I recently read a startling article by writer Caleb Crain in the New Yorker. Crain discussed the decline of reading in the United States – going as far to consider a world where reading is nonexistent. “What will life be like if people stop reading?” For media relations, at least, that world is already becoming something of a reality. More and more young people are turning to television and the Internet for information as opposed to traditional newspapers. “Millennials,” the latest in a long succession of terms used to describe the generation that is currently in its 20s, are the first group that really demand to be catered to differently, more interactively. Reaching them is one of the first hurtles in the evolving media landscape.
To envision what it’s like to reach Millennials, try and imagine a ball of mercury. Everytime you think you’ve got it, it moves to another place. To reach this target, PR needs to tap multiple channels using multi-media. The heyday of the long version press release is gone with an increased desire for virtual pitches that enable the media to quickly snap up the visual story. For PR to move effectively into the future we need to reconcile some generational differences. And a lot of that can be accomplished by guiding the Millienials in our own industry.
We can reinforce the value of reading as the foundation of effective PR. We can encourage Millennials to read the top news stories of the day and follow the bylines of journalists before contacting them. We can (and do) send out reading lists of favorite novels, knowing that the sparks of imagination that come from reading will make them better critical thinkers. We need to encourage them to take deep dives into books and newspapers to make them smarter, well-rounded PR practitioners. But, let’s also look at what we can learn from this generation. First, be realistic enough to know that if it isn’t moving, it may not be remembered. Millennials can effectively help us understand the new zeitgeist of PR because they are living it. They can tell us if Facebook will be successful in the long run as it becomes more deliberate in its voice. They can better discern the blogs that are of value. They can better help us navigate the waters of social networking as they themselves are immersed in the conversation.
As Millennials enter the workforce and the PR industry in greater numbers, this change is inevitable. Thankfully, our agency is strengthened by the presence of Millennials who are able and qualified to converse with the Millennials on the receiving end of our messages.