DigComm - Jan 2016

Week 9 Reflection: The Business of Persuasion


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.