By Ashleigh Horn
There’s no denying that each generation is different. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, Millennials, Generation Z, I’m sure as you read each of these titles, you may have recalled your own thoughts toward each group. During a time where as many as five different generations are working together in the workplace, it’s important to understand how they all function and what each brings to the table.
Though I could certainly cover all five of these and the impacts they have in the workplace, I want to instead provide first-hand insight into a generation that is seemingly misunderstood by its predecessors. This is a generation with a desire to create change; a generation that I have nearly 21 years of experience being part of.
Who are we?
Although the lines defining the age range of my generation are a bit blurry, the Pew Research Center identifies this group as having been born after 1996 (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). Today, some Gen Z-ers walk the halls of middle schools, whereas others are hunched over books in their dorm rooms, working full-time agency jobs or even preparing to vote in the upcoming presidential election. There’s no doubt we’re all at different stages in our lives; however, somehow, some way, there are a few common desires and passions we all seem to share.
How is this generation different?
Generation Z is the largest generation to date. We also have access to more technology, media and quite honestly, each other, than any generation before us. It may be our sheer size, or it quite simply may be the comfort we feel in sharing our thoughts and ideas through Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, that compels us to reach for our dreams and to stand up for what we believe in. Politics, social injustice, sustainability, ideas for new products or businesses, we Gen Z-ers are a researched, opinionated, innovative, change-making group.
The Target Incubator
A few years back, the Target retail chain set out to better connect with this next generation of consumers. One way they did so, was through directly engaging with young Gen Z entrepreneurs in what they called the “Target Incubator.” Inspired by these young adults’ big ideas about “better for people” and “better for the planet” products, the company selected eight business pitches, created by students, to help become a reality.
You may be asking, “Why would the company do this, and what was their reward?”
Generation Z is often referred to as the “Changemaker” generation. Target recognized that many of its Gen Z consumers have big plans to change the world and sought to help make their dreams become reality. The students’ ideas ranged from producing compostable single-use products to using juice pulp waste to create healthy snacks. These eight businesses were not only unique—they did not simply provide innovative products or services—rather, they were all created as solutions to a number of the social and environmental issues we face in the 21st century.
I think James Sancto, founder of We Make Change, hit the nail on the head when he described Generation Z’s passion as “not willing to accept the world as it is, [who] believes [it] can address the challenges the world faces today, and [who] will do whatever [it] can to make the change [it wants] to see” (Sancto, 2019). The product of the Target Incubator is a testament to Gen Z’s eagerness and willingness to ensure the changes we wish to happen are made.
Gen Z’s not so breakthrough solution to creating change is to have a purpose. Whether you’re a business, college institution, or just someone we pass on the street, Gen Z-ers want to know what you’re all about.
What are your goals?
Who or what do you stand for?
Does your vision align with what we believe?
Generation Z prioritizes purpose and “[looks] to engage with brands and organizations that have a higher purpose that goes well beyond a simple transaction” (Beal, 2019). Unlike generations before us, we don’t simply purchase a product or rep a brand because we like it or it’s “convenient.” Rather, we use the power of reviews and our access to technology to compare prices, product availability, to research a company’s CSR practices and what it values, in order to make educated purchases (Salesfloor, n.d.).
Google, Netflix, Spotify and the Walt Disney Company are all examples of some of the most loved brands by Gen Z consumers. It’s no coincidence that all of these same companies placed in the Digital Marketing Institutes (2020) list of the “Top 16 Brands doing Corporate Social Responsibility Correctly.” Generation Z values these brands because they do more than provide their specific products and services; these companies use their platforms to create change on issues important to their employees and to each company as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, Gen Z-ers look for ways to impact our own corners of the world. In fact, we often make decisions with long-term consequences in mind. We’ve been called lazy, self-involved, tech-dependent, and more (The NPD Group, 2020). Yes, some of these monikers may be partly true. But, we are also a passionate generation focused on standing up for only those issues or movements that align with our interests. Our passions drive our actions. We just might change the world.
As each new year has passed onto the next, Generation Z, or the “Changemaker” generation, has become older and older. With this age has come new responsibilities, both in our own lives and in contributing to the world around us. We are growing up, entering the workforce and making an impact in our own generationally-unique way. Slowly but surely, we are revealing who we are, what we value, what our goals are, and are debunking the generational stereotypes that have defined us since we were babies. In turn, we are using these differences to provide new perspectives in both the workplace and in society, and are doing all in our power to create change.
by Maria Schomer
“What do you do?” It’s usually the first question I get asked when I tell people I am a public relations major. My friends, who know little about PR, assume that I take the easiest classes and all I learn is the structure of a press release and how to manipulate the public. My family, however, believes public relations takes a lot of skill and that I know how to speak in front of a large crowd without getting nervous.
So what do public relations majors actually learn? Social media? Event planning? Sure, we cover that (among other things). But what people and other students don’t realize is the amount of time and hard work we dedicate to being a public relations major.
Thinking back to the simpler, less stressful days of my freshman year I realized how my understanding of different aspects of public relations has changed.
AP writing can consume you
When you think about public relations, do you think about writing? I didn’t. What about writing in a different way than standard English composition? I really didn’t consider that either. The Associated Press (AP) is a style of writing that is used by all public relations professionals. It’s not quite like learning another language but you do have to learn different ways to punctuate sentences, whether or not a word needs to be capitalized, correct use of titles and a whole lot more. Fortunately, we do have a reference book, or survival guide of sorts that we can use to help: the AP Style Guide.
How hard can social media be?
You use it everyday, sometimes multiple times. Social media is easy to understand, right? Take Facebook: you just log in and update people about what is happening in your life. How hard is that?
In reality, as public relations majors, it’s much more complex. You have to grasp the latest social media platforms and trends. You must have an understanding of where different publics generally traffic social media platforms and why. You may think that Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are what companies mostly use to share news with followers, and you’re not wrong. However, social media is much more than a weekly status update, it can help build relationships between a company and its publics. Creating a dialogue like this helps build costumer loyalty and provides valuable feedback.
To put the importance of social media into perceptive, Lucas Miller, a PR specialist at Fusion 360, believes you have to show the return-on-investment while working with social media for an industry. This is because, although social media continues to grow every day, companies are still skeptical about the effects social media can have on their publics.
It’s a networking world
Getting to know others in the public relations field can be a valuable learning experience. There is no better time to network with a professional than when you are in college. Professionals are often willing to help a college student out because they know what it’s like being a student with little to no experience. Additionally, most professionals are willing to be a contact if you ever have any questions or want them to look over your résumé.
But how do you network when you’re still in college? There are several options that a college student can use to network. They can join their campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Also, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is a national organization that hosts networking and workshop events for professionals and students alike. Students often don’t realize that networking can help further their career and the more they attend networking events the better their connections will be.
Is Public Relations the easiest major out there? No. But can it be the most rewarding? Absolutely.
By Breann Roettering
Resources surround public relations students at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) everyday. I encourage the students to open their eyes and take advantage of these resources to help prepare them for their career in the future.
The PR Department has wonderful faculty who share their knowledge with the students every day inside and outside of the classroom. Get to know your professors here at UCM. Our faculty members are experienced in a wide range of Public Relations, ranging from nonprofit organizations to agency work and design.
Public Relations students have the opportunity to be involved in UCM’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. PRSSA conducts a number of events annually to benefit students, and to help them start making professional connections. If you haven’t checked out UCM PRSSA, I encourage you to do so. Each year the organization hosts PR Pro Day, an AP Style Workshop and a personal branding workshop that covers social media. PRSSA also gives you an opportunity to meet your peers and network at events in Kansas City such as The KC PR Summit, as well as social event in Warrensburg.
Get to know your classmates
I have already mentioned it briefly, but it is very important to get to know other students in the program. A great place to start making those connections is in the classroom. Your fellow classmates are also going to graduate and become professionals someday. Get to know them and build those connections now. They may become a great source for you in the future and will be people to collaborate with and get advice from when you start your career.
The final networking tool students have at UCM is Innovative Public Relations (IPR.) IPR is a student PR firm housed in University Relations. Every PR student is encouraged to apply for IPR. There is an application and interview process, but do not let that scare you away. Working for IPR will help you gain experience in an agency setting and also is a great place to start networking. You will get the opportunity to work alongside the University Relations staff and gain experience working for real-life clients.
At UCM, students can begin networking right away. It will benefit you to get to know your professors, fellow students and administrators. After you graduate you will already have experience working in a professional environment. Start networking on campus and build a name for yourself now. Those connections may open a door for you to that dream job you are seeking. It will also help you build your confidence as you enter the job market because you will already have experience in networking yourself.
by Katie Johnson
It is hard to believe the fall semester is in full swing, especially for the Public Relations Student Society Association (PRSSA). What better way to mingle with other people who are in the same major, but have interests in different areas of the field, while having a slice of pizza? PRSSA decided to kick off the semester on the right foot by having its annual social at Fitter’s in downtown Warrensburg.
This was a great way for prospective public relations students to become acquainted with the program as well as welcome back public relations students already in the program. Not only was this an opportunity for students to socialize, but a chance to meet the instructors and get to know the PRSSA executive board.
President Sadie Hicks informed everyone that the general body meetings will be held every other Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in Wood 205. Everyone was given a copy of the schedule so they’ll know of any special events that may be held during meetings.
Sadie also talked about the benefits to becoming a dues paying member. Dues paying members receive additional benefits such as having the opportunity to attend a tour of a public relation firm, attend AP style workshops, resume building workshops, and much more. It is a $60 fee to be able to participate in these extra activities.
The rest of the team
Along with Sadie, the rest of the executive board was introduced along with a giving little description about what they do. We got to meet Vice President Brooklyn Lutz, Secretary Jillian Berger, Treasure Katelyn Doyle, promotions chair Jeremy Noble, philanthropy chair Shelby Wells, historian De-Ann Warren, Intern and Career chair Cole Braun, fundraising chair Maria Schomer, and social media chair James Riddle.
Importance of internships
After brief introductions from the executive board, the internships and careers coordinator, Cole Braun, elaborated on his position. As many of the attendees at the social were majoring in public relations, which requires an internship before graduation, it was very helpful to know there is a specific position to assist students in what can be a very difficult search. Cole talked about how he would keep members informed about internships that would be available, how to look for an internship, and any other questions that people may have regarding the process.
It was a great turn out with a lot of beneficial information regarding the upcoming year. This was a great chance to hear about how each person can become more involved with public relations and the benefits of doing so.