Editorial: A bias towards youth can be self-defeating

Is the PR industry ageist? Probably not intentionally, but it could be a growing problem according to PRWeek's investigation of the issue (Feature, p27). Recruitment consultants report a reluctance by agencies to recruit staff over the age of 35, and some agency heads worry how older consultants would 'fit in' with their youthful cultures.

It seems ironic that one regularly hears PR people bemoaning the fact that their profession 'is not taken seriously enough', or envying other professionals - such as lawyers - who can charge handsomely by the hour. Because when one thinks of a typical lawyer, what springs to mind is a serious, middle-aged, sage character. Can the same be said of the PR caricature?

Career structures are now more fluid and agencies might consider recruiting staff who can bring experience outside of PR to the business of pure communication. We have an ageing population, with more mature individuals on the job market and a growing number of mature consumers. This 'grey market' has higher media consumption and spending power than youngsters. But can a 25-year-old account manager really understand this market adequately?

Some may argue that attracting older individuals will mean reduced margins and lower productivity. I'm afraid you can't have it both ways. While the industry undoubtedly benefits from the energy and creativity of youth, it might do well to balance this with individuals who can offer life experience, a greater maturity of character and a dash more gravitas.

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