Building Expertise, Authority and Trust Among Generation Alpha

Building Expertise, Authority and Trust Among Generation Alpha

Building Expertise, Authority and Trust Among Generation Alpha

by Anna Nelson (Washington State University)

Generation Alpha, those born between 2010-2024, are predicted to be the largest generation in history, estimated to reach 2 billion by 2025, according to The oldest of Gen Alphas are coming of age and have strong purchasing power. Other generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, have made significant contributions to our current zeitgeist through their purchasing power; think Fortnite, Minecraft and virtual reality in our everyday lives. Where will Gen Alpha’s purchasing power take us?

Gen Alpha has coexisted with screens since birth – a screen is only a pocket’s distance away. They have an unprecedented understanding of technology because they’ve been immersed since a young age. And Gen Alpha also has notoriously short attention spans, making it difficult to catch their eye with products and campaigns. Mark McCrindle, Australian social researcher of Gen Alpha, predicts that they will be the most formally educated, tech-savvy and globally wealthiest generation to date ( This holds tremendous power in understanding Generation Alpha, as they will likely be product-driven, but more difficult to advertise to. Lastly, despite their young age, Gen Alpha has a strong passion for sustainability, according to Hotwire, with 38% claiming recycling is very important, compared to only 22% of millennials and baby boomers (

So, how can you build expertise, trust and authority with the emerging generation?

I think that boils down to a few points that companies and campaigns must implement if they want to be successful with Alphas – authenticity, honesty, curating a new digital experience, customization and sustainability. Marketing initiatives will have to be transparent with this new audience. Because of higher levels of education and an unprecedented understanding of technology, Gen Alpha will not accept anything at face value. Brands, companies and campaigns will have to put their money where their mouth is when targeting the youngest generation.



Companies will need to go beyond simply making claims to Gen Alpha and visibly prove their product’s value. This trend emerged with millennials and Gen Z, which can be observed through the increase of reviews and customer feedback. Alphas will likely take their need for authenticity to the next level. Companies and brands will need to show their authenticity in the real world by being transparent in their initiatives for equality and diversity, as well as giving back. Companies that cannot show authenticity should not expect trust or respect from Gen Alpha.

Honesty & Transparency

Honesty and transparency go hand in hand with authenticity. Companies need to prove to the new generation that they are worth Alphas’ time and money. This goes beyond just avoiding superlative claims about a product that are exaggerated or untrue, but also into the territory of corporate transparency. For example, make the actions and composition of your diversity committees public, showing people that employees are being compensated equally, regardless of gender and race and openly admit to mistakes that the company has made. Gen Alpha will likely expect companies to hold themselves accountable, and if that is not something they see happening, they will choose another company. To develop authoritativeness and trust with Gen Alpha, make a commitment to transparency and honesty.

A New Digital Experience

Think back to when brick-and-mortar stores attempted to stay relevant in the retail world by competing with online shopping through creating an in-store shopping “experience.” This will likely be an expectation of Alphas due to their complete immersion in technology. Creating a “new digital experience” will set your brand, company or campaign apart by giving them something they have been craving – something new or revolutionary in the world of tech. Think along the lines of shopping through VR or VR product trials. Curating a unique digital experience will allow for brands to build authoritativeness with Gen Alpha.


Gen Alpha grew up in a world with customization at their fingertips – storybooks with their name and likeness inserted into them, cards with personalized messages recorded into them and toys modelled after them. This will likely lead to a desire for increased customization across all products. In addition to customizable products for the consumer, campaign managers should look at how can they cater to the customization desires of Gen Alpha. Campaigns, in general, will likely need to become more niche to properly serve younger audiences and get their attention. To build expertise with Gen Alpha, think along the lines of, “how can I serve the individual, as well as the larger audience?”

Sustainability & Giving Back

Environmentalism and sustainability are already well documented as important issues for Gen Alpha. Alphas growing up in the politically-torn world of climate change and seeing the negative effects of a changing climate will likely only become more passionate and outspoken on the issue. As these issues come to the forefront of their minds, companies must build trust with Alphas by making transparent commitments to sustainability. This generation will desire more than a company’s commitment to cutting back their carbon footprint, but will also expect donations, engagement and interaction with climate justice organizations as well as politicians. Developing expertise and trust with Gen Alpha will directly align with sustainability.

Authenticity, transparency, digital experiences, customization and sustainability are healthy and positive changes for companies to make, even if they are difficult and long-term changes. Gen Alpha, more educated and technologically inclined than ever, will expect positive changes from brands, no matter where they expect to see them.

Reverse Mentoring: Learn from PRSSA!

Reverse Mentoring: Learn from PRSSA!Whether you’ve been in the industry for years or have just started your professional journey, we all could use fresh perspectives, a new lens or diverse ideas to become a more complete practitioner. What better way to tap into all three than to harken back to your time in the college classroom. Remember it? That time where you could just think, uninterrupted? Well we’re happy to take you back. Follow our PRSSA members across the state as they share new perspectives with our “Reverse Mentoring Series.” That’s right, you’ve mentored so much, so now, sit back in your proverbial lecture-hall chair and listen. These tips might give you just the refresh you need.
As part of our Reverse Mentoring Series we’ll tackle one topical buzzword each month. For June, it’s sustainability. 
Many of us question whether sustainability initiatives will change as a result of COVID-19. We’ve also questioned whether social distancing, virtual connection, working from home, wearing masks are all sustainable. It’s a noun that can take on many different meanings. For Lucy Thompson, a junior at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University Vancouver, sustainability is about stamina. Listen as she shares tips to “sustaining” your stamina in the workplace.
PRSA Oregon Partner Mac's List Offers COVID-19 Resources

PRSA Oregon Partner Mac’s List Offers COVID-19 Resources

Missing Kerry Dugan

Missing Kerry DuganWith sadness, we share that former PRSA Oregon member and longtime PR colleague Kerry Dugan died earlier this month of brain cancer/glioblastoma, at the age of 60.

Many in our community remember Kerry. Practitioner Paulette Peynet, CFRE, shared her memory, “Kerry’s mastery of public relations was superior. But, more, Kerry was a treasured colleague. He helped many people, from newcomers to seasoned practitioners. He helped our local PRSA chapter. He absolutely advanced our public relations profession as a management discipline.”

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA said, “I knew Kerry well and am so very sorry our community has lost his light. He and I served on the PRSA PDX board together in the mid-90s, co-conducted job search workshops together in 1997-’98 for the chapter, won a Spotlight together in 2000, and then I hired him and his firm, Dugan Strategic Marketing, to work with me on two major clients from 2010 to 2017.” She added that he made a strong impression on those who knew him and was already ready to help whenever needed.

Said David Thompson, APR, “Kerry was one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve met in the PR industry. He always had a smile and an encouraging word. He inspired me—and I’m sure many others.”

Kerry had quite a successful and multifaceted career. Early in his PR career (after modeling in NYC), he directed regional marketing for Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus, Walt Disney on Ice, and Evergreen International Aviation. In the 1980s, Kerry learned the ropes from his mother, Mary Dugan, who was legendary in advertising. Kerry had memberships and provided board leadership to both the PRSA PDX board and the Portland Advertising Federation. In the ‘90s, he served in the City of Portland’s Emergency Management Bureau and ran for Multnomah County Commissioner in 2004. He eventually founded two agencies: Dugan Inc. Advertising and Public Relations, and most recently, Dugan Strategic Marketing.

His community outreach voluntarism was also legendary, serving in key roles for American Red Cross, MacDonald Residence/Assisted Living, Columbia River Correctional Institution, Multnomah County foster child camps, Meals on Wheels, and at Hiteon Elementary in art literacy.

Peynet added, “Those who knew Kerry will remember his stunning work on our PRSA board. He was a leader in every PRSA program: speaker recruitment, conference, professional development, Spotlight Awards, mentoring. I saw him often at UO’s portfolio reviews, meeting one-to-one with an appreciative PR student.”

She continued, “For those who knew Kerry, they will remember his precise expertise, his long list of achievements and, most of all: his humanity. Our Oregon chapter is fortunate to have had legends like Bill Marsh, John Pihas, Barbara Stallcup Miller. Add Kerry Dugan to the list of Oregon public relations treasures.”

If you knew Kerry and would like to share your remembrances with the family, email [email protected].

Breaking Down the PESO Model

Breaking Down the PESO ModelContributed by PRSA Oregon partner Allen Hall PR,
University of Oregon



The PESO model is a visual representation of the four types of media combined for a successful PR campaign. The model was created by Gini Dietrich who founded and co-authors the blog Spin Sucks and has years of communications industry wisdom under her belt. PESO stands for Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned Media. Each type of media is important to build brand awareness and see results. If all four types of media are created and maintained successfully, according to Dietrich, “it can help you establish authority… [which] means you’re a thought leader.”

Paid media refers to the sponsored content seen online, social media ads and other digital marketing options. This option does not have to break the bank. Set aside a small budget and choose to sponsor a piece of content that represents the brand well. Test out what content works well for your brand and what doesn’t. Eventually, trends will start to show about what is effective, and then more money can be confidently put into these advertisements. 

Earned media is the traditional media relations that the PR world has been doing for decades. Getting your brand’s name in print from a third-party source is obviously still an excellent way to build credibility for your brand. With the ever-growing communications field and the dwindling number of journalists, building and maintaining relationships with the press is crucial to success in earned media. 

Shared media (which some people combine with owned media) is social media. This is the content that is going on all the brand’s social platforms. To be successful, content needs to be creative, authentic and posted regularly. Brands need to be active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for starters, be a part of conversations about the industry the brand works in and have a clear and developed brand voice that makes content stand out. Right now on Instagram especially, but also Facebook and Snapchat, stories are where users spend a lot of their time on the apps. Therefore, brands need to be creating content every day that can be added to the brand’s story. Make it interactive with a poll or a question to get users more engaged. Make sure to follow trends and work out how the brand’s voice can contribute to them.

Owned media is content that the brand produces itself. A lot of this media likely resides on the brand’s website. These are things like a blog, a podcast, photo series, stories written by people from the brand, and any other content created in-house that is not on social media. Owned media is where the brand has the most freedom to tell its own story. However, the other three types of media are essential for creating credibility. 

Intersections of Journalism and PR

Intersections of Journalism and PR

Contributed by PRSA Oregon partner
Allen Hall PR,
University of Oregon



Public relations professionals come from a variety of backgrounds with an array of expertise. A common background for those currently working in PR often begins with journalism. The two fields have similar core characteristics that make the skills learned in a journalism career easily transferable to the PR world and vice versa. The following are a few of the many components journalism and public relations have in common. 


PR and journalism deal directly with communication. They also share a common audience – the public. It is the job of the PR representative as well as the journalist to serve as a public informant with pertinent information. The entire idea behind the two professions is that the public can look to these people and know they are going to be kept up to date with the news occurring around them. Whether it is an article in the local newspaper or a press release from Google, PR professionals and journalists alike are constantly sharing information with the public. 


Pitching is one of the biggest components when it comes to PR and journalism. Both professions call for the sharing of ideas and this is generally when PR professionals and journalists will interact the most. In PR, most pitching is done to the media, meaning PR professionals must convince journalists that a story pertaining to their brand is good enough to be shared with the public and categorized as newsworthy. In journalism, it comes down to pitching stories to an editor and convincing them that the story is worth letting the public know about. Being able to pitch a story and have it get picked up by a journalist or the media outlet itself is a strong skill that is constantly used in both professions. 


PR and journalism are fields in which the professional tells a story. On one hand, the PR representative is telling the story of a brand while journalists are telling the story of the people. PR generally tells that story to the public in the form of campaigns and products while journalists will use media as the primary source of communication. PR storytelling is more end goal-focused while journalism deals less with strategic communication. In the end, the core characteristic remains the same. Both professions call for storytelling as a vital skill that is at the heart of communication. 


In both PR and journalism, trust is essential. Trust between the communicator and the public is crucial for PR and journalism to survive – it is also one of the most important components in each profession’s code of ethics. In PR you must have the trust of the public in order to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. In journalism, you must operate as a non-bias “watchdog” in order to share facts and truth with your audience. If there is ever a mistake or mix-up, professionals in both fields are expected to come forward and state their wrong because, without transparency, both professions would lose vital audience trust. 

Industry Influence: What’s On the Rise in Communications

Industry Influence: What’s On the Rise in CommunicationsContributed by PRSA Oregon partner Allen Hall PR,
University of Oregon



We all know that fast pace and change defines the communications industry. Success means keeping up on the trends and new practices, self-teaching, observing peers in the field, and some failed attempts along the way. When falling behind can mean clients choose to use others’ services, staying on top of the best messaging strategies is important to us all. Here are some of the top trends PR professionals and professors say have shaped our industry the most in recent years:

More Tech

Tech continuously changes the way we disseminate information. The medium with the most recent spike in popularity is podcasts. (Check out PRSA Oregon’s affiliated podcast, PR Talk HERE) People who understand how to make successful audio media will stand out to their employers and clients. Video has also been on the forefront of brand storytelling for a while and does not appear to be going anywhere. Video can be a powerful tool, but the path to an impactful video is strategic and requires time. “PRSay” has a great blog post on the video storytelling process.

Fewer Journalists

Most of us have heard by now that there are between five and 10 communications professionals for every journalist in this country. Kelli Matthews, the director of the public relations sequence in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, says this “makes media relations and earning coverage increasingly difficult.” According to Matthews, if you are not doing your research into journalists and the beats they cover, then you are not going to get coverage. Doing this properly can take a significant amount of time to understand the reporter, the topics they cover, and how your client can fit into it. The long process and hard work will be worth it when you can show your clients the earned media you received. 

Industry Influence: What’s On the Rise in Communications

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Spread of Disinformation

Conspiracy theories and false information pose a threat to everyone in the public sphere. This spread of disinformation is causing rifts in all types of relationships. Google’s VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs Corey duBrowa says this is the biggest change and issue in our industry. We all have our own beliefs and opinions, but we have started to only consume information that supports these beliefs and opinions. “It has moved all of us so much further inside our self-created ‘bubbles’,” says duBrowa. “I worry that we only consume what we already think and believe, and we aren’t listening to one another anymore.” If disinformation is not addressed, it will impact much more than our political process. Companies can be the target of disinformation campaigns, and we as communications professionals need to be ready to combat crises that may impact our clients. 


Similarly, there is a rising trend of consumers choosing products based on brand values. More often we are seeing people boycotting brands when the brand has different values than they do or does not act by the values that they claim to have. A recent example is the backlash Chick-fil-A received when they announced they would stop donating to anti-LGBTQ charities. Conservatives felt that Chick-fil-A had abandoned their shared values, while liberals believed the change was made only to raise profits. In 2018, Marketing Dive reported on an Accenture study which found that 63 percent of global consumers preferred to purchase from purpose-driven brands. According to Matthews, “values-based and purpose-driven brands are the winners when it comes to building relationships with publics.” The brands that can communicate with the public about their mission in a genuine way will be able to curate lasting relationships with their consumers. 




PRSA Oregon’s tale of three cities

PRSA Oregon’s tale of three cities

Like the flavor-packed middle of a Bunk sandwich – a PDX favorite – bookended by two prominent flavors of their own, the robust market of Portland is flanked by our state legislature in Salem to the south and by a burgeoning waterfront in Vancouver to the north. As a statewide chapter, our PRSA members span the mid-valley and extend beyond the Columbia River, throughout Fisher’s Landing and Shumway and Felida neighborhoods.

Whether you are one of our 232 chapter members who toil in our Silicon Forest; as part of our recreational, sports and apparel industries; in our health care sector; or even among our big agricultural secret: hazelnuts, you have a community in and outside of Portland proper.

Keep an eye out for upcoming events hosted throughout Salem/mid-valley and Vancouver/SW Washington and for a monthly feature series highlighting the great work throughout Oregon and SW Washington in 2020.

Here’s to our neighbors to the south and to our neighbors to the north. Happy 2020!

All the best,

Liz and Jolene, regional co-chairs, SW Washington and Salem/mid-valley

From the President’s Desk

Make the most of your membership: Join in

From the President’s DeskI have enjoyed 10 years as a PRSA member in Oregon. I have learned a lot from the society and its members, but the absolute #1 lesson I have learned is to simply join in.

I guarantee that I would not be the communicator I am today if I only used my membership for the occasional webinar or conference. By joining in, I have forged amazing relationships and fostered many professional skills that I would not have gotten from just sitting and listening.

We are members because we want to grow as professionals and connect with other communicators. To accomplish that, I invite you to make your professional development a top priority in 2020 by simply joining a committee.

We have opportunities in:

  • Professional Development – Help organize monthly events and/or serve on our Communicators Conference planning team
  • Advancement – Join the DEI committee or help us secure sponsorships
  • Membership – Serve as a buddy for new members or run our mentoring program
  • Communications – Web design, social media, and newsletter opportunities
  • Regional – Help us better reach everyone in the state by serving as lead in your community

We are working hard to make sure every communicator, regardless of location, has access to high quality professional development opportunities. I encourage you to check our newsletter, website, and social channels regularly for learning opportunities, but more importantly, I encourage you to join in.

Take it from my decade of experience. The best decision I ever made for my professional development was to simply join in.  

Don’t hesitate! Join in today!

Brad Hilliard, APR

PRSA Oregon Chapter President