NATO’s Outreach to Youth: Engaging Influencers and Educating Future Leaders

 

Like many organizations, NATO, at 75 years old, is seeking to connect with younger generations. This week, the military alliance is tackling critical issues such as the potential annexation of Ukraine and concerns over the elderly US president’s health. To remain relevant in the modern era, NATO has enlisted the help of over 20 influencers with significant followings on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

NATO has invited 16 content creators from countries like the UK, Germany, and France to attend its summit in Washington from July 9-11. Additionally, 10 influencers from the US, invited by the US Defense and State departments, will also attend. This move acknowledges that traditional media outlets covering the summit may struggle to reach Generation Z.

It underscores how longstanding institutions like NATO must innovate to garner public support, particularly amid calls from figures like former President Donald Trump to reduce US spending on European defense. According to spokesperson Tom Pere-Costa, NATO has covered the influencers’ travel expenses but has no control over their content nor pays them fees.

While Pere-Costa didn’t disclose the influencers’ identities, NATO’s official social media includes a video on its origins narrated by Anthony Polcari, a 25-year-old influencer based in DC known for promoting “vibrant masculinity.”

“The influencers will attend a NATO Public Forum, engaging with experts and senior officials,” Pere-Costa stated. This isn’t unprecedented; similar events took place during NATO’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 2022 and at its Brussels headquarters in April.

Polcari, involved in creating an introductory video, expressed the role influencers like him play in conveying NATO’s message to the upcoming generation of leaders. “We’ll soon be the ones in charge,” he said. “Organizations like NATO need to ensure that young people understand their goals.”

At the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Amanda Round, 22, sat among journalists, preparing to share Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks on climate change’s security implications with her 161,700 TikTok followers. She emphasized that her generation prefers social media for news and views NATO’s outreach as vital for educating her audience—primarily young women—on NATO’s relevance amidst evolving threats like climate change.

“I believe NATO is essential not only for defense but also for addressing emerging threats,” Round explained. “It’s crucial for young people to engage with it more.”

A State Department spokesperson highlighted the collective reach of the 30 influencers in Washington, boasting an audience of approximately 40 million across social media. “We recognize that more people, especially younger demographics, consume news via social media and influencers,” the spokesperson affirmed. “During the NATO summit, we leverage these voices to broaden our outreach and emphasize the alliance’s significance, particularly on its 75th anniversary.”

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