How *NOT* To Engage Teens

Last month I shared “The Ultimate 2017 Guide to Marketing to Teens.” It offered six pointers for making 2017 a wonderful year. The tips were: tell lies, ignore facts, be offensive, make threats, look backwards and ignore experts. I will confess right now that I must have been under the influence of a powerful psychoactive substance when I wrote this. These tips are exactly NOT how to engage with teens (or anyone else).

I clearly was caught up in a moment of hysterical euphoria. That feeling became more acute. Up became down. Left became right. Wrong became right. (OMG! I think I’ve just proven that while two wrongs don’t make a right a left and a wrong seem to make two rights!) Slow became fast. Old became new! (I could go on like this forever so I’ll stop now; you get the idea.)

Thankfully, less than a week ago, I realized I had been terribly mistaken. Relationships need to be rooted in authenticity and respect; not lies and fear. When they aren’t, people become upset. They raise their voices to share their ideas and ask to be heard. They demand it. Only those with ears made of tin would be able to ignore so strong a signal.



And yet people do.

This is especially important when you think of young people. They are just developing their sense of the world. They are on a quixotic quest for meaning and authenticity. While they may seem cynical or jaded, they are still engaging with the world some sense of trust and wonder. This is such an idealistic time of life.

Idealism isn’t limited to the ways teens view themselves. They have — in their pre-disillusionment innocence — an assumption that at least some part of the world is as idealistic as they are. How quickly this crumbles in the hard face of reality.

The lie, the inauthenticity, that pulls away the veil of hope from teens; don’t let it be your lie. Don’t let it be your clever trick that sells them snake oil. When they taste the lie for the first time and recognize it for what it is, they’ll be aghast. They’ll never look at you in the same way again. You will have lost their trust. This will sharpen their eyes and let them see your every bump and blemish. You’ll become something to be sneered at and jeered.

It happens. I’ve seen it happen.

How can one recover? Can one even recover? Is one even capable of recovery? These are hard but important questions to ask once trust has been lost. Perhaps the hardest of them though is, does one even want to recover? One can imagine a situation where lies work. Where the lie fits perfectly into the ear of the lie. 

For a time — a long time even — the lie may make so much sense that it’s effective. And even if a few people recognize it for what it is, that won’t really matter much now, will it? But eventually it will; and the longer the twisted tale is accepted the deeper the disillusionment and the stronger the revulsion when the truth is discovered. 

When the teens catch on and realize they’ve been had, they will be upset. Building on a foundation of lies will eventually and always fail. The question is how much damage will happen before things can return to normal? How many millions will turn away from you or take to the streets or social media? It’s not a pretty picture.

You do have a choice.

Rather than listening to the crazy suggestions I came up with last month, you can simply do the exact opposite! Tell the truth, respect facts and good information, be respectful, be gentle, look to the future and listen to the people around you. It sounds so simple and it makes room in our heads and hearts for a brighter and more effective future.

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