When I first decided I wanted to study mass communication I was a senior in high school and asked to develop an event and merchandising elements for the company I was working for at the time. I was shocked at the freedom they gave me and loved that I was allowed to just run with whatever idea came to me so long as I was sufficiently convinced it would be effective. It was also largely in part to my affinity for clever promotions and seeing posters or campaigns that would make me stop and stare at it for a good ten minutes. It was like a creative outlet for those who had millions of ideas swirling around in their head keeping them awake at night, but who also happened to be artistically challenged. Hi, that would be me.
The initial stages of my studies covered the essentials such as newspaper, radio, TV, print ads and casually brushed on the internet. Now that I’m officially done “studying” and have a degree in PR, it’s amazing to me that the everyday hobbies/addictions of young adults today was barely even touched. I’m referring, of course, to the blanket term social media used to describe Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and naturally, the blogosphere. Look at the red lines underneath every one of those words in your spell check and it’s proof enough that the vocabulary that has crept into our daily conversations is something that is not only foreign to those who would not immediately clutch their MacBook to their chest and run in case of a fire, but something that college professors have little to no comprehension of. A journalism teacher thought Nick Denton was an actor on High School Musical. And yet, entry-level PR jobs are now social media positions and salaries are being paid for those who effectively persuade in 140 characters or less. Fascinating.
I am by no means saying that everything that people opt to broadcast on these outlets is relevant, consequential or worthwhile in any fashion. I would actually argue the opposite in most cases. However, the power of being able to develop a persuasive and concise message that hundreds of people can receive instantly on their phones or computers that they willingly check multiple times a day is easily the promotion guru’s newest, trendy weapon of choice. It is something that can be utilized if you have a valid point you are trying to get across to a diverse audience or terribly abused if you begin “tweeting” about how folding clean laundry while eating Cheetos is a bad idea.
Fact: They don’t tell you that in school.