After working through the weekend at a tradeshow across the country and dealing with numerous flight delays, I got back to New York on a Monday morning. Recognizing that I would be a useless employee that day, I emailed my manager to tell her that, due to my exhaustion, I was taking the day off. She responded by saying that she understood, but that next time, I should simply tell her I was taking a sick day and spare her the details.
I thought about this for a long time and, ultimately, decided that she was right.
But, thinking that many of my millennial colleagues would have shared at least as much information in similar circumstances, I was curious to learn if I had stumbled upon a perceived generational phenomenon.
Sure enough, when I asked a different non-millennial manager about characteristics of millennials in the workplace, she told me that some millennials share too much information. This millennial “TMI Effect,” she said, is something that, for better or worse, Peppercomm’s management continually adjusts to.
But if managed well by managers and department heads, however, I believe the TMI Effect can be an advantage to your brand or organization.
If we accept that some millennials tend to overshare information, the challenge lies in how to harness the behavior to get the most out of your millennial employees without robbing them of their identities.
But why should you even consider harnessing it in the first place? The answer is that, while millennials are the architects of the TMI effect, they are also, in many cases, the audiences that your clients or your brands are trying to reach.
WARMING UP TO TMI
Whether you agree with it or not, millennials have shifted the norm of how much information to communicate and how often. If you need proof, take a look at the Twitter feed of any large, successful brand or organization you admire.
Chances are that brand is frequently sharing a lot of information, answering questions and revealing motivations behind business decisions.
Millennials can keep up with the speed of social media, communicate expectations about the amount of information millennials expect to be shared and advise senior managers on the appropriate social media platforms for communicating different brand or company messages.
Your job as a PR manager should be to equip your millennial social media expert with the information she needs, and to have an open-minded and clear conversation about messaging boundaries and business strategy.
TMI BONA FIDES
In a similar vein, you have probably heard your client or department manager talk about needing a PR campaign’s messaging to seem “fresh” and “authentic.”
This is another situation in which millennials’ oversharing of information can be harnessed to your organization’s advantage. That’s because, try as you might, one thing that cannot be controlled is what your audiences say (or ask) about your—or your client’s— brand. Communication with your audiences is a two-way street, particularly on social media platforms.
Self-promotional social media posts beget questions from your audiences, and if you can’t answer them clearly and authentically, be prepared for your audiences to move on to your competitors.
However, by sharing inside information and legitimate motivations behind tough business decisions you will keep (and win) additional audiences.
As more and more millennials take on the role of media relations managers, conversations with reporters and editors are taking place on social media platforms with increasing frequency.
Through social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter millennials are able to stay on top of professional and personal updates among targeted media. In so doing, they receive cues on whether the media rep is an appropriate target and, if so, what sort of angle to take in the pitch.
As social media creeps toward the center of business communications, the line between the personal and the professional sides of PR and marketing continues to blur.
But, this time, it’s the TMI Effect among some members of the media themselves that your department or organization can leverage.
If you want to take full advantage of it, sit down with millennial employees and share your experience-driven insights regarding what attributes or topics to look for among journalists on social media. Your knowledge plus millennial employees’ digital acumen equals media results.
THE RISKS OF TMI
That’s not to say that there aren’t risks or considerations to the TMI Effect that should be carefully managed. The biggest risk is when a millennial account executive or manager regularly meets with a non-millennial day-to-day client or stakeholder.
The risk is that he will share too much information about the internal workings of an agency or department, which could sour a relationship. In that case, managers should make sure to take the time to support and develop a trusted millennial employee, and help him or her draw the line between buttoned up and oversharing.
If you deal with sensitive and time-sensitive information, such as financials, make sure to empower someone you can trust and clearly communicate company policies and any regulatory restrictions on information sharing.
If you feel the need, share with your millennial employees examples of information that must not be shared. If possible, however, refrain from strict and slow approval processes. They can easily kill the value of a talented, creative and fast-moving millennial.
3 PR Tips on How to Work with (or for) a Millennial Client
According to Pew Research, the oldest millennials are now 33 years old. Having a millennial as a brand manager, CMO or client is hardly unheard of, as millennials move into decision-making jobs with increasing frequency. Against that backdrop, non-millennial PR managers need to decide if they want to work with or for a millennial client or CMO. Here are 3 tips for those PR pros who find themselves on the front line:
1. Get social. Your millennial client or CMO learned to type by chatting on AIM with her friends, grew up alongside Facebook and Twitter and got her job through a LinkedIn connection. She knows social media inside and out, which means it’s in your best interest to know it better. Unless you do, you’ll never be able to sell her on that big-budget Twitter or blogger campaign.
2. Get connected – or not. Chances are pretty good that your client is constantly connected. She has a smartphone, an iPad and a laptop, which she sometimes uses simultaneously. Be prepared for fast answers and fast questions. But it’s not all bad; think about whether a structured weekly client meeting still makes sense, given how frequently you communicate.
3. Be open to learning. This one may seem obvious, but regardless of how much you respect your millennial CMO or client, it’s an objective fact that they have had a different professional narrative than you have had. Learn as much as you can from your CMO or client and be a trusted advisor on issues about which she could use some help. Regardless of where you net out, you’ll have gained new skills and insights as an employee. —N.L.
Nick Light is a senior account executive at Peppercomm, where he focuses on strategic planning, social media management, media relations and measurement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @NNLightNN.
This article originally appeared in the June 30, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.