I was having a spirited conversation about the state of public relations with a journo buddy of mine last week when this question came up: “How in the hell can anyone build a bridge long enough for the widening generation gap in the media and PR?”
After he downed a few shots of a certain toxic adult beverage following that stress-induced question, it got me thinking about another 5 Things topic for all us flacks to enjoy and discuss. It should scurry up some conversation, so here’s to hoping.
Here are 5 Generation Gaps in Need of Bridging in PR. If you have tools to build this structure, we will set up the contractor site immediately.
1. The Learning Experience. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers all got into PR having to roll up their sleeves, make those copies, build a media list, and do that research thing the hard way. These days, some new recruits of the Millennial variety already have an understanding of Cision/Vocus (they change that brand yet?), have a few news apps on their smartphone, and can Google with the best of them. They don’t need no stinkin’ relationships; they have Twitter. They don’t want to study PR … they want to do PR. And with certain clients, studying is precisely what it takes. Moral of the story? Your professor taught you everything you know, not everything they know. Figure that out and get ready for homework.
2. Technology. Come on. You didn’t think I was going to be a GenX homer, did you? There are oodles of curmudgeons and codgers in PR that swear off social media and any newfangled technology within seconds of a news story. The young ones come into the conference room ready for a tweet-up, hashtag raffle, or a guerrilla Vine taping and the PR director’s head is spinning clean off its axis. The compromise with technology is the old farts need to admit they don’t know what it all is. Conversely, the young kids need to admit they aren’t sure how to use it all for the benefit of sharing a story. Do that, and PR teams will end up singing “We are the World” by the end of the week.
3. Re-inventing the Wheel. There are two types of Millennials — the ones who walked all over their parents and the ones whose parents didn’t let that crap get out of hand. The ones in the first group? I’m not talking to you. The second group is full of young people ready to do, not just learn (see No. 1). They are usually looking for
shorter new ways to do old PR tricks. Word of note to the older PR vets: Listen to those ideas. Those ideas are what created the new toys for the PR industry. They may be on to a thing or two, if only they were given the chance. MEMO to you Millennials: Some wheels don’t need re-inventing. If we want new to proven tactics, we’ll call one of those “AS SEEN ON TV” guys. Thanks.
4. Old Dog? Meet New Tricks. Many older PR directors, partners, and whatever title that makes their chest puff out, lost the desire to learn new things about PR. It is what it is…and then people began to hate on advertising-value equivalency. That caused the booze to be taken out of the “secret stock” earlier than preferred. There are always things to learn in PR. That goes for the younger flacks too. I don’t care how awesome your professor was in college. He or she didn’t prepare you for everything. It’s impossible. So, when you get that first job, you become the old dog. And those new tricks will be taught to you by an even older dog. Sometimes, they call that experience.
5. Evolution of Journalists. “Whelp, in my day, the media preferred…” is usually the beginning of some geezer in PR remembering the good ol’ days. Arguably, more than half of those folks have never worked one day in a newsroom. And the ones that are hacks-turned-flacks saying that haven’t been in one in so long, they forgot what an assignment desk looks like. Trust me, newsrooms are like anything — the more things change; the more they stay the same. Journalists are a peculiar people — some prefer things one way, some like it another. Your job as a flack is to know the difference and when to act upon it.