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A recent article by Hollis Thomases for Inc., titled 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn't Run Your Social Media, has sparked quite the debate. PR pro Lauren Rothering wrote the counterpoint argument for PR Daily earlier this week.

I’ve got mixed emotions about it. I agree with Hollis that the fresh-out-of-college public relations professionals may not be best suited for “running” your social media efforts. But as Lauren points out in her article, there are some definite advantages to having the millenials as an active part of your team.

HMA Public Relations is a boutique agency. We do not have the luxury of having social media-only team members. Our staff members are all empowered to actively participate in the day-to-day account management of all our clients. Whether that be the more traditional work in media relations or the ever-increasing digital communications efforts. We welcome the creativity and enthusiasm that comes from the millenials in the office. But, we also have senior staff members that oversee the strategic elements of the account.

We’ve found the happy medium between turning social completely over to the “23-year-olds” and giving them the freedom and flexibility to be a part of the team that provides full-service public relations work to our clients.

Thoughts? I’d love to know how others, agency or otherwise, are handling social for your organization.

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

13 Comments

  1. Stephanie Lough says:

    Even though she begins with a disclaimer, I think the author is weighing too much into the stereotype of a “new grad”. First of all, “new grads” are no longer exclusively people in their early 20s, but I understand that for the sake of an easy argument why she lumps them together. Even so, I know 23-year-olds who are more mature than 50-year-olds and vice versa. I think there are too many individual characteristics to take into account to be able to label the “best” social media marketers by age or generation.

  2. Bonnie Upright says:

    I’m so over the discussion. actually. I don’t care how old anyone is. I just care that they’re GOOD. I am so over it, I wrote a rebuttal earlier this week: http://fullanduprightposition.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/why-my-9-year-old-dog-should-manager-your-social-media/

    Couldn’t help myself.

  3. Dana Hughens says:

    I think the lesson here is how to write an attention getting and SEO-friendly title. 🙂

    When I speak with student groups, I advise them to learn how to use social media while still in college. Why? Because that *might* be something that a more experienced person looking to hire a new grad doesn’t know how to do. Never in a million years as a 22-year-old college graduate would I have imagined I knew something the seasoned PR professional on the other side of the interviewing table me didn’t.

    So I think it can give today’s new grads an advantage. First, learn to use it. Second, think about how it applies to business. Read about it. Study up on it. If you can, get an internship working on social media for business. And remember, as one of my first bosses said, time on this Earth does mean something. You still need to respect the experience of those senior to you, even if you have learned to use a tool that is unfamiliar to them.

    Is it fair to the new grad or professional with only a couple of years of experience to be expected to create the strategy, articulate ROI and be held solely responsible for the results? I say — in most cases — no. I don’t ask that of anyone (regardless of age) who doesn’t have the experience to do so successfully. Same goes for a media relations strategy or a reputation management strategy or a crisis strategy or a you-fill-in-the-blank strategy.

    • Abbie S. Fink says:

      Dana — you and I have talked about this a lot. In fact, you were the first to mention Hollis’ article to me. Truth is, we all need to continue to learn about social and its role in business communications. There’s plenty of room for the seasoned pros and the up-and-comers to be a part of the discussion. Appreciate your comment.

  4. Ken Jacobs says:

    I’m less focused on the debate (agree with the above posts re: “Enough, already!”) and want to offer my observation that HMA appears to be doing it right by offering the best of both to its clients: Senior leaders weigh in on strategy, while the Millennials contribute to a channel in which many of them grew up and have a comfort level. To Stephanie’s point, I think when discussing Millennials, “seniors” and social media, we must always remember what the individual brings. There are 65 year-olds-from whom I’m learning about social media, and there are 23 -year-olds who could learn a thing or two about social media from me.

  5. Abbie S. Fink says:

    Ken – appreciate your thoughts. Having listened to you talk before about the Millennials, I knew you’d have some additional insight. We should all be learning from each other — yes, those of us that have been at this PR thing for a while have some advantages. But the up-and-comers who don’t have the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset can and do contribute immensely to client service.

  6. At the end of her article, Hollis points out that social media Is just a marketing tool. This Is so true. True also That the Y generation Is born with it. So, why not let them express their talent within à strtegic frame ?

  7. The problem with Hollis’s article is she didn’t link to the original article by Cathryn Sloane, which claimed only professionals under the age of 30 should be put in charge of social media. That’s what Hollis was responding to, but probably didn’t want to give her any more attention so didn’t link to her. The issue is not about age. It’s about experience, expertise, maturity, and perspective. Some 25 year old pros have that, but not all 45 year old pros have it. Look at how Progressive is handling their social media efforts right now around the Fisher case. Lots of really experienced people totally mucking it up. It’s not an age thing.

    • Gini — it should definitely not be an age thing. Understanding, knowledge, are much more important than how old you are. Wisdom does come with age, but if we’re smart, we’re sharing that wisdom across all our team members to ensure the best results.

  8. Judith Brower Fancher says:

    It may not be an age thing, but the fact that we don’t leave large strategy decisions to our least experienced staff members is a real thing.

    Leaving deep strategy out of your most public work for a client is not brilliant, and bright as they may be, an individual with a year or two of work experience is unlikely to be the agency’s best strategist.

    I would, however, put a less experienced person on Pinterest for a happy hour client. I’m presuming those just out of college can really spot an attractive cocktail!

    Love your strategy on social media, Abbie — you really know how to make people connect!

  9. Aaron Blank says:

    Nobody is a social media expert. It is who we are and it is how we communicate. The tools keep changing—the colllege pros are living it and so should you. Leverage your younger staffs and you will be far more innovative.

    I agree, why are we still having this discussion?

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