Some of the most influential people in my life are what younger people would describe as old. My 70-year-old Dad is the closest thing I have to a hero.
So I felt somewhat embarrassed last year when a PR Pro pitched me a story about a service assisting senior citizens. I complicated matters by asking her for interviews with the children of the senior citizens. I wanted the children to explain how the service benefitted their parents. Why did I want these interviews?
Local TV stations don’t miss opportunities to report crime committed against seniors. And I’ve covered cool stories about seniors, such as one who went sky diving to celebrate her birthday. But producers and managers also dismissed many stories about seniors because they were not “demo rich,” in the younger age range advertisers crave.
I tried to maneuver around this group thinking by arguing even younger viewers appreciate well told stories about older people. But some producers and managers eventually dismissed me with a sarcastic “everyone has a grandma” followed by a maniacal smirk.
The “demo rich” philosophy doesn’t make sense to me anyway. Baby Boomers seem to be the demographic buying a strong percentage of HD TVs, Blueray players and iPads. During a staff meeting, I once asked a general manager if we need to rethink the traditional demo-rich audience. He didn’t know and a co-worker afterward told me I asked a really dumb question. People sometimes are not willing to challenge conventional wisdom unless someone sends them a memo.
Not all media are the same. But some outlets will approach with closed minds pitches about senior citizens. Unless you wish to write off these outlets, you need to trick them into covering what are often important stories, especially about healthcare. I don’t simply recommend explaining how the story impacts younger audiences. I suggest coming to the table after already securing “younger” interviews ahead of time. Focus your pitch on the younger audience angle. If taking such steps seems silly, then simply pitch journalists who appreciate stories about seniors. But remember producers and managers sometimes don’t care what reporters think.
Meanwhile, remember this is not your great grandfather’s generation of seniors. Some, including my Mom, complain young people, especially in customer service, talk to older people as if they are “stupid.” Remember we can learn a lot from people with decades more of life experience. And based on my Dad’s ability at working his new iPad and downloading apps, the generation gap might be shrinking … at least in the demo-rich category.