How PR Agencies Can Appeal to Gen Z Employees

Gen Z working at a laptop at a kitchen table

[Editor’s Note: This is a companion article to the original piece, Attracting Gen Z Communication Employees, published on March 29, 2023. A section of the article explains the issues agencies may have when recruiting Gen Z. Antiquated culture and stunted growth surfaced as some of the major problems for these organizations, as well as a need for greater transparency when it comes to company values and impact. This piece intends to focus on what agencies are focusing on to catalyze change in the industry and welcome more Gen Z employees into the fold.]

Regardless of layoffs in many industries, one industry that seems to continue growing is public relations, particularly within healthcare and technology. 

Communications agencies need to fill roles at a rapid pace to keep up with the demands for launches, crisis communications and digital and content management. A great place to look for new talent is Gen Z, who have the energy, digital knowledge and gumption to truly want to make their mark on the world. 

Agencies have quite the opportunity to take advantage of the fresh ideas coming from a new generation now entering the workforce. Here are some of the best practices agencies are utilizing for recruiting quality candidates.

Post Graduate Programs

One of the most exciting, yet anxious, periods of a young person’s life is graduation. The world is open for any path they want to take, but that can also seem overwhelming. Especially if it is their first foray into a corporate job or working a full day at a large company. 

Agencies can do recent graduates a favor and lessen the intimidation of the job search by providing inroads to employment. 

Highwire PR touts a paid, six-month, post-graduate internship program with PR and digital focuses. The internship allows participants to get the feel of working full-time in an agency culture, and can contribute almost immediately.

“We ensure that Highwire interns, regardless of their PR background, have dedicated managers and mentors supporting their growth, as well as opportunities to immediately contribute on client teams,” says Andrew Robinson, Head of People, Highwire PR. 

After the program, interns are often brought on full-time as account associates. 

Highwire also proactively partners with colleges and nonprofit organizations that help diverse, low-income, and first-generation grads overcome unemployment through opportunities at Highwire. 

“In 2020, we established partnerships with COOP Careers and the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP),” Robinson says. “Leaders from our digital team delivered integrated strategy training to COOP students.”

Since 2020, Highwire has trained over 750 COOP students and have had a COOP graduate join the agency. 

“As a member of the digital team, she not only helped us teach over 400 students in 2021 alone, but she’s realized great success in her client work,” Robinson says. 

Growth and Leadership Opportunities

Gen Z is not known for being patient. In fact, most people aren’t when they graduate college. Channeling that energy can be great for solving issues and making an agency even better. 

“Many candidates have their choice of employers and wherever they land is going to be an investment of their time and energy,” says Tammy Phan, senior director of talent, BerlinRosen. “Candidates want to know that this is mutual and that their employer is going to invest in them, as well. And we strongly believe in growth and internal promotions; many of our now-VPs began with us as interns!”

Providing opportunities for younger employees to have their voices heard can go a long way when it goes to proving these promises for investment. 

Kristina Markos, associate professor of practice and internship director, Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts and Humanities at Simmons University says handing thought leadership activities over to Gen Z can go a long way in building trust. 

“Give Gen Z a chance to digitally enhance thought leadership—it's where they shine and where organizations are sleeping on a missed opportunity,” Markos says. “People are interesting and dynamic on social media; if perceptions are shaped online first, it's critical that agencies put people at the front of their communications efforts. Regardless of industry, you need a story and a person to tie to that story in order for the brand to have a presence [and Gen Z understands that].” 

Another idea to help Gen Z see the value of their position is to let them know how important their ideas and opinions are to the overall business. Golin has developed a youth marketing specialty focus, called “culturecore,” which has attracted and enabled Gen Z’ers to provide expertise and create community around this work.

“Golin’s “culturecore” is a dedicated youth marketing function designed to help brands navigate how to play, socialize and inspire alongside today’s influential youth demographics,” says Tiffiny Bolden, global head of human resources, Golin. “It taps into Golin’s own collective of diverse talent and community creators across the U.S. and globally, leverages proprietary tools to measure young consumer sentiment and helps brands better connect with and gain acceptance from the young audiences critical to their business and brand goals.”

Continuing to Invest in DEI

While some companies seem to be divesting in DEI to save money in a volatile economy, that act is not lost on up-and-coming employees for whiich company values are very important. It’s important to keep training and programs like employee resource groups available for those who want to make a difference in the agency culture and work. 

Lippe Taylor administers surveys throughout the year, has listening sessions with employees and meets with ERG leaders regularly to ensure they are meeting their needs and concerns. The firm currently has nine ERGs and two interest groups ranging from AAPI, neurodiversity, LGBTQIA+, women’s health and reproductive rights, parenting, wellness and other ERGs focusing on Cultures.

“Our ERGs are very active, so their activations and events, education for all employees, has helped us grow continually on the DEI front,” says Lisa Vasquez-Fedrizzi, senior vice president, people + culture, LippeTaylor. “We are responsive to things happening in the world internally to ensure that our teams know if they need time to reflect, time to process, we are here for them on every level.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her: @buffalogal