Going to the Source: Boomer, Gen X & Millennial

For a recent Public Relations Society of America Puget Sound meeting in Tacoma, I interviewed a representative working in public relations from the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generation to try to understand them on a level I’ve never had before.

We talked consumer habit, social media, workplace and more. Check out the Q&A below:

1. What website do you look at the most?

  • Boomer – Tough question! My internet history would likely say I am most frequently at Facebook or Twitter – both for work and my life away from work. I go to many news sites and blogs, too.
  • Gen X – Facebook
  • Millennial – Facebook

2. When you’re looking to make a purchase, where do you look first?

  • Boomer – Review sites. Depending on the type of purchase I would go to places like CNET reviews, auto magazine review sites, or the reviews of customer at the retailer I’m considering.  
  • Gen X – Online search
  • Millennial – The website of a store I associate with the product

3. What characteristics embody the ideal leader?

  • Boomer – Honesty, humility, integrity, a sense of humor, intelligence tempered with patience.
  • Gen X – Clear vision, humility and support for employees’ professional development.
  • Millennial – Someone who listens to others and takes the ideas into consideration then ultimately makes a decision that is best for the company/situation.

4. How do you like to receive internal communications from your employer?

  • Boomer – I’ve worked in both small and large organizations. My channel preference depends on the topic and information being conveyed. If you are changing my health care benefits, give me a link to an understandable and helpful website. If you are telling me that my company has been acquired, I would want to hear more about it in a staff meeting or some other in-person setting.
  • Gen X – From my direct supervisor and in staff meetings with the organization’s head
  • Millennial – It depends on the type and amount of information. I prefer emails for basic, quick information, staff meetings to touch base on information that is complicated and affects everyone and one-on-one meetings with a supervisor for large amounts or detailed information that affects me.

5. Finish this sentence, “Work is…”

  • Boomer – a necessity to fund my “runcations” and other travel.
  • Gen X – a means to support oneself while being of service to others
  • Millennial – Fulfilling. Yes, it is for a paycheck, but it brings a sense of fulfilling what you are meant to do.

6. What are the top two benefits you look for from an employer?

  • Boomer
    • Total compensation (including leave policies)
    • Culture and work environment
  • Gen X
    • Opportunity to learn about new subjects
    • Autonomy
  • Millennial
    • Schedule flexibility
    • Advancement

7. When presented with a group project, what is the first thing you’d do?

  • Boomer – Establish and clarify roles!
  • Gen X – Work with the team to clarify roles and responsibilities for each person
  • Millennial – Get organized. Assign individual tasks, timelines, meeting times, etc.

8. In what form and how often do you like to receive feedback, both praise & criticism?

  • Boomer – Frequently (real time) and in person.
  • Gen X – In person and immediately after the event
  • Millennial – Face-to-face with either the supervisor or the person with the feedback as often as it comes up. I would rather hear during the project if I did something well or poorly instead of at a biannual meeting.

9. What is the most irritating stereotype of your generation you’d like to confront?

  • Boomer – We are not our parents’ generation! The vast majority of Baby Boomers I know are fully engaged with and embrace digital life, in all aspects (tools, sites, channels, etc.). We are energized by change and are not stuck in the past of phone books, video tapes, print encyclopedias and CD players!
  • Gen X – I don’t perceive my generation as having a strong identify and am not aware of any stereotypes.
  • Millennial – That we expect to not have to work for what we get.

10. What social media accounts to you have and how do you use them?

  • Boomer – What I have and what I regularly use are two different thing!
    • I have and use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. To a lesser extend I use Instagram and interest.
    • I have activity apps that have social elements, such as Nike RUn and Fitbit, where you can challenge your friends.
    • I occasionally participate in review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp.
  • Gen X
    • Facebook to keep in touch with family
    • LinkedIn to network with numerous professionals and to research other organization
    • Twitter, Pinterest & Houzz to manage client pages
  • Millennial
    • Facebook (to read what my friends/interests post, look at pictures, occasionally post, etc.);
    • Twitter, Pintrest, Youtube, Instagram (I don’t actually use them)

What do you think of the responses? I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Interested in attending the next PRSA Puget Sound South Sound group meeting? Send me an email at or check out our page here.


Copywriting vs Content Writing: There Is a Difference. Really!

I lead a local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) group and a couple of weeks ago I met with some colleagues to plan our monthly meeting topics for 2015/2016. One topic that is hot on my mind (surprise, surprise) is content marketing. When I suggested the topic: crickets and blank stares. It is the same reaction at work when we try to explain how a content writer differs from a copywriter. So, I thought I would take it here to set the record straight.


Copywriting is writing copy that sells your product or service.

Content Marketing is creating content to attract, acquire, and engage.

So, copy sells, content informs. Pretty simple right?

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Content marketing is blogs, white papers and longer form content. Copywriting is advertising, headlines, webpage content and direct mail.

Although they are different channels and have different purposes, they need to work together. If one is done wrong, the other suffers. Content marketing and copywriting should complement each other and reinforce the overall brand message. Garner attention with a great headline (copywriting) and keep them with valuable content that makes them think and want to act (content).

Did this help dispel the mystery? There is so much still to learn as content marketing continues to develop.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what is next.

Your Brand is More Than a Logo. Say It Again…!

A few years ago I was asked to re-brand an organization… in two months. You read that right, TWO MONTHS. I asked the CEO what he considered a re-branding. His answer, “A new logo and color palette.” My response: crickets.

I asked him why he wanted a new logo and he said,”I want people to view the organization differently – To expect something other than the norm.” Okay. That is a re-brand.

I sat down and asked questions about what his ideal impression of the organization would be, how does he envision customers interacting with the product, staff, web, social media; you know, all the touch points. It was completely different. I explained that this would be MUCH more than a logo. The logo and color palette would come after we define our brand promise, personality, and customer experience. AND, that would take longer than 2-months. He reluctantly agreed to the process.

What is a Brand?

To get here, I had to explain the difference between a logo and a brand. Many (and I mean MANY) people don’t understand the difference; even agencies and seasoned professionals. The best definition I have heard of a brand is from Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap: “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”

It is critical to differentiate that this is the perception of the product, service, or organization. Not the actual. You may have really great attributes, benefits or outcomes, but if they are not known, appreciated, or used that can affect your brand. It is about being strategic about how you present yourself and what makes you better than the other guy: your competitive advantage.

What is a Logo?

A logo can have many names – brand mark, icon, trademark – but it is all the same way of saying the graphic representation of your company. It is a very important component to your brand, it is your visual identifier. The way that people differentiate you visually from your competitors. When you see golden arches, you think of McDonalds; when you see the red bullseye, you think of Target. What else do you think about when you see those logos?

For me, when I see the golden arches, I think of hot and salty french fries, rarely getting my special hamburger order right, and LOTS of kids in the play area. When I think of the red bullseye, I think of spending hours wandering wide aisles full of fun things, seeing customer service associated when I need them, and not when I don’t.

My perception of those logos contributes to the brand.

Is One More Important?

These two truly go hand in hand. You want your logo and brand to complement each other. Ultimately though, your success is driven by emotion. What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone interacts with your company? Is it positive, negative, ambivalent?

When someone sees your logo, rarely do you have someone say, “I love WXY product, but hate their logo.” It’s more of a, “I love WXY product.” There is no mention of a logo. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the reverse. I know when I see a logo of a brand I dislike, I have a reaction. Sometimes a strong one.

The point is, a strong logo helps your brand identify, but it needs to be supported by so much more. If you are looking at re-branding, it is important to examine WHY. Is it crisis management? Has sales started to take a dive? Are you adjusting to market changes? Is it to explain changes in the way you interact with your customers? Whatever it is, make sure you have outlined how you want your customer to feel about your company and/or product. Then go into the fun creative stuff.

I know I get all excited about designing new letterhead. Just me? Oh.

Was this was helpful. If it wasn’t, let me know. Have anything to add? Use the comments section or connect with me at @JenAalgaard or on LinkedIn.


The Importance of a “Useful” Style Guide

Content really is “king.” As marketing and public relations continue to blur, having clear, concise, on-message content can make or break a campaign. So, how do we make sure we are all working on creating content that is aligned, boosts SEO, reinforces messages, and is consistent? Why an editorial style guide, of course.

Some organizations have a tailor-made Editorial Style Guide and some just use the AP Style Guide. Whatever it is, having a standard for how you communicate to your audiences reinforces your brand, create more impressions on messages, and, let’s face-it, takes the guess work in how to “word things.”

I have created many style guides for the organizations I have worked for and have found that they change depending on their business model; how they approached what channels they used and what stories they pitched. We had a definition of what made us, us.

You can go as far as creating a guide that outlines how and when to use a comma, to just creating a content library of boilerplates, key messages, and industry jargon.

I went to Twitter and asked:

Since I am new to having my own personal Twitter account (see why in this past blog post), I didn’t receive a ton of responses, but I was thrilled with this one in particular:

Why? Because it is honest and effective. Understanding your audience really can define what your style guide should look like. Are you trying to reach reporters? AP Style is your go-to. Are you trying to reach moms? A more conversational style with be the best bet.

Whatever your audience, before you jump into creating a guide, research them. Find out how they like to be talked to. Then start from there.

If you’re struggling with the next step, there are many how-tos out there. My favorite is by Kapost. They outline 4-Steps to Creating Your Own Editorial Style Guide.

  1. Meet with the people who edit content before it goes live. – What are they having to fix every day? What could make the copy more polished? The recommend you go as far as giving them a questionnaire with some copy to see what they edit to give you an idea of their preferences.
  2. From that, draft a style guide that addresses the main problems you discover. – “The key is to make it work for you.” They have a great template to get you started and to develop some ideas of what you might like to include.
  3. Get feedback from stakeholders. – Make sure the guide can be universally implemented- digital, print, advertising. Ask those developing that copy and editing it to take a look and make recommendations. Also, getting buy-in for implementation is a big key here.
  4. Regularly update the guide. – This is a living document. As trends, organizational objectives, and channels change and develop, so should the guide. It should be a useful tool that is regularly accessed. Having outdated guidelines won’t help the cause.

Don’t be afraid of creating a document like this. It can be comprehensive or targeted; long or short. The purpose is to get everyone on the same page and writing stellar content that grabs people’s attention.

Hope this was helpful. If it wasn’t, let me know. Have anything to add? Use the comments section or connect with me at @JenAalgaard or on LinkedIn.

[Special THANK YOU to Kapost for being my inspiration for this blog. You are one of my go-to references for all things content marketing.


Social Media & Strategic Communications in 2015

Social Media & Strategic Communications in 2015 was originally published on Getting Smart.

Let’s start with social media.

Facebook Isn’t Dead. Contrary to what many people may be saying about how Facebook is dying, it is still a great tool for the right audience. It is still has the largest social media audience and why would you turn your back on that? Figure out who you are trying to reach and see if they are present on the platform and Facebook away. Teachers are a great example of who still have a large audience on Facebook.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet? There really is NO question. You may notice that from a personal perspective I am not very active on Twitter. Primarily because I have spent most of my career writing and posting tweets for the companies I work for, but I have been selling myself short. Not only is it a good idea to be on Twitter, it is imperative to my career and to my company. Twitter is the KING (or Queen) PR channel! 140 characters can open a whole world. So, there really is NO question, just do it and here’s how.

Leverage Twitter Chats. So you’re on Twitter, now what? Join a Twitter Chat. Twitter Chats are a great place to start learning who is who, what are people talking about, and how they like to be spoken to. Once you are comfortable with how a Twitter Chat is run, start your own.

Instagram? Only if you have something to show. Don’t just have a social media account for the sake of having one. To really make it worth it, you have to be active, consistently active. Instagram is a great example of this. Instagram is GREAT, fabulous even, if you have images to share that are relevant to your brand. So many people fall into the trap of starting an account on the “hot” new social platform without the content or audience to back it up. Review the platform and find out if it is really worth your time, if not stop and revisit it again in six months.

Content is No Longer King. The king has been dethroned and been replaced by images and video. Our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text so it is not surprising that platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine have exploded. We have even seen the Facebook newsfeed taken over by images and video. A picture is worth a thousand words and in the world of social media, much, much more.

And now, strategic communications.

Integrated, integrated, integrated. The other day I was driving down the road and was listening to an advertisement on the radio and as I heard the final tag line, I looked up and saw a billboard for the same company with the same tag line and later on Twitter. Why is this important? Because I remember this product. I am not even in the market for this product, but here I am talking about it; remembering it. When creating a marketing communications campaign, it is crucial to ensure all channels are saying the same thing. Marketing pioneer Dr. Jeffrey Lant says it takes 7 touches for someone to make the decision to act on a message, don’t spend time and money on multiple messages, when one great message can do all you need.

Transparency Will Make or Break you. We are in a 24/7 news-cycle and with a large percentage of the world using some sort of social media, being truthful and open has never been more important. Ever notice a company on the nightly news when they admit fault immediately? Rarely. Be honest immediately and any crisis can be managed.

Blog about it. Gone are the days that we require media outlets to tell our story. Brand journalism has taken on a new form and it isn’t content marketing, nor is it sponsored content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is meaningful, quality storytelling. Own your brand and tell the story you want to tell on your website through a blog. Share your blog on social media and watch your brand, followers, and/or customers grow.

Mobile and More. 60% off all internet traffic is mobile and is rapidly increasing. Smart phones and tablets have revolutionized how content is accessed and consumed. So, if you do not have a mobile site, you need one. If your mobile site doesn’t have a lot of traffic, you’re not doing it right. If you are finalizing your plans for 2015 budgeting, include dollars for mobile, it will make a STRONG impact.

Personalization – Not Just a Teaching Model. Consumers increasingly demand a more personalized experience both online and in person. The millennial generation is a fast-moving group who embrace change and as they take-hold as the target sales market, we must be more flexible in our outreach efforts. Reach them on their level, how they want to be and when they want to be reached. Provide a true experience, even in your storytelling. Connect with them with your messages and they will come.


Press Releases 101

Press Releases 101 was originally published on Getting Smart.

In the age of the 24/7 news cycle, many wonder the pros and cons of the press release. What is the point of creating a full release if I can just send a tweet to my beat reporter or favorite blogger? There are MANY more pros than cons. Press releases are a crucial component to any public relations strategy. Here are 10 tricks to the trade that get your release more attention:

  1. Your headline is your hook. Think what headlines catch your eye in the newspaper or on a tweet. Your headline should be descriptive, but limited to 100 – 170 characters. There headline should be formatted in title case, which means, capitalize each word except for prepositions and articles that are three characters, or less.TIP: The text underneath the headline is called the subtitle. The subtitle is just that – additional title information that explains the news value of your press release. it is not necessary to include a subtitle.
  1. Put all your eggs in the first basket. If the descriptive and noteworthy headline passes the first step and your release is opened, a quick read of the first paragraph needs to give the 5 W’s and 1 H in 3-5 sentences. TIP: Watch out for run-on and fragmented sentences.
  2. Easy come, easy go. Give every possible opportunity to access the release and share it. ALWAYS include a link to the digital version of your press release. Even better, embed a sample tweet to immediately share. TIP: Watch the character count and allow space to retweet.
  3. Remember grammar school. Proofread., proofread again, and have someone else proofread your release before sending out. There is nothing more distracting from good content than a grammatical error. TIP: Write your press release in AP Style. It is a journalists bread and butter.
  4. Make it flashy. Including multimedia in your press release is almost a requirement in the fast 24/7 news cycle. Humans engage with images faster than text. Consider that a minute of video is worth 1.8 millions words. (Omnivideo, 2009) TIP: Look for images, videos, and other visual data your company already has instead of creating new each time.
  5. Leave the creative writing to the pros. Reporters and bloggers spend their life making subjects engaging. Leave the superlatives to the journalist. Your release should provide key, hard facts and data to support your overall message. TIP: Want to support the creative aspect of your story? Write a blog post.
  6. Quotes provide color. Use a good quote from a high level organizational contact, product user, or someone close to the product to provide the human interest angle to the release. TIP: Even better, provide contact information to the person quotes to allow the journalist to contact them directly for “color commentary.”
  7. Provide your contact information. Seems like a simple task, but so many releases are sent without letting the journalist know who to contact for “more information.” Include your name, phone number, email, and, in some cases, Twitter handle in your release. TIP: Create a press release template with a placeholder for contact information to ensure you never forget.
  8. No one likes spam. You spend all the time writing content, developing and linking multimedia, gather people to quote and interview and when you go to send, you bulk email. You don’t like spam, neither do journalists and editors. Spend the time to create targeted lists to send your releases to, make contact with them, and create a relationship. Not only will this help ensure your release isn’t immediately moved to the JUNK folder, if you have a relationship, it has a higher likelihood of being covered.
  9. More information. A boilerplate is generally one-paragraph company profile placed at the end of the release showcasing who your company is and what they do. This is a great opportunity to make a positive impression of your company. Make it count. TIP: Create a consistent message about your company by using your boilerplate as your social media profile description, website “About Us” beginning paragraph, and elevator speech.