Interview With A Millennial PR Practitioner

I recently had the opportunity to Skype with a PR professional who works in Boston.

Sam Melnick is a 24-year-old PR practitioner at Dewey Square Group, a political PR agency. Sam graduated from Syracuse University and has a political science background.

My interview with Sam affirmed many of the ideas I wrote about in the capstone paper. During the interview, Sam repeatedly referred to the stereotypical millennial, mentioning how much millennials care about giving back to the community and that companies act as responsible citizens. Secondly, he discussed the importance of the baby boomer generation and how essential it is not to forget about this particular segment of the population. Additionally, he talked about how from his perspective, it is important to stay on top of the news, particularly about different companies.

Along with the other millennials who took my survey, Sam also displayed a stronger distrust when thinking about larger corporations. In the interview, he had quite a cynical view, particularly on CEOs and other C-suite executives. He claimed that CEOs only agree to partake in CSR initiatives after a communications practitioner tells them to do so.

After interviewing both millennials and baby boomers who work in PR, one idea has really stood out to me. Much of the focus on millennials is not about understanding WHO they are. Rather, right now, PR practitioners are very fixated on HOW to properly communicate their messages with millennials.

I believe Sam’s interview reveals that PR practitioners have not really considered doing a more intensified examination of millennials as stakeholders. Rather, the close look has been at the platforms used to reach millennials, such as the latest social media site and/or app.

Here are my thoughts: If we don’t fully understand WHO millennials are, no matter HOW many platforms we use, the ability to effectively implement a CSR and/or PR campaign will prove to be much more challenging.

As we wrap us the discussion, at the end of my interview with Sam, I asked him if he knew anything about “Generation Z,” the next generation to take over the marketplace. Sam had no knowledge about Generation Z. Rather, Sam only really had a full grasp on his perceptions of the millennials generation. Perhaps we are all guilty of paying too much attention to our own generational understandings. Furthermore, perhaps we are each guilty of stereotyping our own generations.

I will be extremely interested to see how CSR and PR practitioners learn about the current and future generations as time continues.

Below you can find the entire interview:

Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words

For the visual aide portion of the capstone here at the two most powerful pictures that describe my passion and interest in CSR and this project.

  1. PRSSA National Conference in Indianapolis, October 2016capstone group pic PRSSA.jpg

I spent an entire weekend with an incredible group of future public relations practitioners to further my understanding of public relations. The seminar I attended on CSR during that weekend was a large inspiration behind the creation of this capstone project. I felt very moved by the CSR campaigns I learned about, especially the Global Soap Project.

2.  Confession: I am an avid Starbucks customer.

Starbucks capstone picture.JPG

One of my survey findings was that consumers love Starbucks. As a millennial myself, I particularly love Starbucks as well. Working on this project, I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and sitting at Starbucks. If you look closely at the cup in the picture, you will notice that even the coffee cup sleeve with the coffee I purchased says, “Same great sleeve, less waste.” I believe that Starbucks is an example of a company who is not only doing great CSR work, but it also doing a great job making their CSR efforts known.

Interview With A PR Professional: Part Two

The other professional I interviewed for my capstone project is Bert Cunningham. I met Bert last year while completing my independent study on PR ethics. He has over 30 years of experience in the PR industry and has worked for a variety of companies including Long Island Power Authority and New York Power Authority.

One of the most powerful ideas I took away from my interview with Bert is that in addition to understanding millennials, we also need to understand generations within a historical context.

I am very thankful for the chance I had to interview Bert. Below you can find the full interview.

Interview With A PR Professional: Part One

The first professional I interviewed for this capstone project was Ryan Yarosh. Ryan is the Director of Media and Public Relations at Binghamton University. I graduated from Binghamton University in 2015 and interned with Ryan during my last semester.

Ryan’s views on CSR and the millennial generation were very insightful. He addresses the stereotypes he sees with the millennial generation he works with on a daily basis.

Please view the YouTube video below for the full interview with Ryan:

The Greenest Generation: Baby Boomers or Millennials?

Triple Pundit published a really interesting article back in 2013 titled “The Greenest Generation: Baby Boomers or Millennials?

The answer is not so clear cut. Triple Pundit claims that millennials are the greenest generation, yet also gives some important information about baby boomers.

For example, baby boomers are more likely to recycle than millennials. According to a study from DDB Worldwide, some 66 percent of Boomers surveyed said they make an effort to recycle everything they possibly can, while only 53 percent of Millennials claimed to do so. Boomers even go a step further in terms of recycling. They also beat Millennials on separating the recyclables from the rest of the trash and reusing grocery bags.

Yet, more Millennials said they would “pay more for an environmentally-safe version of a product” (46 percent) than did Boomers (41 percent).

The article argues “While Millennials may not be the greenest at home, their politics overwhelming lean in favor of sustainability.” Yet, middle aged people are leaving more of a carbon footprint by traveling more.

What do CSR and PR practitioners make of all of this? I believe that the answer goes back to my argument found within my capstone. We cannot generalize that one generation is greener than the other. Both contribute to important causes in different ways.

Are Baby Boomers A ‘Generation Of Sociopaths’?

One of the surprising findings from my survey for this capstone project was that the baby boomers also displayed a certain degree of narcissistic qualities. I found this result to be strange based on how much I usually hear and read about the millennial generation, not the baby boomer generation.

Bruce Gibney, venture capitalist and writer also found that baby boomers displayed such traits in his book A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.

Gibney’s book was actually just released in March of this year and has quickly made headlines. His argument is that baby boomers ― specifically the large subset of white, middle-class boomers ― are, both individually and as a group, unusually sociopathic. He cites mental health data showing boomers have significantly higher levels of antisocial traits and behaviors ― including lack of empathy, disregard for others, egotism and impulsivity ― than other generations.

Carolyn Gregoire from the Huffington Post sat down with Gibney for an interview.

Before going into the interview, Gregoire makes a great point which I believe ties nicely into my research findings for the capstone project.

She writes, “The factual basis for Gibney’s case isn’t perfect. Data on generations prior to boomers is thin, because widespread psychological testing wasn’t as common, and younger generations haven’t been around long enough for long-term data. It’s possible that other generations have major issues as well, but we simply don’t have enough information to assess them properly.”

Although the author is talking about psychology research, I believe the same idea can be applied to research. Right now, we simply do not know enough about each generation. We need to spend more time learning about the generations, for any campaign, not just for the purposes of CSR initiatives.

“Don’t Call Us Millennials” Pew Research Study Discussion

I came across an article from TIME Magazine titled, “Millennials: Don’t Call Us Millennials.”

The article discusses another 2015 study reveals more about millennials that are important for PR practitioners, especially those involved in CSR.

According to the Pew Research Center, Most Millennials Resist The ‘Millennial’ Label.

The research center distributed a national survey. It was conducted with 3,147 adults who are part of the American Trends Panel, a nationally representative sample of randomly selected U.S. adults surveyed online and by mail. The survey respondents were given five commonly used terms for generations, including the “Greatest Generation,” and asked whether they considered themselves part of these generations.

Interestingly, the Baby Boomers had the strongest generational identity (79% of those 51 to 69 considered themselves part of the “Baby Boomer” generation).

On the other hand, Millennials were not proud to be a part of their own generation and were the most critical on themselves. According to the Pew Center, “Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the terms “self-absorbed,” “wasteful,” and “greedy” apply to people in their age cohort.” The study also talks about how millennials least likely to describe their group as having qualities like being “patriotic”, “responsible”, “willing to sacrifice”, “religious”, “moral”, “self-reliant”, and “politically active”. Only about a third of the Millennials surveyed consider themselves compassionate and hardworking.

There are two interesting notes about this study in terms of my research:

  1. There are other generations PR practitioners should be discussing. For example, Pew talks about the “Silent Generation” (ages 70 to 87). Why aren’t we thinking about this generation as a stakeholder group?
  2. The Pew Research Center study directly aligns with my survey findings. Millennials (40%) and Gen Xers (37%) were no more likely than Boomers (41%) or Silents (40%) to describe the people in their generation as environmentally conscious.

I wonder what would happen if this study was performed again in 2017. PR practitioners, what are your thoughts?

CSR, Sustainability & Millennials- UC Berkeley Video and Discussion

The YouTube video we will be talking about features Dr. Kellie McElhaney, adjunct professor at the Institute for Business and Social Innovation at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.

Take a look at the clip below:

Yet again, this video shows how one dimensional PR professionals are viewing millennials. I have no doubt that Toms are particularly popular with millennials. However, where is the discussion about millennials who may not buy Toms? And what about baby boomers? Do any older adults purchase these shoes?

Interestingly, Dr. McElhaney brings up the popularity of the Nike brand. My survey results directly align with this discussion. I was not aware until watching this video that Nike reuses rubber to make their shoes. Perhaps this is one reason why Nike had so much interest amongst my survey participants.