ITL #265 - Millennials: self-improvement and the betterment of the PR industry

2 years, 3 months ago


Older generations have at times been scathing about millennials but as long as they address their own shortcomings they hold the key to reshaping PR in the next few years so that it is fit for the future. By Seçkin Çetin.

Every time I see an opinion article about Gen Y (born 1982-2000), I look at the author’s name and try to understand if he or she is also a millennial. Often, I realize they belong to Gen X; a generation that loves to talk about the millennials! Since we now have another generation to complain about (Gen Z, born between the late 1990s and mid 2000s) it is finally time for some millennial talk by millennials.

Much has been written or said about how millennials are irresponsible, lack some of the characteristics found among members of Gen X and are overly dependent on technology. Public relations seniors also started a Gen Y research trend and these research papers mostly asked if millennials were ready to become leaders or up to fulfilling their responsibilities in the workplace.

With the magnificent speed of technology, new brands emerged to target millennials. There it is! Now, millennials were something! This fact led PR seniors to shift their research reports to build tailored communication or marketing strategies for their clients.

Gen X had and still have valid points. Millennials lack many old-school characteristics. They were raised differently and (to some people) that meant they were spoiled. Also, they did not experience war and had no idea what poverty means. So, they are different. However, this difference is only because the era is different.

Millennials are no longer the youngest generation on earth and they’re starting to become senior professionals. Public relations, like all other professions, is tackling how to adjust to this change.

Skype calls and flip flops

The days when PR professionals cut clippings from newspapers have been left behind. Members of Gen Y have a phone in their hands from the second they awake. Therefore, it is much easier for them to learn that day’s agenda or the coverage they reached very early in the morning.

Agencies also used to meet with the client for two hours at least once a week. Today young people prefer doing a skype call. They do not want to sacrifice their comfort level and keep their flip flops under the table.

General PR approaches or actions have also changed. For instance, launch events or big conferences had been a major part of public relations. Today, with target groups and PR practitioners frequently millennials, they are social mostly with their computers and phones. Key influencers and important stakeholders are now digitally famous. No need to mention that most of them are millennials.

In traditional PR service, the focus was on ‘whatever the client asks or says’. There was a giver and a receiver. One side provided, the other got a public relation service.

This nature of this changed somewhat when millennials came into the picture and started to complain about the work they did. Millennials working in agencies did not want to merely provide. Their aspiration was to be seen as equals, to be a business partner to the client rather than a service giver or vendor.

Since the public relations service relationship has not been changed from its history in the 20th Century, this became a challenge for young professionals. The reason was very simple. This very well self-educated and fast adaptive generation lacked the necessary accumulation of knowledge to be at the place they wanted to be.

Millennials are very good at technology, they get on well with influencers, they are even becoming influencers. However, their means of self-improvement has been shaped through the environment in which they live. News reaches them online; all videos are watched through smart phones and novels read on a Kindle. Everything came right into their hands.

Owning a new system

The place technology has brought them has limited the conditions for self-improvement. And this led an absence of what we know from its traditional meaning, Weltanschauung. I do not prefer the English translation, ‘Worldview’ for this word since it represents a much broader philosophy. This does not only mean that millennials should read more encyclopaedias or communication theory. This means they must build their own system and own it in the public relations industry.

No one should think that millennials don’t have to change or improve since the existing system of public relations has already shifted to digital. The fact that millennials already have become digital in their teenagerhood does not mean that they will be digitally adapted for the rest of their life. An amazing, surprising and sometimes confusing Generation Z who became digital not in their teenage years but in childhood comes after the millennials.

According to a Deloitte report, millennials believe Gen Z’s have strong information technology skills and the ability to think creatively. Six in 10 millennials believe Gen Z will have a positive impact as their presence in the workplace expands; this belief is higher in emerging markets (70 per cent) than in mature markets (52 per cent).

Millennials might be criticized as self-involved or even narcissistic for their reliance on technology. But the truth of the matter is that the habits of millennials have not only changed media influence, but also hold the power of revolutionizing public relations globally. If millennials do not build their new way of working into a new PR service system, then the challenges our industry will face five years from now will be all the greater.

Please note that the author is also a millennial and this text is in a way self-criticism. 

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The Author

Seçkin Çetin

Seçkin Çetin holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Ege University and Master of Science degree in Intelligence from National Defense University. She has extensive experience in technology, public and financial industries and specifically in thought leadership, content creation and crisis management. Currently a Consultant at Bersay Communications Consultancy in Turkey, she directs international projects with Ketchum. Seckin also hosts a class for Leadership Communication in Bahçeşehir University.

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