Top Five Reasons to Give Up on Millennials

 

Thank you, Deloitte’s, for a ‘just when I thought I’d seen/heard everything’ moment. Please give it up for the ‘MilleXZials’ – an amalgamation of Gen Z (ages 14-20), millennials (21-34) and Gen X (35-51). Apparently, their ‘mobile consumption behaviours’ – and, I’d venture, many other of their consumption behaviours – are pretty much the same.

Being older than all of these amalgamated whippersnappers and, yet, probably possessed of the very same consumption behaviours, I think Messrs Deloitte have missed a trick here. ‘MilleXZials-boom!’ would have been so much better. The point is that ‘milleXZials’ are everyone.

As, on a slightly smaller scale, are Millennials. Here are five reasons why we should ditch the lazy catch-all that is ‘millennial’ and get on with understanding the needs of a micro-segmented audience.

Millennials are not a distinct group

Only in that they were all born between 1980 and 2000. Stating the obvious, the oldest are 38 and the youngest are 18. Socially, economically, politically, ideologically, technologically – they’re different shades on a very broad spectrum. They cannot be influenced, communicated with or sold to with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Millennial is not a synonym for ‘the youth of today’

Because while some of them are, others – very clearly – aren’t. (Recently I read the phrase ‘Millennials, and their older siblings…’ Hell’s teeth, I’m the older sibling of a top-of-the-range Millennial. Talk about broad generalisations.)

Millennials are not ‘the workforce of tomorrow’

Saw a presentation recently entitled ‘Boomers vs Millennials: are you ready for the shift in your workforce’? End-of-generation Millennials are 38 years old. They’ll have already been in the workplace 16 years, supposing they endured higher education. They’re your boss. A quarter of Millennials have been in the workplace for 10 years or more.

Millennials do not all want the same things

Whether that’s world peace, corporate purpose, recyclable coffee containers or a sushi bar in the workplace. To imply that they do is to lose focus and render any communication strategy so broad-brush as to be wholly ineffectual.

Millennials are not disadvantaged compared to the previous generation

They can’t all afford houses because house prices have risen out of all proportion to the price of anything else, and society’s rules vis a vis home ownership have changed. That being said, there are jobs to be had, and jobs in ‘new’ industry sectors (think internet, social media, fintech, bioscience) pay comparatively well. Millennials live as well, if not better, than previous generations. Even if ‘millennial unrest’ was a thing, it isn’t.

Dump Broad Groupings – Embrace Nano-Targeting

Millennials was the first socio-economic group that wasn’t.  (And there will be no more that are.) Regardless of any other influences – and there are myriad others, obviously – the incredibly rapid growth and implementation of new technologies alone has seen to that.

The internet, as we know it, became a thing around about 1995. Thus, Millennials born in 1980 grew up with dial-up and cables. Millennials born in 1995 grew up with smartphones and broadband. Facebook was founded in 2004 – early Millennials would have been all over it. Later Millennial has probably closed his or her account. Early Millennials are sporting FitBits and confuse automated call centres with AI. Sharp-end Millennials are already thinking about having payment chips implanted in their hands.

For the last time – ‘Millennials do this, and Millennials think that’ – it’s lazy, and it’s unimaginative. Millennials don’t exist.

Diageo recently made a song and dance about micro-targeting – given the current rate of technological development, evolution, implementation and utilisation (and its effect on society) expect to have to coin a new term for a new group every month or so.

It’s not micro, it’s nano.

Social Media in a Crisis

More evidence, if more were needed, that we really do not have a clue what we are doing with social media (in using the word ‘we’ I am embracing the entire PR and Corporate Affairs community, even the slightly creepy ones, like one I met this morning. The one who was so engrossed in herself and her own importance she forgot the first rule – don’t believe your own hype. There’s nothing more edifying than watching someone who thinks they’re good being seven shades of awful).

Anyway, long story short, I was at something billed as a breakfast briefing on ‘The Role of Social Media In a Travel Crisis’. Which sounded fab – and there were two speakers, who definitely had had crises. Sadly, the session never really got past the ‘travel crisis’ bit with the ‘social media’ piece being relegated to some screengrabs and an admission that neither of the spokepeople’s organisations had either dedicated budget or dedicated resource to deal with the phenomenon that is social. Which is fine – but I know something about crisis management and I don’t need to be told to ‘have the facts’ and ‘be sincere’ – I really wanted to hear about others’ experience of crisis played out on social.

Got me thinking though. Thinking a couple of things. Once again – and in this context – social media is not a force for good – it is likely to carry reputational risk and will suck at your time like a Goldman Sachs(*). And, again once again, our industry is bullsh*tting and bl*stering its way through, ‘avin’ it large on topics about which it wots not. We do not understand social media, fellow communicators mine, and maybe it is time that we did. Maybe it is time – to address the specific point – that crisis management planning, training and simulation all contained dedicated social (new) media modules. Maybe it’s time we planned, rather than – as I saw this morning – leaving it to chance and doing it on the hoof.

I for one shall be taking this very much more seriously from here on in.

And finally – a general comment on people who work in PR. If you’re asked to speak on a topic – then speak on the topic. Please don’t attempt to spin it to suit you. It doesn’t work (mostly) with general audiences – what makes you think it’s going to work with your peers?

(* Vampire Squid)

PR – Image Problem? What Image Problem? (Part 2)

Came across this blog post. Authored by one Steve Riches, food and drink editor of The People. Which is a bit like being culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Actually, it IS culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Mind, you, this train of thought is probably lost on Steve. Seems a bit of a lacklustre twat, that’s the problem.

Anyway, he’s got some misperceptions about PR and – in fairness to the revolting oaf – these misperceptions are not his fault. They are the fault of many of those who work in this vale of tears that we call ‘spin’.  In many ways, it has to be admitted through clenched buttocks, he’s bang on. He got my name wrong though – it’s ‘Jeremy’, not ‘James’. And I’ve never met a Lola-Lu.

Anyway – same old point, dearest blog snorkellers. What are we doing? How did we let it come to this? Why are we – and our organs (CIPR, PRCA) – not frantically trying to put a reputation management programme in place? Why didn’t we start trying to put such a programme in place years – decades – ago?

But back to Steve – I am minded of Winston Churchill’s response to an outraged female, when I see Steve accusing me of vacuity:

“But you’re in PR!”

“And you, sir, are an ugly, boorish lout – but tomorrow, I shall re-train.”

Journalists Prefer Traditional Comms – Pope Has Balcony Etc Etc

From the hallowed pages of PR Week (issue dated July 22, cover price £57.32) comes this story – and story it is, for no – disbelievers all – the Week has not made it up, oh no, they let Broadgate Mainland(*) make it up for them – t’Week has simply reported it. They’ll make journalists yet.

(* Meisters of Financial Spin of the parish of Old London Town.)

Anyway, before I got so wildly carried away, I meant, bloggy snorkellers mine, to post the link. No, of course you won’t. You’ll simply see if you can make head or tail of the post without going anywhere near the colourful linkey of doom. Wet, is what you are. That being said, maybe there is an Arthurian trotter amongst you and for that brave Templar I provide this – the Holy Link of Har Megiddo. Carefully now – swish and click – obliviate!

(Warning. I am sorry, faithful followers, but in an almost Murdockian stylee, PR Week will wish you to subscribe before you read the article. You may not wish for PR Week to be your horcrux, however, at least, not while there are still pesky kids around.)

So, the article. In brief, it says that while UK corporates are doing more social, a survey of financial journalists (and I think we can take that to mean journalists, period) reveals traditional comms channels remain the more important media relations tools. That’s what it says – ‘more important tools’. With 81% of the 100 surveyed saying that they prefer to receive stories via email, I’d say ‘most important tools’, wouldn’t you?

In other bears-defecating-in-the-woods- type revelations, only 11% thought Facebook was an appropriate corporate comms channel and 97% researched companies via their corporate websites. (Incidentally, a truly spiffing photocaption for the article’s illustration of Zuckerberg’s monster – “‘Inappropriate’ Facebook”.)

So, it’s official. Journalists prefer to get their stories off real people, in real time, via targetted communication. Unsurprisingly.

Other stats in the article included the 38% of FTSE100 companies signing up to Facebook (up from 25% six months ago) and the 56% running a corporate Twitter account (up from 40% in December). And we know why they’re doing this. Mostly peer pressure and a misguided desire to be ‘down with the kids’ and to have their very own shiny object. And, as I’ve said before – if you’re an airline, then Twitter is useful for updating your customers. If you’re a firm of management consultants it is wholly inappropriate (like Facebook). In the case of most of the FTSE100, it is wholly inappropriate.

Just sayin’.

Social Media – Just Say ‘No’

OK, OK – keep your hair on. It’s only a headline, dear. For effect, dear. Yes, dear.

Obviously, I don’t mean ‘no’ – what I mean is ‘oh alright, but only if you really, really have to.’ (Engage in a bit of social, that is.) Reading my newspaper (my copy of the newspaper, obviously – I’m not some Murdoch-alike here) yesterday and drifted over a wee piece about some company’s social media policy (what do you mean ‘policy?’ Yes, you do need one, yes, it should be draconian and yes, it does apply to everyone) and the vaguely humorous conclusion the journalist had drawn was that the overall message was, simply, ‘don’t’.

(This drawn from what was, in effect, a long list of rules – don’t criticise the company or its competitors, don’t insult management or colleagues, don’t post on behalf of the company, don’t hide your identity if you ARE posting about your work – the list went on and on and on.)

Thing is, of course, while it was supposed to be humorous, it is, of course, true. If you are a company with a hard-won reputation, you do not want it pissed up the wall by some employee who’s very good at attaching spangle brackets to flange clips but who, when it comes to understanding boundaries and the nuances of self-expression, well……..not so much. (This is a sort of meta-metaphor as I fully understand that hardly any of you, blog trotters mine, are involved in the spangle-bracket-and-flange-clip industry. Despite it being, I am sure, a dynamic growth sector.)

Thus, arguably, spending days and weeks formulating a corporate social media policy, with all the guidelines, rules and strictures that it necessarily must have, then going through the approval and enrolment process and then attempting to instil it in your staff from president to postboy – well, it’s probably a waste of time, isn’t it. Like it or not, you’re not going to catch everyone and, of those you do, not all are going to understand what you’re telling them.

I meant – do you actually know what you’re dealing with? You want to have a rummage around the back of Facebook and see the sort of thing you dig up. This is why Vodafone had to clean up its Twitter feed after it fell victim to a twat, and why Dixons/PC World had to take down a Facebook group entitled (something along the lines of) ‘Our Customers – What A Bunch of Culture Secretaries’.

You see on recent evidence, even the professional communicators cannot get it right. Cue PR advisor to some manufacturer of electronic games (if, indeed, Duke Nukem can be included in the sunlit and carefree category that is ‘game’) who used his 140 to threaten bloggers who gave his client’s product a bad review. I take it that this guy wasn’t a numpty and had had some success on the field of PR – but he got it wrong. Going back to our metaphorical spangle-bracket attacher, what chance does he (or she – but I tend to associate spangle brackets with he) actually have.

Nope, my convictions are firm and remain unchanged – by all means noodle with social if you feel you must, but do it sensibly. And in a corporate context, for the bulk of your employees, the answer has to be no. No way, no how, no never. And the punishment for breaking the rules needs to be frightening. More frightening than, say, Rebekah Brooks.

Corporate Communications – Trends for 2011

I don’t really know what I was doing, publishing an overview of communications trends for 2011 – and here’s the good bit – more than halfway through 2011. I was either bored, or labouring under delusions of grandeur and importance, or I was temporarily insane. Possibly for tax reasons. In any case, I’ve just re-visited this post and, with my delusional grandiose Hat of Importance on my head, it is actually quite good.

And it stands up for 2017, also. I’m brilliant, me.

It has been a mighty long time, blog trotters mine, a mighty long time. I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been doing something incredibly exciting, dangerous and isolated for the last however many months it has been since my last post – like single-handedly piloting a spaceship to Venus, without either lights or a radio, or breaking the world record for lying immobile and silent in a flotation tank.

But, of course, I haven’t. Simply been busy, mind on other stuff, d’you see.

Anyway, without further ado, guess what is the most popular post on my blog? Actually, that’s unfair, it would take you days to trawl through all the posts and even then you’d still be guessing, so I will go ahead and tell you – it’s this.

It seems there are a lot of people out there looking for guidance as to where the Corp Comms industry is going – so desperate are they for answers, any answers, that they’ll even read my blog which, as my faithful followers will attest, is to be found sticking, damply, to the bottom of the internet’s barrel.

Today, therefore, I am – without any source material, without any proof points and without any visible means of support – going to bring you what I believe to be the current Corporate Communications trends in 2011. I think publishing this on July 15 gives you ample amounts of year left in which to follow my trends, slavishly. (It’s very important that they are followed slavishly. Makes all the difference.)

1) Social media. Despite my best efforts and those of the small band of underground Luddites like me, social is showing no signs of going away, and I am afraid, sickening though it is, we are going to have to participate. I myself have just updated the Twitter account that I have never used since I opened it in 2009, and I am going to have a right good twat, when I can think of something useful to contribute. What is interesting, however, is that when we talk about social, we no longer, necessarily, mean Facebook, as even the most weak-minded amongst us is beginning to realise that Zuckerberg is an odious turd who simply wants to control. (Parellels between Murdoch and Zuckerberg anyone?)

The role social media plays in a corporate context will, of course, depend on what sort of corporate you are. Simply put – if you’re an airline, then Twitter is good for twatterating about your routes and your schedules. If you are a global firm of accountants, no amount of Facebooking is going to make you interesting. Know your audience, know yourself, take approriate action.

2) Austerity is with us every waking, breathing day – things are not getting better (unless you’re the Scots couple who won £161m on Monday – why have they waived their right to anonymity? Why?) and it looks like it might get worse – so if you’re talking to the end user, empathise with them and – if you can – give them something. They will love you for it. Especially if it’s beer, or pizza or a free holiday. Do not underestimate the shallow needs of the impoverished.

3) Also driven by austerity is the need for inclusion – we’re all in this together, even if we’re not – so when formulating comms plans, be part of the group you’re talking to, think the things they’re thinking, watch the stuff they’re watching, eat the food they’re eating. This maybe very nasty, if your medium is the Daily Mail, but trust me, no-one’s listening to stuff that doesn’t come from within.

4) Austerity, the threat of a winter of discontent, rising fuel prices (incidentally, if – dear reader – you work for an energy company and you’re searching for a way to make your company/executives look good – I’m sorry, you are a reprehensible reptile and there is nothing for you here), rising taxes, perhaps even rising interest rates – we need something to snigger at. Do communicate with humour, there’s a chap – it should be clever and whimsical and it should make ’em laugh.

5) Transparency is an old ideal, but let’s remind ourselves that without transparency, you don’t have trust and without trust you don’t have any sort of relationship. More and more important these days – we’re all feeling threatened, we’re all worried about the future and no-one’s goingto be loyal to anyone or anything unless they’re certain it’s clean, and they can see what makes it tick. And if you feel you can’t be transparent then, for goodness sake, go away and clean yourself up until you can.

6) Working together – another much-vaunted ideal – but one that’s still conspicuous by its absence. what it means is simply eschewing the cult of the ego, realising that it doesn’t matter where the idea comes from if the idea is the right one and all pulling together to make it effective. That’s PR and advertising and marketing and direct mail and digital. It also means being polite to each other and playing nicely. This way, everyone’s interest is served. Honest.

So this is where I think we’re going in 2011. I’d be interested to know what others (anyone?) think.

Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

Now, for this post to make sense to you, you’re going to have to do the clickety-dickety and read the article. You may wish to have a bucket and a towel handy while you do so and also to warn anyone in the immediate vicinity that your anguished howling is nothing to be alarmed about. Unless it goes on for longer than – say – thirty minutes, in which case it may be the onset of PTSD.

In brief, this is a continuation of the battle between two diametrically opposed viewpoints – that employees in the workplace should have no access to social networks during work hours whatsoever (which I do not believe to be a workable solution to the insidious eville of social) and that employees should be free to do what they want, when they want, simply girdled with a loose set of suggestions and guidelines. Which, as a solution to the problem of social media in a corporate context (and it is a problem, mark my words) is also a nasty pile of cattle droppings. In a nutshell, it’s the Corporate Nazi vs Company Hippy debate, which I have posted about before.

Thing is, the Company Hippy arguments for social media, used here, are the same ones that have been trotted out since social media began. And they didn’t make sense then, and they don’t make sense now. On top of that, here they are dusted with the icing of  ‘research’ and ‘example’ – and we all know how easy it is to find support for an argument. Any argument. (Don’t make me give you specifics.)

Here’s just a few idiocies:

  • Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands
  • Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?
  • Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)
  • Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure
  • ‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place
  • ‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

The solution, however (and it’s the one point on which I vaguely coincide with Stop Blocking) is not to shut down employee access to the internet. You see, it’s the internet that is (or can be) a useful corporate tool, it’s the internet which – as much as I still think this is a sucky argument – ‘resets concentration’ – not social media. Social media is wasteful and vainglorious. The internet is (partly) full of useful information, commentary and viewpoint.  Social media is full of weak-minded individuals who honestly believe that what they do and think is of interest to others (see Twitter).

How can you do it? Some companies have a couple of open-access machines in their public areas, for employees to use when they’re on breaks and time spent on these machines is (obviously) monitored by other employees – much like smokers on smoking breaks, internet users will be kept honest by their peers. Other companies make internet access a privilege, granted to those who’ve achieved – promotion, sales targets, whatever – although this is obviously a little elitist. Others allow internet access, but block social media sites – possibly the best of the options.

What is essential, however, is a good, solid, draconian Use of Social Media Policy and an internal communication plan to make sure that no-one can claim ignorance of it. Needless to say, this Policy should outline clearly how an employee may represent the company or brand online and in social media – what is acceptable and what is not – and, most importantly, make it clear that it applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enforce it rigorously, because there’s nothing like a public hanging to make people understand that you are – and it is – serious.