THE BLOG
09/07/2013 10:55 BST | Updated 04/09/2013 06:12 BST

Propaganda: An Idea Worth Spreading?

Recently, I went to a talk on the "Art and Business of Persuasion" that was part of the British Library's ongoing exhibition on propaganda during the 20th and 21st centuries. The speakers, an advertising expert and PR guru, argued that propaganda is around us more than ever before: we are constantly being told to buy into something. From the tactics used by the bottled water industry to those of fashion brands, propaganda is used to persuade its target audience to respond and behave in a certain manner. But does it always have to be sinister? With so many different channels of communication, these tactics have become refined into an increasingly nuanced art.

Throughout history, people have sought new platforms to spread their message and this can definitely be observed in the various stages of the feminist movement. A hundred years ago, the suffragettes developed an iconic brand by using three distinct colours - purple, white and green - across all of their posters, postcards and clothing. Today, studies show that women are increasingly taking the lead in online networking enabled by communication channels such as YouTube and Twitter. In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg's TedTalk on "Why we have too few women leaders" went viral on YouTube, a great example of the morale-boosting propaganda cultivated by the TED community whose slogan "ideas worth spreading" is almost zealous in tone. A few years on, the success of Sandberg's TedTalk is clear. Her book "Lean In" has become a global brand and she's now a household name around the world.

To what extent the growth of social networks has contributed to the resurgence in women's groups is debatable. I recently joined Eyedea, a female millenials network based in London. Set up by two friends, Marta Szczerba and Masha Kiryanova, it aims to give young professional women working in London a chance to share ideas with each other and meet informally. In its first year, it's already hosted Vogue UK's Alexandra Shulman and Carolyn McCall, CEO of Easyjet. Members are constantly challenging each other to find new platforms to spread the word about the Eyedea community - whether it's through social media or social activities. In the same way big brands do, they use a range of channels to ensure they get their message across and empower other young women to succeed in business.

At the talk, Trevor Beattie, responsible for French Connection's notorious FCUK advertising campaigns, remarked that the secret to success is being constantly curious, "we should be childlike but not childish and in a constant state of wonderment."

While we can't help being influenced by the propaganda we see around us, we need to maintain perspective in challenging received messages, remain passionate about seeking out new opportunities and continue to encourage the creation of a community based on sharing ideas.