Social media never ceases to breed scandals. One wayward tweet or Facebook post can cost you dearly. The scandal that engulfed (now former) InterActiveCorp. PR executive Justine Sacco showed how easy it is to alter your entire life so quickly in less than 140 characters. It is a testament to the growing power of digital interactions, and how many people are still ignorant as to how it can be used and, unfortunately, abused.
What happened was both simple and complex: a PR executive at a large technology company tweeted something incredibly racist before boarding a long flight. Her comment went ignored until it was posted on Valleywag. From there, it was picked up by all the major tech blogs and, within a few hours, there were detailed pieces on major news networks’ websites exploring her behavior and her employer’s shocked response.
However, it didn’t end there; Sacco was in the air and unable to respond the entire time, as the story drew hordes of people who marveled at the circumstances and absurdity of her situation.
When she finally did land and turn on her phone, she was informed of her new reality: she was a public menace. She received tens of thousands of angry tweets while being condemned by major media outlets. There was even a brand that tried to cash in on her downfall. And of course, she was fired from her job.
The irony of a PR executive falling victim to social media isn’t lost on me; however, as a Millennial who lives and breathes all things social, it boggles my mind at how little some of us know about these platforms. Especially since it is becoming the sought after medium for brands to communicate their messages.
At Edelman, digital is king. In addition to having a practice group dedicated to this area of expertise, the agency has been training all of its employees to become digital experts.
In the Atlanta office many of our training sessions have been conducted by Millennials. There are senior-level executives who provide strategic oversight, but when it comes to managing the tactics, managers call on the Millennials. There are a few reasons for the trend.
• Social media isn’t new to us. We’ve not only grown up with social media, it’s our primary form of communication—not some mystic, foreign “other” that we need to figure out. Especially in terms of business and branding, we’ve been inundated with messages from brands looking to communicate specifically with us for the bulk of our lives.
We’re excellent at detecting authenticity and determining when a brand comes off as fake or impersonal. This makes us perfect candidates for gauging proper tone and effectiveness when creating content.
• Unlimited supply of creativity. Millennials are used to the idea of standing out. The value (or liability) of this type of perceived entitlement warrants another discussion, but this cradle-to-college encouragement has succeeded in making us creative thinkers who are always seeking the “newer” and “better.” We’re eager to learn, collaborate and share ideas with both our colleagues and clients. This makes us perfectly situated for the ever-evolving world of social media.
• Our individualism is a benefit to you. For many of us, self-worth and success have always been intertwined, which is why we tried so hard to succeed in school, sports, clubs, and especially work.
We are focused on our successes as individuals, but that personal success comes, in part, from being successful for our employers. We work hard for you, because we value the process of honing and perfecting our own talents and skills.
• Our actions can help predict social media trends. Not every Millennial will embrace every social platform. Indeed, what we don’t embrace could signal a turning of the tide. For example, studies show that the 13- to 19-year-olds are moving away from Facebook.
However, the fastest growing segment on that social network is the 45-54 demo. This seems to indicate that we are already looking for the next social networking tool, app and trend.
If you’re looking to stay ahead of social media trends, look no further than the cubicle next to you.
Turning over the reins may give some seasoned PR veterans pause. However, we are up to the task and are fully engaged. Real engagement in the work itself comes as a result of the trust you place in employees to take the right action.
When senior executives make decisions far from the front line, it’s little wonder why we are unenthusiastic about implementing them. Give us the power to quickly initiate and implement innovative ideas and engagement will follow.
OH, PUT ME IN COACH
Millennials view social media engagement as an opportunity to flex their knowledge in areas where they have valuable insight.
In this arena, managers should support the energetic efforts of younger workers, enabling and coaching rather than deciding and directing.
They should provide greater access to knowledge and collaborative networks. They should make it easy us to build horizontal networks that span organizational boundaries and tap diverse areas of expertise.
Millennials are able to gain volumes of relevant information, irrespective of experience or position. We were raised on social media, have special skills in pulling together solutions and know how to mobilize our networks.
What we do with our personal social networks can easily be replicated with a brand. In a digital age this ability to quickly collect—and make sense—of information and respond in real time often trumps experience, especially in the ever-changing universe of social media. PRN
Millennials, Boomers Team Up To Activate Social Media
When a Millennial and a Baby Boomer meet it is a mixture of potential and experience, which can lead to wonderful social media activation. Here are a few tips on how this duo can work together effectively and serve to enhance the communications of brands and organizations.
▶ Stress the importance of communication. Over-communication is better than insufficient communication, especially in the world of social media, where things move so quickly.
▶ Contextualize the project in relation to its goals. Put the focus on the mission, the underlying purpose, the reason why the thing matters—and not about the process of how it’ll get done. This gives both the Millennial and Boomer a shared sense of purpose.
▶ Set their team dynamic as flat, not hierarchal. Like any team, Millennials and Boomers need to work together to find the best way to achieve the project goals. At times they should each be leading. Neither is the boss. Under this dynamic, they have to build trust by understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Let your Millennial counterpart develop the social media activation plan, while you provide the strategic guidance to ensure it meets the client’s goals.
▶ Establish two-way teaching and learning. This should be the case no matter the project; however in the case of social media, allow the person with the most experience to guide the other. For example, invite the Boomer to share perspective based on previous experiences, contextualizing it for Millennials with specific examples and explanations of why certain approaches are likely to work better. And on the other hand, invite the Millennial to teach the Boomer about social media models, software and Web tools. This will aid the project in a way that teammates understand.
Glynn Murph is a senior account executive in the Atlanta office of Edelman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @GlynnCocoa.
This article originally appeared in the March 17, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.