Let anti-aging be Gin


Rhubarb, Raspberry, Elderflower, Orange, Ginger… These are just a few of the different types of gins available these days. The lists are ENDLESS, and in some bars it’s no longer just a list, it’s a mini book! Gin has really become the latest fad, it is no longer a question of can I have a gin and tonic, it is now all about, what type of gin and what is the best way to serve it? This, may I add, is a real nightmare for someone like myself who has just about managed to decide what type of drink to have, and now I am being asked to pick my specific gin. Each of these gins coming with its ‘best served’ option with a particular mixer and garnish. My current go-to is a Malfy (Italian gin) with a bitter lemonade, served with mint and lemon, but I change it about all the time, trying new ones recommended by the bartender. Before this I was on a Jawbox (Belfast gin) with Ginger ale and served with lime and honeycomb. If you haven’t tried any I would recommend both of these gins (shown below).


Just when I thought the types couldn’t possibly get any stranger I discovered a gin online the other day, which to some extent, I found quite humorous. An anti-aging gin… Yes, you heard it here! I am being 100% serious. This is a gin called ‘Age-agin’ which has a mix of anti-aging botanicals added to it, making it the world’s first anti-ageing gin. So, not only is there basically every flavour you could possibly imagine when it comes to gin, in every colour, from whatever origin you fancy… But we now have a gin targeting wrinkes! It’s branded by its creators as ‘the alcoholic equivalent of a facial.’ Who’s giving it a go?


I wanted to know exactly who came up with this, what made someone think, “Yes, gin and anti-aging.” The answer being another unexpected one, the Warner Leisure Hotel Group. So, now we have the combination of three potentially unrelated industries in devising this product; the skin care industry, the drinks industry and the hotel industry. It was created in response to a strategy to attract a younger clientele to the hotel. They carried out research that highlighted gin was consistently one of the most popular drinks for British adults 55+. Therefore, why not create a gin that has a two-in-one effect for an aging demographic? The head of marketing for the hotel group claim they have updated the classic gin and tonic to a ‘skin and tonic.’ The campaign itself was launched alongside the Queens 90th birthday, a pretty risky move with the competitive news stories about the queen hogging the news that day. For you non-PR people, basically all the news would have been focused on the queen and therefore would have been a challenge to get adequate coverage. But, this was not a problem as the campaign resulted in more than anticipated global coverage.

I personally think this is a brilliant campaign and an extremely clever response to the hotel’s aim. It may have been a risky enough approach to attracting a younger age for the hotel group but I think taking a brave entrepreneurial action such as this to really get yourself heard is important in today’s current business climate. In terms of the whole gin fad, I am guilty of getting caught up in it, paying sometimes as much as nearly fifteen pounds for this “perfect” gin with the three “perfectly” matching raspberries alongside it. But, it is delicious so can I really complain?


Niamh Webb is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @1234niamh, and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-webb-2b5260107/


3 of the most iconic PR stunts of all time

A few people realise that PR practitioners are the invisible puppet masters pulling the strings behind every element of media you see today.

Of course, you’ll not be able to recount the 1,000s of campaigns you’re exposed to each week, but there are campaigns that tend to leave a lasting impression on your memory, without even realising that they are the result of a carefully crafted engineered process by the PR practitioner.

In recent years the internet has transformed how we interpret and receive messages, this has in turn meant that PR stunts have become quite transparent. Seemingly the truly iconic PR stunts of all time took place 50+ years ago!

Let’s talk about this iconic image:

Marilyn Monroe "Seven Year Itch", 1955
Marilyn Monroe “Seven Year Itch”, 1955

To some it would seem Ms. Monroe was the victim of a poorly timed subway train causing her skirt to billow, giving photographers ammunition to capture the most iconic image ever.

At the time, Marilyn was attending a photo call to promote her movie ‘The Seven Year Itch’. Just as photographers began to assemble, a wind machine hidden under the steel grate was activated, the result of a carefully orchestrated stunt by the movie publicists who were responsible for not only an iconic image for the movie but it’s the image which people remember when they think of the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

Of course stunts don’t have to simply increase a celebrity profile, they are often done for the greater good.

During the 1920’s the intensity for equality for women after the war heightened, after all the notions of traditional gender roles was contradicted when women proved they could do the same work as men, and do it better.


The symbol of women’s liberation came from an unlikely source, cigarettes. At the time the social stigma attached to women smoking was rife. By no means was George Washington Hill concerned with the liberty of women’s rights, however he was hungry for success. He drafted in PR’s founding father, Edward Bernay, to help with his endeavour.

On March 31st, 1929, during the Easter parade, led by Bertha Hunt (Bernay’s secretary), who lit up a lucky strike cigarette on fifth avenue, other women soon followed. Combined with the papers reporting enthusiastically of the event, branding cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom,’ seen Bernay’s replaced the social stigma surrounding cigarettes and repositioned them to a symbol of freedom.

Moving on to more modern times, the Queensland Tourism campaign was dubbed one of the most successful tourism campaigns ever.  In 2009, the tourism board began their search for applicants to fill the ‘Best Job in the World’ role. The primary objectives for the campaign was to generate global awareness of the Great Barrier ReeAS3f in Queensland and to increase visitation to the Great Barrier Reef. With the intention to appeal to youthful travelers who wanted to seek a global travel experience.

Approximately there were 35,000 applicants spanning over 200 different countries who applied for the job with nearly AU$ 430 million public relations value generated.

An editor from the UK’s Sunday Times stated, “Not since Willy Wonka and the golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars, has something came along like this.”

The outcomes of the job advert seen global news coverage, listed 8th place on the world’s top 50 PR stunts of all time, a huge rise in visitors to Queensland and won huge awards. The successful applicant, Ben Southall from the UK was appointed caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef in 2009. During the role he was interviewed more than 450 times, visited 100 Queensland destinations and blogged throughout the entire trip, check it out by clicking the link below.


PR stunts are fantastic ways to get essentially ‘free’ media coverage for a brand. If a stunt is done well, the coverage is usually instant as these days people are always photographing and videoing, however, this is only on the basis that the stunt is interesting enough people feel it’s worth sharing. Carefully crafting a PR stunt and generating publicity for something which grabs the public’s attention is difficult, but the long lasting effect it has on a brand could be the key to the business’s life span and success.

Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a

Eat, Sleep, Rave, REPEAT!

If you’re a young, wild & free, hungry partier in search of paradise then look no further, Tomorrowland will have you sorted! If you’ve ever been to Tomorrowland you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say it’s ‘out of this world!’ However, with 200,000 tickets up for grabs, it can be a pretty scary place for a couple of girls. To make things even scarier, we didn’t know anyone who had been before so we were really ‘wingin’ it! Nevertheless, eager to go and failing to pull together a crowd, we thought ‘frig it’- two will do.

Deciding to go only weeks before the festival was due to take place obviously meant we couldn’t get tickets from the Tomorrowland website itself so we got them on Viagogo. Before purchasing we had read many bad reviews about Viagogo and so were a bit nervous that we were about to purchase fake tickets but we were willing to take the risk. Just short of £1,200 later, we were the proud owners of two Tomorrowland tickets. Real or fake? – We didn’t know. We booked the flights to Brussels and we were good-to-go!

With very little thought put into the trip, before we knew it, we were on our way! As we sipped on our ‘Sex on the Beach’ cocktails in the airport, we had no idea what was ahead of us. So here you have it, tip 1: leave all your worries behind, they don’t belong where you’re going.


It’s all fun and games until you find out your tent isn’t included so tip 2: find out if your camping equipment is included before you arrive, unless you want to buy an overpriced tent or run the risk of them being out of stalk. PS. ‘Full Madness Pass WITH Camping’ does not include camping equipment! I repeat, does not include camping equipment!

We arrived to the campsite, Dreamville, where we finally found out our tickets were legit, (much to our relief) got our passes and scanned through. It was like a direct pass to paradise. We made our way along the wooden boardwalk, amidst 40,000 people trying to get settled in, it was a bit overwhelming. Tip 3: get there early to allow enough time to get organised and prepare for the Gathering Party, it’s well worth it and gives you a taster of what Tomorrowland has in store.

Woken by the sound of music much too early when severely hungover, we got up and spent some time exploring Dreamville and all it’s magical creations. So tip 4: bring earplugs if you’re not a morning person. With tons to see and do we weren’t long passing a few hours. All kinds of entertainment was on offer including their own newspaper, radio station, supermarket, tattoo parlour, Mac makeup shop and a hairdressers. We honestly couldn’t get our heads around this place, surprisingly though, it took very little time to settle in and it soon felt like home.

As we made our way from Dreamville into Tomorrowland it became very clear that the incredible line up of EDM DJ’s wasn’t the only reason people travel from every country across the globe to unite together at Tomorrowland. With so much more to offer than the music and in many ways very over-the-top, it’s so incredibly unique. We wandered through what I can only describe as a ‘fantasy land,’ attempting to comprehend what exactly it was we were experiencing. Everything was so finely carved and crafted to suit the magical theme, with surprises around every corner, it was hard to take it all in. Tip 5: explore every inch.

We made our way to the main stage for the opening act, the immense crowd put us off going anywhere near the front of the stage so we opted for the hill at the back which gave the best view and room to dance – double win! The main acts that night were Tiësto, Axwell & Ingrosso and Steve Aoki. As floods of people gathered and the stage lit up, I’ll never be able to put what I was feeling and seeing into words. It’s true that the main stage gives the best atmosphere and it really is the life and soul of the party’ but, tip 6: make sure to visit all of the stages, there are 16 and they all have new experiences to offer with their own unique theme and vibe.

Tip 7, and one from your mum: stick together (and be good!) Festivals are so much fun but they can also be dangerous so it’s important to have a meeting point because with 200,000 people around it’s so easy to get separated. Managing to somehow lose my phone twice in three days meant we relied heavily on meeting points.


Unfortunately though, all good things come to an end with Tomorrowland being no exception. Monday comes around quick and before you know it, it’s time leave the fantasy land and all the people of Tomorrowland and head back to reality! People say there’s no place like home, but really, there’s no place like Tomorrowland! It exceeded all of my expectations and I will be back. Tip 8: book a day or two off work – you’re going to need it!

‘Live today, love tomorrow, unite forever’ – Tomorrowland.

Jessica Patterson is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @JessPatterson16 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-patterson-79a755113/

Nothing is perfect

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” ― Stephen Hawking

If I asked you to look at this photograph of my friends and I (I’m on the right) and tell me what you thought… what would you say? I look happy, right? Content, confident and carefree?


What if I told you that the same week that this photo was taken, I lied to my friends, telling them I couldn’t go out because I had family plans. Meanwhile, I lied to my parents, “I have a migraine. I can’t leave the house.” In reality, I just wanted to hide from the world under my duvet and watch yet another episode of How to Get Away with Murder.What if I told you that on the night of my 21st birthday celebrations pictured below I cried hysterically to my mum and dad before any guests arrived. I didn’t want anyone to see me and I certainly didn’t want to go into town for a night out. A tsunami of tears later, I began my usual routine; Slap on as much makeup as possible, take a few (who am I kidding…A LOT of) deep breaths and top it all off with one gigantic fake smile. I’m fine…



Very few people know that for almost six years I have struggled with acne.

“What! YOU? No way! Your skin is fine! It isn’t that bad!”

Maybe I did a great job of covering it up (THANK GOD for Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation) and maybe my clever charade of confidence fooled a lot of people. Sadly however, I have really really struggled…  A lot.

Like a lot.

For years I was treated with antibiotics, topical creams and the contraceptive pill. They would work initially, metamorphosing my never-ending sense of despair into short-term optimism. Gradually however, the effects of each medication would wear off and I would come crashing back to square one; hating my skin and resenting the way I looked.

In August 2016, mum collected me from placement in Dublin to drive me home for my friend’s 21st birthday party in Belfast. What should have been a pleasant two hour mother-daughter catch up developed into me weeping as I took my makeup off and revealed what was underneath. In the tiny sunshield car mirror, I stared at my angry, red, scarred, sore and UGLY face. I hated it. As always, Mum tried her best to calm me down. “You’re working too hard. You’re tired. You need to get out of the office and into fresh air. You’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Will we take you to get a facial?” She was frustrated. Seeing me so upset but knowing that there was nothing even a mother could do to help. It was out of her control and she despised the fact she couldn’t cure me herself.


August, 2016 – That car journey.

After years of endless doctors appointments and medication I was left feeling totally helpless. I had exhausted all treatment avenues and there was nothing more my GP could do.

There was only one solution. Roaccutane.

Roaccutane, or Isotretinoin is a last resort skincare medication used to treat moderate to severe acne and its use must be supervised by a dermatologist. The drug has a fairly negative reputation and has been linked to some nasty side effects such as extreme dryness of the skin, depression and severe birth defects in unborn babies. During treatment, regular hospital visits are required for blood tests to monitor liver function, pregnancy tests to fulfil my obligations to the pregnancy prevention program and close monitoring of my mental health. Anyone reading this who knows me understands that my biggest fear in the ENTIRE world is blood. Even typing the word makes me light-headed and a bit uneasy and the thought of regular blood tests almost put me off starting the medication entirely.

I was worried about the treatment but I was also desperate and as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

In a bid to prepare myself, I started carrying out my own research and came across the beauty vlogger, Katie Snooks. This brave young woman posted her entire ‘Roaccutane Daily Skin Vlog’ on Youtube and I watched every single video.


Katie Snooks, Roaccutane Month 1.

I found myself relating to the pain in her voice and the tears in her eyes when she explained how she didn’t feel confident or beautiful. As I watched her progress videos I was amazed at the difference the drug was making to her skin. It was visibly improving week by week but something else was becoming apparent. Her self-esteem and confidence were also transforming. It seemed as if she had been injected with a new lust for life… I wanted that feeling too.


Katie’s first and last days of treatment.

I’m pretty sure my confidence was at rock bottom. I have never felt so low and I was willing to try anything to pick myself back up again. I had to be pinned down by a few nurses and (poorly) distracted by my parents or friends to get through the dreaded ‘B tests’ (I invented this term to avoid uttering the ‘b word’), endured six months of a severe addiction to Carmex and six cringe worthy pregnancy tests in front of my mum.  But I did it.


Yay! The end of treatment in May, 2017.

In recent weeks, Queen of The Jungle and Made in Chelsea’s Georgia Toffollo has decided to publically document her Roaccutane journey. She bared all on ITV’s This Morning when she exposed her makeup-free and acne prone skin to roughly 600,000 viewers across the UK; a decision that I thought was very, very brave and one that inspired me to write this post.

Explaining why she wanted to speak out about this issue, she said: “I think for so long I’ve hidden. I think actually now I’m in the limelight, I don’t want everyone who follows me to think I’m perfect.”
“I am very jolly by nature, but I get very upset when my skin is bad, I dread leaving the house.”


Now… I am by no means a beauty blogger, influencer, role model or Queen of the Jungle, but I wanted to share my story. I want people to know that if you are struggling, there is help available and there are always solutions to your problems. Your world may appear to be falling apart at the seams at times but someone will always be there to pick you back up. You can and you will get through it.

During my treatment, I completed a year’s placement in FleishmanHillard, one of Ireland’s leading communication agencies, working on big brands such as Cadbury and Proctor and Gamble. Despite sometimes not feeling like the best version of myself I still managed to get out of bed every morning, travel 1 hour 30 minutes to work and give everything I had to a job that I loved.

I still struggle with my skin. I’m not 100% cured from acne and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be. I endured one of the hardest periods of my life, yet I still managed to challenge myself and achieve success.

My mum bought me a plaque that read;

You are braver than you believe,

Stonger than you seem,

And smarter than you think.”


She was right.



Me in August 2017 – Happier than ever.


Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/


F U T U R E (Scary 6 letters)

F U T U R E predicting one day to the next, which may or may not happen.


Where did you see yourself 10 years ago? Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? Something we don’t often stop and ask ourselves.

 ‘Dream big’ a phrase we are often told when we are young, inspiring to be a singer, air hostess, celebrity the list goes on. Looking back now, surely, I couldn’t be the only one that laughs so much?? An air hostess??? Me who only recently has half got the hang of flying.

Young, full of energy and not a single care in the world at a young age wondering where do we see ourselves in 10-15 years.

Choosing a career path?

Primary school (best years of your life, well best years of my life for sure). I think I potentially changed my mind on what my future career was going to be on a monthly if not daily basis???

I grew up as a pure tomboy in primary school, only for the fact I had long hair looking back at photos it’s the only thing that gave me that feminine side! Everybody has them cute as a button little primary school photos around their houses in frames full of pride and joy! Not me, definitely not. I think I have hidden the majority of my primary school pictures that well I couldn’t find them if I tried.

Never the less, my point is, going into secondary school and beginning first year was an amazing experience. At such a young age, everyone is thinking of their future. Going to careers classes, hearing that the people in your class want to be vets, doctors, nurses, accountants, mechanics, hairdressers, beauticians, zoologists (which I hadn’t even heard of) the endless list of potential jobs was amazing.  It is when I eventually began to realise, I have absolutely no idea what I want to be.


I loved animals and loved people (I still do!). I always thought of myself as a vet from a young age, (after my air hostess fascination), probably due to the fact of living on a farm, having a dog and pretty much being a cat lady minus the old age!

But the thought of 7 years at university was scary plus the fact my weakest subject in the world was Science plus the fact the closest university to study veterinary was Dublin and I was the world’s worst person with euros (still no better). The thought of an animal dying was emotional never mind witnessing it. That went out the window slowly but surely. (So much respect for vets, they really are stars).

Then come along 3rd and 4th year, I had my life planned out, nursing was the way to go. I was going to be a great little nurse and care for the elderly. Little did I know shortly down the line, I really do hate the sight of blood, and especially needles, they both make me uneasy. Around came work experience, inspiring to be a nurse, I went to an elderly care home to see if I liked the thought of nursing as my future career. An eye opener to say the least, nursing wasn’t for me. I have so much respect for nurses, the long hours, the long days, on your feet 24-7 caring for patients, they are an absolute inspiration.

Never the less, nursing wasn’t for me, I concluded that on day 2 of placement and didn’t return.

Really in a tizzy, what career path was I going to follow and actually like??


The light-bulb switched in my head one night, after researching many courses which I found interesting, I thought, would I like the PR industry? I decided to go on work experience alongside already having completed a work experience, I went to the Ulster Herald in Omagh which is my local weekly newspaper. That’s when it clicked, bingo, I really could see myself in this industry.

To cut a long story short for I really could talk for days, my future goals and inspirations had changed dramatically over many years. I felt I had found the path I wanted to go down. After researching many courses at universities, I loved the idea of studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing BSc (Hons) at Jordanstown. The industry is massive and being able to go into either of these sectors would be amazing. With high grade boundaries to this course, it seemed so unrealistic to get into, therefore I had many many backups, which are basically the same course as both courses share many modules.

Meetings with teachers began at secondary school which consisted of advice and guidance on courses etc. I was told that my course was ‘unrealistic’ for me to achieve the grade boundaries, not to get my hopes up and look at alternatives or something similar. Any human who hears them words are cross, your heart drops. But, instead I took a completely different approach. From that meeting, I began to keep my head in the books and work hard on my coursework to ensure that I would get the grades to prove them wrong. I was determined.

  • UCAS BH42  for pending offer
  • Grades BH42

I received confirmation, I had successfully got into my first choice. I was stunned! Plus the face on your principle when he hands your results with a cheesy grin really is amazing and unforgettable! Realising how much they have did for us in 7 years, all in the space of seconds.

Next steps;

  • Begin the life of a student studying CAM BH42
  • Live the life of a lord in first year BH42
  • Shop to you drop and moan about not having a loan left BH42

Final steps;

  • Crap myself when I hear the word dissertation BH42

Four years down the line from applying to UCAS (feels like 10 years ago, ageing by the day, over dramatic as always) I am over the moon to say I am now nearing the end of my final year studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing. I really, without a doubt recommend my course.

Not in a million years did I picture myself where I am today. I’m speechless and so happy, so much changes in 4 years and I really and truly am blessed to gain so many great friends for life!

I was never an intelligent person at school, nor am I today! Something that seemed so distant at the beginning, I now have at arm’s reach.

So, my advice is dream big for the future, and if you think you’re dreaming big, dream bigger!!!!


Let your dreams stay big and your worries stay small


(I say this so much, I probably say it in my sleep)

Exams approaching, dissertation nearing its due date, graduation creeping around the corner, all so exciting and nerve wrecking. But where does the f u t u r e hold for little old me now? Stay tuned!!

Create your future YOU want, not anybody else’s and let the past fizzle away.

Breige Hollywood is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/breige-hollywood-a7b035116/and Twitter @ HollywoodBreige

Pros and cons of smartphones and how our generation use them:

Today’s society is hugely influenced by the use of smartphones. This is from everyday life, with how we interact with friends and family on a personal level, to how businesses and politicians send out messages and updates to their customers and followers through social media posts. This is clear today with US President Donal Trumps twitter posts often being a hot topic of conversation amongst many.


There are without doubts many positives through the use of smartphones. These are clear to see as everywhere you look there is always a number of people engulfed in their phones, and it’s not just the younger generation, it is now throughout all age groups, from younger siblings to parents and now even grandparents. I am going to take a look at the pros and cons, in relation to how my age group use smartphones.

First of all, the pros of smartphones, which you could argue is a never ending list of positives:

· The ability to connect with friends from all over the world. Whether it is a cousin in Australia or a friend in America, we can be face to face with them any time through the use of Facetime. We always stay in communication with these people through Facebook and Snapchat, making it a lot easier to keep relationships strong even though we may be thousands of miles apart.

· The use of a smart phone is something a lot of people could not do without. Friendship groups in today’s society resolve around a Whatsapp group. Everyday plans are made in these groups, and it is definitely the easiest way to stay in touch. All football teams or class group projects will often have a whatsapp group to send messages and updates.

· Another pro would be how you can keep all of your friends up to date on what you are doing with your life. Although some of your facebook friends mightn’t care if you climbed Slieve Donard at the weekend, it is still nice to be able to post this.

· The convenience would be a massive pro for me with a smartphone. Emails, online banking, google maps etc are just an example of some of the apps which make our lives a lot more simple. There is no need for sat navs or trips to the bank as all can be done through our smart phones.

There are without doubt many more pros, but I don’t want to turn this in to an essay.

Now for the cons:

I feel there are many cons within our age group from 16-35 of smartphones.

· They are incredibly addictive. Personally I am as bad as anyone. Throughout this post I have constantly been on my phone, on WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook just refreshing pages and reading posts which have no impact on my life. Also, this highlights how much of a distraction they are. Everything you do is interrupted by a notification on your phone. It is very hard to go a few hours without checking your phone.

· You hear people say phones have “ruined the art of conversation”. This amongst friendship groups my age is true. There could be 7 of us in a bar drinking pints, and at all times there are probably 4/5 people on their phones. Everything is put on Snapchat or Facebook and at times it becomes sickening. You could be going through Snapchat stories and see more or less the same thing on 4 different stories of the same 5 people.

· Another con would be that people can portray themselves as something they are not. We all have friends on Facebook or Instagram and they have a totally different way of going on online. So in a sense they’re people who can hide behind a smartphone and be seen as someone they are not. These apps can be seen as a way of convincing people your life is brilliant, and constantly look happy in all your posts and can disguise true emotions very well.

To listen to my list of cons you would swear I don’t do these things mentioned above, although I wouldn’t be as extreme as some people I still do this to an extent. To say I could do without a smart phone would be a lie. I am as reliant on it as the majority. But at times I can’t help but think it would be great if no one had them.CL1


Colum Loughran is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @ColumLoughran

Let it snow.



When I was seventeen, I spent a week in Geneva.

It’s a beautiful city. I met nice people, I tried fondue for the first time and for the first time in my life I saw snow. I’m from Northern Ireland, we are a mild, wet little corner of Europe and some years in the winter we get snow. But Geneva was the first time I saw snow.

I’m talking about snow that comes up past a grown man’s knees the kind that a city does not simply weather for a few days but that they actively plan for, in the sure and certain knowledge that if they don’t, it’ll grind the city to a halt. What surprised me most was how completely unaffected the city was by a heavy snowfall, they were ready.

Geneva came into my head because of Toby Young. As far as I’m aware, Young isn’t Swiss but then I don’t know very much about him. I read how to lose friends and alienate people a couple of years ago (mostly just to see if there was a theoretical basis for what I was already clearly very good at) but I don’t have particularly strong views on him one way or the other.

Toby Young got me thinking about Geneva because he was, at the start of the year, at the centre of a ‘Twitterstorm’.

You’ve seen a Twitterstorm, there’s one almost every day. In fact the only thing that was remarkable about #Younggate was how unremarkable it was. You can google for the details but to summarise;

  • Toby Young was appointed to the Office for Students (OfS) which is a group the government set up to regulate the higher education market
  • Tweets surfaced of Mr Young saying some regrettable things
  • The proverbial hit the fan
  • The government doubled down and supported Young
  • Eventually Young decided to resign his post after the pressure wouldn’t let up

OfS is invested with a range of powers and responsibilities. One of its most eye catching powers is the power to fine universities that ‘no-platform’ certain speakers  a fairly blunt instrument approach to dealing with a problem that some people think exists.

The “Snowflake” problem.

The term is bandied about these days, primarily by middle aged white men, to decry the stereotypical student or “young people today” as soft and easily offended, too pampered and protected to ever listen to ideas they don’t like.

‘Snowflake’ is a stupid term for two reasons. One, it’s a bit like Justin Bieber jokes, funny at the start but now just lazy. Ironically, considering how it’s used, it’s actually a phrase designed to shut down debate i.e. “I don’t have to listen to you, because you’re a snowflake”.

Secondly it’s being used wrong. I know, there’s a lot of people who want to paint students and young people generally as unwilling and unable to listen to ideas they don’t like. Much has been made of Universities and student group’s no-platforming certain speakers. Milo Yiannopoulos and Germaine Greer are two very different people but both have been refused platforms by different University groups who consider their views offensive. No-platforming is criticised as being anti free speech and cowardly. The argument is that students should be opened up to ideas they might not like in order to challenge them and that all speakers should therefore be entitled to platforms at all University’s.

Have you been on the internet recently? This isn’t the 19th Century, the great debates of our day aren’t taking place in draughty lecture theatres anymore, they rage day and daily online. There are literally thousands of platforms for people to promote any ideas they have. Hard right news organisations like Breitbart are mainstream now. Even if you buy into the echo chamber idea and believe that everyone online is only listening to people they agree with, late last year actual Nazi’s marched through Charlottesville in the USA chanting “Blood and Soil!”. The actual Nazi’s are back in the mainstream news and the real world.

The “snowflake” generation aren’t avoiding hearing ideas they don’t like, if anything they’re inundated with them. Never in the history of humanity have so many people had so much access to so much information. It’s not that “Snowflakes” are incapable of hearing ideas they don’t like, it’s that they hear them and think “Enough”.

This isn’t a sign of weakness it’s a sign of strength.  People are realising that they don’t have to listen to stuff they find offensive silently and that social media provides not only a platform to make their voices heard but also a tool to organise, to amplify those voices.

People might be acting like “Snowflakes”, but only in the sense that they are realising their collective strength. Alone, a snowflake melts easily, but as part of a multitude, they can shut down cities.

So what’s this got to do with a blog that’s supposed to focus on PR and Communications? Well, these “Snowflakes” have the ability to drive news agendas and shape public policy without ever looking up from their phone. The Young example from the start of the year is just one example of how people who were dismissed as “Snowflakes” for finding Toby Young’s old tweets offensive used a social media app to dominate the news cycle and drive a change in the real world.

The genie is out of the bottle now the “Snowflake generation” have seen what happens when they flex their collective muscles and to dismiss them as “weak” or “afraid” is to fundamentally misunderstand them and more dangerously underestimate them. Instead, the lesson for organisations is to be like Geneva. Twitterstorms exist and sometimes they’re going to hit you, the only thing you can do is prepare for them.


Jason Ashford is currently studying an MSc in Public Relations and Communications with political lobbying at the University of Ulster. He can be found on Twitter @jasonashford89