Baby boomers represent the largest percentage of business owners in the United States. Thus, it’s safe to say that a majority of the top leaders in the PR business are baby boomers -- in their late 40s to mid 60s. This is all about to change.
The first group of baby boomers turns 65 this year, and a new poll by the Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com reveals that nearly half of all baby boomers now work for a younger boss. If 2012 was the year of the social media surge, 2013 will be the beginning of the end for our baby boomer PR compadres.
The media landscape is evolving rapidly, and baby boomers are about to be left behind because of their inability to keep up with technology and the changing times. The days of the self-proclaimed experts (those who profess to be "thought leaders" as a result of reading and hearing about new advancements that clients can take advantage of) are long gone.
Media today is all about authenticity -- and largely dominated by participatory media and consumers, who see right through advertising and marketing hyperbole and shut it out. Participating in these media is the only way to gain a "true" understanding of how and which work, and which don’t. Clients are demanding that their PR counsel and support teams are in the conversation, and that they themselves use the media where their content is being created and distributed.
Take, for example, the use of social media for online business networking or lead generation. As the saying goes, "it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks." The old dog in this instance -- baby boomers -- use traditional, in-person offline meetings as their primary source of building their business networks, while the younger generations are building their own brands and businesses more quickly, and reaching a much wider audience by leveraging new digital tools like LinkedIn and Twitter to run full-on campaigns.
Baby boomers’ misgivings about modern technology are countered in the workplace by their younger-generation counterparts who grew up with technology and are eager and quick to adapt to innovations. While many baby boomers have begun using social media and other new technologies at home, few have transferred this use to the workplace.
Some companies are now asking Millennials -- a group of individuals ranging between 18 and 35 years old -- to mentor baby boomers. At Edelman Public Relations, the Rotnem program matches young employees with older colleagues who need tutoring on text messaging, navigating Facebook and Twitter, or using iTunes. I applaud these companies for attempting to save the technology dinosaurs that exist within the confines of their conventional offices, but question the effectiveness of such programs.
Understanding and managing social media issues (the balance between personal and professional use) in the workplace is a major challenge that many companies face. A recent study titled The 2012 Kelly Global Workforce Index), revealed that among the different workplace generations, baby boomers are most skeptical, with almost half (49%) believing social media negatively impacts work productivity.
In the PR business today, the old saying "you have to be in it to win it" has never rung more true. There are a number of free webinars available that can help baby boomers effectively communicate online and on various social media platforms and more importantly, stay relevant. It is essential that PR industry professionals become knowledgeable about the latest tools and trends if they want to succeed -- or they will fall behind and be consumed by the ever-growing technology and social media boom.