DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

Sadly, it’s doesn’t. But the headline caught your eye didn’t it? 

You might have heard the term ‘Fake news’ being thrown around lately, or perhaps from Donald Trump, as it is one of his favourite phrases! Fake news is essentially misinformation that is spread online as real news. I suppose you could say its big news right now as there has been a significant amount of it during this pandemic, however with so much media circulating about COVID-19, how do we know what is true anymore?

According to a survey by Statista (2020), almost 64% of UK respondents came across a false story at least once a day in the space of a week during September. In my opinion, this is absolutely crazy, how is fabricated news allowed to be shared across platforms millions of us use? 

A new study by MIT in 2018 found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social platform Twitter than real news does and not because of any algorithms or technology, it’s all down to users retweeting it and sending it onto their pals. No doubt this has increased over the past two years!  

Spreading inaccurate information online is more dangerous than we think, throughout the pandemic I personally have stumbled across many fake news articles and seen plenty of users sharing it across networks like Facebook. In concerning and tough times like this, reading a headline such as “Coronavirus is a Hoax” (I WISH!!) can have a massive impact on someone’s mental health if they believe this, especially when they are being kept from seeing loved ones and being told to stay inside. 

We have seen the impact fake news has had on political campaigns in America back in 2016, where it has been used and abused to target vulnerable people and influence their political opinions, which is why I feel more needs to be done about how to combat it – If this comes as a surprise to you, I would advise watching The Great Hack on Netflix!

So, what are social media platforms doing about it?

We use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every day, so surely these big tech companies have a part to play in stopping the spread of false news? Well, they have previously turned a blind eye to the matter however, recently many have been taking action.

Facebook has vowed that they will continue to use fact checkers to review misinformation and then remove the fake news or perhaps sometimes, conspiracy theories. For example, at the start of the year when coronavirus began to spread, Facebook focused on removing false stories surrounding cures and treatment for the virus including “Avoid spicy food to avoid infection”– which was obviously not true. They also blocked certain hashtags on their platform Instagram which were linked to the topic. 

YouTube also took it upon themselves to remove any videos that include misleading information about vaccines and that contradict local health authorities like the NHS or World Health Organisation (WHO). 

And like I mentioned before, fake news has become the centre of previous election campaigns, and recently Twitter banned accounts which had been tweeting spam in relation to Donald Trump, which is against Twitters rules. 

What can WE do?

  1. Do a quick search on Google or Twitter. By doing this you can see if it’s came from a trusted source or if anyone else has questioned it. For any stories regarding COVID-19, only listen to health organisations like the NHS or WHO.
  2. If you’re unsure if a social media post is fake news or not, don’t like, comment or share it – this can increase your chances of seeing more fake news as social media platforms like to show us more of what we interact with. The more engagement a post like this receives, the more likely it’s seen as something relevant. 
  3. If it does in fact turn out to be fake news, report it! You can do this on any social media site, the World Health Organisation has published a great guide on their website which can help you do this.
  4. And lastly, just think before you share! Sometimes it can be hard to resist a click bait headline but try get used to reading trusted sources instead of what Sandra might have shared to her 200 followers (No offence to any Sandra’s out there) …

To sum it up, I think it’s scary to see how fast false information spreads these days and, in my opinion, it’s ruining people’s opinions on real journalism as they jump to believe the false article they just read on Facebook rather than the actual facts. There is definitely more work to be done here by social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news but for now, we can only look out for the warning signs!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a junior digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

On the surface the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it has long been so much more than that. Dating back to the Suffragette movement, the use of red lipstick was a powerful political statement, arming women with the bold and powerful armour needed to stand up independently and fight in the face of inequality. Today, the beauty industry remains saturated in activism. Something which is extremely important in an era dominated by a turbulent political landscape. The consumer journey is now so much more than simply purchasing products; customers want to support businesses that are driven by a strong political message which aligns with their own.

“Aligning ourselves with beauty brands that are using their platforms to empower, embattle and break down boundaries, puts the power back in our hands,” says Cult Beauty founder, Alexia Inge

In May of this year, the world was spun into global unrest regarding the futile murder of George Floyd. Many large beauty companies were quick to utilise the reach their social media platforms have in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement; and in speaking out against these injustices. While these words of support are important for educating their consumers on such issues, it’s also important for these brands to act. American beauty giants, ColourPop, extended their condemnation of such inequalities by pledging to donate to organisations working to support black communities. To coincide with this, they stated that they were also committed to create change by promoting representation and inclusivity.

Beauty brand, Deciem, also showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The beauty community’s relationship with inclusivity has not been observable throughout the decades. In 2018, Tarte received backlash as they debuted a new foundation with a range of only 15 shades, with only 2 of these accommodating darker complexions. These static beauty standards had once again neglected a huge proportion of its consumers by excluding those unable to find their match. It is surprising to learn that just a few months later, the Fenty Beauty brand burst onto the scene having an explosive impact later named #TheFentyEffect. The brand was launched with 40 foundation shades – a far cry from what Tarte had released just months earlier. It would be selling the Fenty brand short to label this effect as anything short of innovative, as this range of shades has now become the norm and consumers are refusing to accept anything short of this!

David Kirkpatrick, writing for MarketingDive, found that while social media has provided companies with many benefits, from growing consumer bases to engaging in fast communication with customers, the negative effects can prove detrimental to companies. He found that 81% of U.S. consumers believe social media has rapidly increased brand accountability. Q3 Sprout Social Index administered a study, which uncovered that consumers are prepared to call our brands on social media, with millennials being the most likely to do this. It is interesting to note, 56% of these millennials had admitted to having complained about or had called out brands on social media. This research indicates the emphasis brands must now put on reputation management to ensure they do not encounter the same hurdles Tarte did.

More recently, beauty brands have been exercising this political activism in emphasising the importance to their consumers in voting in the upcoming US election through various social media driven campaigns. While many companies have been forthcoming expressing their political opinions; history was made when a new brand appeared on the scene as “Biden Beauty”. Yes, you heard right, Biden Beauty is in fact a real beauty brand! The company is selling a blue, beauty makeup sponge and encouraging their consumers to use this to create a makeup look to wear to the polling station. All profits from the company are being contributed to the Biden Victory Fund in hopes that this will secure a win for the Democratic party.

Beauty brand, Alleyoop, was also in favour of encouraging their customers to vote. The brand has pledged to give away a free item with a value of up to $20 to everyone who makes the trip to the polling station. The first 50,000 people who vote will be able to avail of this. This product giveaway could potentially cost the company $1 million. Brand owner, Kashani, described how they must do something crazy to change the voting statistics. Well, it’s definitely crazy!

Sharon Chuter, founder of inclusive makeup brand, Uoma Beauty, stated that “Gen Z is putting their money where their values are…”. She believes consumers are more willing to shop with companies who use their platforms to spread awareness of political issues; and who share the same values as their consumer base. However, it is important for brands to navigate this uneasy landscape with care as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of performative activism. In which companies are aligning themselves with political activism simply to appeal to consumers and drive sales; but the heart of the company is not in creating change. Chuter again shared her opinion on this issue, depicting her worry that brands will now see activism as a marketing tool, which will quickly become more dangerous than helpful.

On the surface, the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it is and always has been, so much more than that.

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Linkedin – Cheyenne Doyle and Instagram – Ch.eyenne

Social Media – Is it the real Pandemic?

Social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools in our society today and I can’t deny throughout the pandemic it has done a lot of good as we all tried to make the best of a horrible year. It has given us a platform to voice our opinions and concerns and connect with loved ones from all over the world in the form of weekly zoom quizzes. Even just sending each other adorable puppy videos has brightened some of our darker days as we muddle through these unprecedented times. However, it is important to address how Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and the pressures that are associated with the overuse of these platforms can be all-consuming, draining, and impact our mental health negatively, particularly during lockdown when we are alone and forced to deal with our thoughts.

Endless, mind-numbing scrolling and switching from app to app on our smartphones has become an addiction for our generation and as we find ourselves planted in the middle of another lockdown, ask yourself this; could you spend a whole day without visiting either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Your answer is probably very much like mine; a no, but we aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2018, 63% of the 743 young adults interviewed said they use social media every day, while 45% say they are on the internet “almost constantly”. Scary. Our smartphones have become an extension of our arms and at the touch of a button we have access to millions of tiny squares filled with pictures and videos of beautiful people in beautiful places, doing beautiful things, looking beautifully happy. Sometimes these tiny squares can make us compare our lives to others, belittle ourselves and even feel like less of a person but it is important to remember that we don’t see these people when they are sick or having a bad day. It is great to see people thriving and living their best lives but it is ok if you aren’t thriving and living YOUR best life right now.

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💛💛💭💫

A post shared by The Power Of Positive Thinking (@the.power.of.positive.thinking) on

Thanks to social media and in particular Instagram, we have this warped unrealistic image engraved in our brain of what our lives should look like. Through the introduction of influencers and large social media personalities promoting all the latest garments and gadgets, it can be easy to inhabit an unhealthy ‘I want to be like them’ attitude. We think if we have a life like theirs then we’ll be happy – if we buy that overpriced designer item, we’ll be happy, if we go on that holiday, we’ll be happy, if we have a relationship like theirs, we’ll be happy, if we look like that influencer or work ourselves silly in the gym to have a body like theirs, we’ll be happy. There is SO much to think about today and trends are constantly changing so unfortunately there will always be another we may feel pressured to follow. However, it can be helpful to take a step back, put things into perspective and realise that the celebrities who appear to have the ‘perfect life’ are human too and the impact social media has on their mental health can be just as detrimental.

In 2017, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner opened up to Dr. Phil McGraw about how her long-term depression worsened during her fourth year on the show just as the use of social media was on the rise. Describing social media as a ‘catalyst’, she stated that trolls would take to Instagram to make comments about her skin, weight and acting abilities which “impacted how she did her job and how she interacted with the world”. I know right? You may be scratching your head thinking ‘Why is this Queen feeling like this?’ Once again though, Sophie Turner isn’t alone. According to a survey carried out in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, a lot of young adults who fall within the 14–24-year-old age bracket agree that their wellbeing is being damaged by social media, and platforms including Twitter and Instagram invoke anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. This may be because the days when we could live and let live are gone. When we post something on social media we almost invite opinions into our lives – everyone has an opinion on everything so it isn’t hard to see how social media has created this culture of anxiety which can often stop us from doing the things we want to do. (Side note: try not to let this be the case. You do you. We have a limited time on this earth so there is literally ZERO point wasting it worrying about the opinions of others – make that instagram page, write that blog post, share your talents with the world! Could you imagine if Sophie Turner had listened to all of those trolls who told her to stop acting? Game of Thrones simply just wouldn’t be the same!)

On the other hand, throughout the years I’ve seen celebrities use social media as a platform to address mental health issues. Little Mix band member Perrie Edwards took to Instagram to share her personal experience with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks and how restricting the time she spent on social media helped combat her mental health issues. For me, Perrie’s brave post only highlights further how from the outside looking in, someone can appear to ‘have it all’ and still struggle behind closed doors. Instagram is a highlight reel and the happiness we see is only a tiny glimpse into these peoples’ lives.

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I’d like to open up about something. Venting your feelings is healthy and I want to be honest with you all. Over the past few years I have suffered really badly with anxiety and panic attacks. When I first started to feel the effects of anxiety I thought I was losing my mind and it terrified me. I felt so alone and like I was the first person in the world to ever experience it. – The first panic attack was so intense and overwhelming I felt like I was having a heart attack, I was so scared and confused and had no idea what was happening to me. I’m not sure what triggered that first one but it soon spiralled & I found myself in a really dark place, feeling alone and scared. I had people around me but I couldn’t explain to them what was happening to me or why. It affected me so badly that I didn’t even want to leave the house. I would step foot out the door and feel the overwhelming need to go straight back inside. It completely took over my life. – I’m happy to say that the physical attacks have stopped but unfortunately the anxiety still lives on. The reality is it probably always will. – I’ve had a relationship with my mind for 25 years now, so to feel it working against me sometimes makes me feel like a prisoner in my own head. It feels like the most unnatural thing in the world but the thing that helped me the most was discovering I’m not alone. I’m not the only person going through this. There are people all over the world feeling the exact same way I do! As soon as I realised I wasn’t going insane I felt more eager to beat it. I had therapy and I surround myself with my loved ones. Talking to someone relieves you of SO MUCH STRESS. I worked out coping mechanism’s and learned what the triggers are so that I can fight the attacks before they take hold. I restricted my time on social media which often made me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I took control of my life and accepted what I couldn’t control. – I don’t want to hide it anymore. I suffer from anxiety and I want you to all know if you suffer from anxiety you’re not alone ♥️

A post shared by Perrie Edwards ✌️🌻 (@perrieedwards) on

The reality is that life is not how it is portrayed on social media and as most of us have come to realise in 2020, it is not all highs, sunshine and rainbows and we don’t know what lies behind a screen. As my granny always says, “everyone has their own cross to bear” but now more than ever, it is so important to not only be kind to others, but also ourselves.

I could write a lot more on this topic, but for now I want to finish with one piece of advice for lockdown number two; if you begin to feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic by social media, seeing everyone using this time to better themselves and you feel you don’t have that same motivation or if you’re just sick of hearing about COVID-19 – turn it off, go for a walk, talk to someone you trust or do something that will make you feel relaxed.

I have listed a number of resources below if you or someone you know has been struggling recently. We are living through scary times and our thoughts can make them seem even scarier. Be kind to your mind and stay safe during this lockdown.

Anxiety UK
Mind
Rethink Mental Illness
Samaritans

YoungMinds
www.anxietyuk.org.uk
www.mind.org.uk
www.rethink.org
www.samaritans.org.uk
https://youngminds.org.uk

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ktmckeown_/ and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-mc-keown-89bb72189/

Events, Meetings and Membership: My Year as CIPR Student Representative

Events, Meetings and Membership: My Year as CIPR Student Representative

November 2019: cool evenings and pre COVID-19. At the time I was a second-year student at Ulster University (UU) waiting for an interview. The interview was to become the next Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) representative. My name is Lottie Kelly, and I was a CIPR student ambassador for UU 2019-2020.  

If you are unaware of CIPR, it is an governing body which provides a central hub for public relations (PR) practitioners across the United Kingdom. It offers resources for training, qualifications and networking. I held an interest and PR and thought that being a representative (or ‘rep’) would provide insight on a potential career in PR. As a representative, I soon became acquainted with the new responsibilities and opportunities available to me through CIPR. 

A great event for students, the CIPR/UU Student Conference. 20 February 2019, Mandatory Credit ©Press Eye/Darren Kidd

First I should note that my role and experience as CIPR rep was affected by COVID-19. Like many other industries, events were cancelled or moved online and work was carried out from home. Fortunately my role was transferred online with only minimal adjustments, such as ZOOM meetings. 

Not all work is in an office. In February I attended a CIPR meeting at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. ©Wyndham Hotels

Attending meetings is an essential responsibility for the CIPR rep. The Northern Irish CIPR members attend monthly meetings and talk through its agenda (an itinerary of topics concerning the governing body). These meetings create a space for members to to discuss CIPR membership and issues effecting the PR industry. From attending these meetings I became knowledgeable to working through agendas, recording minutes and group discussion of ideas for events and campaigns. These skills were also valuable to me in applying for placements and work experience.

For a student, it can feel intimidating attending meetings in which members are discussing sometimes unfamiliar topics. Whilst you may not be an PR expert, having a student perspective is still valuable to CIPR. Your opinions and point of view are unique and thus salient in promoting students to get involved.

Another key feature of the CIPR rep role is attending events, a popular method of promotion in PR. CIPR holds many events annually, such as the CIPR Annual Conference. This is an experiential event where PR practitioners from across Northern Ireland gather to discuss current issues and skills for succeeding in PR. Guest speakers also join the conference, offering guidance in live Q & A sessions. 

Another event, the CIPR PRide awards celebrates top PR campaigns of the year. (©CIPR Newsroom 2019). 

The biggest event and opportunity for the CIPR rep is the CIPR/UU Student showcase. Held at the Ulster University campus, award winning PR campaigns are presented by their teams to UU students. This event invites students to understand how PR campaigns are built and delivered. Likewise, it portrays the wealth of PR talent available locally in Northern Ireland. Outside of events and meetings, I also found that a rep needs to brainstorm ideas for student engagement including methods for encouraging young people to get interested in PR

If you are considering applying for this role and are unsure, my best advice is to just apply. Even if you have a limited knowledge and/or experience of PR, everyone can personal skills to bring to the role. If you are interested in PR and possess an open mind to learning, there’s plenty to be taken from the experience. 

 My work from home set up for CIPR meetings online. 

I also must recommend to anyone studying a university course related to PR to become a CIPR member. Even had I not become a rep, CIPR hosts a gallery of education resources available to members. There is a fee (for students, £35 for 12 months) but a beneficial qualification for those pursuing a career in PR. Again, from my perceptive, being a university representative for a governing body is a very advantageous merit for my CV. Moreover, it was manageable to work with CIPR along with my studies.  

I simply cannot recommend this role enough. 

Lottie Kelly is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She will soon start her placement year at AV Browne, an integrated communications agency in Belfast. Lottie was a student member of the CIPR Northern Ireland committee on 2019-20. She can be found at: LinkedIn and Twitter. Lottie’s personal blog is here.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

For added support, just chuck a ‘Rock’ at it.

Years ago, before the introduction of social media, we all relied on the information provided to us by media outlets like television, tabloid, newspapers, radio and the like to help us understand the world and form our opinions. In the present day, the reliance on these regulated forms of media may still be important in the formation of public opinion, particularly with the older generations, however it appears that social media has introduced an immediate two-way conversation between celebrities and their fans that never existed until recently; a type of democratisation of a fan club in real-time.

Celebrities crossing over from their usual world of popularity into the political sphere to use their huge fan-base to help influence the outcome of an upcoming election or even to simply make a political statement, is not uncommon.

Marlon Brando in 1973, was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. In his stead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. In protest against the long-standing failure for the USA to honour the treaties it had made with Native American nations and as a proclamation against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in TV and film, she refused the award on Marlon’s behalf. Before this, politics had been pretty much left out of the Oscars, and worryingly for The Academy, on the night, Sacheen’s words were met with a mixture of booing and applause.

This show of ‘political shenanigans’ prompted the Academy, who were fearing a PR disaster, to ban any future award recipients from sending proxies on their behalf. There have been many other occasions where outside politics have taken centre stage at the Oscars. Who can forget Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in 1993, and the fine performance of Michael Moore in 2003. Yes, not exactly politics as such, but certainly showing how one human can have a strong influence on matters.

Meanwhile in politics

In 1966, an actor who starred in such films as ‘The Bad Man’ called Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California and later became the President of the United States. Moving through the years, in 2008, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney openly and loudly endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; as of yet, neither of them have opted run for President, but who knows? During the same campaign, American musician Hank Williams Jr chose to write a song, endorsing Senator John McCain’s campaign.

Chucking A ‘Rock’ At The Election

Recently, on Sunday, Sept. 27 2020, The Rock, a man who certainly knows how to spin his own PR, decided to post a video on Instagram that was far different from anything he had posted before. In his own words, “it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”. He wanted his followers “to vote blue in the 2020 election”. So with an audience of 190 million, he officially endorsed former VP Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.  

His caption read “As a political independent and centrist for many years, I’ve voted for Democrats in the past and as well as Republican. In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.” At the time of the post, The Rock had 198 million followers on Instagram, and with him rumoured to earn up to $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, he has a lot sway in the world of social media.

“it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”

Prior to this post, when The Rock posted content, his millions of adoring fans would applaud him with nothing but kind words and platitudes, however this post changed everything.

A Rolling Rock Obviously Gathers No Moss

Many Trump fans took to his account to leave their comments of dislike, and to praise their man-child of a President. Did it harm his account?

Actually no. It has grown even more, to well over 200 million. So exactly how can we define that success? In votes? In followers? Just how influential was his message in shaping the political landscape? It is near impossible to measure. It’s not like there are statisticians standing outside each polling station waiting to ask every voter questions like “which celebrity influenced your vote”?

Public attitudes.

A recent study by the YouGov-Cambridge Centre concluded that only 14% of British voters think social media is good for society.

In the same study it shows clearly that many voters actually doubt the internet has been positive for political campaigning.

According to another recent study, the USA public attitudes toward political engagement on social media are equally as eye-opening. 42% get involved online with social or political issues that are important to them, while 37% feel that social media offers a place to express their political opinions.

I am not writing this with the suggestion that celebrities should be left out of all political discourse, however I do feel that in a world where celebrities with huge social media reach are role models and supposed policy experts, there is no limit to just much they can influence the shaping of public opinion; particularly with Generation Z.

What about the older citizens? Could older generations start using social media as an online activism tool?  Professor Jen Shradie suggests “Online activism was supposed to be a utopian dream. Rather than rely on big institutions, everyone’s voices were supposed to be heard,” she says. She goes on to suggest that online activism tends to attract the younger generations to engage, not to mention the better educated; and those with the technology and communication skills do tend to get their point across to win online arguments. After all, older generations obviously hold opinions, but many of these may not be getting captured online.

It’s voting time

So, could politically uneducated, yet powerfully influential PR astute celebrities like The Rock be seen as being a potentially dangerous combination in the overall process of forming social opinion within the political sphere? Perhaps, this is a conversation we should be engaging in more often.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time
Sir David Attenborough becomes fastest person to reach one million  followers on Instagram

There is likely no one on this earth who has had a life similar to David Attenborough’s. He lived through a world war, was in the navy, has a knighthood and has won countless television awards. From whales to polar bears he has seen it all. Attenborough is now 94, and still wants to help us protect our planet. Even though most people would start slowing down at his age, he feels it is his duty to give us the information we need to save our planet, even if it involves new methods of communication he has never used before.

I first remember seeing Attenborough every Sunday night after my roast dinner on Planet Earth. I always was amazed by his voice and his complete love for the animals but above all his knowledge. He talks about how he has known there was a problem for years but wanted to have researched it to the absolute max before he got his message out and to know the best forms of communication to get it out. I think this is the most impressive thing about him. Given the current state of the environment, it is imperative that something is done to stop the continual destruction of the planet. David Attenborough knows this, but more importantly, knows that the people who could actually make the difference are not the older generations, but the millennials. He has realised it is something that we need to be brought up with and that the solutions must be given before people have a chance to make the mistakes. From his advertising and marketing for his new Netflix film, this is abundantly clear.

Sir David Attenborough breaks Instagram record for fastest time to reach  one million followers | Guinness World Records

On the 24th September 2020, Attenborough started his first Instagram account breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest user to Reach one million followers in just four hours and forty-four minutes. Breaching from the normal forms of communication he has used over the last sixty years, this highlights how he and his marketing team are taking advantage of modern media. This was definitely not a whim from Attenborough so that he can finally post pictures of himself and his friends on holiday, but a stroke of marketing genius. This was exactly the media attention he needed before the release of his Netflix film. It had everyone talking about it, and everyone going to look at his account. When you arrive at his account it is simply flooded with poignant videos highlighting environmental issues. These have all racked up millions of views, which completely proves that social media is now the most effective form of communication there is. This account has enabled him to reach a plethora of people that would not normally be interested in him or the environment.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) - IMDb

Another very interesting use of modern media is the fact he chose Netflix to stream his new film ‘A Life On Our Planet’ on the 28th September. This is another first for Attenborough, as all his previous shows like Our Planet, were aired on BBC. This again shows that he and his marketing team know television doesn’t have the same traction it used to, especially with younger generations like millennials. I know if I had to chose between Sky and Netflix, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Netflix. It is also known that families nowadays are scrapping their Sky subscriptions altogether due to its very expensive monthly fees and opting for the much cheaper and more accessible Netflix. I definitely feel like it is difficult today in modern society to find a millennial who doesn’t have access to a Netflix account, whether they have their own or whether they know their friend’s password. This is key in Attenborough’s attempt to make the younger generation aware of the problems in the environment. I found the movie extremely eye opening because I definitely wasn’t aware of the extent of the problem. If we want our kids to live in a better world we need to make changes now.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Official Trailer | Netflix -  YouTube

I find this new presentation of Attenborough fascinating as it is easy just to see him as a very old man that my parents talk about sometimes. However after using these new forms of communication, it almost seems like he is more relatable and more in tune with the world as it is now. It seems to add validity to his message as this is how young people get information nowadays. It is also astonishing to see how wide an audience he can really reach, and how quickly he can do so, just by branching out of his comfort zone and away from his usual platforms of advertising. I think he is a great man and has done so much for our planet, I just hope it isn’t too late!

A young Sir David Attenborough | David attenborough young, David  attenborough, Famous faces

Charlotte Cockcroft is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn – Charlotte Cockcroft, Twitter – @Charlottecockcr and Instagram – @charlottecockcroft .

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

The Belfast born brand BPerfect Cosmetics owned by Brendan McDowell launched their first “Megastore” in CastleCourt Belfast on October 1st. This event was heavily promoted on social media across each of BPerfects online social media platforms, with former EastEnders star Jac Jossa attending to launch her first ever tan, tanning mit and facial tanner called the “Jac Jossa Collection”. Many famous beauty influencers such as “MMMitchell”, “Stacey Marie MUA” attended the store launch acting as the staff for the 4-hour opening. Combined each influencer equalled over 7 million followers.  The advertising and marketing carried out prior to the launch date was well executed with the BPerfect team launching their very own “BPerfect Megastore” Instagram page in which they provided every exciting detail about the store launch along with promoting the event on their existing Instagram, Facebook and website platforms . To compliment BPerfects Megastores launch, Jac Jossa and other successful beauty influencers all promoted the store opening night on their very own personal Instagram page, to ultimately bring more people to the not to be missed event.

The BPerfect team knew the megastore would attract many fans as they are a well-established brand, celebrities were attending and of course it was the launch day of the Jac Jossa collection. CastleCourt offered free parking to everyone, and all the BPerfect team arrived in a party bus to create an air of excitement and you guessed it, it certainly attracted a massive crowd. During these unprecedented times, Brendan McDowell and his team knew they had to be responsible and obey the COVID guidelines ensuring the opening was carried out safely and did not breach public safety guidelines.

As a further measure, McDowell posted on his personal Instagram, the megastores Instagram and on the BPerfects Instagram explaining that he had consulted with both the Public Health Agency and CastleCourt to put safety measures in place such as following the one way system while entering the store, wearing a mask in-store, or they would provide one for you, providing hand sanitising stations and a security team to ensure social distancing.

With all safety measures in place, what could go wrong?

On the night of the store opening, as anticipated hundreds of fans gathered from all over Belfast. Queues of people lined up for the must have beauty products and to meet the celebrity influencers, Jac Jossa, and of course get the all-important selfie of themselves instore.

However, the next morning BPerfect were slammed as a “disgrace” by other beauty bloggers. IRadio presenter Louise Clarke tweeted “How is this acceptable? As if it was ever going to be a controlled environment. Shame on the influencers who attended and promoted the event and massive shame on BPerfect for holding it. What’s with certain ‘influencers’ thinking they’re above Covid guidelines?” Ultimately, something that was meant to be a great achievement in the history of the brand backfired and ended up being slammed in the media as a “Total Disgrace” and “A joke”.

How could BPerfect come back from something so brand damaging?

Once Brendan and the BPerfect team heard about the backlash they received, a spokesperson for the brand issued this statement to the media “Before, during and after the opening of our new BPerfect Megastore, we made numerous public pleas to anyone shopping with us on our opening night to ensure they adhered to all social distancing guidelines at all times. This included asking everyone to be personally responsible for social distancing in the outdoor queue, wearing a mask when indoors, sanitising their hands and following all instructions from security.” Brendan posted on his Instagram stating that he was extremely sorry for any offense caused and him and his team really tried to make the store launch as safe as possible for everyone involved. A spokesperson for CastleCourt shopping centre said: “We thoroughly examined BPerfects event management plans and were satisfied with the measures outlined and the focused approach taken to address public health guidelines and to promote safety advice at all times”.

The BPerfect brand had to apologise to their fans. You could argue that it is not their fault as fans chose to attend the event having received the appropriate advice and knowing the safety measures in place. On the other hand, you could argue that their timing was off. Should a successful brand like BPerfect with hundreds of thousands of followers launch their first store knowing it will attract a large crowd in the middle of a pandemic?

The BPerfect launch is the perfect example of how something so exciting and ground-breaking for a brand can very quickly be torn to shreds by the media in the space of 24 hours.  I feel this was a PR nightmare because it happened during a global pandemic when the emphasis is on personal safety and social distancing. The brand cannot undo the damage but can demonstrate how they have learnt from it. I personally feel that despite the publicity drive for this launch and  given the unprecedented times we are living in, they  could not possibly predict the outcome, that hundreds would attend or even be interested in all things beauty related when social events  everywhere have been cancelled. While I’m confident the brand will recover, there is no doubt that their next move will have to be an outstanding PR success.

Tara Hamill is a final year student at Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Linkedin: @TaraHamill and Instagram: @TaraHamill.

Fatima already is a highly skilled woman??? Dear Government, she doesn’t need to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot”

Fatima already is a highly skilled woman??? Dear Government, she doesn’t need to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot”
The government's attitude to Fatima and the arts will put them on the wrong  side of history – they just don't know it yet | The Independent

What even is normal anymore?

We all miss the normality of our pre-pandemic lives, things we never imagined not being able to do. Like going to a nightclub, letting your ‘hair down’ dancing the night away to your favourite songs with your friends. Going to events, saving money for ages so you can see your favourite artist at a festival or concert. Always having something to look forward to! Despite not being able to attend events, I think throughout lockdown I’ve watched my fair share of Netflix (or far too much) and turned to Spotify to keep me sane.  

Limelight Belfast - Live Music
LimeLight before COVID-19
How LimeLight operate now
Have your say on our creative industries! - Causeway Coast & Glens Borough  Council

“Without the arts, our lives are impoverished.” – Ian Rankin

ONS have recorded that “Since lockdown in March, 82% of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses reported closure or a pause in trading activities.” The creative industries have been massively affected by Coronavirus with little Government intervention and support. This is so frustrating to see as in 2018 these industries contributed £110 billion to the UK economy and employed 3.2 million people. When you think about all the different jobs involved in creative industries, it’s hard to picture how many people are affected! If The Government do not give the correct support, we could lose this amazing industry.

This represents 1/3 of how many people are affected in the industry

This community is known for their extreme skills, talents and creativity and pave the way for us to entertain and express ourselves. Due to a lack of support, various movements were created on social media for financial support. In particular, the hashtags #SaveTheArts and #SaveTheArtsUk have over 125,000 posts on Instagram.

So far… it’s not looking too good on The Governments behalf…

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The Lyric Theatre in Belfast supporting the campaign

The ‘Context’ of the campaign…

The resurfacing of a 2019 Government backed campaign by Cyber First has been greeted with widespread backlash on the Internet. Originally, it was released as a long-running campaign to promote cyber security jobs within young people. Although the campaign used a variety of images showing people from different career backgrounds, the slogan “Rethink. Reskill, Reboot” created implications with one particular image. This campaign was released in 2019 so continuing to run this campaign during the pandemic has been called extremely careless.

Following an interview with Rishi Sunak the campaign recirculated online. He stated that people who are unable to work should “adapt” their job prospects and be open to “new opportunities.” It’s believed that he aimed this speech towards people in the creative industries, which is extremely sensitive for those facing extreme financial difficulties. Sunak has ultimately denied this claim however, the creative communities are tired of being disrespected.

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The heart of the campaign backlash comes from one image in particular, ‘Fatima’ a ballet dancer. This image was taken out of context due to the existing problems faced by creative people, making this a PR disaster for The Government. Due to this being a long running campaign, it gives the impression that the Government have always dismissed the skills and hard work in this industry.

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DANCE FATIMA. DANCE!

This image has become extremely controversial on the Internet and is highly problematic for The Government’s image. It suggests that women who have worked tirelessly to become professional dancers should ‘by the click of a button’ switch to a career in Cyber. The Government should be supporting and encouraging these people instead of having the attitude that retraining is the only solution! On average, it takes at least 9 years to become a professional dancer. Therefore, The Government have been criticised for having no regard for their excessive hard work, determination and talent.

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‘Cyber First Campaign’ – 118,000,000 search results…

The ballet dancer image has been very popular throughout social media. #Fatima trended on twitter, with a variety of opinions, mockery and frustration by many users. Political figures have been mocked in a series of memes suggesting that they should also “retrain” like Fatima.

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One post by @penleeparktheatre has really stood out on Instagram. The theatre have shown how ironic it is that without the use of a creative team, the campaign would never exist. The backlash by social media users has shown that this campaign is completely “tone deaf”, tasteless and insulting.

Sean Coleman on Twitter: "#SaveTheArtsUK… "
The irony of it all…

In reaction to the campaign, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has distanced himself and his department from it, calling it “Crass”. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said the content of the campaign image was “not appropriate” and has now been removed. Although the campaign aimed to encourage “people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber-security.”

Oliver Dowden apologises for 'crass' ballerina retraining advert | Daily  Mail Online

Despite The Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund programme, so far it has been largely unallocated and will not be enough to save every job. However, the announcement of £257 million funding towards museums, theatres and cultural organisations is a step in the right direction. To date, there has been no support towards freelancers who are continuing to struggle every day and overall the creative community feel the campaign has proven that The Government don’t care about the them.

How can we help #SaveTheArts

Follow these campaigns:

We Make Events NI

Save the Arts UK

Sign petitions:

Funding for the UK arts sector and freelance creatives

Financial support for the events and hospitality sector

Support to the Arts (particularly Theatres and Music)

The Artwork Archive have a great article on how to support The Arts during COVID-19. Check it out!

These small acts can contribute towards helping the creative industries to stay on their feet until they can make a comeback.

Lauren Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: lauren_campbell656 and Linkedin: Lauren Campbell.

The impact of Covid-19 on hospitality, events and entertainment. Where does that leave us now?

The impact of Covid-19 on hospitality, events and entertainment. Where does that leave us now?

It’s no secret that Covid-19 had a massive impact on how businesses operate now, whether or not that’s adopting new business practices or cutting staff. It’s no secret either that some areas have been hit worse than others, especially if that area is the hospitality, events and entertainment industry.

Hospitality and Tourism

Sure many businesses adopted the eat out to help out scheme in August and, yes this did help for a while. It created more work not only in hospitality but also in marketing and PR roles and it was probably one of the most notable PR campaigns for many businesses across the UK after lockdown. But did it fix things? While on the surface it did boost economy and present a sense of normality, but was it enough to compensate for months of closure for many restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and pubs? The answer is No. The graph below from statista.com, shows the record for the monthly number of seats booked in restaurants across the UK. As you can see the number of booked seats raises and remains its highest in August, but then once the scheme is finished these figures dramatically drop again, as it stands the figures for September 2020 for the amount of people seated in restaurants is 9.34 percent lower than the last year’s figures.

As for flights and tourism this area is a complete no go, with the likes of Ryanair having to sell off runway space in order to cover costs. Across many of the world’s cities, personal planned travel went down by 80–90%. The figure below shows the drop in flights across the lockdown period. As you can see for yourself at one point flights in nearly every country across the world dropped to nearly zero percent a phenomenon that we thought we’d never see in the 21st century. It is statistics like this that make you question, how long will it actually take for the tourism industry to recover, and will some businesses every fully recover?

Pubs and Clubs

You’d expect after months of being stuck in the house the first place people would run is straight to the pub, well that was my thinking anyways. Incorrect! Government measures as we all know saw the closure of many pubs and clubs and while restaurants and hotels were allowed to open, for places that didn’t serve food this wasn’t the case.

Over the period for the month of March alone bar sales dropped by 60 percent. Yes, some pubs and clubs redesigned to suit the new measures that the government brought in but that also takes time and money to fit new infrastructure and not all were even ready in time for the August scheme, as well as this redesign just wasn’t feasible for every facility to do at all. It was estimated in May that when lockdown was lifted only 69% of late night venues would have actually been able to open. From what we know now, due to ever changing measures brought in by the government this number could have been lower.

On the topic of Pubs and Clubs, may different establishments have been quite pissed off recently at recent government guidelines and rightly so… Oh and they been quite vocal about it. Many different nightclubs in the Belfast area have been using their social media pages recently to cause quite the stir. Outraged at the fact that clubs and bars have to close at 11pm as well as the ban on live music a number of different nightclubs have took to social media to express their opinion. The venue known as Limelight went viral on Facebook and twitter gaining thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares, with students across the area sharing the page on their social media and hash-tagging Limelight in the picture. Limelight made a statement on Facebo stating “The effect that these curfews will have on jobs, morale and mental health is immeasurable and we call for the Executive to review them as a matter of urgency.” As well as this the nightclub went on to contradict the measures put in place by stating “we believe we can deliver (and have already delivered) Live Music events safely within government guidelines” They finished the post by calling for the Executive to engage in the events and entertainment sector before” imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry”. Many other nightclubs such as Filthy McNasty’s and Thompsons Garage have since followed the trend showing images of their empty venue after eleven o’clock.

We Make Events NI

We Make Events NI is a group made up of a range of professions that make up the live event industry, they have a substantial following on Facebook and among them are some of the people responsible for taking the empty nightclub photos we spoke about earlier.

They recently made headlines as they held a socially distanced demonstration in Custom House Square in Belfast. More than 500 live event workers attended to raise awareness about pressures on the industry. The protest was held in order to call on the government to provide more support for workers who have had little to no income for six months.

What Now? Where does this leave us?

Well what now? and why am I even bothering to write this today? Well like everything surrounding this pandemic everything I have just told you leaves us with a large amount of uncertainly, and not to depress but the idea of normality to me seems like a million miles away. In Northern Ireland around 7,500 jobs are at risk due to a ban on some live events in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The recent outrage by the late night venues has become a bit of a PR nightmare in my opinion for the NI executive, who at the moment don’t seem to be able to answer anyone’s questions. As someone who works in hospitality and events I can’t see a return of anything resembling a gala or black-tie dinner any time soon. The only thing to look towards is possibly the internet? It seems to becoming the answer to all our problems recently, as we have seen many award ceremonies and events such as the Emmy’s and the MTV music awards were broadcast virtually and there was no audience and very little people attending. Neil Dalzell the owner of ND Events recently stated that he has “delivered virtual events from a purpose-built studio for clients. The events have the same look and feel as they did pre-lockdown but the only difference being that the audience watches the speakers or presenters from home.” As well as this Anna Connor the  head of events at MCE Public Relations, has stated that they too will be looking into more virtual events in order to ensure that they go forward.

It difficult to know what the answer is to anything these days, whether or not if that involves longer opening hours or virtual events, although I’m not sure how much money I’d be willing to pay to virtually see any music performances when I have YouTube for free, but it guess only time will tell. My leaving piece of advice, after reading this maybe decide to tip your waitress an extra pound, or support your local hospitality sector a bit more where you can even if it’s just sharing a Facebook post, because from what I can see they need it!

Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin: Alicia Fox and Instagram: alicia_fox3

The Social dilemma – why am I scrolling more than I’m sleeping?

The Social dilemma – why am I scrolling more than I’m sleeping?

Scroll versus sleep? I recently watched The Social Dilemma and it left me feeling pretty hopeless. I thought I was pretty good at not being on my phone, putting it down at 11pm and trying not to lift it until 8am the next day. But the screen time reminder thinks otherwise. It likes to prod fun at me with jeering messages informing me my screen time is up 15% on the previous week for a grand total of 6 hr 17 mins a day. Six hours a day on my phone… how? Doing what? Achieving what? I claim that I don’t have time to read two books a week but I can do 6 hours A DAY of giving Zuckerberg more data to manipulate and sell. Scandalous. Six hours is the number of hours I sleep. More sleeping than scrolling is the healthier option here. So every week I look at my screen reports and vow that next week I will be better but better never seems to happen. Why?

Even while watching the documentary which informed us of the heinous nature of social media and the power our smartphones have over us, I still found myself reaching for my phone every time it buzzed and sometimes even when it didn’t. Our phones have become an extension of us, an additional limb; tethered to us at all times. You would be shocked if you looked at the amount of times you pick up your phone on a daily basis. Mine exceeds 200 nearly everyday. Can you imagine doing anything else 200 plus times a day that isn’t a natural bodily function like blinking or breathing? Our phones have become so intrinsically linked to our person that we pick them up subconsciously and unwittingly immerse ourselves in the online sphere rather than engaging in the physical world around us.

According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes,  whenever you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical called dopamine along a reward pathway resulting in a feel good feeling. Therefore it is no wonder our phones are such a distraction; they have become a quick and easy way to get a dopamine hit by simply getting attention from your network in the form of likes, comments, retweets, all with just a few taps of your thumb. The constant chasing of this validation is an addiction and neurologically damaging. The documentary indicated the soaring levels of anxiety and depression amongst young people brought on directly by social media overload.

We are thus left in this social dilemma – we know the constant scrolling and constant use of social media is damaging yet it also has a wide range of positive aspects. We know that it allows us to connect with friends/family on different continents, to engage with educational content, lending a platform to marginalized voices and boosting social justice movements to name a few. This is even more imperative in 2020. Perhaps The Social Dilemma needs to be taken with a pinch of salt? There aren’t three men in a room who are carefully planning and controlling every aspect of our feeds but there is a carefully curated algorithm tailored to us. It manipulates features to make our devices as addictive as possible to keep us tipping those scales towards more scroll and less sleep. Thus with this in mind – it is no negative feat to try reduce our screen time. Is it too late for us to change our habits? I don’t think so. You can take control. You can have your own algorithm in real life. Several small changes can lead to a bigger overall shift in our relationship with our phones. I have been setting screen lock to kick in at 10.30pm-8.30am, turning off notifications for apps, leaving it at home when I go on a walk and charging it in a different room are all small but significant ways I have started trying to reduce my screen time. It’s actually becoming easier as time goes on. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be reading rather than refreshing, talking more than texting and most importantly sleeping more than scrolling.

Lucy Mullan is an Msc in PR and Communications at Ulster University, working part-time at Keys Premium Finance. She can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-mullan-2b8309102/