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There’s More to a Millennial than Updating Your Profile

September 17, 2009

Collaborative post by Kasey Skala and Lauren Fernandez. You can find them on Twitter at @kmskala and @CubanaLAF.

A blog post went up today on the PRSA ComPRhension blog that was titled Status Updates: Millennial Staffers Can Update Your Social Media Plans. Kasey Skala and Lauren Fernandez are both PRSA members (Minnesota and Ft. Worth, respectively) and found that the article, if followed, might lead to social media disaster. They were both offended as PR pros – but what can you do to ensure that you take a positive approach to social media in the PR world? As a Millennial or senior staffer?

We found three things that really stuck out to us (there is more, but let’s leave that to the comments conversation.)

1. Tapping on these new professionals may seem like a gamble. You don’t want them speaking to clients, let alone producing messaging.

The biggest issue with this thinking is the rationale behind the hiring. As an agency or corporation, especially in today’s economy, the ball is definitely in your court in regards to acquiring the right talent. It’s always a “gamble” bringing a new person into your organization. You want to be sure they’re a right fit with your current staff, your organization’s mission and the clients you represent. However, if you base your hiring on someone’s age instead of his or her talent – especially when it comes to social media – then your organization has a lot bigger issues it needs to straighten out. If you don’t have enough faith and trust in their ability and talent, then why did you hire them?

2. However, to increase your organization’s toolbox and capture the attention of younger staffers eager to get ahead, the social media space is an ideal testing ground.

Social Media is an enhancement of your communications strategy already in place. It should never be an ideal testing ground. It represents your brand, just as much as a Web site, press release or marketing campaigns. Just because someone grew up online, that doesn’t automatically give them credibility in the social space. The biggest reason brands struggle with social media is because they treat as an experiment. The space may be new, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an effective strategy in place. You can change or alter your store layout, you can modify your cute promotion. Your online footprint is permanent.

3. A good starting point is to task new professionals with building up senior staffers’ profiles and networks on the organization’s social networking accounts.

Social Media is about your personality, your brand, your authenticity. Having a millennial build up your profile and network doesn’t show you. What if they state something wrong? Are they going to engage for you as well? Social media is about engaging and putting yourself out there. You lost total authenticity when you are speaking for someone else.A new professional brings the technology platform knowledge to the table, while senior staffers know branding strategy. Work together to meet a common goal.

So, what do you think? What approaches do you utilize in social media? How can millennials and senior staffers work together on campaigns and strategy?

59 Comments leave one →
  1. Colby Gergen permalink
    September 17, 2009 3:13 pm

    Quick thought before I get out of class (yeah, I know, not being a GREAT student here. There’s just so much I can learn about the 1996 Telecommunications Act…)- I’m just starting to look for potential internships for next summer, but if I ever get asked to network, engage, etc. for someone else (a person, not the brand), I’m saying no. That’s something I’m comfortable losing my internship for.

    • September 17, 2009 3:30 pm

      Colby – I agree. There is a difference between engaging for a brand, and engaging for a person. You shouldn’t have to build up their profiles because they are off doing other things. You can learn from them about brand strategy, and you can answer questions they have about tech platforms (if any, I’ve learned a few tricks from non-Millennials.)

    • September 17, 2009 3:48 pm

      Have we evolved from using interns and young professionals to fetch coffee, run errands and other useless tasks to using these folks to update social media profiles for those who don’t “get the space”?

      Seasoned vets and new professionals can both from each other. If we’re to advance our profession, we need to work WITH each other, not AGAINST each other.

  2. Colin permalink
    September 17, 2009 3:20 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more on #s 2 and 3. I think part of what prevents SM from being taken seriously in some places is because of the inability of people to see that it really is your brand and your personality like you said.

    I sensed some sarcasm in the way he wrote about your first point though. I think maybe that was meant to be “a shot” at senior levels who have that attitude and not him expressing it as his view. I don’t know….


    • September 17, 2009 3:31 pm

      I think the authenticity concept can be hard – especially because it’s online. You can’t hear the tone of the person. You can’t see their expressions. So, authenticity is almost more important in the way you type and express yourself.

      You’re right, there might have been some sarcasm – I asked for clarification in my comment on the actual blog post.

  3. Mary Barber permalink
    September 17, 2009 3:22 pm

    Lauren and Kasey,

    You bring up some really great points here. I’m finding more and more lately that as traditional communication agencies (ad, PR, marketing, whatever) are playing catch-up with social media, they aren’t taking the time to put the tools in the tool box an make sure they understand how they work before using them. This post is a perfect example.

    As a senior professional, I find that I use social media tools differently than millennials and especially differently than my teens. It doesn’t mean any of us are right or wrong but it DOES mean we need to understand how it all fits into a bigger and broader communications picture. I’m not certain someone who’s a new professional can do that.


    • September 17, 2009 3:32 pm

      Mary – I completely agree that sometimes a new professional doesn’t know how it fits into the brand strategy. A new person shouldn’t be solely in charge of your brand on SM – even if they understand the platform. Doesn’t mean they understand the brand. Work together toward a common goal.

      Really great points! Thank you for commenting.

    • September 17, 2009 4:08 pm

      Mary, I agree that we all use social media differently. However, that’s on a personal level. Using social media for business purposes is a different story and completely different from how one uses it on a personal level.

      While a new professional may lack what a seasoned veteran may have, should we automatically eliminate someone based on their age? I feel bad for the company that overlooks someone like David Spinks simply because he’s a recent grad.

      At the same time, we rely on seasoned PR folks like you to help guide us through unfamiliar situations. Crisis communication is a good example of that. Young folks may not know how to address a crisis – through SM or traditional PR channels – and that’s where we need someone like you to guide us.

      I think the overall tone of what Lauren and I were getting at is that we need to work together. Just as social media needs to work with traditional PR, experienced and new professionals need to work together.

      Thanks for your insight.

  4. September 17, 2009 3:27 pm

    Great post Lauren & Kasey!

    This also goes back to the whole stereotype of the Gen Y-ers being social media savvy (which we are) and no one else. Social media is the new norm, so it should be encompassed by everyone in your organization – not just the “Facebook generation.”

    Didn’t see this post on their blog so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Deanna (@dferrari)

    • September 17, 2009 3:34 pm

      Deanna – You’re right. We aren’t the only ones that are social media savvy. It’s an enhancement of traditional media, and it needs to be encompassed by everyone.

      Definitely dig your point.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. September 17, 2009 3:28 pm

    Here is something I think ALL of us who work in PR, communications, MarComm, social media, etc., either for clients or our organization, need to keep in mind: Everything we do – everything – online is permanent. You’re absolutely right: You can’t treat social media as an experiment, because if you do, you are bound to do some rather non-strategic things that will get forever remembered in the vast landscape of the Internet. What you thought was a one-time folly (let’s allow a 19-year-old intern to tweet about our product, even if they have very little clue about our industry) will end up online forever, and with search becoming ever more powerful seemingly each day, the pressure to not create these mistakes will only get more intense.

    I believe that’s why now – more than ever before – it is pivotal that we begin to view social media as something very real, very lasting and very tangible, so that like many other facets of running and executing a successful communications plan, we create a viable strategy and measurement plan for whatever social media initiative we are launching.

    Keith Trivitt

    • September 17, 2009 3:52 pm

      Keith, I agree completely. Social media is a new space, a space that nobody really understands. As a result, agencies and corporations are turning to young folks simply because they’ve grown up with Facebook and the likes. However, what they fail to realize is that using these tools for personal reasons doesn’t translate to knowledge and understanding for business purposes.

  6. September 17, 2009 3:33 pm

    Outstanding post. You have very thoughtfully shared the gut reactions I had when reading that post as well!

    I think the most important issue you pointed out is that companies are focused on numbers like age and years of experience instead of focusing on the quality of the work an individual can bring to the table professionally. Shouldn’t hiring be about finding the right person for the job and not simply the “right” combination of numbers and figures on a resume?

    Young professionals DO have knowledge about social media and online communication to bring to the table. But, that doesn’t mean they should be turned loose to communicate on behalf of a brand and it sure doesn’t mean they should be doing social networking on behalf of higher management. No one learns anything in an environment like that, and those tactics defeat the purpose of social media.

    I’m glad you spoke up on this!

    • September 17, 2009 3:59 pm

      Becky, thanks for commenting. Your thinking behind hiring the right talent is spot on. Social media shouldn’t be based on someone’s age, rather it should be based on someone’s experience. Having a Facebook profile doesn’t equal experience. Having 10 years of PR experience doesn’t always equal experience either when it comes to social media.

      The way we communicate is changing, so should the way and reason we assemble talent follow?

  7. September 17, 2009 3:54 pm

    Much like age doesn’t always equal wisdom; youth isn’t synonymous with social media expertise. Social media is about transparency and personality having a “twitern” or young professional create your online image is nothing but dodgy. Senior staffers wouldn’t go to an event and have a young professional/new staffer do all the talking for them –why would they allow it to happen online (where things are permanent and there’s a much bigger audience)?

  8. Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR permalink
    September 17, 2009 4:03 pm

    Kasey and Lauren—As a 50-something PR professional and adjunct professor of PR at a major university, I am a little bit offended by both stereotypes in the original article you’ve discussed so well here.

    First of all, Most of my contemporaries on my Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook networks are “mature” professionals who are savvy in the use of social media technologies. Secondly, most of my 20-something students, while bright and energetic, know little about social media technology, much the strategies for using it effectively. For a graduate-level PR problems class, I had to spend time walking them through Twitter, live online in class. They are required to follow me and each other on Twitter, and the class has a Twitter hashtag for sharing information. Exactly one student has Tweeted to that hashtag, and only two are Tweeting regularly–that would be about once a week. So to assume that any millenial knows more about SM than the veteran practitioners in any given office is potentially way off base. I know many millenials are SM experts, and many baby boomers are still learning, but to assume they all are is to apply a stereotype.

    Premise #1, that you don’t want newbies talking to clients or developing messaging, has some validity. But I wouldn’t limit that to millenials. If I hired a partner or employee my age with similar experience, I’d still guide them through early contacts with clients and oversee early work on messaging until they knew the client and both were comfortable with each other. It has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with how you hire, train and supervise new employees of any age. To pigeonhole millenials into this category is insulting to them.

    • September 17, 2009 4:17 pm

      Samra, as an educator, what do you think is the reasoning behind young folks coming out of school without a proper understanding? In a space that’s new, are we setting young folks up to fail because the school/education doesn’t fully understand social media?

      I’m interested in hearing more about your approach.


      • Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR permalink
        September 17, 2009 4:49 pm

        I’m an adjunct with a solo PR practice, so I may be more exposed to “real world” trends than some of the faculty, although one of the most SM savvy instructors in the program was my major professor when I was in grad school 20 years ago!

        I think the reason many students aren’t that sophisticated when they graduate is because most educational institutions are slow to embrace social media as a legitimate form of communications, and those that do treat is as a separate form of media, when it should be included as part of an integrated program. I have colleagues on the faculty who say “Oh, Twitter’s a fad and next year it will be something else.” I’m of a mind that even if it is a fad (which I’m convinced it’s not), if it’s a useful tactic in your communications strategy, go for it and use it wisely.

        I am actually the only faculty member with a Twitter hashtag for a course, so I’m blazing a new trail here. I have my students following three unique blogs (one PR, one media and one of their choice) and analyzing them in our online portal once a week, with required discussion amongst themselves online. They’re getting the hang of it, but I did need to explain how to use Google Reader, too. I’ve emphasized this is not “busy work” but stuff they need to get in the habit of doing because their professional survival may depend on it.

        When I bring in guest speakers, many are saying they are only hiring people with some SM knowledge. It’s an eye-opener.

        Remember, I’m teaching grad students. With undergrads you tend to be a little more “nuts and bolts” but my style with grad students is to work them hard but transition them from academia to real world ways of thinking (and one of my students is getting and MBA). So they are doing a major communications plan for an actual client of their choosing (this could be a job audition for some of them). I’m expecting them to write in business style, rather than academic style, so they get used to that as well.

        They have to do several case studies during the semester, and they are expected to include in their analysis whether or not social media would have helped or hurt in this situation (one is doing the Exxon Valdez, for example). Obviously a contemporary case study would most likely include SM, but if they’re doing a historical case, I want them to think how that would be dealt with today in the age of Twitter, FB, bloggers, the Internet and everything else out there. Can you imagine the Tylenol situation with Twitter?

        Also, I’m using the PRSA APR study guide as the text, and “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” is required reading. Cutlip & Center is a supplement–those with PR degrees have used it, others have not.

        I think what it takes is a couple of brave professors who believe in new media to jump in and start teaching it. I don’t consider myself an academic, but more of a professional trainer. For the “practical applications” classes, I think that is key to graduating work-ready professionals.

        That’s my teaching philosophy for now. I’m just trying to help them develop good habits with social media, along with a solid foundation in ethical public relations.

  9. Cee Y permalink
    September 17, 2009 4:04 pm

    The post is spot on. I would also add, just because someone is young doesn’t mean they know everything about technology, new media, and social media, nor how to utilize these for your brand/company. Further, just because someone is of an older generation doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to engage audiences through these avenues.

  10. Katie permalink
    September 17, 2009 4:23 pm

    I think Point #1 and #2 bothered me the most about the article.

    Some of my greatest learning moments came when a senior member at my company had enough faith in me to let me reach out to media, produce messaging or engage in conversation with a client. I think that “hiding” your new employees behind social media is keeping them from really having a chance to shine. And I agree- why did you hire them if you’re not going to use them for their talent?

    For point #2 I couldn’t have said it better: “The biggest reason brands struggle with social media is because they treat as an experiment.” I feel like a sure-fire way to watch your brand fail is to not put time/thought into your social media efforts and to just treat them as something experimental. You want brand consistency across the board – the messaging produced on social media sites is just as important (if not *more* important in the changing way we read our news) as what you would send to a reporter at the NYT or WSJ.

    This is a great response, Lauren & Kasey. I think I might just have to attend the New Professionals event here in Atlanta to make sure these ideas are heard!!


  11. September 17, 2009 5:10 pm

    Thank you, Lauren and Kasey!

    I think Ben has a sad misunderstanding of what new hires should bring to the company. Instead of bringing new viewpoints to projects and a superb energy to the team, he seems to have them fetch coffee and man the Facebook account.

    Two points.

    1) Fetch your own damn coffee.
    2) Senior staffers should be just as plugged in as the newbies, if not more so.

    From my comment on his post:
    “When I started working in PR several years ago, I was right out of college and my company knew I would only get better. So they staffed me on smaller clients so I could learn to interact with them on a low-risk level while still giving me valuable experience. After a year or so, I was able to run with the biggest clients our company had.

    That first year accelerated my development and was much more productive for me, my company and clients than carrying a latte. I hope that you give your younger employees a similar jump start that will help them help you as soon as possible.”

    Companies should take advantage of new blood and train them. I bring interns with me to client meetings, when appropriate. Clients appreciate having a different perspective on their projects. And when I need those interns to handle an item, they are up to speed on what needs to be done.

    Look at NBA rookies. They do all the practice, dress for the games and play when needed. When the team needs them to step up, they know the plays, are familiar with their teammates and ready to rock. The same principle applies to young PR pros.

    Give them the ball.

    • sashahalima permalink
      September 17, 2009 7:49 pm

      Mike, I think you just said everything I’ve been thinking and some.

      Lauren and Kasey did a great job on this!

  12. September 17, 2009 6:51 pm

    I’d like to jump in with PRSA’s perspective, if I might.

    We regularly invite our members to write posts for the ComPRehension blog that speak to areas in which they are passionate and involved. Ben Garrett is a valued member. We appreciate his involvement in our organization, and we respect that he took the time to offer his opinions on our blog as a way to drum up interest in a Young Professionals event in Atlanta later this month.

    I don’t agree with everything he said, and I would have expressed some of his thoughts differently. Ultimately, I believe he’s making three points. First, reverse mentoring can be valuable. Digital natives are familiar with the tools and comfortable with the technology. Learn what you can from them, as they learn what they should from you. Second, young professionals want real responsibility. Give it to them in a way leverages their strengths, acknowledges your weaknesses and helps them grow professionally. Finally, match job responsibilities to an employee’s skill set.

    As an organization that advocates the free flow of information and listening to all the many different voices in the “marketplace of ideas,” censoring blog posts is an untenable position for us, especially when it comes to those that express our member’s opinions. Is Ben right or is he wrong? There have been opinion’s expressed on both sides of the issue.

    I also don’t think that the Twittersphere’s derision cast at PRSA as an organization, as a result of our posting one member’s opinions, is fair, accurate nor justified. Few organizations are attempting to do as much instruction in the social media space as PRSA is, and we’ve engaged several, well-respected thought leaders in the space to assist us. Not everyone will agree with everything they say every time.

    PRSA understands the strategic nature of social media and believes it is definitely one of the tools our professionals are using day in and day out. Could this blog post of done a better job of presenting the issues with a broader perspective that invited dialogue on an appropriate role for new professionals in an organization’s social media efforts. Absolutely.

    If you feel like you can help us improve, our requests for speakers and contributors are widely publicized. Consider this your open invitation.

    Arthur Yann is vice president of public relations for PRSA.

    • September 17, 2009 7:31 pm

      Hi, Arthur–

      I have no problem with respectful disagreement. All of us have differing opinions, which helps us learn and grow as professionals. I don’t have any animosity at all towards PRSA, and I would hope that most people can separate one person from an organization.

      You mentioned the goal of creating dialogue. The commenters tried very hard to do just that.

      As someone who commented on the post, and as a blog writer, I make a point of responding to comments.

      The writer posted a quick comment promoting his upcoming speaking engagement, and brushing off the respectful questions and criticisms–and support, too. That comment quickly disappeared.

      We read his argument and responded with thoughtful replies.

      I truly hope he thinks about and responds to his readers on a post he identified as controversial, before his comment was erased.

      Thank you for your response…I know I appreciated it!

    • September 17, 2009 7:36 pm

      Hi Arthur –

      First, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

      I applaud the fact that PRSA does not censor it’s membership – we are communicators, and all work differently. We all have different experiences and views. That’s what makes this organization great.

      I wish the response had been different than the exact same response on the PRSA blog, because I had hoped that you could address the questions we had raised in our post. What did you think of our approach? Why do you believe so many members reacted that way? The membership is what makes an organization.

      I don’t believe any of us cast any derision toward PRSA – many of us are members and work very hard by volunteering our time, and were discussing what we believed to be a bad approach to social media. Every member of an association is valuable. I work in an association, and the 57,000 national members, and more than 100,000 international members, come first. Always. When we do something that they don’t agree with, we address it without accusing. By saying it’s not fair, it’s saying that our opinions aren’t valued. They are. We are just as valuable of a member as the blog poster. He is certainly able to have his own opinion, just as we are. I believe in everything PRSA stands for and practice it at my office.

    • Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR permalink
      September 17, 2009 8:48 pm

      Arthur–I don’t believe anybody reading this or posting here thinks this is PRSA’s position–and I don’t believe anybody believes any of the comments are the opinions of anyone other than the individuals posting. That’s the beauty of forums like this, and so far, I think it’s been a healthy, thoughtful discourse. I think what we all should do (and I see strong evidence of that among the posters here) is understand that professionals, regardless of their age or experience in the field, bring unique talents and expertise to every job, and that should be considered in hiring and giving out work assignments. I decry age discrimination against the youngsters as much as I do against my peers in the AARP club.

  13. September 17, 2009 8:33 pm


    Derisive: mocking, scornful, disdainful. Has nothing to do with hostility.

    As a member, you know that PRSA talks a lot about respectful discourse. At the risk of repeating the negatives, Tweets like “it’s scary that @prsa would be so off on SM,” “Who knew that @prsa could get it so, so wrong,” “Things like this are why the PRSA looks increasingly out of touch regarding social media,” and “that’s a shame that PRSA sees young professionals as status updaters and profile creators” (just a sample, all which were RTed numerous times, btw) are derisive and unhelpful. Not one takes on the author’s opinions, or debates the merits of what he asserted in his post. And yet, people throw up their hands and say, “Me? Derisive toward PRSA?” Come on …

    Am I too thin-skinned? Maybe. But I take my job seriously, and there are 50+professionals here who work very hard every day to make this the best organization it can be … for our members …and I think some of these are cheap shots, frankly.

    If it’s on our site, it’s our brand. Yeah, yeah I get that (funny that doesn’t apply elsewhere, like on television, where “the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect …”). But for those who attempt to smear our entire organization because they don’t agree with one author’s assertions, I don’t think that’s right. Or if they want to laugh (bahahaha) at a typo in my response, or point out that I used the same response twice, or complain that their comment wasn’t posted immediately (when they didn’t post mine immediately) fine. Juvenile, but fine.

    I don’t know that any of these posts are from PRSA members. If so, it’s their right. Just like it’s their right to vote with their wallets and not renew their memberships, if they find us ineffectual. But IMHO, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. If you want to make things better, get informed and get involved. As I said, the invitation is open.

    Arthur Yann is vice president of public relations for PRSA.

    • September 17, 2009 8:50 pm

      Arthur –

      It was never my intent to smear an organization that I am a member of, serve as a Committee Chair and truly believe in. I don’t think I came across that way. The point of this post was to address what we felt was wrong with one person’s opinion, and why. I tell every new PR pro about PRSA, and really work hard at a local level to make sure students I know, know what resources are available to them.

      I did laugh at grammatical errors and typos in a response from a national public relations organization, and while this wasn’t the best response, I was quite irritated. I was irritated by the response said, the length of time it took, and how long many comments were held in moderation. Is that really any excuse for my actions? Not at all. I am 24 years old, and I expect I’ll keep making mistakes well into my 70’s. For me, it teaches growth, and I can admit when that was wrong.

      I don’t feel as if I’m a valued member at all. I do think that I am informed and involved. I served as PRSSA president at my alma mater, and am currently the Social Media SIG Co-Chair of my local chapter. I don’t view myself as part of the problem – but it sure seems as if you’re telling me I am. I have really tried to help my chapter with their social media efforts and do things in this space for young professionals. At least, I think I have.

      This post never mentions PRSA (other than that it was on the blog) and did discuss the merits of the post and the point the author made. Kasey and I dissected them here, and did exactly what you said no one was doing. PRSA was brought into the conversation by you, when we had been discussing the author’s points.

      You did use the same response twice – and it seemed completely random to the conversation that was going on. I don’ t think Sasha or I meant it maliciously. The thing is, in social media, you have to engage. The response has to be unique for each situation.

      I never stated that PRSA doesn’t work hard. I truly value the organization and the work that you guys do. I don’t think we took cheap shots – we should be able to express ourselves, especially when it seems completely off base.

      I don’t believe that the opinions stated were unhelpful. This is the view of the membership – it’s not right or wrong. Everything members say should be heard, and either improved on or discarded.

      All of the words you used to describe derisive sound like hostility to me. I’m not hostile. I’m not disdainful or disrespectful. If I came across that way, it was not my intent and I do apologize for that.

    • September 17, 2009 9:21 pm

      Arthur, I bring up our mission:

      “Advancing the Profession: To attain the overall goal as the standard bearer for public relations, PRSA maintains and continually enhances all existing Professional Development programs using media opportunities at all levels individual member, chapter, section and national concentrating on Accreditation and the Code of Ethics.”

      If you were to read the responses on this post, as well as on your site, you would notice that they were all referencing the author. However, PRSA needs to accept some responsibility. I’m glad that you don’t censor your posts and allow for anyone to post their opinion. When we begin to question the author’s intent and when his response is self-promoting and quickly deleted, we begin to question things.

      Part of advancing the profession is to hold each other accountable. It’s to challenge each PR profession to uphold the responsibility they took on when the joined PRSA.

      You mention the 50+ professionals that work at PRSA – some of which were reactive and joined in the conversation – but what about the members of PRSA? Isn’t it our responsibility to protect and advance our industry? Aren’t we suppose to be advocates of PR?

      And in regards to your last comment – isn’t this debate part of the solution? You ask us to get involved, but not bring PRSA (our industry) into it? I know times are tough, but don’t worry – I’ll renew my membership next year.

    • sashahalima permalink
      September 17, 2009 11:24 pm

      Hi Arthur,

      As you told me on Twitter to “say that, to [you]” —

      Simply put, I posted the link to your response from the PRSA blog on here, because I did not think it was right, IMO, that you copied and pasted your response from one blog to another.

      The responses on the PRSA blog were in reference to one thing. Lauren and Kasey wrote a blog post that was the same, but different. And by that I mean, it was a product of the first post, but is in itself another post, with new material thought up by Lauren and Kasey.

      Therefore, it deserved a singular and individual response and I think that you should have written a second one.

      I see with your second comment that you have. However, as Richie below said, “I think some of your emotions and desire to stick up for your fellow co-workers at PRSA national might have clouded the issue just a bit. At least that’s how I took your second comment here.”

      I don’t think that there is a large need to debate this issue or hash out some fighting words and I don’t think we’re against you or PRSA in any way shape or form.

      We’re all PR professionals on the same side, we just have different POVs on the state of affairs with Gen-Ys and Senior Staffers.

      That is the root issue and that is where it should have ended.

      As for me? I was a member of PRSSA at the Alpha chapter at the University of Florida, was a member at the University of Miami when I was getting my Master’s and yes, I am currently a member of PRSA in Miami.


    • September 18, 2009 6:17 am

      Arthur – I’m the one who tweeted “who knew @prsa could be so, so wrong” and I want to point out that in my original tweet I did include the author but I still think PRSA has it wrong. Simply stated, it is your brand and you have to take some responsibility for what was published. Maybe in the future there should be a small statement before the post reminding readers that this is the opinion of the author, not that of PRSA.

      To echo Richard and Sasha, I truly think your emotions have clouded your response. I don’t think anyone was trying to smear the entire organization or really smear anyone at all. There was and continues to be a respectful, intelligent discussion and I hope you can take a breath, step back and see the value in this.

    • September 18, 2009 6:20 am

      I agree with Lauren that I don’t think any hostility or derision was meant by any Tweets or comments to the original post (I can’t speak for everyone, but that was my feeling upon first reading them).

      I can understand that you are quick to defend PRSA (no one beats up my brother but me, right?), but I think your responses are only fanning the flames. There has been a lot of talk about putting a brand online and involving a brand in social media. One point I’ve seen come up over and over is that there is a total loss of control. Once your brand is part of the public space, social media and what not, you give over control of how that brand is perceived to your online community.

      It seems to me that responses to the reaction to the original post have been trying to reign in our perceptions and control them. You will not change our opinions this way. Talk to us! Engage us!

      I will honestly say that I did not even connect the original post with PRSA until last night during the #u30pro chat on Twitter when the first response from PRSA was posted to the blog. It was only at that point that any thoughts I had about the post became associated with the organization. While it seems that not everyone reacted like me, I thought you should know that there was a great deal of us who did not even think to relate this to PRSA until the stand-off response was posted.

      What happened, IMO, was that the original post sparked a lot of discussion. This should have showed you that the points made are highly disputed among PR professionals and should definitely be an active subject of discussion within your organization.


    • September 18, 2009 11:09 am


      To compare the PRSA blog to television doesn’t seem quite fitting. Apples and oranges.

      You speak about being part of the solution rather than the problem. I’m not sure how accusing your own members of smearing the organization is working towards a solution.

      I think it’s pretty clear that many of the people involved in this discussion here and on twitter are members of PRSA who appreciate everything that PRSA does. They WANT you to succeed. That’s why they’re reacting so strongly to the post. It’s not because they want to hurt the organization or attack your brand, but because they care about PRSA and everything it represents.

      In the future, if you are going to allow members to post on your blog, you have to accept that people will inevitably relate it to PRSA and that they’re not always going to agree with the things that are said. If situations like this do occur, as a PR exec representing your brand, it’s probably best if you didn’t become so defensive, as it will only push you farther from the solution.

      We want you to lead this industry. We want you to be up to date on new concepts that develop. You should be happy that your community is so active and vocal. You should embrace it.


  14. Colby Gergen permalink
    September 17, 2009 9:04 pm


    I am not a member of PRSA, a PR professional, or even sure that PR is the field I want to enter. As I stated in my first comment, I strongly disagree with what Ben has to say in his post. In addition to my first comment, I’d like to add that not all milennials have experience in social media, just as everyone who remembers Betamax isn’t an unintelligible goon in the space.

    You mention how that “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” First of all, I don’t see this as a problem. It’s a disagreement in viewpoints- not a problem. But if you do see it as a problem, I feel like Lauren and Kasey are helping with the solution by blogging about it. Just look at the conversation that has started between people of all levels of experience. Personally, I’d love to see Ben hop on here and get his view on what everyone is sharing. The social media space can be used for great gain, especially in situations like this where there is a disagreement of a fundamental viewpoint.

    I appreciate you joining the conversation on this, though. It’s always good to have a balanced discussion. That said, I’d like to say that I do not appreciate your “juvenile” comment. If we are trying to work towards a solution, insulting each other is not going to help. Kasey, Lauren, other commenters, and myself each had a disagreement or two with the article, but we are airing them out with thought and rationale. Those are two traits I am sure I didn’t have as an 11-year-old (or even all the time now, for that matter).

  15. Maggie McGary permalink
    September 17, 2009 9:05 pm

    I’m not in PR nor am I a PRSA member, but I say bravo to Arthur for his response. Honest, straightforward, thoughtful.

  16. Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR permalink
    September 17, 2009 9:33 pm

    Arthur–you said “I don’t know that any of these posts are from PRSA members.” You may not be reading all the posts that thoroughly, then. I identified myself as APR–I’ve been APR for 13 years, and a member for more than 20. All you have to do is look up these posters in the directory to see if they are members. I am a member of the Dallas PRSA chapter, and in my third year as APR chair, as well as professional chapter liaison with a university PRSSA chapter. I am speaking as myself, not as any of my positions within PRSA. I am personally disappointed at your last post in response to Lauren’s comments. I expect much more from PRSA staff.


  17. September 17, 2009 10:17 pm

    Lauren and Kasey – Thank you for writing a respectful response to the original post. I think you brought up three very important points to discuss that judging by most of the comments here and in the Twittersphere were important to address.

    Samra – I really appreciated your earlier comment: “I think what we all should do…is understand that professionals, regardless of their age or experience in the field, bring unique talents and expertise to every job, and that should be considered in hiring and giving out work assignments.”

    Arthur – I think some of your emotions and desire to stick up for your fellow co-workers at PRSA national might have clouded the issue just a bit. At least that’s how I took your second comment here.

    I am a Greater Ft. Worth Chapter of PRSA Board member serving alongside Lauren Fernandez. In my opinion, as PRSA members we have a responsibility to foster dialogue and learning that ultimately advances our chosen profession. Posts like this that question and continue the conversation are what help us hone our skills.


  18. Sharon H. Kneebone, CAE permalink
    September 18, 2009 7:44 am

    After reading through this contentious thread I am struck by one thing. We have a PRSA staff member posting comments that are harsh, and lean toward vilifying an up-and-coming public relations professional. Lauren is a MEMBER of the staffer’s organization. One of the first lessons we teach new association professionals is that without members there is no reason for our organization to exist.

    Lauren is an active and productive volunteer for PRSA. Association staff work for the members. A member is not always right, but they are always a member. Differences of opinion do occur. Association staff must be especially careful on how they communicate those differences with members. Respectful communication is essential.

    I am curious to know if the poster searched PRSA’s membership database to see if Lauren is a member of PRSA and what her current engagement is before posting on her blog and inviting her to get involved?

  19. September 18, 2009 7:54 am


    I read the article too and was put off by it. I am a 22 yr old recent graduate, but that in way means that I can’t be completely trusted to speak to clients. Honestly, if you can’t trust someone on your team to represent your organization, then why hire them as a PR person? Our generation has a lot more experience and a lot more to bring to the table than I think people realize. Senior staffers and millennial should work together to pull their knowledge for the benefit of the organization, not hae the millenial updating profiles.


  20. September 18, 2009 9:23 am


    I am a long-time member of the PRSA, I teach PR and Social Media (and the combination of the two) and I am a daily practitioner of both as a Community Manager. I am one who retweeted Cassie’s original tweet and stirred up the conversation on Twitter because it was necessary. You may not think Ben represents the PRSA, but when he has a PRSA Health Academy board member title, he does.

    I was shocked by what Ben wrote and I am in continued shock that he stands by his assertions.

    Unfortunately, it seems that you were wrong in what you had assumed he meant, but I give you credit for at least trying to smooth it over with something professional.

    If his continued thoughts are consistent with his colleagues (and I assume he ALSO means his fellow PRSA board members and Fellows) as he asserts I am saddened for any new professional seeking to start a career in the PR field because it’s surely NOT the PR I know.

    Arthur, as you know, social discourse is not always pleasant. Nor is it controllable even though organizations may prefer that because it makes it easier for them to just ignore it. We tell companies every day that they need to understand how to engage, communicate and build relationships with ALL constituents – even those who may not be properly representing their brand in a manner they’d prefer. It happens often (Walmart, Tropicana, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Motrin, etc.) and not only are their customers watching, but the thought leaders in the industry are watching and commenting as well.

    The tweets you are referring to were far from mocking, scornful, or disdainful or being ‘cheap shots,’ they were opinion. And as PRSA members, PR professionals, AND social media experts, we are entitled to share them (that IS what social media is about). Even in traditional PR we deal everyday with a journalist/reporter/editor adding their own bias or opinions to pieces and calling it ‘journalism.’

    PR has changed and I am not even sure that the PRSA understands that and to what degree. Unfortunately, the PRSA is not leading the way with social media, they are playing catch up. I mention this only because as a member I read article after article, post after post and I often scratch my head. I highly recommend that you get out ahead of us. I don’t mean this to be a slight by any means. We have a HUGE issue with a lot of practitioners passing themselves off as “Social Media Experts” when they clearly are not. The social media space is not driven by PR. It is driven by technology and those who use it. (And often those people are not in our industry.) As a thought leader in this space and member, I would love to have a phone call with you to discuss this.

    Lauren Fernandez is a thought leader in this space and so are MANY of the people who have contributed to the conversation. They are highly respected and sought after for opinion when it comes to PR, communications and social media. As one of those “dinosaurs” Ben refers to…I look to people like Lauren every day for social discourse and debate on our industry. You may want to also, you might be surprised by what you learn.

    I for one will always be a long-time member of the PRSA. It’s a truly valuable organization and I look forward to the day where all members have influence over the direction it takes as the PRSA fully embraces social media (the concept, not the tools).

    Beth Harte

  21. September 18, 2009 11:38 am

    There are important and, in many ways, eye-opening comments here. I’m going to respond to a number of them individually, as there are some consequential misunderstandings (my opinion) that will best be resolved in person or on the telephone.

    To Lauren’s original post, I’ll also be inviting these individuals to work with PRSA’s New Professionals Section to develop cross-generational dialogue opportunities for millennial and senior professionals. Could be as informal as Tweetups or as formal as conference sessions. But, the idea would be to focus on both the role of new professionals within organizations and their social media efforts, and effective approaches to reverse mentoring.

    Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to offer their opinions here. If you have additional thoughts about the cross-generational dialogue idea – even if it’s to say, bad idea –please share them.

    As I said in another blog post this a.m., I learned a lot from yesterday’s discussion (practical and psychographical), lessons that I won’t soon forget and mistakes I hope not to repeat.

    • September 18, 2009 12:00 pm


      Great to hear that we’re working toward a solution. Love the goals of the New Professionals Section. It’s something we desperately need, and will surely benefit from.

      If you ever want to chat individually, it’s dspinks5 at gmail got com.

    • September 18, 2009 12:07 pm

      Arthur –

      As a PRSA member and as a young professional, I like your thoughts here about cross-generational dialogue. I think the key, however, is that it is continued dialogue and not based on assumptions as to what one audience or another brings to the table. I look forward to continued information about how PRSA plans to approach this.


      • September 20, 2009 9:58 am

        Exactly right, Kim – the key is continuing it, not doing part of it and then dropping the ball. I really look forward to how PRSA proceeds.

    • Colby Gergen permalink
      September 18, 2009 12:11 pm


      I’m glad to hear that you’ve learned from this experience. I know I have learned some thing, and I feel confident that most of us participating in this space have. The steps you outline with the New Professionals Section is encouraging and leads me to believe that the PRSA is willing to open a dialogue on this issue. As I said earlier, I am not a member of the PRSA, but your last comment and your plans are drawing me towards looking at my local PRSSA chapter (that’s the student part of PRSA, right?).

      Like David said, benefits will come from this. I thank you for opening your stance and being involved in this dialogue.

      • Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR permalink
        September 18, 2009 12:14 pm

        Colby–definitely check out your college’s PRSSA chapter, and also check your local PRSA chapter, which should offer a student rate for luncheons and professional development events. By meeting and networking with other students and professionals in the field you can gain a broader knowledge of the business of PR and learn if it’s the career for you. Good luck!

      • September 20, 2009 9:59 am

        Colby – That’s right. If you have any questions about PRSSA, I’d be more than happy to help out in any way I can. It’s a great organization!

    • September 20, 2009 9:57 am

      Arthur – We’ve talked about this a bit, but I just wanted to reiterate what a great idea I think this is. I look forward to its execution and how you handle it.

  22. September 19, 2009 7:45 pm

    I don’t want to rehash what everyone has already said but wow, the post PRSA post was so unbelievable. Even after Ben tried to defend his post, I think he really didn’t think about what he was posting before he posted it.

    I’m in my 30s but I would never advise my clients, to use someone (millennial or not) for their social campaign or to build their online profiles, that they didn’t have complete confidence in. Also I’m a big advocate to teaching senior level staffers how to do their own social media profile building. I mean what is wrong with teaching an old dog new tricks? Finally, it is never safe to assume anything, ie., assuming your millennial employee or intern can produce a social media strategy that will grow your business online.

    • September 20, 2009 10:00 am

      Hi Shelly,

      I found Ben’s comment to be quite dismissive, and didn’t even address the comments or questions. We also had a chat that he could have listened in on, but he didn’t.

      I agree with you on senior staff – why hire someone to build something about you?


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