Note: The article below is courtesy of the IABC Trend Watch Committee. The group is a time-limited think tank tasked with reporting on communications ideas and insights.

By Katie Macaulay

Are communication professionals ready for a world where our audiences have more influence and followers than our stakeholders?

At a Glance

As a generation of true content creators become consumers, employees and investors, we need to rethink our definition of “audience.” Gen Z is likely to be equal partners in the communication process. Our role will be to harness the passion, skills and presence of the world’s foremost content creator generation.

Trend to Watch

In 2021, TikTok reached one billion active users worldwide. The word “active” in this context is important. On most social platforms, users consume content, but on TikTok they create it. More than 80% of TikTok users have posted a video, says the marketing agency, Wallaroo. On Twitter, it is the exact opposite, according to Pew Research. Just 10% of users write 80% of the tweets.

Generation Z makes up 60% of TikTok users. Born between 1995-2012 (though the years are debated), the oldest members of this generation are now 26. By 2025, they will be 27% of the global workforce.

Previous generations can rightly be called “lurkers” on social media — they observed but rarely participated. This generation has been creating content since childhood. Many are bold, creative, self-assured media makers.

What This Means for Communication Professionals

Communication professionals have known for some time they cannot control the message. The birth of the world wide web in 1987 democratized communication enabling anyone with a connected device to find and amplify their voice.

Nevertheless, for the last 38 years, communication professionals could safely think of their internal and external audiences as receivers of a message. While the audience was not passive – they interacted with our content, sharing and shaping it — we remained editors-in-chief.

As Generation Z comes of age, the power paradigm will shift. We will need to build mutually beneficial, peer-to-peer relationships with this cohort. Our role will be to define an overarching narrative and content framework that aligns with our organization’s strategy. Then, we will need to create playbooks and toolkits, so this content creator generation can channel their creativity for the mutual benefit of all. 

Katie Macaulay, member of the IABC Trends Watch Committee and the IABC International Executive Board, is a leading voice in internal communication. She is the author of “From Cascade to Conversation – Unlocking the Collective Wisdom of Your Workforce,” host of The Internal Comms Podcast and managing director of the comms agency, AB.

Image: Karolina Grabowska via