Let me start by saying my “PR mindset” only wishes it had come up with the annual Beloit Mindset List – a media goldmine up there with the best of hotly anticipated yearly polls, surveys, and indices.
The Beloit List looks at pop culture, politics and technology as experienced by the incoming freshman class each year, and, boy, is it thought-provoking.
For example, this year’s class, born in 1994, thinks of Robert De Niro as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway. They have no memory of Kurt Cobain while alive. The class has nearly always known a female Secretary of State, has never used a set of bound encyclopedias and watches TV mostly on screens other than TVs.
The ways these observations affect PR are at the same time nuanced and glaringly obvious. Think about these examples the next time you write a pitch or plan a campaign.
“America’s Royal Family” may still mean the Kennedys to some, but a member of this class recently asked me if that meant “the Kardashians.” No comment.
“Star Wars” has always been a movie, never a defense strategy.
“Plastics” are merely plastics, not a buzzword coined from “The Graduate.” (What graduate, some might ask?)
Planning a bookstore appearance for an author? This generation would likely consider it a quaint anachronism. First, because books, if read at all, are read online and bookstores, despite being preferred urban gathering places, have seen record closings during their lifetime – out the window along with point-and-shoot cameras and floppy discs.
If you mention the classic PR campaign to add a new color (blue) to M&M candies by popular vote, they’ll draw a blank. For these kids, M&Ms have always been blue (but never tan.)
If you use the words Twilight Zone as shorthand for something alien and out there, to the class of 2016, you are talking vampires and teens. In this case I guess the definitions prove the adage that everything old is new again. (Does anyone even remember that adage?)