APR Certification: What it is, How to Get it and Why you Need it

Liam

Spring is in the air and graduation season is rapidly approaching. While college seniors are likely eager to get away from higher education – at least until many of them go to grad school – continuous learning on the job is essential for professionals at all levels.

For PRSA (Public Relations Society of America), April is APR (Accredited Public Relations) Month (#APRMonth ), its annual month-long promotion to educate members about the APR process and the benefits of attaining the certification. Naturally, any time of the year that works for an individual candidate is the right time to consider pursuing the APR as an important element of their professional development plan.

Why get your APR?

The APR designation demonstrates an individual’s dedication to public relations and to advancing his or her career. It provides an additional credential that supplements the work experience of PRSA members as they become candidates for director and vice president-level positions.

The important point for any PRSA member contemplating applying for candidacy is to truly assess the pros and cons, requirements and time commitments necessary to complete the process, and then decide if it is really a certification that they want or need. Certainly, holding the APR isn’t a requirement to continue progressing in a successful PR career, but it is a very respectable personal achievement that illustrates education and overall excellence in the field.

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PRSA outlines the traits of having the APR as follows:

  • Asserts professional competence
  • Communicates expertise, personal and professional dedication and values
  • Reflects progressive public relations industry practices and high standards

 

The APR process can range from a few months to a year to complete all four steps:

  • Complete the application
  • Prepare and sit for a panel readiness review of select portfolio samples.
  • Study for the computer-based examination
  • Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through maintenance via membership renewal and periodic activity credits

 

The Steps in the Process

After completing the application and being accepted to proceed, you may want to seek an APR member in your local chapter to serve as an advisor to you. Many chapters offer periodic preparation workshops that you can participate in to keep you on track. It is important to note that once your application is accepted to proceed in the process, you have up to a year to sit for the final test, allowing you to plan your work/life schedule and dedicated study time accordingly.

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Readiness Review:

The first step is writing a personal narrative that addresses several career and experience questions.These essay answers can range from three to five pages and will be read by three local APR judges prior to setting a portfolio panel review date. The panel review calls for you to present two significant career projects that include the core steps of strategic public relations – research, planning, execution and evaluation/reporting.

A reminder to young and seasoned professionals alike who have changed jobs over the years, be sure to keep PDFs of written samples, screen shots of digital content and copies of any reports or other published materials. Maintaining a comprehensive portfolio of your most memorable or successful projects and campaigns will make the portfolio review process an easier lift so you can focus on studying for the computer exam. Keeping your best work in an electronic or scanned format can also help you if you want to enhance your personal blog or online career portfolio.

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Computer-based Examination:

After you pass the panel review, you can schedule the computer test, which is an intensive, three-hour, multiple-choice question format with a variety of knowledge, skills and abilities areas that cover many of the key principles, standards and best practices of public relations. By reading a few of the PRSA-recommended public relations textbooks and practicing some APR sample tests, you can be ready for the exam in four to six weeks. Even after studying for several weeks, the test is still fairly difficult, similar in effort to a GRE or GMAT test.

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You Passed! What’s Next?

As lifelong learning goes, even after you pass the APR test, you are never truly finished. Part of maintaining the certification is earning continuing participation and education credits that can come in various forms, such as giving back to your chapter as a panel judge on future APR candidate, award judging, serving leadership roles on committees, mentoring or giving presentations.

There is a set amount of points you must attain in a three-year period to maintain your APR standing; these can be easily accumulated by serving on the board, presenting to organizations, attending conferences and participating in professional development events. If you are an active PRSA member, satisfying the requirement and logging your activities is a naturally easy task to complete.

Ultimately, it is up to each PRSA member to assess if the process and time commitment involved in attaining the APR can fit into his or her busy live. Once you receive the APR designation, you will have not only fulfilled a major personal career accomplishment, but you will find yourself thinking on a more strategic level for questions to ask, outcomes to plan for and results to measure for all the work you encounter.

If you decide to take on the APR, good luck! It is a worthwhile challenge and it is a great accomplishment when you pass the test and join the ranks of other APR holders in your chapter and across the national membership of PRSA. Plus, you also have the distinct privilege of adding “, APR” after your name like a graduate-level degree for your business cards, email signature, LinkedIn profile and all PRSA-related materials.

For study guide material and to take the APR practice exam, visit PRSA’s website. Take a Self-Assessment while you’re at it to determine if you’re ready to obtain your APR.

Are you a PRSA member in Buffalo  interested in taking the APR? Learn more about becoming an APR here.

8 Brands that Slay Humor in the Social Media World

Sarah

When is the last time you saw an ad or tweet that resulted in a gut-wrenching laugh? You know- those genuine laughs that you did not expect after watching an advertisement trying to sell potato chips or a new energy drink (yes, we’re talking about Super Bowl 50).

Comedy in advertising and social media isn’t as easy as it looks, but if humor is something that fits your brand,  it can enhance its reputation, trigger emotional responses and increase loyalty with a large audience. Brands that have developed a humorous voice must also choose  social media platforms carefully. Humor in marketing can sometimes be seen as controversial, and may not be the best choice when publishing content on channels such as LinkedIn. However, if used correctly, finding a voice and adding some light-hearted humor can deliver great results to a company.  It’s a process some brands have mastered and some have failed (cue Urban Outfitters Twitter fail of 2012).

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According to Social Media Examiner, having fun with your customers and followers while telling a compelling story is a key component when developing your brand’s voice.  In honor of National Humor Month, we compiled a list of 8 brands that have perfected the art of injecting natural, relevant humor into their social media content and interaction with followers to generate a  lasting impressions on and offline.

1. Taco Bell

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Taco Bell has not only incorporated humor into its  advertisement campaigns, but also its social media strategy. With more than 1 million users following Taco Bell on Twitter, the company wanted to stand out and make an impression along with keeping up the fresh new vibe of the brand. The answer? Amp up the personality on social media and engage in conversations- and it worked.

In 2015, Taco Bell started a #TacoEmojiEngine campaign on Twitter that was created to tell a personalized story with a laugh or two. The objective– users can tweet a taco emoji along with any other emoji to @TacoBell and the Emoji Engine would churn a story with a comedic photo from  Taco Bell’s twitter. Each user received  a charismatic, silly response, but in the end it was the personable tweets that increased engagement.

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The social media team works on crafting funny but relatable tweets that are geared towards a millennial-centric audience. They have developed a sassy, witty and personable voice through their social media campaigns  that have not only helped connect them with a large audience, but also created genuine conversations consistently.

2. Old Spice

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Old Spice, famous for its strong, manly scent deodorants and hygiene products and eye-catching commercials, has used humor in its branding for many years now. Back in 2010, the “Old Spice Guy” emerged in the first advertising campaign titled “Smell like a Man, Man,” creating a witty,  unique persona that was the face of brand and helped the company find its true voice. The persona progressed from the commercials to social media, and it  became a successful approach for  an unexpected  company  to keep up with today’s trends and  catch the eye of many millennials around the world. The key to Old Spice’s social media success with humor? Never stop engaging.(click to tweet)  The company utilized social media platforms such as Twitter for a strategy revolving around conversation- not selling.

According to Creative Guerilla Marketing, “They wanted to literally have a conversation with their customers. By asking them for requests, Old Spice showed that they cared for their customers; they wanted to listen to them, entertain them and connect with them.” click to tweet. With this strategy in mind, humor helped Old Spice start a relationship with  viewers through  quirky commercials, and transitioned that voice into their social media. Twitter is one platform they use wisely and consistently to maintain that level of engagement with their audience.  

(By the way, don’t miss our Casual Fridays episode about humor in branding, Old Spice makes a guest appearance)

Take a look at some clever conversations Old Spice initiated on Twitter, and how they keep it flowing with even the most concerned customers on the internet.  Pure sass, but all class.

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The company has made sure to stay consistent with its voice catering to all different audiences around the world- from  female millennials to sports coaches near and far.

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3. Target

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When you think of Target– what comes to mind? For many, it’s the abundance of modern-style wardrobes, endless options of shoes, and a safe haven fully loaded with daily necessities (which may include Starbucks). Unlike it’s competitors, Target is also known for its friendly return policies, decent prices, and most importantly- options. With that being said, it was interesting to see how Target incorporated a voice on social media during a time of information-overload, and how they used it to their advantage.

For Target, the voice matched the personality. A brand with wit, knowledge and a lot to offer. Therefore, Twitter and Instagram became a hit when the company began engaging more with the audience. With more than 1 million followers, Target’s brand tone remains consistent with a trendy yet light-hearted way to keep people smiling (and laughing). The catch? Many times the brand is incorporating humor and trends with a product they offer in the stores and online. With various social media campaigns such as the #TargetRun, Target uses the ever dreaded hashtag to create conversations on Twitter. Because we all know what happens when you go to Target- you never leave empty handed.

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4. Arby’s

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The fast food industry is doing quite well on social media- whether it be colorful Instagram photos, or just witty comments to fans everywhere. With Twitter being a popular platform where users can ask questions and often hopefully get an answer from the company in return, Arby’s was no stranger.

However, this chain is one example of how a brand took humor to the next level- and it went viral. The famous tweet from 2014 took place shortly after the Grammy Awards, which was trending on various social networks as everyone watched their favorite stars go on the big stage.

Arby’s took advantage of a heated moment when the brand realized Pharrell was wearing something slightly familiar:

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The tweet went viral in minutes- not just because Pharrell was indeed wearing a hat identical to the infamous Arby’s logo- but also because the timing and humor was spot on. It created conversations on and offline and also helped the company gain a larger following.

From that moment forward, Arby’s social media gained a larger audience and had more opportunities to use humor in its voice. According to Arby’s social media manager Josh Martin, at the time before the famous tweet was sent- Arby’s only had “a couple hundred Twitter followers and about 40,000 Facebook fans.”

The infamous tweet resulted in the brand gaining more than 2.5 million Facebook likes and 200,000 Twitter followers. Meanwhile, the whimsical charisma that the brand portrays continues to this day on various social media platforms to engage with fans and keep up with its upbeat, entertaining brand personality.

5. Charmin

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Charmin, yes- the toilet paper company, is another brand that is taking to Twitter to share its voice and create many laughs all while staying true to its values. They took the challenge of creating humorous conversations regarding daily bathroom situations and created a hilarious voice on social media.

The company began a campaign with the hashtag #TweetFromtheSeat – to start relatable conversations with those who are glued to their smartphone and taking part in the action.

The engagement on Twitter was a great success and helped the company engage in conversation without sounding like they were actually selling too much. Although Charmin’s voice on Twitter make for a hilarious conversation, the brand keeps it clean no matter how dirty the situation may be.

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6. Domino’s

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Domino’s pizza isn’t all that’s hot and heavy. The company’s Twitter profile is filled with photos of deliciously cheesy pizza, but it’s witty voice keeps their  1 million-plus followers engaged regularly. They are quick to relate each tweet to their keyword-pizza.

Domino’s target audience- which includes parents, entrepreneurs, millennials, and even younger generations, seemed tricky to handle in simplest terms, but Domino’s has been able to successfully cater to each of those audiences with a simple tweet, photo, or message on social media.

Domino’s trick? Making their tweets about pizza relatable to just about anything.

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7. IHOP

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IHOP has recently rebranded its look to attract a younger audience that consumes its daily information with emojis and social media. The breakfast chain has been known for its pancake specials, but now it’s reaching a younger generation with its hilarious social media presence. According to AdWeek, IHOP found its youthful, teenage voice on social media and one of the first tweets started it all. “Pancakes on fleek,” @IHOP tweeted, which means “these pancakes are on point.” When your food is “on fleek,” your tweets get more love.” From there on out, the brand continued to use winning messages, all relating  to pancakes- stack on stacks.

The company has delved into the social media world with a funny side, inserting its  infamous pancakes into almost every tweet with some “punny” content to follow.  Don’t believe us? Take a look at some hilarious tweets that coincide with the brand’s personality- funny and delicious.

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IHOP’s re-branding was a smooth transition with the help of stabilizing their voice and presence on social media and on print. They are now attracting new audiences and maintaining a high level of engagement on platforms such as Twitter all with the help of adding humor that fit their personality.

8. KRAFT Macaroni & Cheese

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When KRAFT Mac & Cheese realized its elbow macaroni had a funny bone, it didn’t take long to transform its voice and personality and embark on a new strategy using social media. The brand took to Twitter to expand its audience and  grow  user engagement with the  brand.

The brand’s social media presence has evolved into photos of elbow macaroni participating  in many interesting events (such as painting) as well as new recipes families can try with the infamous box of macaroni and cheese. To remain consistent, the brand follows these rules of being relatable, informative yet funny on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as their advertisements. The best part of all- KRAFT crafted its own way of promoting the new mac and cheese with healthier ingredients and funnier messages through social media.

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These companies effectively demonstrate how humor can have an authentic, prominent place in a social media content strategy. Crafting the right approach and developing a unique online voice just requires an examination of the brand’s natural and perceived attributes, understanding your followers’ affinity for the brand and creating the messages and responses based on specific themes, current events and ongoing, everyday conversational tone.

We love to laugh at great ads – and ourselves at times. Want to talk humor in social media? We are all ears- tweet us @QuinlanCompany or leave us a comment.

Need help with your social media? Contact us and speak to our experts today.

10 Easy Steps to Improve Your Video Marketing

Liam

Among the many debates in digital media and content marketing is a company’s assessing the need to build and maintain a YouTube Channel. Certainly, many of your customers – don’t we all – become immersed in a little YouTube time to search for valuable content that educates and entertains.

Many successful companies have integrated a YouTube Channel into their overall online marketing mix. The popularity and search benefits of YouTube should not pressure you into adding a channel to your list of channel management responsibilities. If you feel your video assets would be enhanced on an external channel where your customers are searching for content related to your business, then it is an important avenue to consider.

Now if you feel adding a YouTube Channel to your social media portfolio is the route you want to go, you will gain an asset that has the potential to be your third-most powerful online marketing channel, behind your website and Facebook page. When you take the plunge to build a YouTube Channel, or if you want to refresh the look and layout of your existing channel, you want to ensure it is working for your objectives by providing engaging, organized stories and branded narratives with keyword-optimized descriptions.

If your objectives, internal resources and customer relationships do not lend themselves to sustaining a branded YouTube Channel, you can still control your video fate on your website or e-newsletters. The important thing to remember is that whatever approach you chose, you remain in control of your video marketing strategy.

Once the decision is reached, you can devote your attention to leveraging any video you have as well as partner with an outside content marketing agency to create customer-focused offerings to be packaged for your home page.

Whether you decide to maintain a YouTube Channel or create your own video portal, here are a few tips on how to showcase and distribute your video to enhance your marketing content:

1. Take stock in your inventory:

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Conduct an audit across different departments to see what video assets you have; perhaps you have more than you realize. Regardless of the quality or type of video, you maybe be able adapt your inventory into creating a video library on your site that gives you a starting point toward creating new video that aligns with your expertise.

2. What types of video work?

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If you don’t have a sizable supply of ready-to-publish video, consider developing a plan to produce samples gradually, including topics like product profiles, expert PSA-type of information segments, groundbreaking events or customer testimonials, video tours of a store or office to highlight customer services and employee engagement.

  

3. Curate regularly:

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Make it a priority to devote quality time to brand and update your video portal or channel just as you have done with your other social channels. Lapses in managing the timeliness of video content are often the biggest hurdle to enjoying a thriving channel or portal; therefore, it is important to prevent your video platform from just being a shell, collecting digital dust and becoming outdated before its potential truly shines.

4. Create new videos:

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With the technology available in consumer-grade video cameras and smart phones, it is not too daunting to have staff assume the role of a multi-media journalist and produce concise, creative and compelling video segments that can bolster your online content channels. If you decide you don’t have the budget, resources or personnel to produce video, then you may want to engage with a video production agency.

5. Customize and enhance your channel:

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Keep the look and feel consistent on YouTube so it is aligned with your brand, website and social media channels. Include a brief (about 30 words) description of your company. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, YouTube offers the additional branding option to upload a background or cover photo that represents your company brand, product offerings or mission. This is an easy way to customize your channel with imagery that draws your viewers in. 

6. Develop libraries or playlists:

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As your video portfolio grows, you can make separate playlists according to categories, products, locations or events. The benefit of leveraging playlists is to sort content so that it can be distributed accordingly to your different customer interests, needs or challenges.

7. Make periodic adjustments:

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Periodically switch the featured video that pops up first. This should motivate you to plan your content calendar so that the main viewer depicts your next event, new product or company news. Once it is over or you are ready to bring another profile or development to the surface, be sure to change the settings to re-purpose another option or upload a new video file. There are many seasonal and topical-oriented synergies that can help you select the appropriate content, such as a tour of a new building, recap of a previous special event, a public safety announcement surrounding an issue or challenge or a holiday message to customers or the community.

8. Don’t forget about SEO:

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For every video, include a short caption and description; this is an opportunity for boilerplate information, website and phone number. You should add tags for each video to target certain key words for online search optimization. When your video titles and descriptions are appropriately tagged by category and optimized by the keywords that define your organization and speak specifically to your customers’ needs, opportunities and challenges, you will see the traffic growing naturally and rapidly.

9. Cross-pollinate:

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Once your channel is up and running, invest some time to promote and grow it, and your viewer traffic will grow rapidly. Any time you post a new video, cross-promote the link on your website and social media. This is great content to keep your customers interested, informed on the latest news and engaged to share and re-post on their social channels.

10. Check analytics:

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Similar to Facebook, once you have a YouTube Channel account, you will have access to a complimentary array of analytics that provide snapshots on viewer traffic, source, location and some demographic data. While you may not need to delve too deep into this area, the statistical summaries will offer some insight that can help you fine-tune your approach to publishing different types and lengths of videos that could appeal to your viewers. For video on your own website, work with your IT department or website manager to gather regular, comprehensive statistical reports to assess how the video portions are performing and their impact for customer traffic habits and call-to-action results.

 

Quinlan loves to talk videos. It’s one of our greatest passions. Drop us a line and tweet us @QuinlanCompany. We invite you to check out the first season of our “Casual Fridays” series that shows how our agency in Buffalo, N.Y. lives by the mentality that advertising should always be fun. Stay tuned this summer for the launch of our second season!

 

Welcome to the Workplace: How to be the Gen Z Expert

Grace

Move over, millennials–there’s about to be a new kid in the office.

Welcome, Gen Z. Loosely defined as the second wave of millennials, born between 1998 and 2012, Gen Z makes up a quarter of the U.S. population. While its members currently only represent 7 percent of the workforce, that number will rise to 30 million by 2019.

Since the oldest members of the group are just coming of age and the youngest are barely past their toddler years, researchers are beginning to put more time and energy into learning what makes this next influential group of young adults tick. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Their parents are Gen Xers. Gen X is a jaded group born post-Watergate and post-Vietnam that wants to give their children the safe and secure childhood they never had.
  • They’re the first generation born into the digital world. Never knowing a world without smartphones, 77 percent prefer to work with technology to help them accomplish their goals.
  • They’re the most diverse generation. Gen Z is 55 percent Caucasian, 24 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian and 4 percent mixed race or other.
  • They live in multigenerational households. They’ve been raised in homes with retired grandparents and boomerang millennial siblings who have moved back in with mom and dad.
  • They take information in bite-sizes. Their attention span is only 8 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2003). Researchers believe their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds.
  • They’re concerned about the world. Seventy-eight percent worry about world hunger, 77 fear children will die of preventable diseases and 76 percent are concerned about our impact on the planet.

 

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But how will employers (who have spent significant  time and extensive resources learning how to effectively integrate and manage millennials) adapt their workplace to meet the needs of these new Gen Z interns and entry-level workers?

“Generations are increasingly separated along narrower age bands, requiring managers to juggle the needs and preferences of four or even five distinct generations working side by side,” said Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America.

Luckily for you, we did a little research. Here is what you need to know to motivate, manage and communicate with Gen Z:

They have an entrepreneurial essence.

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Born in a viral age of YouTube stars and app startups, Gen Z is surrounded by innovation and creativity. This is a generation that wants to build their own company — between 50 percent and 72 percent want to run their own startup.

“From the day you start recruiting them, you should be looking at retention,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “These professionals appreciate stability, but they also want to make their marks, and if they feel like they have hit a roadblock on the learning curve, they’re going to look around for something better.”

To engage Zers, tap into their startup spirit by creating a culture that offers crucial training and connects the line between their contributions and the company’s success.

They value face-to-face communication.

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According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 92 percent of teens report going online daily — and 24 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.”

Contrary to this obsession with digital communication, a majority of Zers say they prefer in-person communications with managers (51 percent), as opposed to emailing (16 percent) or instant messaging (11 percent). Unexpected, perhaps, but it’s not just communication–Zers value transparency. Fifty-two percent believe that honesty is the most important quality of being a good leader.

Gen Z sees leadership as a privilege, signifying that  supervisors and managers must work to prove their honesty and integrity before they can win over any Gen Z hires.

They’re blurring the lines between work and play.

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Zers reject the traditional nine-to-five work day more than any generation that came before them. In fact, allowance for flexible schedules is one of the top five attributes Gen Z will look for in a job.

Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. This group has never known a world where they couldn’t create valuable work at any time from a device stored right in their pocket–which means that they don’t understand the need to sit at a desk for eight hours straight.

While it’s pretty likely you aren’t ready to ditch the traditional workday all together, your office may benefit from releasing a few restrictions. Consider offering employees opportunities to work from home, lifting bans on social media sites and allowing for a more casual dress code.

They’ve been served a healthy dose of reality.

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Born during the war on terror and the recession, Gen Zers are growing up in a time of fear and destruction. They’ve been bombarded with stories about unemployed college grads and warned about the dangers of drowning in student debt.

“Since Gen Z has seen how much Gen Y has struggled in the recession,” says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself. “They come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

Seventy-seven percent believe they will need to work harder compared to those in past generations to have a satisfying and fulfilling professional life–and they’re starting that journey early. For the first time, nearly half of high school students are participating in internships for the purpose of advancing themselves professionally.

While they may be young, don’t be quick to write them off. Offer them a reasonable amount of responsibility, and be sure to keep them motivated by offering regular feedback and recognition.

It’s not all about the money.

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Gen Z understands the state of the world and feels the burden to change it– 66 percent believe that having an impact on the world is important to them in their jobs (compared to only 39 percent of millennials who were asked the same questions in that age range) and roughly a quarter are already involved in volunteering.

In fact, 30 percent would take a 10 to 20 percent pay cut to work at place that has a mission they care about. That’s huge, considering how much this group fears economic insufficiency.

In order to attract top hires, you’ll need to sell your company’s values and appeal to Gen Z’s altruistic nature. If your organization doesn’t align with their beliefs, they’ll find one that does.

 

At Quinlan, we’re all about welcoming young creatives to the ad world. Want to chat? Tweet me at @QuinlanCompany or @Grace_Gerass.