Gen Z students give tips on how to engage their peers

Members of Orange Umbrella, from left: Ayden Roche, Jared Harwin, Samantha Frankel, Ashleigh Lloyd, Ally Polner, Mia Porter, and MJ Barnes. 
By Barbara Gutierrez

Members of Orange Umbrella, from left: Ayden Roche, Jared Harwin, Samantha Frankel, Ashleigh Lloyd, Ally Polner, Mia Porter, and MJ Barnes. 

Gen Z students give tips on how to engage their peers

By Barbara Gutierrez
Members of Orange Umbrella, the student-run communication consultancy at the University of Miami, recently offered their advice to local communication leaders at a major conference on marketing to their counterparts.

Do you want to successfully market to Generation Z?

Make sure you are transparent in your approach to marketing and sales and make sure that you use short, snappy videos in your advertising.

These were some of the tips members of the University of Miami School of Communication’s Orange Umbrella offered participants at the “Borrell Miami 2022 Local Advertising Conference” early last month.

The students of Orange Umbrella, a full-service student-run communication consultancy that offers advertising, marketing, media relations, and other similar services to outside clients, spoke before an audience of hundreds of decision-makers in the communication and media world on a panel called “Marketing Masters of the Future.”

Orange Umbrella uses experiential learning to heighten the educational and professional development of its students. It is among a growing number of student-run businesses launching on college campuses around the country. Since it was founded in 2017, the group’s clients have included companies such as Sobe Promos, Audubon Florida, Growers 2 Home, and various University of Miami departments and entities.

“By joining Orange Umbrella, students can take what they learn in other classes and apply it to the real world,” said Melissa Jane “MJ” Barnes, managing director for Orange Umbrella. “Orange Umbrella is a job that pays in class credit. The benefit is that students get to learn all the facets of the professional environment—working with and presenting to clients, managing team members, meeting deadlines, navigating feedback loops, etc.—in the comfort of a classroom setting with their peers working alongside them.” 

In the case of the Borrell Local Advertising Conference, the company leaders asked students to offer an inside track on how to attract Generation Z audiences and employees.   

Conference participants included members of local advertising and marketing firms, as well as others from the newspaper, radio, and television industries.

Ayden Roche, an account director at Orange Umbrella and a sophomore studying entrepreneurship and marketing at the Miami Herbert Business School, said his group offered the conference attendees advice on how members of Gen Z receive their news as well as how to attract them as employees. 

Roche said the majority of Gen Zers obtain most of their news from social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. They use their mobile devices to read their news and very few use print newspapers or magazines. Since they are used to obtaining their news instantly, they have limited attention spans, thus they are attracted to short videos.

“One of the most important ways to draw viewers is to use short videos because you can tell a story in a short amount of time,” said Roche. “Studies show that you need to grab the viewer in the first few seconds.”

The use of formal language to convey a message is also a turnoff to Gen Zers, Roche said. “Instead, a relaxed, more direct way to communicate is valued, which may include jokes,” Roche pointed out during his presentation.

“Don’t shy off trying new things, be open,” he said. “Our generation wants to know everything and relate to brands and influencers as if they were our friends. You see now more brands shying away from formal ways to communicate and using advertising as if they were texting their friends—short phrases. I think it is effective.”

As for attracting and retaining Gen Z employees, Roche said that Gen Zers tend to like workplaces that value inclusion, diversity, flexibility, and teamwork.

Mia Porter, a junior who is majoring in Africana studies and sociology, is also the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Orange Umbrella. During the presentation, she addressed how Gen Z members are drawn to workplaces that will appreciate their contributions and their values.

“When I am looking at a job and the employer is telling me that ‘Black Lives Matter’ but I as an African American woman look at your leadership team and there are no Black leaders, no Black managers, and your retention is low, that is a negative to me,” she said.   

She also noted that she found the “great resignation” (a COVID-19 phenomenon where millions of people have resigned from their jobs) inspiring. It shows that the pandemic has revealed that many employees will not stay in jobs where they do not feel valued and/or adequately compensated, she maintained. 

“We are seeing the great resignation,” she said. “People began to realize that life is too short just to stay in an office doing things that they don’t enjoy doing or that they are not rightly compensated for.”

The audience at the Borrell Conference received the presentation very well, according to Barnes.

“Presenting at the Borrell Conference was a testament to our students’ expertise,” Barnes stated. “The leaders of the host company, Borrell Associates, sought out our students because of Orange Umbrella’s reputation in the South Florida community and because they noticed the incredible pipeline of talent coming from our organization and the University of Miami.”