Emily Articulated: Beer, tacos and Millennial engagement

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

Upon beginning this column, several things started happening to me that I didn’t anticipate. The first was the curious looks from passersby trying to place how they know me — their squinted eyes and tilted heads prompting me to search for leftover food on my face or dirt on my nose. 

Just as my cheeks began to flush with an embarrassment I hadn’t quite deciphered, they would ask, “Don’t you write for the Reader?”

Emily Erickson.

After a sense of relief and pride-filled “yes,” they would invariably follow up with, “The ‘Single in Sandpoint’ column, right? I love Scarlett Quille!” Me too, Sandpoint. Me too. But, sadly, I cannot take credit for all that wonder, wit and crassy-sass.

Instead, I’m “Emily Articulated,” tasked with the other thing I didn’t anticipate: Being Sandpoint’s Millennial voice, asked single-bristle questions requiring the broadest of brushes to paint in answers. 

As a supposed Millennial-whisperer, I’m consulted on topics such as generational laziness: “Emily, why doesn’t my Millennial niece think she has to work?” or self-centeredness:  “Emily, why are young people so entitled? The kid next door always parks on my grass.”

To these questions I reply with my tried-and-true, “Well, I think that every generation has its entitled and lazy members. But as the products of our environment — just like you — we Millennials just have unique circumstances with the society-wide side effect of seeming lazy and smartphones to document it all.”

There is one question I get asked that isn’t quite so narrow, to which there may be a nuanced answer to offer: “Emily, why don’t young people turn out to community events?” 

Whether it be fundraisers, awareness campaigns or town decision-making affairs, young people are rarely anywhere to be seen.

Drawing from my own experiences, without claiming undue authority to speak on behalf of my fellow Sandpoint Millennials, I do have some ideas that might increase the engagement of young people at community events:

Advertise your event online. With the exception of the content and calendar in this wonderful publication, I build my social life from the Sandpoint Online events page or from Facebook event recommendations. You know those smartphones we’re constantly staring into? They allow you to market your event, literally, in the palms of our hands. And because we often travel in packs, once you interest a few of us, you’ll likely attract the masses. 

Make your event memorable. We Millennials are suckers for the unique and the free. If you’re trying to generate awareness for your cause, ramp up the memorability quotient by making it a mustache and mimosa party, a pumpkin smashing competition or a footie-pajama bike ride (you get the idea). Better yet? Offer something free, especially beer or tacos. Bring a keg and a taco bar to your next roundtable discussion and watch the Millennials flock.

Another benefit of your memorable, quirky themes is your event becoming “shareable.” With a hashtag, a photobooth and some choice slogan-adorned props, you’ll have more marketing material than you could possibly use.

Have clear, concise messaging and specific calls to action. Believe it or not, we Millenials do care about the world around us. A lot, actually. But, without easy-to-consume messaging and a practical way to get involved, your cause will flit from our awareness faster than coffee shop customers without good Wi-Fi. At your event, get us fired up about your cause by giving us the facts, boiled down into takeaways we can remember.

Additionally, much more than other generations, we would rather get involved through actions than by donating funds without knowing where our dollars are going. Having specific ways for us to get involved increases the chances we will interact with your cause: “Bring an X poster at Y time because of Z reason.” 

Even better? Let us get involved in ways that connect with our skills. Need eye-catching imagery for your cause? Make graphic design a way to volunteer. Want someone to donate content for your cause’s Instagram? We’d love to give you photos and captions. Need help setting up a Facebook ad for your big fundraiser? Your engaged Millennial will happily assist.

If funds are all you really need, let us choose from a few different ways our dollars can be used. This simultaneously eases our skeptical minds and capitalizes on our desire for multiple choices. Attach specifics to how our money is actually helping, with clear messaging and mapped-out dollar pathways.

Ultimately, there is no secret key to getting the Millennial population engaged in community events. We, like everyone else, are fickle creatures absorbed in our own lives. We care about the people close to us and the world around us, but we struggle to make time to get involved. 

That said, if you take away anything from this Millennial-whisperer, let it be: free beer and tacos.

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