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You’ve Got a Mentor in Me: The Power of Multigenerational PR Professionals

Published on March 25, 2021, at 12:24 p.m.  
by Mattie Naman.

The practice of public relations can be dated back to ancient Greece but had its true birth at the turn of the 20th century.

Since then, the world has constantly changed, and public relations has changed with it.

The strategies and tactics used in public relations have rapidly evolved — even in the past 30 years. This evolution is proven true through the lives of practitioners who have persevered through the changes and learned as they’ve gone. There is so much to be learned from young professionals, as well as from practitioners with years of experience.

Sharee Broussard
Dr. Sharee Broussard, professor at Belmont University, said that when she began her career in the 90s, her generation — Gen X — was the one that forced organizations to get computers for their offices. “Email was just getting started and that was only the 90s,” said Broussard.

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Broussard also described the importance of always learning in the field and said that “if you stop [learning], you’re dead in the water.”

As a practitioner and now a professor, Broussard has seen the constant changes in the world of PR, yet she also emphasized the importance of the basic fundamentals of the curriculum. “If you know the foundation of RPIE (research, planning, implementation and evaluation) and GOST (goals, objectives, strategies and tactics), if you know how to write, and if you can adapt and evolve, you’ll be fine,” said Broussard.

Broussard explained that when she was in school, the curriculum was pretty much the same when it came to the type of classes that were required for the degree. The only real difference she has noticed in the curriculum from then to now is the extra “tools” classes, such as graphic design.

Broussard made another important point: Students must not have the mindset that public relations is an easy major. Although the curriculum may not be pre-med, this field also requires years of learning post-undergraduate. One must continue to learn to be successful in public relations, and Broussard made that extremely clear.

Social media has become such an important platform for practitioners. When asked how social media has changed the game for public relations, Broussard explained that the rise of social media answers the question: “Who leads in an organization?”

“PR practitioners were the first ones to utilize social media; we were social when advertising was still making TV commercials,” said Broussard. Broussard explained that social media allows PR practitioners to create genuine relationships with their brands’ publics.

Social media has caused many jobs to become 24/7 rather than 9-to-5, and PR has been affected the most. Broussard explained that PR has “never been a 9-to-5 job,” but social media has definitely made it more work.

Mutual learning

It is important to have a variety of ages within an organization. “If you’re only around people like you, then you’re only going to be like people like you,” said Broussard. She explained that young professionals need to work with experienced professionals and vice versa. “Organizations grow the most when they have multigenerational staff,” said Broussard.

Broussard showed her admiration for the younger generation, explaining that she learns from them by observing how they talk, interact and the tools they are using. She also explained that young people often make fun of the older generation for not being good at technology, but the older generation is slightly more experienced. Thus, Broussard emphasized, there is a mutually beneficial learning experience between the different generations.

A former student that Broussard admires is her “superstar student from the class of 2010,” Alyse Quinn.

Broussard and Quinn are a true testimony to mutually beneficial relationships between generations. They both learned from each other and enriched each other’s lives.

Alyse Quinn
“Oh, that woman. I could spend an hour telling you how incredible she is,” Quinn said when speaking of Broussard. Quinn explained that Broussard “believed in [her more than [she] believed in [herself],” and poured everything she could into her students. Luckily, Quinn “soaked it up like a sponge.”

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Alyse Quinn, founder of Big Vision in Orlando, Florida, graduated from Spring Hill College in 2010 with a major in integrated communication, a combination of PR, marketing and advertising.

Broussard served as a professor and mentor for Quinn. One organization that Broussard linked Quinn to was AdFed.Quinn explained that this organization helped get her foot in the door and even earned her an internship with Saatchi and Saatchi in New York City. This internship was something Quinn “finds value from still today.”

Like Broussard, Quinn also touched on the evolving world of communication and the rise of social media and technology.

“Technology, in general, has made a huge influence on our industry and continues to do so,” said Quinn. She also said that technology and social media are a huge part of PR professionals’ day-to-day.

Quinn agreed that social media has made PR a 24/7 job. “You are always on; you have to have a pulse for what’s happening around you because technology is rapidly changing,” said Quinn. She said that everyone is using social media, which gives everyone a voice.

Quinn explained that with rising social issues and COVID-19, practitioners must always be ready to use their voices.

Even with social media taking over the PR world, Quinn agreed that there are still mutually beneficial relationships between younger and older professionals. “It must be a blend,” said Quinn. She explained that in her workplace she expects two things: “heart and hustle.” If her employees have these two things, and the willingness to evolve, then it does not matter what age they are.

Quinn also explained that her diverse workplace helps “put out the best product.”

“No one person has all of the right answers, but the more infusion you can get, the better the end product,” said Quinn. She said it is important to hear everyone out before making decisions.

Quinn and Broussard exemplify the value of lifelong learning, whether it be keeping up with technology and social media or learning from those who are different from them.

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