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The Greta Thunberg engagement phenomenon; what must newsrooms learn?

Engage, defy, activate; how Greta Thunberg is dominating the climate conversation.

Photographer Credit – Name

By Giles Crosse | Nov 14, 2019

Astonishing, yet true; a shy Swedish teenager has over 2.75 million Twitter followers, and pushed out nearly six thousand tweets since June 2018. By comparison, The New York Times pulls in 40 million followers, Trump 65 million, and The Independent 2.98 million.

Not only this; Greta Thunberg’s output is relentlessly on message and passionate, transforming her into the world’s most famous climate activist.

A front runner in the contest for the Nobel Peace prize, what does her global fame mean, and what are the implications for engagement, influence and audience retention?

The adults will have to listen to the kids

Striking though Greta is, her success is part of an overall trend; millennials and Gen Z have real influence and power.

The Conversation writes that Gen Z is best positioned to influence business practices, and that companies are already looking for ways to hitch a ride on social and political movements and tap into Gen Z’s purchasing power, reportedly worth US$44 billion globally.

And it’s not just their spending power that’s catching attention; the anti-straw movement, started by nine-year-old Milo Cress in 2011, illustrates how social media within the Gen Z bracket can change behaviour at multinational companies such as McDonalds and Starbucks.

Likewise, the Facebook page Kids Cut Conflict Palm Oil has – with the help of Australian NGO Wildlife Asia – successfully lobbied PepsiCo to cut ties with an Indonesian palm oil supplier over deforestation and labour concerns.

It’s abundantly clear that younger people, like Greta, are successfully influencing how global corporations and conversations are conducted.

Modern newsrooms must therefore develop and maintain a successful youth dialogue, to have any hope of contributing to how young people read and consume the news.

Devices have the answer

Forbes writes that according to IBM, 66% of Gen Z frequently uses more than one device at the same time. Because of this, all of the branded content you put out into the world, from the layout of your website to your Instagram photos to blog posts , must be optimized for a seamless customer experience across all devices.

This counts for news output too. And Gen Z prefers personalized experiences. Therefore, news feeds must be open to tailoring and adaptation, to allow young minds to get precisely the news they seek.

Crucially, writes Forbes, Gen Z has grown up with the internet, meaning today’s youth are accustomed to having nearly limitless buying options. This makes them very savvy regarding what they actually pay for.

66% of Generation Z opts to buy from brands that sell high quality products versus mid to lower quality items. This has important implications for today’s newsrooms; unique, differentiated and high quality subscription offers married with similarly unique content are likely an essential tool to even tempt younger people into a purchase. 

Gen Z expects relevance

Greta’s resonance and engagement succeed because her climate message is strikingly relevant to her peers and aligns with truth. The IPCC’s conclusion is that climate change is happening now and human activity is causing it.

Greta marries such truths, relevance and a unique approach with a solid understanding of how people her age consume, use, seek and redistribute information. Every global newsroom could do well to consider whether their Gen Z strategy shares such elements.

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