In case you have clicked onto this blog post in a fit of rage, ready to go all ‘keyboard-warrior’ in my comments section, I can promise I am not saying that anyone is too old to work in PR – didn’t you note the title was a question? I am merely discussing an observation that I have recently had, so please do read and then type furiously in my comments section.
From interning here and there, when it comes to PR offices – and I mean the PRs that work for brands, whether that be fashion, tech or beauty etc. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of employees are between the ages of 22 and 35.
In particular, one office I visited in London, while I was sat in the waiting area watching everyone go to or come back from lunch, I didn’t spot anyone that was over the age of 30 and so I asked the CEO why this was. He admitted that he was the oldest in the office and in his 40s, with the reason for his young workforce being that this is where they come to learn and then move on to bigger things.
So why does it seem that PR is a young person’s career? What happens when I turn 40? Am I no longer employable in the PR field? Past my sell-by date? Am I no longer with the latest social apps, the newest technology or the biggest influencers?
According to the PRCA PR Census 2019, the median age of the industry is 33, and they describe the industry itself as ‘overwhelmingly young’. The most common age range was found to be 25-34, which just puts into words what I experienced when visiting an agency in London a few months ago.
So why is PR a young person’s career?
Is it something to do with the ‘PR Girl’ cliché? Is it because a lot of young people (not all) like to party, attend night-time events, know the most about social media and influencers and are faster learners?
Or perhaps it’s because PR can be a stressful job that doesn’t end at 5pm every weekday. Do us youngun’s have more stamina to handle it? Has the digital landscape become too hard to keep up with for older PR professionals? Have you noted that I’m ending every sentence with a question mark so as not to offend anyone?
Advantages of a young workforce
Some would say that the younger members of an organisation are more down with technology, and that they are far more capable with learning to use new toys. You may have experienced this yourself – you buy a new piece of equipment and suddenly a 5 year old child is showing you how to use it.
Younger workers also just seem to be ‘on it’. They know what’s happening and where, who’s wearing what and who’s dating who. Those on the younger side are seen to be more in the know with what’s happening as they are usually glued to their social media accounts with access to news and gossip 24/7.
When it comes to influencer marketing, you could say that younger employees would be able to develop a better relationship with influencers since they fall around the same age group (not discriminating against older influencers here, I know they exist, but I’m talking about the Sarah Ashcrofts, Lottie Tomlinsons and Love Island stars of the influencer world) and may share common ground, and understand the wants and needs of the influencer a little better.
A younger workforce can also bring a lot of fresh ideas to the mix, bring a more energetic vibe and a youthful atmosphere. Now, I know that not all young people are energetic (far from it – myself sometimes included) and that a lot of the older workforce could give them a run for their money, but younger people are known to take more risks as they are fresh into the industry and market and willing to make mistakes that they can learn from.
Advantages of an older workforce
With age, comes experience and that’s something you can’t buy at 21 years of age. An older workforce have been there and done it, seen it all and got the t-shirt. They may know what will work and what won’t and they can tell when something is going to fail or be a better fit for the company/brand. We can learn a lot more from someone that’s been in the industry for 15 years rather than five minutes.
A longstanding career in Public Relations would probably mean a lot of longstanding relationships that have been nurtured and developed over that time. A great relationship with a member of the press or influencer market is extremely valuable and worth a lot to the brand.
Employees that have been around for a while may have a great influence in the PR industry, as they will have built something of a name for themselves during their career. But what is more valuable to a PR company? Five newbies fresh out of university with great ideas and energy, or someone that knows the industry inside and out, has great contacts but isn’t on top of new platforms/outlets like the younger generation? Isn’t it best to have a mixture of both in an office?
Will I retire at 40?
Well wouldn’t that be lovely. But I can’t see it. I had a chat with my dad about what would happen if one of us won the lotto. He said he would quit his job, retire in Spain and spend his days leisurely. To me that sounded like my worst nightmare.
If I won the lotto, I would still work my same job because I feel like it gives me a purpose. I would be instantaneously bored after one day if I got up in the morning with no purpose other than to read, sit outside and sunbathe all day, every day. I just couldn’t sit around doing nothing.
I mean, if I could work remotely from my villa in the South of France every day then that would suit me down to the ground. But for now, it doesn’t seem likely that I will ever win the lotto (I’d have to buy a lotto ticket first – and £2 when you’re a student is a lot) so I’ll be sticking to a career in PR for as long as they’ll have me. Or until the robots take over.
My next investigation into the PR industry is whether it’s a female’s career. From the PRCA PR Census, I learnt that 92% of PR practitioners in Northern Ireland are female. 92%. That’s ludicrous. And we all know about the PR Girl cliché, but have you ever heard of the PR Boy cliché? Me neither. So why is PR a woman’s career? I’ll be trying to find that out soon.