Authenticity, flexibility, and personalization are key themes when crafting engaging messages for a Gen Z audience, according to speakers at GMAC’s Annual Conference.
As Generation Z—the generation born between approximately 1996 and 2012—continues to make up more of the graduate management education (GME) pipeline, GMAC has been leveraging expertise from across our research, communication, and connection functions to help graduate business schools engage with the latest cohort considering GME. Through a series of blogs, webinars, and research pieces, including a new white paper, GMAC is helping programs identify what Gen Zers want from graduate business school—and why.
How to adapt communication efforts for a Gen Z audience was top of mind for the admissions, marketing, recruitment, career, and other GME professionals at GMAC’s Annual Conference in San Diego on June 28-30. Over several sessions, school practitioners and GMAC staff offered the following insights about the best ways to engage with Gen Z in their marketing and programmatic efforts.
1. Share authentic content by addressing topics Gen Z want to know about in a voice that reflects your organization.
For Gen Z, authenticity in part means talking about things they care about—but you don’t have to speak in slang to make it ring true. Instead, cultivate a voice across platforms that represents your program. More importantly, don’t focus only on selling—offer information of value instead, such as application tips, student and alumni testimonials, or examples of your institution living its values. Sometimes this means handing the reins to current students to talk not only about their studies, but their non-program lifestyle as well.
2. Email is not dead—it’s the most preferred communication channel among Gen Zers across the globe.
Eighty-five percent of Gen Z prefer using email over other communication means. According to Campaign Monitor, more than half check their inboxes multiple times a day, and about two-thirds check email from their phones.
Again, content matters. Gen Zers want messages in their inbox that are tailored to their personal needs. And given their “eight-second attention span,” GMAC’s Email Best Practices Guide recommends you get right to the point with descriptive subject and preview lines, engaging graphics, and authentic photos.
3. Branded content and informal outreach have different impacts on Gen Zers at different points in their journey to GME.
According to GMAC’s Tips for Engaging Gen Z, Gen Zers want personalized advice from current students, alumni, and their families and friends early in the application process. Again, testimonials and stories from current students and alumni that offer concrete educational or career pathways are especially valuable to Gen Zers. Social media is a useful channel for this content, too, though Gen Zers’ top platforms for receiving educational or career information vary around the globe.
As it comes closer to application time, Gen Zers are more likely to look at school websites and connect with school staff and faculty—a great opportunity for programs to leverage their branded content to offer concrete, personalized information at a critical point of decision-making.
4. Gen Zers expect flexibility in their programs—and want to hear how programs can adapt to their personal circumstances.
According to GMAC’s Prospective Students Survey, 80% of Gen Z respondents say they want to study in person compared to 69% of millennials. While a baseline of in-person experiences is widely preferred among this cohort, their experience with distance learning during the pandemic and their very digital upbringing means they expect the flexibility that technology can afford them.
This is how one 20-year-old prospective student from Peru described his ideal GME program in GMAC’s Gen Z white paper: “Almost everything in person since I consider that face-to-face is the best way of learning. Targeted to students who work, give them the opportunity to see the class recording.”
In other words, Gen Zers largely want to pursue GME in person, but they want the opportunity to adapt their delivery based on their personal circumstances, even on a given day.
5. Above all, Gen Zers want to hear about GME’s professional and personal return on investment.
According to GMAC’s research, Gen Z’s definition of success is multi-dimensional. This includes achieving professional goals like financial freedom, work/life balance, and leadership opportunities as well as personal goals like a sense of pride and family and peer recognition. They want to be reassured that there will be a multi-dimensional return on investment in GME—not only that their salary will increase, but that their future will measure up to their hopes and dreams, too.