14 Aug

From Baby Boomers to Gen Z: How to Get Everyone’s Input on Your Public Involvement Project

By: Matt Fickenworth, Intern


When the government takes on an infrastructure improvement project, they’re required to get the public involved. They need to get public input and opinions before they can move forward. The challenge is reaching a diverse group of people across all ages, which can be tough when each generation receives their news in various forms. Here’s a little about the last five generations and how we can reach them:

  • The Silent Generation (1928-1945): The generation that is most interested in the news, they are the oldest of the five. They are often left out of new articles talking about recent generations. They love to read the newspaper and are the generation that is least marketed to. Newspaper, television and radio are the three main tools to inform this generation, which should be the focus on getting the word out on public works projects. Social media is not used much, however, Facebook is most successful in reaching this generation through social platforms.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Baby Boomers are slowly embracing the use of modern technology. Interested in the environment, local town and politics, this generation is key in reaching all ages. Three ways to reach this generation are through social media, newspapers and email. Digital and online content is effective with this generation as social media is catching on, especially Facebook. Traditional media, such as radio and television, is sufficient as well.
  • Generation X (1965-1980): The smallest generation, they are known as the bridge between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials and are often glanced over. Generation Xers are avid users of email, so an email campaign should flourish with this group. They are also much savvier social media users than the Baby Boomers, with platforms such as Instagram and Twitter increasing in popularity with Gen X. They’re among the most highly educated generations (35% have college degrees), and over 80% have Facebook accounts (Forbes). Email and social media are the two highly preferred ways to reach them, however, traditional media, such as radio, television and newspaper, are still extremely effective.
  • Generation Y (Millennials) (1981-1996): This is the most talked about generation on social media and among popular culture. They are the most receptive to online marketing and are often the key in generational marketing. There’s no question that this group dominates social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all used by the most users in this generation as they are known as the media savvy generation. Social media is the best way to reach this audience. Mobile reach is crucial with possible text message updates being very informational. Radio and television are not as helpful, however, those platforms would reach the latter years of the generation a bit.
  • Generation Z (1997-2012): The youngest group, they are the first full generation to be born with the internet. They are known as the most individualistic and technology-dependent generation. Any social platforms should be the major communication medium to reach this demographic. Concise content along with videos are very effective. Newspaper and radio would certainly be unsuccessful, while email would work, but not as thoroughly as with the last few generations. Similar to Millennials, the mobile reach is essential and necessary to communicate with Gen Z.

One of the three key trends that defines a generation? Technology. Technology is mentioned in each description and is a great way to distribute information. Generation Z doesn’t know a world without an internet, which may sound crazy to some (not me, because I belong in that generation). Technology creates so many different mediums to deliver news, which can help reach the diverse groups impacted by a public works project. One of those mediums is social media, a critical element in reaching a group of people of all ages. Facebook dominates social media usage across all generations, standing as the single platform necessary to deliver information to all of them. But don’t forget about more traditional mediums like television, radio, mail, email and news releases to communicate. Great public relations can still reach a broad segment.

One factor that influences each generation differently is the time of day the information is released. For social media, the time of day when the reach is the highest is typically before and after a 9-5 work day. Older generations typically wake up earlier and go to sleep earlier, meaning you won’t want important information released on the radio or television once a day at 11:30 p.m. If the generation is comprised of a majority of retirees, or has a family, or goes to school, you need to take that into account with the time of day the information is distributed.

Different age groups certainly prefer different content and different mediums for that content. Having a target audience is key. Andrew Zink, the founder of Yousemble, a platform designed to craft websites that reach your target audience, says that you must “understand your segment of the market, age group, and their potential needs or desires for your product or service, and you can start to craft messages, images and videos that relate to your target market, ride current trends, and engage emotionally with stories.” Create content for the audience you want to reach.