This blog post is a summary of the “2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study,” by Cone, a Porter Novelli Company. For the full study, please visit Cone


Generation Z grew up alongside technology but is coming of age during a time of immense media influence. This generation, born from 1997 to 2012, shares a special bond. They are the first fully wired generation. The technology at their fingertips has allowed this generation to become well informed on big issues. As the world develops, so do their voices.

Generation Z puts a great deal of thought into what they support. Often, they demonstrate their support through online donations or virtual activism. Their focus and interests are different than that of millennials. Gen Z wants nothing to do with handouts or participation trophies; they value hard work and seek to create meaningful careers.

This new generation has an undeniable focus on environmental, social and other significant matters. A corporation’s purpose is seriously considered when members of this generation are deciding where to work or what to buy. Now more than ever, Generation Z expects companies to take action on hot-topic issues. They see trending problems as urgent and think companies have a powerful role to play in addressing their concerns.


This study presents the findings of an online survey conducted by Toluna from August 12-15, 2019. The random sample used consisted of 1,026 American consumers between 14-22 years old. There were 500 males, 515 females and 11 others. The margin of error for a sample around this size is ± 3% at a 95% level of confidence.

Key Findings

  • Tired of the Negative Dialogue: 90% of Gen Z is tired of how negative and divided our country has become, and 94% believe our country needs to come together to make progress on important issues.
  • Inspired for Action: 86% say events like the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have made them care more about issues affecting them, and 87% percent are inspired when members of their generation like Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg take stands on issues.
  • Holding Companies Accountable: 90% believe companies must act to help social and environmental issues, and 75% will research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues.
  • Impact through Social Media: 80% feel they can have an impact on issues by using social media, so much so that 64% believe supporting issues online is more effective at making a difference than doing something in their communities.

Implications for Practice

The results of this study suggest that there are ways to make an organization positively stand out to a Gen Zer. Taking into account the key findings that summarize what drives this generation, there is a clear road to take. If reaching this demographic is an organizational goal, the following steps should be taken:

  • Flip the narrative and stay positive. Gen Z wants companies to keep it positive and demonstrate purpose-driven efforts. They’re primed and ready to join movements that appeal to them.
  • Speak their language. Gen Z wants companies to address most of the issues filling up their social media feeds. Companies need to determine what topics align with their purpose and which they can authentically get behind.
  • Empower and Energize for Action. Gen Z is pragmatic but driven, and they’re willing to take a host of actions to make a difference. Keep them motivated by showing how their efforts are laddering up to collective impact; they want to know they are making real and tangible change.
  • Reach Them Where They Are— Online. YouTube. Twitter. Snapchat. Show up where they are, but understand you have about eight seconds or less to grab their attention. Use those seconds wisely to create urgency and show them the impact they can have, both on and online.
  • Appeal to Their Motivators. Gen Zers are using social media to spread the word about issues and programs they care about. Give them the tools to engage their friends and networks and see your message go viral.

Moving Forward

These approaches are important. If Generation Z is demanding change, the best way to draw them in is to show that your company hears, supports and is willing to change with them. These subtle shifts should not be hard to implement if a company has an established purpose. Having a purpose is always the first step. Understand what your company believes in and support a cause that aligns with the stance you’re trying to make. It’s time to consider this generation because they’re here, and they’re louder than ever.

To read the full study, please visit here. 

Halie Barcott is a communications assistant for the Institute for Public Relations. She is also a junior public relations major and student at the University of Florida. Follow her on LinkedIn @HalieBarcott.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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