Let’s start with definitions. What are the tasks of the professional who designs and implements communication?
A communications professional is a person who plays a fundamental role for society, since he creates its imagery, and for the economy, since a fundamental role in the storytelling of brands, greatly influences their image, reputation and thus sales. To realise its goals, every company puts marketing plans in place. After creating and distributing a product or service, it is necessary to entice and convince people to choose it. Doing this job means knowing what is important to people when they choose a brand, and knowing how to create a relationship between people and brands. This relationship is based not only on the qualities of the product but also on the quality of the company’s values and vision. A communication professional combines strategy, data and creativity to design and deliver messages that help brands and people connect and base their purchasing choices on common values and ideals. And this is why communication is an economic tool: because it builds value.
What main types of profession are there in the world of communication?
Communication is a supply chain in which different roles coexist side by side according to competencies. It all starts with strategy. Doing the work of studying the market, the targets, the competitive scenario are the strategic planners, who make up the strategy department. After this part of the study has been done, the creative department comes into play. Here art directors, copywriters, digital graphic designers and social media experts work who, under the guidance of the creative director, create the communication messages from a narrative and visual point of view. The imagined creativity (photo, video, radio, banner, social media) has to be produced. In this phase of the work, the producers of the different disciplines (off- and on-line producers) are crucial. Finally it is the turn of the media experts. It is they who plan the message by studying the target audience. Analysts are then able to study the performance of the campaigns, which are subject to continuous improvement.
Art directors and copywriters do different things…
It might appear simple. The copywriter takes care of the words. Art director takes care of the images. In reality it is much more than that. Today’s communication workers live in multiple environments, and the environment that is becoming increasingly important is the digital one. While a concept and its key visual can be media neutral, today it is crucial that art directors and copy writers learn how to create visual and narrative messages and texts suited to the contexts. Increasingly, copywriters have to enter the era of ux and seo copywriting, while art directors have to meet the challenge of keeping the visual and graphic identity of brands recognisable and consistent in the many ways and contexts in which it is planned. They must work together so that texts are never didactic in relation to images, and vice versa. Interacting together like the right and left brain, art directors and copywriters can, in their dialectic, evolve the imagery and narratives of brand communication.
How can one be exposed to the communication professions during high school?
Dear students, to work in communication you have to nurture curiosity. And advertising is all-consuming. Therefore, the more varied your diet, the better you become. You must be able to take an interest in the things that people like most. But beware, when you become a communication professional you will be looking at things from a distorted yet extraordinary point of view: that of the insider. If Tredici Pietro is successful with a rap song, study the lyrics and find out why. If Adele breaks records, find out why. If Wednesday Addams occupies the pages of every newspaper, ask yourself why. If Chalamet dresses in a way that changes male fashion and the very idea of masculinity, ask yourself why. If first place in classic books is taken by detective stories, ask yourself why. If Zerocalcare hits Netflix, ask yourself why. The answer will always be the same. There is someone who, drawing on creativity, has managed to make his life and his story a universal role model. If you become creative, you will find that you will be paid to have a powerful individuality and to imagine. It is the most beautiful job in the world but it requires culture, passion and a lot of listening to yourself. Otherwise it is a job that can still be done very seriously.
What are the university paths to becoming communication professionals?
I studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan. The best years of my life. Brands are systems of the world. I can’t imagine a faculty better than philosophy to prepare you for the creative profession, and in general for living. Then I did a three-year master’s degree at the Academy of Communication. I specialized to become a copywriter. At twenty-four my career began. A journey that continues today and takes my breath away.
Studying communication in Italy or abroad: are there pros and cons in both cases?
In Italy we have important schools with an increasingly international vocation. To be international, however, you must belong to a country. My advice is to have a study and work experience abroad but remain a deeply rooted Italian: ours is the most beautiful and creative country in the world.
How can you find a job as a communications professional after university?
There is a lot of demand for work in our world. You have to study the market, the creatives, the agencies that produce the work you find most inspiring and apply. Sending in your application, motivated by a similar affinity and passion, remains fundamental. It is very important, when embarking on your studies, to create a virtual place where you can make your work visible, updating it as you go along with new jobs. Behance is the most consulted site even by those who need to hire. Personal branding and sharing one’s passions and school work also certainly contribute to positioning oneself on the market. As ADCI we organise, with the help of advisors Jack Blanga and Lorenzo Picchiotti, Enzo’s Big Friday, an event during which the most important creative directors of various Italian companies view students’ portfolios. I have hired many people during Enzo’s Big Friday, it is an unmissable occasion. Follow us on our ADCI channels.
Where does a communications professional work?
He works with others. He has to develop a sense of belonging. Of belonging. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of smart working. Smart working is not up for discussion, a creative can work anywhere. But he must belong to a place and a community. He must build relationships not always intermediated by screens. He must give himself the discipline that true socialization requires.
What professional skills does the market require of a young communication professional today?
Attitude first of all. Openness to teamwork, antennae well tuned to the contemporary and its narratives, a spirit of enterprise, the ability to resist pressure and solve problems. You have to make a lot of choices, aesthetic and narrative.
What soft skills will a good communication professional need?
English is fundamental. Stress management is the most difficult thing: the younger generation has major areas of fragility, and preserving their mental health is crucial.
To work as a communication professional you need talent, technological skills, elbow grease and culture. Can you tell us what percentages make up the perfect cocktail, and why?
Elbow grease 30%.
Culture helps us understand who we are and the shoulders of the giants we are sitting on. In these disjointed and barbaric times, investing in culture is revolutionary.
Tell us about a communication professional’s perfect day. And the worst, catastrophic one.
The ideal day is the one when you can solve a brief and see the best of yourself and your work in a meaningful way. Seeing an idea turned into reality: when it happens the first time is unforgettable, and it still excites me to this day. The worst day is when we have to deal with frustration. You have to put your whole self into the work, and when a job is rejected we feel challenged as people. But always getting back up is what counts. What counts is the will not to let things get you down, thinking that it is not us who are being challenged. It is difficult but we must never let go.
Who were your reference figures in the communication business when you were young?
The first for me was Francesco Emiliani, who offered me my first job at DDB. It was a fantastic agency, where many dreamed of going. I also had a memorable experience with the late Gianfranco Marabelli. Then very important were Pino Rozzi and Roberto Battaglia, who worked in the glorious DLVBDO. But there were too many seniors and I wanted to move up quickly. As soon as they moved to Red Cell, I called them and started working with them and Federico Pepe, who would become my husband and whom I consider the best Italian art director.
And who would they be if you were young now?
There are many great professionals, but I don’t feel like pointing them out. Everyone, by studying the market, will be able to understand who is driven by passion. Money always comes later.
Can you recommend us some good books for those who want to approach the world of communication?
The ADCI annuals. For a copywriter Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau. And for everyone, Philip Kotler’s texts remain fundamental.
Recommended films for those who dream of working in communication?
David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and in general all his films. The Truman Show. The founder. Steve Jobs.
Stefania Siani started her career at DDB as a copywriter. She continued at Ata De Martini & C., Cellule Rosse and then in 1861 at United (Wpp Italia Group) where she was appointed Creative Director. In 2008 she became Executive Creative director of DLV BBDO and Proximity BBDO, in 2018 Vice President and Creative Director. During her activity she has been instrumental in the agency's digital transformation, the development of new business and the evolving the languages of the client companies. She is one of the most awarded Italian creatives, winning awards from the Art Directors Club, D&AD, New York Festival, Epica, Clio and Cannes. In 2018 she was a member of the Cannes Film Jury. In 2020 she was President of the ADCI Awards, the most prestigious Italian creativity award. She is President of ADCI Art Directors Club Italiano and founder of the Equal Award for gender equality and inclusion in advertising. She is currently CEO of Serviceplan Italia.
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