Communicating between Generations

In today’s blog, SPC Board member Diane Gaw offers her take on the CCIL (Coalition for Communication and Intercultural Leadership) seminar held October 14 at Clark University, with panelists John Chetro-Szivos of Fitchburg State University, Jose Ramirez of UmassMemorial Health Care, Azure Collier of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Alicja Januszewicz of Boston Scientific Labs.

In a room packed with communicators, business people, and academics, I listened to a fascinating discussion on intergenerational communication preferences. The organizers divided the generations differently than some I’ve seen (usually Boomers are 1945-1964), with “Traditionalist” 1925-1942, “Baby Boomer” 1943-1960, “Gen X” 1961-1981, and “Millennial” 1982-1998.

The panelists agreed that e-mail needs to remain written in “real” English, with full sentences and good spelling, especially as it’s used for work, but that reaching younger audiences means using all the social media tools at hand, too. Azure, from WPI, reminded us to be prepared to react quickly to any negative posts – which often simply means “pushing them down” in Facebook comments by adding new information f-a-s-t.

One of the most remarkable results of new technology noted: the ability to self-publish. With the numbers of newspapers going down, each of us now “owns” a publishing machine, and direction has changed — rather than the papers telling us what to think, customers now tell companies what’s up. John Chetro-Szivos, who moderated, reminded us that Marshall McLuhan’s point about communications being an extension of the body is even more true now than when McLuhan wrote it!

It was stressed that we need to know our audience before deciding which “tools” to use — perhaps printed and e-mail for Traditionalists, more of a mix for younger generations, and, for Millennials, all the current methods at our disposal except, possibly, print. So, for any one communication blast, we may need a variety of paths.

When I asked about how to attract younger members to our group and Web site, the answer, from Azure, was “talk to them.” Invite them to learn about etiquette for business writing, tips to navigate the business world, etc. Anybody up for founding a traveling program on “How to Write Like You Mean Business”?

And, a tip I try to take to heart: own your boundaries — just because you have a smart phone doesn’t mean you HAVE to be on call 24/7. Set your times to be “offline” — say, after 7 p.m. till you choose to check e-mail in the morning. Easier said than done, when there’s an anxious client on your case!

It certainly was a great beginning to a program of CCIL podcasts coming up for SPC members this year. I say: catch them, if you can!

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2 Responses to “Communicating between Generations”

  1. Julieane Frost Says:

    I attended the same seminar at Fitchburg State University last night and concur with Diane that it was an excellent analysis of the communication challenges in workplaces with multiple generations. A few other take-a-ways: 1) Flexibility is key when planning and executing communication strategies. If one plan doesn’t work, adapt and try another, or maybe try multiple plans to reach different generation groups. 2) Be careful about stereotyping individuals by which generation group they fall into. One participant in last night’s program said she is a “Millennial,” but actually prefers communication methods more typical of “Traditionalists.” 3) When applying for professional communication jobs, knowledge of the digital communication tools, is becoming more important than writing skills to recruiters. Be sure to list on your resume all of the tools you know how to use – and be sure you actually know how to use them!

  2. Mike Vigneux Says:

    CCIL sounds like a very interesting group. I’ve had John Chetro-Szivos as an instructor for some master’s courses at Clark. He always has an interesting take on things.

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