.
 
Unfortunately, my son is not an isolated representative of the UK’s Gen Z in refusing to engage with politics. Interest in political coverage has collapsed among 18–24-year-olds in the last six years. Last year, only 1 in 7 reported following politics extremely or very closely, which is worrying for the future of democracy. The trend is similar in many other countries, including those in Europe and the US.
 
Image 1: Interest in political news/politics among the youngest adult age group
 
So this piece is a call to action for news providers covering general election campaigns: please offer coverage that engages Gen Z (and Gen Alpha) better. To offer support, I have generated 10 tips for how to engage young adults in election coverage, based on the available research into their interests from Ipsos, FT Strategies, YouGov, DeltaPoll and others. The recommendations are also anchored in my long-standing audience strategy expertise in supporting journalists covering elections and in my recent illuminating conversations with news leaders from across the globe who are targeting 18-24s.
 
Image 2: What Gen Z want from the news and how news providers can fulfil their needs
 
Focus on easy access and comprehension
1. Be on the right platforms, like TikTok and Instagram (Oh wait! You already know that because everyone constantly talks about this).
2. Tailor the language of your coverage to make it comprehensible to first-time voters. If they get it, so will everyone else, making it more likely that they will come back for more.
3. Create a multi-platform story experience where these young adults can dip in as briefly (e.g. for 30 seconds) or immerse themselves as deeply (e.g. for 30 minutes) as they want to be able to understand the story.
 
Be relevant
4. Cover the election through the prism of this young generation’s concerns. Their biggest issues are the cost of living crisis/prices, the impact of the economy on their finances, housing, and health services.
5. Offer explainers that make this age group feel like they are watching episode 1 of a long-standing series, not dropping in on episode 50, clueless about the context or who’s who (as they typically feel!)
 
Do what you do best: offer engaging storytelling
6. Find a micro angle to every macro story. Make every story interesting for younger audiences by finding young protagonists, case studies, experts, and spokespeople to “hang” your story on. Use their perspectives to evaluate policies which can otherwise sound too abstract or downright irrelevant.
7. When you interview politicians, seek to humanise them with less formal settings within local communities which younger generations can relate to. They perceive Parliament and Government settings as sterile and unrelatable, often switching off
immediately when they see them.
 
Build trust
8. Provide Gen Z adults with evidence that your news brand cares about them. They increasingly feel abandoned by society.
9. Reassure them that when they consume their news from you, it’s like being in a spa: their needs are taken care of… in the Gen Z zone.
10. Never leave them in despair and try to end on hope. Many young adults avoid the news because it depresses them and leaves them feeling hopeless. Strive to make young people’s lives easier by offering coverage that’s full of practical tips, useful facts and why-this-matters pointers.
 

If you would like to follow up on the topics discussed in this article, please contact Luba Kassova or Richard Addy on contact@akas.london

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