From Liz Kaplow’s Laptop

The power of our incoming talent pool.  They are plugged in, savvy and connected marketers. And they are often under 21.

On the hunt for PR innovators? At our agency, we’ve had great success finding a new crop of smart, creative marketers.

It may surprise you that these new stars are our recent band of interns.

When we first established our intern program, it was part recruiting tool, part admin support. Interns helped with mailings, stocking product closets and a host of other important, but not necessarily strategic, work. But in the past few years, our interns have become a great resource for our firm, and I suspect, other smartly run businesses.

These savvy college students offer a window into marketing 2.0, and great perspective on how to reach an astute and significant demographic—their own. Millennials are powerful consumers and brand builders, and they demand tailored outreach programs.

So two years ago, we tasked them with devising a college initiative for one of our technology clients and last summer, a back to school program for a retailer. This year, we asked for a snapshot of their fellow Millennials’ media and technology consumption. The four interns spent their first week drafting and executing an extensive survey that spanned from Facebook to texting to eBay.

Millennials have grown up sharing their impressions, persuasions and choices with one another online, and they have spent their pre-professional years building vast networks. Using only their personal contacts, our interns sent their survey to more than 2,000 people within less than an hour. That’s impressive and really, social networking at its best.

Students regularly call upon their personal networks for official use. Online friends help each other by completing surveys, generating attendance at events, donating to a charity or even answering a simple question, like “What did I miss in class today?”

The ease with which they merge their public and personal lives is often criticized, but it can also be a great boon to PR. In their final presentation to a room full of executives, the interns referenced their own blogs and experiences on social networking sites.

As experienced “editors” of their own content driven sites—whether it’s a blog or the newsfeed on Facebook—they’ll begin their PR careers with a better understanding of what is compelling to publish, and therefore pitch, to both media and consumers. After all, they’ve already spent years marketing what’s happening in their lives.

Constant use of instant messenger, texting, and BlackBerry messaging (my daughters got me started) may have left Millennials trading traditional writing skills for new communication tools like Twitter which allows for only 140 characters per message.  There you have it, short messages to their wide social network – a perfect PR storm.

We may not know precisely how, but clearly technology is going to keep changing the way we work.  As it does I’m sure we’ll be looking to Millennials for best practices. They should be poised to respond since they’ve grown up adapting the way they connect and communicate.

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