How Studying Marketing and PR Has Changed My Perceptions of Communications

It’s funny to think there was a time in my life where I didn’t analyse every ad that flashed in front of my face, a time where I didn’t question the intention behind some well written copy, the placement of an affiliate link or the seemingly perfect timing of a press release or product launch.

Was I naive? Probably. But then again, I had no real reason to question any of it. Why did it matter that the dress I’d Googled 30 seconds beforehand was now littered across my social feed? It wasn’t a bad thing that a brand new, bright red shade of lipstick was being released just in time for the office Christmas party.  

I always remember back in college when I studied Media at A Level and it forever ruined my ability to just watch a movie or TV show and just take it for what it was. To this day, I constantly drive my husband mad by providing a running commentary of all of the industry tricks being used behind the camera, questioning everything from the choice of lighting to the subtle hints hidden in the script. I’m no longer satisfied until I’ve ruined the movie for both of us by second guessing every little detail.

In a very similar way, this infuriating habit has now transferred itself into my knowledge of communications, and I can no longer just be a consumer, which I think can be a blessing, and a curse.

Here are the 3 main ways in which studying marketing and PR has changed my perceptions of communications:

The Master Manipulator

I knew going into the world of marketing that although there may be a significant lack of general public understanding about just how much really falls under that ‘marketing’ umbrella and the backbreaking amount of work that goes into campaigns, people tend to know what marketing is, or what the role of a marketeer is. The same can’t be said for PR.  

One of the main questions that my family and friends have asked me since beginning my MA degree has been “but what is PR? What do you do with PR?” And you know what, it’s a fair question. There are so many misconceptions of what PR is, which is surprising considering how much PR effects our lives and what we are exposed to on a daily basis, particularly now our lives’ are firmly planted within the digital sphere of existence.

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind that PR finds it’s roots in mass manipulation (first introduced by Bernays) and propaganda, a phrase which holds so many negative connotations now that it’s understandable why PR practitioners have tried to distance themselves from it as much as humanly possible. Yet, is it not the case that at the core level, PR really is about manipulation? Changing the thoughts and opinions of the public to suit the narrative of a brand or organisation or to alter how a businesses reputation sits within the public sphere?

Personally, I think there are a lot of instances where this isn’t the case, and PR practitioners have a more ethical and wholesome approach to their work. But whether we like to acknowledge it or not, for better or worse, we’re all being manipulated in some way, shape or form.

Question Everything

One of the biggest things that I have found has affected me daily is questioning why a brand or organisation has chosen to go about their marketing or PR activities in a certain way, and it’s made me a little bit of a cynic.

I understand more than ever the importance of things like influencer relations, celebrity endorsements or other tactics used to tug on the heart strings or create a sense of familiarity with a brand. I chat about this a little in my blog – Some Thoughts on #Glitchcon.

But for me, I now put a little bit of a barrier up when I see these tactics being employed. Misfires like the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi fiasco, for me highlight the key issues of bigger brands reaching out one hand and plucking up a celebrity in demand, whilst reaching out the other and plucking up a social issue, mushing the two together and hoping it lands. It’s disingenuous and it doesn’t have an honest or truthful sentiment behind it, and it’s something I’m always on the lookout for.

Two-way is Always Better Than One-Way

Two-way symmetrical communication and Excellence Theory have, for me, been one of the most important things I’ll take away from my degree. Learning the intricacies and importance of how effective two-way communications are to the success of a business is fascinating.

It may sound like a no brainer, but it’s one of those things that I had never really thought about in great detail.

Now that we have a wealth of digital communications options at our fingertips, there really is very little excuse for businesses not to listen to their customers. I think that’s why when big brands do get it wrong, there’s such an overwhelming sense of frustration. Why have they ignored the messages that their fans have been screaming at them for months or years?

I love seeing the introduction of community managers to larger organisations, whose role is to navigate that middle ground between the consumer and the brand, really listen to the mood and voice of the public opinion and inform the marketing and PR activity based on that, rather than simply gathering feedback after the fact.

So Much More to Learn

Getting to familiarise myself with the intricacies of what goes into a marketing or PR campaign has forever changed how I see the world around me, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and there is still so much more to learn.

The world is changing at such a rapid pace, half the fun is adapting, growing and learning to always strive to improve, educate and simply keep up!

I may never be able to look at a logo again without asking why it’s a certain shade of blue, or resist questioning why a brand has chosen their new celeb of the month to splash across our social feeds, but I think this constant analysis will only help in the long term to shape my view of the marketing and PR world, and hopefully mould me into an ethical and knowledgeable practitioner.

Has studying or working in marketing or PR effected how you see the world? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,


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