Sara Rude

Why Communications Pros Must Embrace and Mentor Millennials

By: Sara Rude | January 22, 2018 | 
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millennialsStep in front of a mirror.

Don’t be shy—look yourself directly in the eyes.

Take a deep, cleansing breath while maintaining eye contact with your reflection.

Repeat after me, “Throwing the term ‘millennial’ at someone is only a lame excuse for my lack of commitment to being a better mentor and teacher.”

#TruthBomb

Generalizing any group of people, especially with broad stroke statements such as, “all women love shopping” or “old people always carry Werther’s in their pockets” (this statement has proven to be untrue multiple times, to my colossal disappointment) is not only lazy, it’s irresponsible.

Sweeping statements allow people to shrug off their lack of understanding or willingness to change, and place the blame entirely on a cliché misconception.

Cue the “millennials are lazy and entitled” conundrum.

I am one of many communications professionals helping to shape the next generation (not to speak too highly of myself or anything… *brushes shoulder off*).

I manage younger professionals, mentor them through PRSA, and teach them at the university level.

If we want to preserve the integrity and relevance of our industry, we must not make generalizations for those who are going to be representing us in the not-so-distant future.

Instead, we need to adapt our behavior and beliefs to help them thrive.

Here are a few things I believe to be (mostly*) true:

Millennials Want to Be Part of Something Important

This notion may fall under the, “no kidding?” category, but it seems professional millennials are very concerned with how they fit into the bigger picture.

How is pulling together a media list helping the larger team? Why is it important? How do I know if I did a good job? Talk to me, Goose.

Take a moment to share the importance of the process with them—how their contribution helped make a happy client.

Furthermore, give them a bucket of hours every year to work on a pro-bono project they show interest in, and let them lead it.

We can’t always choose the client projects we work on, but we all need to feel we are doing something which means something.

Give them the opportunity to try new ideas, write, and work with clients, all on something they truly care about.

Millennials are Dedicated, Hard-Working Individuals

“They’ve had everything handed to them their whole lives! I remember when winners were the only ones who got medals…not this participation ridiculousness.”

Yeah. I’ve said that, too.

Remember when we started working in the PR field and showed up at 7:30 am every morning?

And maybe took a 15-minute lunch, never leaving before 6 p.m.?

“Working from home” wasn’t a thing. Because, well, the internet did not exist and neither did smartphones.

Work-life balance was a metaphor for the number of calories one needed to eat in order not to die.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case.

We are lucky to work in a dynamic, 24/7 industry. But, no one can be on 24/7.

Millennials are independent and individualistic, as taught to be by their parents.

Trying to shove them into a corporate eight to five timeslot is unrealistic and, frankly, unproductive.

As connected as we all are now, there is no reason employers shouldn’t offer flexible working arrangements.

Buttttt… what if they just don’t work?

I’ll let you in on a secret, my friend.

If they aren’t working from home, they sure aren’t working when they’re in the office.

Having their butt in a chair is not going to change that.

Having a feeling of ownership and understanding value helps motivate millennials.

Trust is another key motivator.

Give them a little leeway.

Millennials Can Teach Old Dogs a Few New Tricks

The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality haunts fired agencies and formerly-employed marketing executives everywhere.

We do not work in an industry that allows for redundancy.

When someone talks about the “blocking and tackling” projects, this should be an indicator to everyone in the room that it is time to come up with new ideas.

Ask your millennial employees for help with this.

Yes, our job is to teach them the way things used to be done—looking up media members in Bacon’s books and measuring hard clips to calculate AVE.

I’m all for it. I love making myself seem as archaic as possible.

My favorite is sharing the story about getting my first email address in college.

That said, millennials live and breathe and consume the types of media we are all dying to become experts in social media, influencer marketing, and native advertising.

Not to mention, millennials now have more buying power than any other generation.

Maybe let them have a voice at the table, yes?

Don’t Cast Them Off

Look, I know it’s easy to write off someone who is underperforming as a lost cause for many reasons.

I am simply suggesting we take time to be more introspective and not cast off a whole generation of potential PR rock stars.

What has your experience been working with millennials? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(*I say mostly because if I stated all these things are true for all millennials, I would be a hypocrite. I would be making generalizations. Trust me; some people feel they are entitled. Some are just lazy. The worst are both. Consider an entire generation may not be, and change how you view your differences – you might be surprised by the results.)

Note: I had a self-proclaimed “millennial snowflake” gut-check this article for me. Shout out to Sarah Gentil!

About Sara Rude


Sara Rude is a Vice President, Public Relations & Social Media Supervisor at Cramer-Krasselt . She is also an Adjunct Instructor at Marquette University, and serves on the Board of Directors of the PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin chapter. In her free time, she can be found trying to keep up with her daughter, Molly and rescue dog, Kirby or reading the most recent post-apocalyptic teen fiction series.

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