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Pay Attention to the Young PR Guns

Les GoldbergBy Les Goldberg, APR
Les Goldberg Public Relations

During my lifetime, I have seen the invention of television, the beginning of the end of print journalism, the introduction and proliferation of the personal computer and cell phones, and the birth of social media.  As a public relation practitioner for the past 50 years, I can tell you that the technological advancements in how we communicate are mind-boggling.

In each case, PR pros have been quick to adapt, developing the knowledge and skills necessary to execute their clients’ or organizations’ strategies.  I do believe, however, that what has changed almost as drastically are the practitioners themselves.  Let me explain:

When I started my career, the public relations world was male-dominated, although the colleges and universities were beginning to see more women enrolled in PR courses.   I remember joining PRSA in 1982 and membership was 90 percent men with a large percentage of them over the age of 40.

The big transformation occurred in the ‘90s when young women public relations and marketing communications graduates entered the workforce in greater numbers.  From an equality standpoint, that was good news.  The bad news?  Slowly but surely the older, experienced men were being replaced.  The concept of reverse mentoring did not exist.  Due to economic necessity, employers opted to pay the lower salaries to inexperienced college graduates while the higher paid industry veterans got pink slips.

As a middle-aged owner of a PR agency specializing in technology, I always hired people qualified in basic public relations knowledge, skills and hands-on experience.  As a team, we all learned from each other.  I never advocated the “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.  The basic rules of brainstorming were upheld.

Unfortunately, I noticed that this same management philosophy was not being followed in some of my clients’ organizations or in other newly-formed PR firms.  It became clear – especially during the rise of the social media phenomenon – that corporate executives and agency principals were slow to acknowledge that the young people they were hiring knew a whole lot more about social media than they did.  What’s more, they didn’t yet grasp how to use it effectively.

How times have changed in just a decade!  Today, social media has become an integral part of all PR and marketing communications programs.  SM analytics are transforming the way executives perceive PR as an effective management function.

Therefore, it is imperative that those of us who call ourselves public relations professionals strive to learn everything there is to know about social media, own the concept of reverse mentoring and fully respect what the younger, technology-savvy generations bring to the table.

Les Goldberg, APR is an award-winning journalist and public relations practitioner with a half century of experience.  His firm, Les Goldberg Public Relations, was founded 32 years ago as one of Southern California’s pioneer boutique public relations agencies specializing in technology.  A former U.S. Army public information officer, Les holds a Certificate in Public Relations from UCLA, bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge and accreditation (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America.  He served two terms as president of the PRSA Orange County chapter and holds a Distinguished Service Award.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog is part of the Diversity Committee’s “Real Talk” Initiative, where OCPRSA will host events and feature monthly blogs where leading communications professionals speak candidly about issues that affect diversity and inclusion in the public relations profession.

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