Judicious Questioning is the Half of Knowledge

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In its basic meaning communication is the passing of information, ideas, and attitudes from person to person or group to group. When you say, 'Do you understand me?', you are really asking if you have successfully communicated to the other person what you had in mind. Some communicate better than others. Some people, such as writers, dancers, and painters, are so gifted that their communication becomes art.

While these means of human communication are fundamental to our culture, other technological means of communication such as television, radio and computers have become so powerful and specialized that they can greatly influence how we perceive and accept new information. In this way, the very means of communication itself and not just what is being communicated- the message-is becoming a dynamic cultural force. But is this so strange? After all the way in which you talk to someone greatly determines how they will understand your message.

By choosing a career in advertising or public relations you will be in this complex and exciting business of communication.

Once upon a time, say until the late 1960s, advertising and public relations were skills that called for good writing ability, a flair for commerce, art talents, a large degree of personal charm and verbal fluency, and a sociable nature. To some extent advertising was something of a gentleman's game. As for public relations, who could dislike for long the public relations man with his gin and tonic in hand, carnation in his button-hole, and soothing, helpful words?

All that has long since changed and, while talent can still win the day, both fields are down to the hard graft of making money. The leading-and final-question nowadays is always about profits and commercial growth. 'What is the bottom line?' as they say. With agencies quoted on the Stock Exchange with turnover into the hundreds of millions, advertising is big business. Public relations, a real growth service industry is not far behind.

No doubt many people in advertising and public relations, as well as their professional associations, will protest that their work is not all about making money and that they do care about the communications they create and the messages they send to the public. Of course, this is true; nevertheless, mark well the following advice if you want a career in these fields. Without these basics your road will be rocky, if indeed you manage to get on it:

If you are interested in advertising, then first be interested in business.

If you are interested in public relations, then first get educated.

What is advertising?

Advertising is simply the action of drawing public attention to goods, services, events, or to whatever you want them to pay attention. Therefore, it is hardly a modern notion. The old town crier was an advertiser. The painted inn sign, the poster saying 'vote for me' are advertisements. Advertising today is a highly specialized business which owes its development to the continuous advance in mass communication and in manufacture -even if at its heart it still is drawing public attention to something.

In Britain advertising was unsophisticated until the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it suffered an almost total collapse because of the imposition of a tax levied according to the value of goods advertised. The Industrial Revolution changed all that-it saw the start of mass production and, with it, the rotary printing press enabled newspapers to extend their circulations. There were more goods to buy, more people with enough money to buy them and easier ways to communicate with them. Manufacturers soon realized the power of advertising their goods. The demand for space grew and spaces had to be booked. Agents began to charge to perform this function.

This probably led to the practice which still exists of advertising agencies buying space in newspapers (or time on television) and receiving a commission from the media owner. Perhaps it isn't surprising that this system still continues. Both the newspaper and the advertising agency have a vested interest in encouraging advertising.

In advertising, you are part of the most rapidly developing new industry in the world, namely communications and information technology. In one breath you are claiming the wall poster advertisement of the ancient Romans and the newest satellite in space as your very own tools of trade.

In either advertising or public relations you will work for many clients with a multitude of problems and try to offer them solutions. You will deal with the specialized skills of hundreds of others in the service industries from art houses to printers to script writers to computer programmer wizards. No wonder so many young people want to get into advertising or public relations, for it can be an exciting and rewarding career. But getting to be one of these fashionable high-flying image makers with a top salary is hard going. You must have that 'something extra' - not just to make it to the top but to get employed in the first place.

The development of these powerful new means of communication and the accompanying development of personnel highly skilled in them has expanded the means of control of information as well as its dissemination. To control and manage communications is something that politicians and governments, both east and west, work hard to master - much as they may publically deny it. Newspapers, magazines and TV stations could not survive without advertising revenue. Advertising helps pay for the feature writer or the TV program you most enjoy.

Even into the twentieth century advertisements were do-it-yourself affairs. Manufacturers wrote their own copy and it appears very naive now. The advertising agency as we know it has emerged only in the last fifty years and it will continue to evolve as communication technology changes and mass communication becomes even more sophisticated. This perpetual change and development is the basic reason why advertising is such a stimulating business in which to work. The other reason is that the demands of what you advertise and for whom also changes - you don't often find people in advertising complaining of boredom.
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