Some of us are going to have to swallow our pride a little bit and admit we need help – from Millennials of all people.
That’s right. This much-derided group, often mocked as lazy and uncouth, unlikely to get out of bed before noon, or wear a proper pair of work pants, may hold the key to our professional survival.
The easy reason why is that, unlike those of us in our 30s or older, they are digital natives, comfortable sharing online using their real names on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter or anonymously on apps such as Whisper.
Shake your fist at oversharing all you want – I did and still do in many instances – but any of us who create content have a thing or two to learn. Piecing together content, though we journalists still prefer the term "copy," has always been at the core of what we do. It’s also clearly where PR agencies see themselves making a lot of money in the years to come.
That’s where the young folks come in. More "mature" social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are making a splash as public companies, and their newer cousins Tumblr and Snapchat are the subject – successful or not – of billion-dollar acquisition stories.
News flash: they’re not going away anytime soon. Even if they do, it’s still worth experimenting with them. How many of us learned to chat or use email from AOL?
Technologies such as these have created a mentorship-in-reverse trend that companies are grabbing onto with both hands, extending it even to CEOs. That’s smart – and it’s vital to our success on both sides of the journalism-PR split.
I’m just old enough to remember a time when the role of the Internet was debated in newsrooms, when some old-school and deadline-conscious editors feared reporters would use the Web less as a fact-checking and story-discovery resource and more of a time-waster. (Procrastination was a bigger deal in those print-focused days than it is now.)
Others felt great things were waiting to be discovered on the Web, sometimes even the nugget of a tip or idea that could lead to a future story. You know which ethos won.
With that in mind, younger staffers should be doing more than pitching us their story ideas or plans to help a brand on the communications side. It’s time for them to take a mentorship role, telling us about the interesting things they discover online.
It may even change a few minds about Millennials being brats along the way.
Frank Washkuch is news editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.