PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: How To Empower Gen Z To Enact Social Good

PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: How To Empower Gen Z To Enact Social Good
Advertising

We interviewed DoSomething.org’s CEO Aria Finger, who’ll be speaking at PSFK 2017 on her nonprofit that engages the youth to join a global movement for good

PSFK
  • 12 may 2017

Generation Z is a mystery. With nearly uninterrupted access to multiple social media platforms and the Internet, they are an easy population to reach, but sometimes difficult to get through to. However, they are leaders of the future and getting them to care about important social issues is the key to creating a better world. They have the voracity to make a difference despite their young age. DoSomething has partnered with multiple brands to engage Gen Z and encourage them to take action, especially in this political and social climate. CEO Aria Finger believes that with the right tools, they are empowered to make significant strides towards social justice.

We are excited to host Aria Finger as one of our speakers at our PSFK 2017 conference, to share exactly how global nonprofit DoSomething helps brands foster relationships with 5.5 million young people to create a better world.

What will you be talking about at PSFK? What do you hope people get out of it?

I’ll be sharing DoSomething.org’s big wins and big fails in brand partnerships—what’s worked and what hasn’t when it comes to activating young people for social good. I hope it sparks ideas for the audience members about how they can do a better job of engaging this generation. Young people are the best, the most eager to make positive change. If you don’t have a strategy for reaching Gen Z, you’re probably not doing your job.

What are some of the best partnerships you’ve had a hand in? What are some of the worst? What made them so successful / unsuccessful?

Ten years ago I created DoSomething’s partnership with Aeropostale. In one year, our members collected over 1 million pairs of jeans and clothed over half of all homeless children in the country! That partnership worked because (and I hate this term) it was authentic. A couple of years ago, I launched DoSomething’s ‘Make It Happy’ campaign as part of Coke’s Super Bowl internet positivity initiative. The scale of that was incredible — we had 40,000 young people sign up for the campaign in its first 24 hours. As far as the worst partnerships go, you’ll have to come to the conference in May to find out.

Social justice is becoming almost “trendy” and naturally every brand wants to look like they care about some cause. At the same time, millennials and those even younger (‘Gen Z’) are more acutely attune to deception than ever before. When it comes to crafting authentic brand partnerships that resonate with young people, what’s the biggest piece of advice you’d have for both brands and non-profits?

You hit it on the head: young people can spot fake purpose-driven marketing a mile away. I tell all of DoSomething’s partners and TMI’s clients to be honest. Be honest about your goals, what you’ve accomplished, and what’s driving your commitment to impact. Young people don’t expect perfection, but they do expect honesty. So along those lines, if you mess up, apologize.

The other advice I share is actually painted on a wall at our office: Fight For the User. Marketers too often think about what they need young people to do, instead of thinking about what they want. We try to make all of our decisions from the perspective of, “How will this benefit our user?”.  If I get one more brand asking me “What bullying can we do” when they’ve had zero history of expertise or passion in the space, I might scream.

How has Do Something’s expertise with young people help bolster TMI Strategy? What sort of things do brands say when they come to work with you?

TMI Strategy is DoSomething’s consulting group that helps clients connect with young people and make positive impact. We draw on the huge amount of data that DoSomething has on its 5.5M+ members and use our insights to inform the work we do for TMI clients. The brands we work with are all really good at what they do, but not particularly good at breaking through the noise to reach millennials and Gen Z. That’s where we come in. We help them create strategies to get their brands, products, and missions to be at the forefront for young people.

Do Something works with young people all around the world. What are some of the biggest issues they’re concerned about these days?

One thing we see across the board is that young people care a lot about fairness. No matter who they are or where they live, fairness is an issue that resonates. They want people to have a level playing field — regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or background. That plays a big role in many of our campaigns.

Has Do Something’s work changed at all in light of recent national and global politics?

We definitely see that the youth are even more willing to act than ever before. They feel like there’s more urgency to tackle big challenges, and we’re ready to help them. More youth have been to a protest in the last few months than the previous few years.  DoSomething stands for all young people and the positive impact they want to make. They want unity and positivity as badly as anyone so we look at campaigns that are critically important and can also bring people together instead of driving them apart.

What inspires you every day?

The members.  We just got a note from a young Muslim women who saw our recent campaign and thanked us for highlighting her people and her story and treating her like a “regular person.” I cried in the office.  There’s nothing better than being able to take a personal connection and then amplify it to help, educate, highlight and activate the millions of young people who want to engage every day.

Aria will be discussing in-depth about brand partnerships and what DoSomething has discovered about Gen Z. Her talk will revolve around how to engage young people and empower them to take action at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19. Get your tickets today before they sell out!

Aria Finger is CEO of DoSomething.org, a tech company for young people and social change with 5.5 million members in 131 countries. In 2013, she founded TMI Strategy, a subsidiary consulting group that has earned over $6 million to support DoSomething. Aria graduated with an economics degree from WashU in St. Louis and teaches at NYU. She was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2016.

Generation Z is a mystery. With nearly uninterrupted access to multiple social media platforms and the Internet, they are an easy population to reach, but sometimes difficult to get through to. However, they are leaders of the future and getting them to care about important social issues is the key to creating a better world. They have the voracity to make a difference despite their young age. DoSomething has partnered with multiple brands to engage Gen Z and encourage them to take action, especially in this political and social climate. CEO Aria Finger believes that with the right tools, they are empowered to make significant strides towards social justice.

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