DigComm - Jan 2016

Week 9 Reflection: The Business of Persuasion

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Finally! The class I’ve been waiting for all semester: public relations and advertising.

I’ve known that I wanted to work in public relations since I was a freshman in high school, and in the field of communications even longer than that. I remembered thinking how glamorous the field seemed – on TV (most notably the show that got me hooked, The Spin Crowd) it seemed that public relations mostly involved hanging out with celebrities and attending red carpet events.

Fast forward eight or so years, and now I’m here: a professional intern whose day mostly consists of pitching reporters, compiling media lists, and attending a grand total of zero fantastic parties.

That’s not to say that the industry isn’t everything I thought it’d be – it is, and more. I absolutely love working in the field and can’t imagine myself with any other career. Who doesn’t want to think creatively, work with cool brands, and tell stories all day long? I get paid to do something I already do all day – lurk social media news feeds and talk about trending topics. At my job, I’m in charge of monitoring for celebrity feuds in case the opportunity for newsjacking presents itself. For someone who loves pop culture and eagerly devours trashy tabloids, this is a dream come true.

But I digress. This isn’t an autobiographical post about how I got my job and how much I love it. This is meant to be about this week’s class, during which we mostly talked about advertising and I hogged the quick Intro to PR we snuck in at the end.

Still, public relations is a pretty big part of a brand’s day-to-day concerns nowadays, maybe even more than advertising is. Both are insanely important when it comes to garnering brand recognition, loyalty, and consumer sales – if in different ways. The fact of the matter is that both fields are constantly evolving, adapting to new technologies and practices in ways that other industries, such as print media, are having a harder time doing.

Which brings me to our discussion in class, which was mostly based around how digital technology and new media has changed advertising. We discussed targeted ads (based on my opinion on data mining, I’m sure you can guess how I feel about those) and whether digital media has made advertising more effective. I felt there wasn’t much more to be said on the topic than what was covered in the synchronous content – of course digital media has made advertising more effective. For proof, look no further than this week’s TopShop example.

TopShop’s translation of the hottest London Fashion Week items into strategically placed live Twitter billboards was a stroke of marketing genius. For those of you who forget, TopShop pulled pieces from its own clothing line that mimicked trends that were straight off the runway from London Fashion Week. These outfits were projected on digital billboards, all within ten miles of a TopShop retail store. Consumers were encouraged to engage with a brand hashtag, and those who did were sent a personalized list of clothing items to shop from. You think targeted advertising is creepy? I see your opinion, and raise you TopShop’s Top Trends initiative.

Who doesn’t want something like online shopping, where thousands of outfits and hundreds of sizes, styles, and colors can finally be sorted from a confusing mess into a personalized experience, hand tailored to their own interests? Are you really so concerned about your privacy that you would forgo something this convenient?

I sound incredibly “millennial” right now, don’t I?

Regardless, I am in favor of targeted ads. I am even in favor of native ads. As I mentioned during the live session, I find native ads less intrusive than full page pop-ups or pop-unders, and, after years and years spent online, I am able to spot them and ignore them seamlessly. Do I consider them dishonest? Not really. As long as they are labeled, I don’t feel that it is the company’s problem if a consumer misses the label at-a-glance or is confused by it. Native advertising is smart, and effective. Like targeted advertising, it just makes sense, especially with the way digital media is changing virtually every industry out there.

Advertising and public relations have adapted to these changes in ways that I feel are not too out-there or extreme. Other industries have yet to catch up, and, sure, there are places within advertising and PR that aren’t perfected yet, but I think most would agree that these two industries have found a way to keep up with younger, more digital generations in ways that are, for the most part, effective and quietly, impressively seamless.

I like working in public relations. I like using digital media on a daily basis and I really do feel that it has kept me more current than some of my other peers who never studied communications. Both industries have their merits and are insanely important, not just to an ever-changing digital landscape, but to brands, companies, other fields of study, and consumers.

It’s our job to tell the stories. We have to make them make sense, and we have to make them relatable. Understanding the way digital communication is changing is an important part of that.

I know I say this every week, but I really enjoyed this week’s class discussion. Maybe it was because I got to talk more about something I’m knowledgeable in, but I found this week’s live session engaging and interesting – and thought-provocative. Gaining another perspective on a field I consider myself an expert in was, for lack of a better word, cool. It’s always nice to see something you think you know completely through a different set of eyes.

Moving forward, I look forward to hearing people’s semester wrap-ups now that Intro to Digital Communications is (unbelievably) almost over. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more on this topic as people present their case studies, and I can’t wait to see some real-life examples to supplement our abstract discussion on how digital media has changed two hugely important industries.

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DigComm - Jan 2016

Week 7 Reflection: Data, Data, and more Data

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This week’s class discussion on big data was particularly awesome. I’ve enjoyed splitting into groups during class, as exploring my classmates’ perspectives in smaller groups has been interesting. With the amount of time we’ve gotten to talk, I’ve really gotten to learn others’ thoughts on the issues and why they feel that way – what experiences they’ve had to lead them to feel that way. My feelings on big data (data mining in general) are pretty clear cut (I don’t really care how much data is collected on me or what it’s used for) so it’s been cool to see how others think and why they think it.

Maybe I’m so unconcerned about data mining because I’m unmarried, not a homeowner, have no children, and my credit is in pretty good shape. Maybe I’m so open about my online life because my online life is boring. Maybe I would be more concerned about my privacy if I had something to hide – so I don’t. I call my bank to tell them when I’m going on vacation because I don’t want my debit card frozen when I get to a new area. I post my location on Instagram because people don’t really stalk other people on social media, do they? I make friends online and I’m forthcoming with things like my Facebook, my SnapChat username, and even my email address because, honestly, what’s going to happen?

During the live session, I stated that I don’t care what data is collected if it makes my life easier. I feel fairly strongly about this. For example – I frequently sell old clothes on eBay. To do this, you have to set up a PayPal account. To receive your money from PayPal, you have to either request a check by mail (which takes a long time, and might not even be an option soon enough) or input your banking information, including your checking account and routing number, and a form of identity verification, such as your social security number. I didn’t think twice about providing PayPal with this information. Now my money is directly deposited into my checking account. My employer also has this information – my paychecks are directly deposited. Syracuse even has this information – I pay my tuition online.

Am I worried about getting hacked? Not really. Should I be? Probably. If there’s one thing we’ve seen in the news lately, it’s that hacking is very real and apparently very easy (probably even easier now that I’ve told the Internet what information I have out there). And yet, in all this time that I’ve been building my online presence, my debit card was only replaced once. That’s pretty good, considering I’ve had a debit card since I wa about fourteen.

So how safe is the internet, really? What information is being collected from us, and for what purpose? This was something we explored during the live session. But it was hard for us to come up with answers. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of more than a handful of things institutions like the banks might want from me, and coming up with reasons why they might want that information was even harder. Do they just want to know? Is it a matter of being nosy, or determining demographics and statistical information? I’m still not sure I understand it entirely, even after the live discussion this week.

Moving forward, I think it’s time I look more into this issue. I distinctly remember, during our private group, that Tracey remarked how us surprised she was that us fresh-out-of-college kids don’t seem to care what data of ours is out there. She seemed particularly surprised. Maybe my cavalier attitude is worrying. Maybe I should be more aware of what’s going on, and more concerned about where my data is and who’s accessing it. But the truth of the matter is that I just don’t know enough about the process to be concerned. Maybe the uncertainty should worry me! There are a lot of maybes. The only thing I know for sure, is that I should do some research and educate myself more on this topic.

What we covered in the live session this week and in the asynchronous material was great – it definitely provided me with a background on the issue and some preliminary information on the topic. But if I really want to understand who’s accessing my data and what they’re doing with it, I need to learn more. Big data isn’t something that just applies to companies and people with mortgages and children – this issue is very relevant to me, and this week made me realize that I need to care more about it.

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