Don’t Judge People By Their Generation

Photo cred: Ian Atwater

I read this the other day: “[Millennials] are relatively laid back—until they feel they have been wronged… and then may quickly apply pressure to make big changes fast. They expect transparency and accountability, just as it is expected of them in the marketplace.”

I read generalizations of Millennials like this one pretty much every day.  Millennials are lazy…inspired…entitled…tech savvy…etc etc…

I have yet to read a description of the Millennial generation that was based on any sort of reliable statistics.  EVERY one of these generalizations are based on a limited point of view based on biased research or on personal experience and fail to take into account a number of aspects, namely socioeconomic status.

When marketers talk about millenials with these unfounded generalizations, they’re contributing to a highly inaccurate conception of an entire generation.

Even wikipedia makes unfounded generalizations, and describes Millennials based on studies performed solely in colleges.

My high school featured a very diverse range of lifestyles and socioeconomic statuses. A majority of the Millennials that I grew up with, do not fall under any of the stereotypes that marketers constantly apply to them.  With that personal experience, I’ve seen first hand how inaccurate the typical millennial classification really is.  I won’t base my argument on personal experience though…

Here are some stats from 2008 pulled from the United States Department of Labor:

  • 68.6 percent of 2008 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities
  • 56.8 percent of the nation’s 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.3 million young people, were either enrolled in high school (9.7 million) or in college (11.7 million).
  • “…about 6 in 10 recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended 4-year institutions.”

My class year (2005) had some similar stats, with 68.6% of high school grads enrolling in college. Many high school graduates go right into the labor force.

The false generalizations we hear about all the time are based on the Millennials that get their college degree or are in the process of doing so.  The fact is, by basing your characterization of Millennials on this segment of the larger population, you’re making highly inaccurate assumptions.

Generations are too vast and diverse to justifiably apply characteristics to the entire population.

Tell a millennial that works 50-60 hour work weeks doing construction in the winter that he’s entitled.  Or maybe tell the millennial facing jail time for selling drugs that they were “pampered” by their parents.  I know a people in both situations.  Do they represent the millennial generation? No, but they’re certainly a part of it, and shouldn’t be neglected when discussing the traits of our generation.

Thanks to Lisa Grimm, Dave Folkens and Chuck Hemann for their help in refining this post.

The Balance Act

Balance
Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

Don’t Ask, Just Share

Photo cred: Keith Allison
Photo cred: Keith Allison

If Kobe gets open for a shot, should he yell “Pass me the ball!”? No…he needs to make the ball handler aware of the opportunity so that he can decide what to do.  As lame as that sounded, same goes for reaching out to a blogger.

Chances are the blogger knows that you’re pitching them before they even open the email.  Bloggers are used to receiving pitches and the experienced ones know exactly what they expect in a good pitch.  Ultimately they know that you’re emailing them because you’d like them to write a post about your company or product. One thing bloggers definitely don’t like is being told what to blog about.

Depending on the situation, it might be good to come right out and just ask the blogger to write a post; but sometimes it’s best not to ask for anything at all.  If you’ve done your job correctly, you’re pitching this blogger because you already know that their readers would be interested in whatever it is you’re pitching.  If this is true, the blogger will want to write a post about it regardless of whether or not you ask them to.  Describe your product and explain how it might be valuable to their audience.  If they don’t want to write an entire post about it, they may be interested in sharing it within another post or sharing it elsewhere.  There are a number of opportunities.

If you describe your product and then end the email asking them to write a post about it, they may just decide it’s not worthy of a post and move on.  You’re only focusing on one option.  They’ll be much more receptive to an email that aims to do nothing more than share information about a valuable product, and that doesn’t push them to do anything.  Bloggers love to share and if it really is valuable, the request isn’t necessary…they WILL share. (Just like if Kobe is open, they WILL pass)

Do you agree?

Bookmark and Share To share specific article, click on the post title so that you’re only looking at individual post, then share.

Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?

7 Tips to Engage College Students

picture-11Are your messages reaching college students or are they being tossed away quicker than class notes after a final? Today’s college students and recent graduates, including those from online colleges [ad] have been using services like livejournal, myspace and facebook for a very long time and have developed a talent for sniffing out worth while messages from the noise that floods their mailboxes and social websites.  If done right however, word spreads through college campuses like a cold in a dorm building.  If you have something valuable to provide and you don’t want it to get lost in the noise,  here are some things to tips and things to keep in mind when attempting to engage college students…

  1. If you’re direct emailing off of a research based database…stop.  If students want to be emailed about something, they’ll sign up for it.  Even if you have something valuable, the minute they see a “pitch” in the subject line, they’ll delete it.
  2. Students join groups that their friends are already involved in.  Facebook groups are a great example of this.  In your feed, you are told when your friends join a group or become a fan of something.  They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on something that their friends are involved in.
  3. Organize your job board.  I can’t tell you how many students, including myself, are searching online for job opportunities.  The problem is, 99% of the jobs they find are for more experienced professionals.  If you want to drive college traffic to your blog or site with a job board, make a clear section that is specific to entry level jobs.
  4. Add a little wit to your twit. Whether you’re reaching through blogging, twitter, or other social networks, keep your content witty and fresh.  College students spend 5 days a week reading boring, bland material.  If you make your content fun to read, they’ll appreciate it.
  5. Brevity is king. Think about how willing you would be to read a long email or blog post after reading 10 chapters of Freud, or sitting through an hour long exam. Time is valuable in college, so take up as little of it as possible and you will be well received.
  6. Sponsor student reps. College campuses are extremely viral environments.  If you don’t know someone, you probably know someone that does.  Create that facebook group then sponsor a couple students to represent you on campus. As I said in #2, students are attracted to groups that their friends are already in, so hire their friends!  A familiar, friendly face can get students to listen to your message. The only companies I have seen on my campus have been red bull and skoal (says a lot about us huh?) so there is a lot of opportunity to embrace a practically untouched marketing method.
  7. Collaborate with clubs and organizations. This is a great way to reach out to college students that can be relatively inexpensive as they receive funding from their school.  Contact the marketing club or any college business organization and give them an opportunity to collaborate with you. Clubs are always hosting events that you can sponsor.  Or you can really collaborate.  Give them some merchandise, have them create a marketing campaign for your company and test it out in their own college campus.  They will appreciate having the opportunity to do something real with an actual company instead of dealing with hypothetical situations.  (I’m trying to find opportunities like this for the Geneseo Marketing Club)

There are so many ways to reach college students.  If you do it right, the viral power of a college campus can pay dividends.  Not only will it spread through campus, but to all those college students’ friends from back home with the help of facebook and other social media platforms.

If any companies are interested in collaborating with the Geneseo Marketing Association Club (GMAC) email me at dspinks5@gmail.com

Social Media is Fast, Engaging it Isn’t

Are you shooting for fast numbers or meaningful numbers?hare-tortoise

Sites like twitter are allowing us to share information faster than ever before. Yesterday, twitter users like @justinlevy and myself found out about Steve Jobs’ leave of absence an hour before any news station reported it on television. Many businesses have seen this fast flow of information and think that they can find fast success on these platforms.  They’re wrong.

It’s not the goal that matters but how you get there. So much focus is put on the numbers whether it be number of followers on Twitter, number of readers on your blog, or any other stat on which companies base ROI.  When asked, many “social media consultants” advise you to focus on relationships and condemn the notion of “numbers = success”.  Others care more about reaching as many people as possible than who they’re reaching.  Both are missing the point which is this…

Once you build strong relationships, the numbers will follow. If you build relationships with people in your community, they will be loyal to your company like they would a friend, trust your message, and be willing to share it with their connections.  Show that you care about who you’re reaching out to, not just how many, and they’ll care back.

It’s not such a bad thing to shoot for high numbers, but how you go about it will determine your success.  If you take the time to build meaningful relationships, you will enjoy the benefits of social media’s rapid viral opportunities in the longer run.

Would really like to hear what you think.  Comments? Criticism?


On a completely unrelated note, I will be at the Mashable NYC event today, tweeting away… so if you see me or want to meet, feel free to say hello or slap me for quoting “Field of Dreams” in a post about social media.  Either way I’d love to meet up!

Edit: Removed inapplicable “Field of Dreams” quote thanks to reader feedback (=