RALLY’s Hot Take: March For Our Lives

Digital First Generation Z Gets It Done

By Brooke Cullison

Shawn Thew / EPA
“The adults failed us, and now 17 people are dead.” — Meghan Bonner, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

For the first time on a national stage, Gen Z demonstrated itself as a formidable power. These digital natives turned out millions across the country on Saturday to march for sensible gun control. Not only was this a march driven by digital tools and social media, it came to dominate the national narrative on gun control because it was part of an inclusive movement that resonated across race, economic and geographical backgrounds.

Not only was the #MarchForOurLives a huge success as the largest youth protest since the Vietnam War, we are confident it is one that will have staying power even beyond the November elections. With many of these activists not yet even eligible to vote, they’re just beginning to flex their political muscle.

Here’s RALLY Digital’s hot take on this inspiring moment:

1.#MarchForOurLives was deeply rooted in Generation Z. Gen Z has grown up in a global, online, and fast-paced world. They’ve had access to tools and platforms that elevate diverse voices sharing diverse messages, preparing them with a more effective language to formulate their arguments and speak up against the injustices they see. #MarchForOurLives was explicitly and purposefully built with and for people across ages, genders, ethnicities, geographies, and every other category of American.

There is a lot to learn from how Gen Z structures inclusive conversations, as they constantly check their own privilege and give platforms to young people of color — including the most prominent face of the movement, Emma Gonzalez, an 18 year old openly bisexual Cuban American. By having diverse voices in the conversation and making intersectionality of issues around gun violence a priority, this movement was able to dominate online within and across a wide range of communities, and ultimately translate interest into offline support.

Diversity and equity are just as rooted in this generation as mass shootings. Most of Gen Z was born after Columbine and has never known a world without mass shootings. Victims and supporters came together armed with digital tools and digital savvy to get their message (#NeverAgain) heard like no other generation before them.

2.Going from a moment to a movement in a month was only possible thanks to digital. Within days of the Parkland shooting, activists had a brand, website and 100% on-message social media content that constantly appeared in online feeds to build momentum around the day of the march (and beyond). Facebook event pages were launched almost immediately by supporters across the country in coordination with the announcement of the DC march. While some in the digital advocacy space work hard to create a seamless online journey and convince partners of its importance, these young activists strung it together effortlessly for an engaged audience ready to act.

Gen Z lives their lives online, allowing for organizers to tap into their social media use to drive trending conversations and create cycles of sharing that galvanize the movement. They were first drivers of conversations that celebrities, brands and politicians wanted to jump in on, increasing their reach to an even wider audience across multiple digital platforms and extending their reach and relevance to other generations with different online media consumption habits.

3.Digital communication is second nature to Gen Z and it showed. These activists used digital tools and platforms, ones they’ve grown up with, to turn out over a million people in DC alone on Saturday. From easy website building tools to coordinated hashtags, digital has dramatically lowered the threshold for organizing and Gen Z is capitalizing on it. Combining their skilled use of digital platforms with their instinct to use their phones to create visual content (and share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in real time), Gen Z’s organizing capacity is different than the generations that came before them. Often criticized for being too attached to mobile devices, Gen Z used that habit for good and galvanized widespread support for comprehensive change on a seemingly immovable issue.

Brands, influencers, and politicians all took notice and jumped at the chance to attach themselves to the #MarchForOurLives — cross-promoting it on their own platforms and offering support. The result was digital communicators’ dream scenario: content, coordination and conversation growing an enormous and powerful movement.

From the Women’s March to the March for Our Lives, digital-first organizing is a way to drive fast, far-reaching, inclusive and powerful communications. RALLY Digital is here for it all, and is inspired by what Gen Z has showed us is possible.

RALLY is an issue-driven communications firm that takes on sticky political and social problems and finds ways to push them forward. Brooke Cullison is a Digital Account Executive based out of RALLY’s Los Angeles office