Positive media 101: Communications

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone puts in to words something you’ve always felt but never really been able to explain? One of the most memorable for me was at the beginning of my final semester of university. I was in a room I’d sat in many times, listening to someone I’d heard many times, but this day they said something I realised was key to my choice of study:

“Communications is about love.”

That got my attention. I had studied Communications for three and a half years and heard everything from how writing began to the effects of Facebook on society, but nothing like that.

The point was that communication, at least, ideal communication, means sharing information with someone for their benefit. The communicator goes out of their way to tell them helpful information in a way that they will best understand.

As an everyday example, this is like telling someone you will be home at a certain time, so they don’t worry about you. In professional communications, this might include telling staff where to find certain information for a talk. It also involves providing the public with information about your services so they know where to go for help.

But, you may be thinking, so much of the media, marketing and communications seems to want to take something from me, rather than benefit me. That is because there is also persuasive communication, whereby one party communicates to the other with the intention of gaining something for themselves, most typically seen in advertising, where someone is trying to convince someone to buy something. I think the tutor may have compared this to the “Dark Arts” in Harry Potter- they avoid teaching it because it can be used for bad- a funny comparison, but when you think about it, persuasive communication does have the potential to majorly affect people’s lives.

Sometimes the lines can be blurry- when you work for say, a charity and are trying to convince the public that your company is a good place to give money to, but you are doing this because it is best for the people the charity helps. In that case, another important principle of communication comes into play, motivation, which needs its own post, but the main thing is that this case is also communication for the benefit of others.

For someone who had grown up wanting to help people, as well as work with words and writing, the statement “communications is about love” was the first time I realised exactly how these fit together. Not necessarily in a practical, that’s-my-career sorted sense (still figuring that one out), but it certainly helps drive me when it seems the rest of the world is using the media for their own gain. I think it is also an important concept to remember in any line of work and day to day conversations.

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