Smells Like Teen Spirit

May 1, 2015

So now that marketers, communicators and others have been fretting about understanding millennials these past few years, along comes Gen Z.

Workplace consultant Alexandra Levitt noted why this group will differ from previous generations.

“Gen Zers are growing up in a healthier economy and appear eager to be cut loose. They don’t wait for their parents to teach them things or tell them how to make decisions,” she wrote in The New York Times on March 26. Gen Z is already out in the world, curious and driven, investigating how to obtain relevant professional experience before college.”

In this issue, frequent Tactics contributor Stephen DuPont, APR, examines Generation Z — roughly those young adults born in 1996 and into the 2000s. For more, turn to Page 19, where he provides research and tips on reaching this digitally savvy audience.

Meanwhile, a few letters away from this demographic, I’m apparently still enjoying a midlife crisis as a member of Generation X.

As Logan Hill wrote for Esquire in February 2014, “Gen X was literally born into midlife crisis: 1965 marks both the beginning of ‘Gen X’ and the birth of the phrase ‘midlife crisis,’ coined that same year by psychologist Elliot Jacques.”

But who has time for midlife crises when there’s been so much nostalgia for Gen X to take in lately?

The promoters behind Lollapalooza 2015 have been busy publicizing the summer music festival in Chicago. (Paul McCartney is headlining, something to appeal to yet another generation.) I recall attending the first one in 1991, making the two-hour road trip to Blossom Music Center outside Cleveland. (It took longer to exit the parking lot afterward than it did to drive back home.)

There’s also “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” the new documentary that tells the intimate story of the Nirvana lead singer 20 years after his death. The film is receiving a lot of positive press, which reminds me that, 24 years later, I’m still annoyed that I didn’t see a then rather-unknown Nirvana at a tiny music venue in Columbus, Ohio. It was Wednesday night, Oct. 9, 1991. I was tired and figured that I’d catch them the next time they came through town…

Regardless of the generation, it’s important to know what appeals to your audience. All of this has made me wonder what we’ll be marketing to Gen Z in 20 years.

A collaborative transition

I recently sat down with Joe Truncale, who started as PRSA’s CEO this past January, for an interview. He previously served 30-plus years with the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL).

Here’s an excerpt from the Q-and-A, where Truncale explains why PRSA was an appealing destination for him:

"I was at a point in my career where I was thinking about doing something different. I had done a lot of business consulting at NAPL. I enjoyed that a great deal and thought, 'Maybe I will just take that avenue going forward and restructure my position.'

When this opportunity came along, it was a chance for me to utilize a lot of the skills and experiences I had gained in membership organizations, but in a different setting — a professional society versus a trade association.

Public relations is a profession that’s changing and going through a big transition, as we did in the printing industry. But it’s also one that’s growing and will continue to do so in the next several years — a lot about that appealed to me. I was ready for a significant change, and here I am."

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.



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