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In the World of Public Relations Age Is Only a Number

Posted At: October 10, 2011 12:20 PM
by Dorothy Griffith

One of the most important roles of a public relations practitioner is to remain on the cutting edge of information and communication. As businesses and organizations grow and increase their presence on the Internet, PR practitioners are expected to be well versed in every aspect of digital communication, including advances in technology and social media, as well.

Younger public relations practitioners find this aspect of their jobs easy—and they should—since they have grown up using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and video sharing sites. But what about the PR practitioners of an older generation? Do they get lost in the fray and do their professional careers suffer because of it?

Kathy Bowers, media relations coordinator for Children’s of Alabama, is very aware of the importance of technology and social media in today’s PR field. She acknowledged that there is sometimes a stereotype that older generations struggle with today’s increasing reliance on digital communication, but has not seen it in her work environment.

Bowers, an experienced PR practitioner, handles all of the social media for Children’s hospital. She said that social media, specifically Twitter, has been paramount to the hospital’s communication efforts, promoting events that it hosts, health and safety information, promotions and crisis management.

“Social media is a huge and growing thing for us,” she said. “Its importance grows every day.”

Amanda Aviles, a mid-twenties assistant account executive for Edelman, sees no difference in the social media skill level of younger employees compared to older employees.

“I work with some of the smartest thought leaders in the industry who range from fresh out of college to more than 40 years of experience in the industry,” she said. “And, in this company at least, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between their social media skills and usage.”

In fact, much research indicates that the success of Twitter was due mainly to popularity among older generations. A 2009 article from the New York Times reported that adults, as opposed to teens and young adults, are responsible for the popularity of many Web services that we now recognize as the frontrunners in the social media market.

It’s no surprise that the public relations field would be one of the first to adopt a tool that allows for immediate communication with a broad audience, regardless of age.

“I think in PR you have to stay active and engaged and aware, or you’re not able to do your job effectively,” Bowers said. This is most important when it comes to learning new communication skills, she said.

“PR professionals have a natural curiosity and a willingness to learn,” she said. “People who don’t embrace it will be left behind.”

There is a place for everyone at the social media table. The use of Twitter and other social media tools by both generations creates a unique social environment, according to an article from ReadWriteWeb. With older and younger PR practitioners interacting in the same space, each group will benefit from the other, whether it’s sharing knowledge of PR or information about technology and social media.

So is age really an issue when it comes to working in the PR field? Bowers and Aviles say no.

Bowers said she firmly believes that older generations of PR practitioners have recognized the value of social media as a vital communication tool, in addition to the more traditional methods that they’re used to.

“Social media skills are as important as being able to write a good press release,” she said.

“I think it’s a stereotype that unfortunately some people believe to be true,” Aviles said. “But if someone has been good at PR their whole career, they will adapt quickly and easily.”


  1. Post comment

    This article challenged my thoughts and beliefs concerning generations of PR practitioners. I found it interesting that Twitter’s popularity was due to older generations, as I believe the older practitioners do not understand social media tools as well as a younger practitioner would.

    In May of last year, I attended PRSSA’s Social Media conference in New York, N.Y.. The conference was solely centered around how to successfully implement social media for businesses.

    Most attendees were at least 40 years of age and didn’t understand the simple concept of Twitter or Facebook. Although a majority of these PR practitioners were willing and able to learn, they failed to comprehend the advances in technology that is now considered a basic knowledge for younger generations.

    As new technology presents itself to the PR industry, the younger generations seem to take hold of it, therefore granting them a better understanding of the given technology. Sure, older generations may be more talented in writing, but if they fail to successfully implement the context to reach target audiences, their writing serves no purpose.


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