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Generation Y

Election Day: Watch, Listen And Learn

No matter your political party views, election time always brings about a fascinating array of political ads, supporters, phone callers, door knockers and general engagement from those who may seem otherwise quiet during a “normal” year. Passion, or advocacy, for a particular cause, topic or political agenda is something that can rally people together in ways that may have seemed impossible years earlier–especially if the correct communication tools and support are there.

his is the first in a series of blog posts around the topic of “Advocacy and Associations” that XYZ University will publish during the month of November.

Election day. It’s a big day. Did you vote?

No matter your political party views, election time always brings about a fascinating array of political ads, supporters, phone callers, door knockers and general engagement from those who may seem otherwise quiet during a “normal” year. Passion, or advocacy, for a particular cause, topic or political agenda is something that can rally people together in ways that may have seemed impossible years earlier–especially if the correct communication tools and support are there.

This month, XYZ University is diving deeper into the state of advocacy in associations, specifically, and how it plays a role in future generations–future leaders. We’ll ask questions around advocacy and if it’s a driving force (or detriment) to associations’ success.

Today, even though it may be the last day (for awhile) of all the political ads and friends “taking sides” on various social media platforms, there is a lot to be learned. Today, while you pay attention to what the outcomes are for our country in terms of the political landscape, take note of how you can achieve this much engagement from your association’s members when it comes to your own advocacy efforts.

Whether your concern is how to engage a younger population of members in your association’s advocacy efforts or how to portray issues in a fresh, new light, use today’s election excitement to learn. Watch, listen and take notes of things that you can do on a smaller scale to make an impact on your own association’s advocacy efforts.


Take a look at some of the fun examples I came across today just by being a part of various groups and channels online during election season. Advocacy takes all types and all forms of communication. Baby Boomers and Millennials alike use the Internet, which can be a phenomenal tool for rallying members around your association’s cause. Check out the following three tools. I’m betting you can find a way to implement similar elements into your next campaign:

Real-time updates and information

This isn’t a post about getting your association on board with social media (but if you’re not engaging already, it’s high time you start). However, this election has seen a lot of play on social media. In fact, USA Today has its own Twitter Election Meter. One way to create excitement around your association’s efforts is to create social media pieces around the issues. Use hashtags like the one on the left to encourage members and the community to follow the conversation around your issue on Twitter. HootSuite even put together a fun Command Center for Election 2012 where engagement levels, mentions and other Twitter stats are being tracked live for each candidate.

We are a real-time society and we want information now. Instead of seeing this trait as a detriment to your cause, use it to your advantage and create tools that support this need.

Information dashboards

In order to rally your members around advocacy, you must have the right information in place. Your members must also be educated on where to go, what to do and how to do it. Create information dashboards and landing pages that give searchable information to your members. This election, Google put together a great voter information page where citizens can look up polling locations and other information voters might need. Splash your association’s information across multiple channels; make it easy for members and the community at large to find you and learn about the issues.

Education and polls

Pew Research Center put out a Political Party Quiz whereby citizens could go through a series of 12 questions in order to get a better sense of where they fit on the political party spectrum. The quiz was based on a national survey that Pew Research Center conducted. This is another great example of how to create engaging pieces of information for your members and future association advocates. Simple polls or quizzes can be fun and educational for members. Think about frequent questions you’re asked or important policies you advocate for and develop a real-time poll around the issues.


There’s an app for nearly everything–ever think about creating one for your association? The New York Times created Election 2012 App which gives subscribers access to news, opinions and general election information such as updated poll numbers and results. With 91% of the U.S. population near their smartphone at any given moment of the day, this seems like a pretty useful idea.

Think about how to reach your audience on their mobile devices as well–whether it’s a responsive website or landing page design, a texting campaign or app–your association can benefit greatly from an app.

So before you do a celebratory dance (because, let’s face it, we’re all at least a little tired of the political ads these days) take a moment to watch and learn from your surroundings. Take a look at the communication strategies and techniques that have been used during this Election 2012. Think about your audience, your needs and the way we communicate. How will you learn from this year’s election? What tools have you found helpful or profound that you can modify in terms of your association’s advocacy efforts? We’d love to hear your comments below!

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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