In a potentially ominous sign for the PR industry, 62 percent of millennials working in PR say they value a team agency model, sense of camaraderie and open communication above strong leadership and stable clients, according to a new survey from PR-focused management consulting firm Gould+Partners and Atlanta-based tech PR agency ARPR. Just 12 percent of millennials say they value stable clients most.
“The overall goal of the survey was to find those areas where millennial and non-millennial communicators fail to see eye-to-eye,” said Rick Gould, managing partner of Gould+Partners, in a news release. “We want to spur better dialogue in order to improve working relationships between millennial and non-millennial PR executives and—as a result—boost agencies’ top and bottom lines.”
Contrast in compensation expectations
While roughly 42 percent of millennials say they expect commissions, bonuses, and promotions biannually or quarterly, 77 percent of PR firm owners distribute bonuses, etc. annually.
Moreover, 31.3 percent of Gen X and boomer agency owners say the hardest part of managing millennials is their false expectations regarding promotion and compensation.
Stereotypes and relatability issues
Asked what’s the hardest part about working for boomer and Gen X managers, 25 percent of millennials say nostalgia for traditional ways of conducting business and 25 percent report hearing offhand and/or snarky remarks from their bosses that play into stereotypes about millennials’ lack of attention spans and sense of entitlement.
On the flip side, asked what’s the most difficult part about managing millennials, 34.4 percent of boomer/Gen X respondents say—you guessed it— too much self-entitlement and not enough empathy.
Part of the problem is a lack of cohesion and inter-generational training: 93 percent of millennial agency employees say there is no formal mentoring program at their agencies, according to the survey.
Perhaps as a result, 46 percent of millennials say they prefer to be managed by their peers, while 40 percent prefer to be managed by Gen Xers. Just 13 percent of millennials say they prefer to be managed by Boomers.
“Millennials should be encouraged to lead in areas, such as social media and paid advertising, where older generations of PR executives might not be as adept,” said Anna Ruth Williams, CEO of ARPR and a millennial herself, in the release. “Likewise, PR veterans should be tasked with creating training programs for younger employees to demonstrate authentic co-mentoring.”
Co-mentoring programs could also help to mitigate some of the issues clients seem to have collaborating with millennial PR executives.
Asked how clients view working with all-millennial teams, 77 percent of non-millennial executives say mixed; clients like millennials’ enthusiasm and digital savvy, but say their interpersonal skills leave a lot to be desired. Moreover, 77 percent of millennials say they’ve experienced ageism from clients.
“When you consider some of the reservations clients have about working directly with all-millennial teams it’s incumbent upon PR firm owners to educate millennials about how to cultivate relationships with clients, beyond the work at hand and the ‘campaign,’” Gould said. “The ability to grow the firm’s clientele—and profitability—depends on it.”
The survey was distributed in October and based on responses from 62 PR firms, included responses from millennial PR firm owners, millennial employees, and baby boomer/Gen X PR firm owners. Roughly 80 percent of the responding firms have revenue of less than $3 million and between $3 million and $10 million.