Does Good PR Mean being Bad?

Does Good PR Mean being Bad?

One explanation to why transparency in PR is taking the business’ middle stage is a direct result of web-based media. It’s simpler now for clients to consider brands responsible for their activities. Regardless of whether it’s an awful survey on a blog, or an appeal circling Facebook, people in general are progressively vital in shaping an opinion or reputation of a business or anything. Subsequently, organisations are clamouring to give their clients a greater amount of an understanding into their cycles and to assist them with remaining educated. However, I’m sure all will agree that this method is truly the most dignified and morally correct, however, there are many depending factors that can shape a companies reputation. These are the more dishonest factors. I am stuck personally between what is morally correct and as a public relations official I would like to think that by being honest and dignified would make me a great at pr. In contrast to that though, I see why some would think as a Public Relations official, they should do anything as long as its legal, to protect that company or save their reputation. Surely that would count as doing great PR?

Another explanation is that an apparent absence of honesty ponders gravely an individual or association, whether or not or not they have something to ‘cover up’. Take David Cameron’s past contribution in the Panama Papers embarrassment. At the point when inquired as to whether the Prime Minister was holding cash seaward, a representative for Downing Street answered with, “It’s a private issue”, which, obviously, lead to far and wide doubt about the PM’s monetary dealings. Cameron later uncovered insights concerning his own funds, yet it’s protected to state that Downing Street’s press office might have spared themselves a terrible part of issue had they been straightforward and delivered the PM’s expense records sooner, as opposed to keeping away from the inquiry. So, what could the Prime Ministers PR team done better?  The fact that they states something so inaccurate and dilly dallied around the subject, just led to more of an uproar as it in a way, confirms to the public, in THEIR eyes that he is guilty of the story’s accusation. If the PR team had chosen to be honest, there would have been a commotion so maybe it does mean that not being completely transparent all the time is a good thing.

A Good example of transparency in PR…

An extraordinary case of this was Mars’ declaration in April that suggested its Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s sauces should just be eaten ‘at times’ because of their high salt, sugar, and fat substance. Heaps of individuals addressed whether such a declaration was ‘brand self destruction’, and would welcome on a decrease in deals, however numerous PR experts extolled the move, saying that it was established in social duty and authentic promise to the client

.At the hour of the declaration, PR Week addressed PR experts for their conclusions. Rickki Weir, head of customer brand at PR consultancy Cirkle, stated,

 “It’s an innovative nod to the educational role that many manufactures will continue to take. It informs consumers and leaves them with the choice of how often they consume the product.”

Eventually, the reaction to the news was generally sure, with loads of experts remarking on how it considered Mars and their obligation to their clients over deals. Fiona Dawson, Mars’ worldwide leader of food, drinks, and multisales, fortified the part of trandparency in building associations with people in general, expressing that the move was tied in with conveying what clients need, 

“Customer have been getting progressively confounded about what is solid and what isn’t sound. We have to step in and guarantee that we convey the straightforwardness they state that they are searching for.”

In any case, how honest is honest PR, truly? What’s more, where do you take a stand?

…And a not so good example. Or is it?

A wile ago, a photo and video of Megan Trainor cam into question, pop star Meghan Trainor brought her most recent music video down from YouTube, asserting that her midsection had been Photoshopped. Subsequently, Trainor was commended for her genuineness and demonstrating regard for her relationship with fans. It was additionally gotten by bunches of major news sources, making it a decent piece of exposure for the pop artist. 

In any case, after it was later uncovered that Trainor did in fact endorse the video before its delivery, a few people addressed how she might have missed her clearly intensely photoshopped midsection, proposing the arrangement was to pull the video from the start. As stated, the story was covered broadly, and it helpfully fitted in with Meghan Trainor’s picture as the banner young lady for body inspiration … maybe excessively advantageously. So was this an astute PR stunt which played on the public’s requirement for straightforwardness? It’s difficult to tell, however it unquestionably concretes that straightforward PR (or what resembles straightforwardness in PR) is acceptable PR in the public’s eyes.

Summed up, like, a just don’t know what to believe. To me there is two sides that just cannot get to the bottom of. 

Anyway, you may not of gotten any clarity from this blog post, but I hope that you enjoyed it and thank you for reading.

Caoimhe Cullinan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social media can be an excellent tool for outlining what your business stands for, what your over arching values are. It helps identify quickly the ideal client base to start building relationships with. Social media for business is a sustainable way to reach the right demographics, audience and keep in touch with them while increasing brand visibility.

Social Media Marketing is multi-faceted and encompasses many different forms across the relevant platforms, there is something to suit any kind of business. Whether that is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook – all can be essential, when utilised correctly, in building long term brand relationships and reaching key clients. Having someone within your company’s marketing team that understands these platforms is crucial in ensuring that this is well executed.

There is a lot of talk on social media about algorithms and how they affect reach on social media platforms. Most notably Instagram, the platform that changed its chronological algorithm back in 2016 to a more calculated and engagement driven algorithmic feed – like Facebook’s. This was met with an uproar from those who businesses relied on their Instagram posts being received by their followers. The new algorithm meant a serious drop in engagement and at times less than 7% of followers seeing posts from Instagram accounts. For e-commerce businesses and influencers alike, whose income and business model depended heavily in engagement and reach this was a very negative change on the part of Instagram. Ever since this the topic of the algorithm has been one of serious contention.

The rise of social media for business and many people running successful businesses as a result of a well engaged audience and large following has meant the subject of the algorithm is always relevant. Even the biggest of influencers and e-commerce accounts can be found mentioning the algorithm and how it has effected their specific reason for using Instagram. The contention comes with the argument that users are complaining about the technical side of the app and not looking upon what they could be doing wrong.

A quick google search will bring up a plethora of articles that discuss what the current algorithm means and how to utilise it for best engagement. Top tips on why it is perhaps the user’s fault that their engagement is lower and how they can improve their content to tackle this decline. Tip such as, increase photo quality, consistency in posting, engaging with every comment on your posts and making use of al the functions that the app offers. The theory is that Instagram favours those that use the app as a community style hub. Those that go live, use the direct messaging service and engage with relevant content within their niche.

Finding your Instagram niche seems to be a key way of conquering issues with the algorithm, there are excellent examples of account users going ‘viral’ as such due to those in their niche. A recent example here in Northern Ireland is an Instagram account Smyth Sisters, run by local influencer Marianne Smyth. In an attempt to get the much coveted 10K followers, that offers the swipe up link to accounts, she had her account shared by some larger accounts within her niche. Her niche being minimalist fashion and styling high-street clothes. Due to her account connecting with the algorithm at the right time and style her account was reached by many large accounts that then went on to share her also. Within 6 weeks her account reached 150K an increase of over 144K followers, subsequently jumping further to 282K in under 10 months. 

This is a very specific and rare example but nonetheless a true showcase of how the new algorithm when championed can be exceptionally effective. So maybe the answer on how to champion the issue of algorithm is simply be your best digital self?

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

“Bob Geldof’s Progressive PR Skills Were Alive With The Sound Of Live Aid”

“Bob Geldof’s Progressive PR Skills Were Alive With The Sound Of Live Aid”

In 1984, after watching a ten-minute BBC news report about a horrific famine in war-torn Ethiopia, the Irish rock musician Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof decided that he just had to travel there; and what he witnessed changed his life.

It’s hard to imagine now, but the civil war in Ethiopia was the longest-running war of the 20th century, and not only had fighting displaced millions of people from their homes, it also left 30 million people directly affected by famine. At this stage, the famine had killed hundreds of thousands of people, and it was expected to kill millions more.

Bob once said in an interview “There was a town in northern Ethiopia, where literally hundreds of thousands of people just sat down to die. It still resonates with me, and I sat there, very disturbed, and my wife had tears in her eyes. We just had had a little girl, and I was outraged by what I saw.  I thought it’s not enough to put a pound in the charity box. This requires something of the self.”

To help the starving in Africa, Geldof decided to assemble a group of pop and rock stars to record a Christmas single written by himself and Ultravox singer Midge Ure, which was released on 3rd December 1984. It was the best-selling single in Britain to that date and raised more than $10 million.

Live Aid Concert Stage (Photo by Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The crisis continued in Ethiopia, and with neighbouring Sudan also stricken with famine, Bob wanted to raise more money and increase awareness for the situation, so he suggested creating a super concert. In just ten weeks, Live Aid was staged, and the line-up featured more than 75 acts.

Almost everyone in the eighties who witnessed the event, which took place simultaneously at in London and Philadelphia, no doubt understands just how impressive and momentous the double event was. Let’s drill down on some details here.

The “superconcert” lasted for a total of 16 hours, was globally linked by satellite to 95% of the televisions on earth, to 1.2 billion viewers in 110 nations. And during the broadcast, over 40 of those nations held live telethons to raise more money. This was the most ambitious rock concert of its time. The Guardian, has even labelled Live Aid as being “the prototype for a new style of celebrity activism – from Richard Gere campaigning for Tibet to the benefit concerts for the Asian tsunami.”

Impressive, right? So how did he manage to do this?

Progressive PR

Bob Geldof engaged his attention and energy on the publics he knew he would need to affect change i.e., government agencies, private philanthropists, the performers that participated to both the single and the concert, and the general public.

(Photo by Staff/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Famous people have a long history of political involvement (even The Rock couldn’t stop himself) and using music culture and media together to promote social awareness is not a new concept either. Bob Geldof used the power of music to engage his audience and managed to convince millions of individuals across the globe to care about people living an existence so far removed from their own norms, values and beliefs.

The famine had already been picked up by the mainstream media for a few years before Bob created Live Aid, so there was a lot of footage in existence, and this enabled Bob to use these videos to influence high-profile entertainers to commit to a project of this type. From this, many of the ‘high-profile famous publics’ travelled to the affected areas to record a series of videos which provided the visual evidence and encouraged the millions of viewers to donate.  Geldof, according to PR Distribution, in many ways, “wrote the manual on PR for progressive projects”. He even managed to get Phil Collins to play one set in London before jetting on a Concorde over to New York to play his solo set.

Nowadays, using ‘intense’ imagery has become synonymous with internet and television charity appeals, however in 1985, it was an innovative decision. During the concert, after David Bowie’s set, a short video was played on the large screen, which highlighted the horrendous conditions the people of Africa were living in. The pictures of the starving children shocked both the crowds at the live gigs, and the rest of the world. As soon as the film ended, the donations came in at over £20k every 60 seconds. Nothing like this had ever been witnessed before and this response from the public ensured the image formula would be used many times over. 

Poignantly, Bob Geldof believes something like Live Aid could never happen now. In a recent interview for CBC he suggests that music is no longer the central spine of our culture, as it was then, so using music as the instrument of change is no longer conceivable. 

He says “The web has broken down the world into individualism and that’s easy for authoritarians to use. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be Greta Thunberg and stand in front of your school silently and just say no. That’s still there. The possibility to steer your world in the direction you need to live in, that’s there, but it ain’t this cyber wanking into the digital void.”

He continues “We’ve reduced ourselves. The 21st century is reductionist and it’s using the great tool of reductionism, the Internet, and we need to know how to use this thing, which is the most powerful tool ever invented.”

Geldof may or may not have known then that he was a trailblazer for progressive PR, but one thing is for sure, he is a genuinely compassionate human.

In a recent interview he said, “to die of want in a world of surplus is not only intellectually absurd but is economically illiterate and, of course, morally repulsive.”

And whether you like him or loathe him, it is hard to argue with that.

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

Harry Styles – Watermelon, Sugar, Hello…

Harry Styles – Watermelon, Sugar, Hello…

The journey from going in One Direction to leading his own.

Originally auditioning as a solo artist on X-Factor, 2010, Simon Cowell created the boyband One Direction and Harry Styles became one fifth of it. During their reign, they broke multiple billboard records, some previously held by the Beatles, and soared in international fame.  That was up until 2016 when they eventually drew to a hiatus.

We have seen that old cliché happen time and time again – A band becomes famous, some members think they can do it alone, some members hearts are no longer in it, they split, and we see who champions as an individual solo artist – Beyoncé, Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake come to mind.

Even at that, success as an individual celebrity does not necessarily mean achieving success as a solo musician. Take for example Victoria Beckham, she has cultivated a luxury fashion line in her name and has recently signed a, “£16 million Netflix series, offering exclusive insight into their lives.” (Coke 2020).  Mel B also remains as a regular TV personality and the other three former spice girls? ‘Goodbye my friend’…

Thus, for those who survive the split, it is not merely the result of divination or pure talent, but rather a calculated effort to craft an individual image for the former band member. This image is crafted through a series of P.R. stunts and rebirth of Harry Styles has been no exception.

Striking while the iron is still hot, Styles launched a debut album in 2017, followed by an international tour that embedded the slogan, “Treat people with kindness.” In support of this message he donated, “$1.2 million of the profits to 62 charities, which included Time’s Up, Help Refugees and the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.” (Bugler 2020). He is a humble personality and that is reflected in his good doings.

Another notable moment of his P.R. journey aligns with the designer Gucci and their 2019 campaign that embraced elements of the indie/hippie culture with odes to fluid sexuality and youth. This video visualises his transition from a teenage pop icon to a reborn man, carving out his own identity.

Am I personally biased toward the teenage crush that I haven’t outgrown? Absolutely, (maybe a little bit), not. Although I can appreciate the effort that has went into evolving his P.R. image, he has managed to stay relevant and grown alongside the milestones of his fanbase, e.g.) the journey through sexuality and figuring oneself out.

He has challenged traditional gender norms through numerous P.R. fashion statements, e.g.) The 2019 Met Gala:

And his recent cover on Vogue embodied further elements of femininity:

I think it would be insular to consider these P.R. activities as simple tactics to gain more attention, he reinforces this notion in a 2019 interview with Lamont, stating,

“I think it’s a very free, and freeing, time. I think people are asking, ‘Why not?’ a lot more. Which excites me. It’s not just clothes where lines have been blurred, it’s going across so many things. I think you can relate it to music, and how genres are blurring…”

Sexuality, too, I say.

“Yep,” says Styles. “Yep.”

Styles nods. “Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No.”

It is a very liberating time for Harry Styles, and he aligns with current cultural trends towards liberation and individualism. His fashion cover with Vogue however, was criticized by US political figure Candice Owens as “bring back manly men.” And in retaliation, he sarcastically reposted the slogan in an Instagram post,

Although he handled the attack on his masculinity with great composure, this notion of famous solo artists challenging gender fashion norms isn’t something new. The former example of Harry Styles’ Instagram post is eerily reminiscent of this David Bowies image,

Many celebrities have used fashion to craft their unique identity and it offers many complementary P.R. activities. Harry Styles has gained much publicity regarding his image and he has stayed relevant in recent news by featuring on GQ’s Best-Dressed Men Of The Year list in 2020.  

As well as being chart topping musician and influential fashion icon, Styles has also managed to gain regular appearances on talk shows, Saturday Night Live, The Graham Norton and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Oh, and don’t forget that acting role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Harry Styles has managed to gain some sort of monopoly in each of these sectors and his legitimacy as an individual, separate from his boyband image, has been achieved.

This transition is difficult to achieve and a wholistic P.R. strategy that incorporates a range of industries for support is needed.  Lee 2020, States, “The transition from boy band member to adult man solo artist is not an easy one. The scramble to assert oneself as a legitimate, relevant musician can be full of pressure, and not everyone walks away with equal amounts of fame and success.” This is evident in her article, “2 Winners and 3 Losers from One Direction’s Solo Albums.”

Harry Styles has arguably risen as the most successful artist following the split and I believe this to be the result of talent, complemented with a selective P.R. strategy that has allowed him, “the rare ability to disappear for months, but, when he returns, it is with just as much momentum as when he left.” Bugler (2020).

Sara Lynch is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University – interning with Ulster University’s Access, Digital and Distributed Learning department. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Placement, 3000 Miles Away

Placement, 3000 Miles Away

Was it one of the hardest things I’ve done in my 21 years? Absolutely.

Would I do it again? … In a heartbeat.

I won’t sugar coat it, it wasn’t easy. Placement is a daunting experience as it is, it’s a tough market. The competiveness in the search for the perfect placement, the preparation for interviews, the interviews, the rejection emails. It’s all a part of the process but it’s a process worth sticking at!

Now, you’ve got the idea of the placement process, and how it works. Now throw in a placement that was 3000 miles away from home into the mix, oh and a global pandemic thrown in for good measure!

I undertook a placement as a Marketing Intern, in Boston, Massachusetts. I moved away from home in July 2019, off I went on my own accord, and to say it was a rollercoaster of emotions is definitely an understatement! There was more tears shed than I care to admit, but the opportunities and memories created within my time in Boston was nothing short of amazing, something I am extremely grateful for.

Moving away from home is never an easy experience, (unless you’re heading up to the Holy lands on a Sunday evening, returning on Thursday evening with your washing in tow obviously) but it’s an experience that is worth experiencing at least once.

Here’s a few tips I have for anyone considering heading abroad for their placement!

Research, Research, Research // I know, I know … you’re sick to the back teeth hearing these words, your lecturers are harping on to you about the importance of researching placements but trust me on this one! Learn from my mistakes. Look closely into the placement, where it is based, what work is involved in my job role and what will be commute look like? My commute was a 30 minute train followed by a 30 minute walk. I know what you’re thinking, great way of getting my 10K steps in daily but 10K steps was the last thing on my mind when it was -15 degrees at 6.30am when I was trying to get to the office for that 7.00am company meeting, there was icicles forming on the tip of my nose! (American winters are as horrendous as they are in the films!)

Get Involved, Ask Questions, Listen to Feedback // You’ve only a year in your placement. Get the most as you possibly can out of it. Get involved, ask the questions and take your feedback as a value instrument into your learning! This year will teach you more than you ever imagined, you’ll learn more about yourself as well as giving you an insight into your future career. If you placement isn’t what you imagined it to be, that’s ok! Aren’t you glad you realised that now instead of years down the line after you’re graduated, wondering where it went wrong?

Give yourself time to settle! // You’ve just moved to a different country, you’re going to be the newbie for a while! If you’re like me and from the countryside, AKA the middle of nowhere … it’s going to take you a while to get used to the city lifestyle. You will need time to adjust and acclimatise yourself to your new living and working environment but trust me, once you settle you will reap the benefits! Just relax, don’t sweat the small things, the friendships will come. There are different groups on Facebook that is definitely worth joining to find out more about the likes of joining GAA teams, finding out about social happenings in the Irish community, priorities! The GAA is always a great way of making new friends, it gives you that sense of community no matter how far away from home you may be!

Enjoy It, Grab Every Opportunity That Comes Your Way // For it could be over before you know it, trust me on that one … Thanks COVID-19! My placement was cut short by a few months due to having to return home because of COVID-19. Life is unexpected and can hold many twists and turns that we cannot plan for, so whether it be a work opportunity or a social opportunity, grab, take it and enjoy it!

So, there you have it – a few bits of advice I would give to anyone thinking about heading away on placement. It was an experience that I won’t forget, having taught me invaluable life lessons along the way. I’ll leave you with this quote which stuck to me when I was contemplating whether I should go or stay.

‘If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives’

Alanna Slane is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

The Rise of TikTok – Influencer Marketing

TikTok calls itself ‘the destination for short-form mobile videos’ – essentially a 2020 ‘Vine’ (in fact, many of TikTok’s biggest creators started on Vine like David Dobrik). TikToks range from five to sixty seconds and trends can be based on just about anything.

The beauty of TikTok is the ability to go viral at anytime. TikToks algorithm is the key to the app’s success, giving every TikTok user a curated ‘For You Page’ (FYP) with content directly tailored to them based on interactions. Users can still follow creators; however the ‘For You Page’ is definitely where users spend their time scrolling.

What is Tiktok?

There is no one way of using TikTok. From dance trends to clothing hauls to lip syncing, the content on TikTok is endless. I would compare it to YouTube, but more convenient and far more addictive.

Videos can be uploaded or created in-app with effects, filters, audio clips and plenty of other fun tools. Aside from videos, live streams are increasingly popular for TikTok creators… and plenty of money can be earned from them.

Trends are the heart of TikTok and creators have literally earned a living off viral trends. Trends typically involve a hashtag or a viral audio clip and that is just about it. Users jump on trends to try and go viral, it is just that simple.

TikTok Marketing

With over 800 million active TikTok users, the platform has quickly become the most popular social media app making it a highly valuable marketing tool for brands.

There are a range of marketing methods on TikTok.

  • In-feed Ads
  • TopView
  • Brand Takeover
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge

Given how much of an impact TikTok has had on music streams, it is no surprise musicians have used TikTok to market their new releases. Creators often get paid just to use a 15 second clip of a new song.

TikTok has been quick to identify the app as a huge marketing platform. TikTok recently launched a Creator Marketplace to connect brands with content creators. It allows brands to find creators based on performance data and analytics and create collaborations together.

In-feed ads typically get the best results from small businesses. Other Ad’s on TikTok are usually only open to large companies with bigger marketing budgets.

Influencer marketing.

Nearly 86% of marketers have used influencer marketing to boost their brand awareness and sales.

Asking a creator with a large following to review your brand or product on TikTok allows for exposure, and can be done very cost effectively. The key to successful influencer marketing on the app is to target influencers whose following resembles your brands target market.

Influencer marketing on TikTok is likely to be the most effective marketing method due to not having to worry about the negatives of ads and you don’t have to think about building an audience yourself – the audience is already there with the influencer promoting you. Influencer ads work the best when the creator is given creative freedom and the partnership is disclosed. Brands can see the success of the collaboration by viewing insights and analytics.

There are several sites to help brands identify and select the right TokTokers for their brand collaboration.

  1. Julius – Julius enables brands to look through a database of over 100,000 creators. With many filters, brands can narrow down the large pool of creators to find some that suit their target market based on a number of criteria.

2. FanBytes – FanBytes is the first dedicated platform for finding TikTok creators and has over half a million influencers listed. FanBytes runs its own TikTok influencer campaigns making the platform a very reliable source for brands to utilise.

Are you ready to market your brand on TikTok?

Now you know the ins and outs of TikTok marketing, you are ready to launch your own TikTok ad campaign.

Will you use TikTok as a way to market your brand? Let me know!

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

Activism or Opportunism?

Identifying and avoiding performative activism in PR.

In an age where taking no stance is a stance in and of itself, how can companies show that they’re worth our time and money without alienating publics?

Short answer: they can’t.

An organisation can post a black tile on Instagram, but that has no meaning if employees come forward to speak about their experiences of racism in the workplace, or if their social media showed no hint of anti-racism before the death of George Floyd and the growth of the already prevalent Black Lives Matter movement.

Activism from brands can be met with a great deal of cynicism – are they ‘virtue signalling’ to seem engaged with and acceptable to their audience, motivated only by profit? Or are they truly trying to be responsible and beneficial? So how do we tell when a company isn’t driven by profit; what makes activism by brands truly legitimate?

Ben and Jerry’s are known for their input on global issues, and have been for decades. They have shown their support vocally for equal marriage, nature conservation, criminal justice reform, protecting refugees, and most recently, BLM. I’ve often picked the wildly priced Ben and Jerry’s over Tesco’s own brand, feeling like my Phish Food or Karamel Sutra was putting a little bit of good out into the world.

However, it’s not all sweet and creamy stuff from B&J, who support Israeli occupation of Palestine, having sold their ice cream in illegal settlements. Further to this, their parent company Unilever, who put profit before the environment, is known to test on animals, and made headlines in February 2019 for hiring private ‘S.W.A.T.’ companies to violently suppress workers who were striking over working conditions in Durban, South Africa.

Interestingly, overall public perception of Ben and Jerry’s has been largely positive. This brand being ‘in it for the long haul’ – making activism the forefront of their marketing campaigns over a prolonged period of time has made them favourable and stand-alone in the ice cream market. I’m sure very few of us have a clue what Häagen-Dazs, Magnum or Carte D’Or’s’ mission statements are, or where they stand on points of contention. That fancy ice-cream is just fancy ice-cream, it’s not kind fancy ice cream.

It’s because of this that despite contentious matters being just that, brands like Nike have shown that taking a strong stance can be beneficial for sales. Although some people flocked to Twitter to post themselves burning Nike gear – which they’d already paid for anyway – Nike sales surged 31% in the days following the Kaepernick ad (Edison Trends).

Closer to home, Timpsons showed effective action that takes corporate social responsibility directly to the community it serves. Also known for hiring ex-offenders and ensuring employees received 100% pay over the lockdown period, they gained praise on Twitter following a drive to clean interview clothing for the unemployed.

This action caught people’s attention because it’s genuine, visible action that had a direct effect on real people. Nothing is more frustrating from an organisation than false

It is only when we understand how brands are perceived in this regard that we can perform responsibly as public relations practitioners. When working on campaigns or content, it is important now more than ever to consider ethical implications and responsibilities from concept to completion.

Whether they like it or not, brands have an impact on the world around us, from the cultures experienced by their employees, to the content they share on social media. As we experience the Covid-19 pandemic,now more than ever people are shopping online with a bit more free time and a lot more boredom. This frees up consumers to research brands before buying from them.

Boohoo? No thanks, they treat their workers like hell. L’Oreal? Not for me, they fired Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke up about an activist being murdered by a white supremacist…then posted a black tile on their Instagram feed on Blackout Tuesday. Not a good look. Amazon? Don’t get me started.

Perhaps the most ridiculous blunder recently has been by the fashion brand Oh Polly. They set up an entirely separate Instagram account called ‘Oh Polly Inclusive’ where they used plus sized models and models of colour, while their main Instagram account kept their usual skinny white models. Missing the point of inclusivity to such a degree that they implement exclusivity is almost comical. Almost. It only takes a quick Google search to find the Oh Polly LinkedIn, revealing – to absolutely no one’s surprise – that their CEO, director, heads of PR, marketing, digital media and content, and HR staff are all white.

Insane oversights like this are far more likely to happen when the most influential people in organisations are homogenous. When a company speaks out about equality, rights, diversity or injustice, no matter how well-meaning, consumers are much more likely to become interested in the ethics of this company. What percentage of the ‘higher-ups’ are BAME, LGBT+, female, or disabled? How do they treat their employees? Do they source their goods sustainably? If these areas are lacking, is there a clear, measurable plan to change? If they apologise, do they do so sincerely?

Brands walk a balance beam, performing well when they are transparent and responsible, but risk falling when they put more emphasis on themselves than on the issue at hand. If your brand activism is insincere or opportunistic, people will be able to tell. In tackling this, we must ask ourselves: are we adding value to the conversation, are we amplifying what needs to be heard, or are we taking away from the issue?

Making a clear link between a brand and the ‘right’ side of an ethical issue wins over consumers who, would rather give their money to a brand that aligns with their beliefs. The modern consumer is saying: no more excuses, no more fakery, no more lies. Transparency and accountability only. And while not all consumers have this state of mind, those that do feel passionately enough and will shout loudly enough that damage to a brand’s reputation can spread far beyond those who are immediately interested.

This might lead us to ask: what’s the point? Why bother to try if there’s always something more or something different to be done?

It would be easy to see the tension, turmoil and tip-toeing around brand activism and think “no thanks, I’m out” and remain neutral. It seems impossible to get it right, but brands don’t exist in a happy vacuum , void of ‘real world’ issues. Every company has an effect on the world around us, and a responsibility to its employees, stakeholders and customers. Trends are showing that consumers care more year on year about the power and influence held by organisations, and have an expectation of what they should do with it.

While it is a difficult field to navigate, previous examples show that as long as brand activism is well-informed, authentic, meaningful and backed by action, it will avoid being dismissed as performative.


Holly Hamill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Evolution Of Media Coverage on Autism

The Evolution Of Media Coverage on Autism

According to the National Autistic Society, there are around 700,000 autistic people living in the UK today. This would mean about 1 in 100 people are autistic. This number is much larger that it was thought to have been in previous years – in the United States the current rate is 1 in 59, while only in 90s this figure was 1 in 2500. If this trend is to continue, it can only be expected that the amount of autistic people in the UK will continue to increase year on year. Being autistic myself, I thought it would be rather interesting to take a look at the media coverage of autism over the years and how it’s changed and progressed with society. It is particularly important to look at this as the media plays a huge impact in societies perceptions, both in influencing it and reflecting it.

First of all, I wanted to look at how much autism is covered by news networks. As the prevalence of autistic people within the population has continued to grow, as does the coverage of stories about autism by news outlets. In the table below we can see that between 1990 and 1997, only 54 stories on autism were ran by 4 of the biggest US News networks. However, this figure grows substantially in later years, as we can also see that between 2005 and 2010 this number increases to 351. It would be safe to assume that as the number of people diagnosed with autism continues to grow, as does the coverage given to the topic.

However, something I found rather strange and somewhat surprising, is how the source of this coverage has changed. In the same study, it is shown that in the 90’s, 32.8% of the sources for news on autism were autistic people themselves, while in later years this has been cut in half, with autistic people only making up 16.3%. The two most common sources in the later year bracket are family and doctors, making up 27.8% and 32.5% respectively.

Having established that news coverage of autism has increased with time, I thought it would also be worth looking into the topics of the news coverage and whether there’s been much change in it as well. Fortunately, I was able to find an interesting article looking into the portrayal of autism in media by the University of California, Santa Cruz. The study analysed 315 different news articles on autism, dated from 2007 to 2017. The study found out that in the earlier years of the study, the main focus of the news articles were more on focused on ‘cause and cure’ for autism.

The subject of the cause of autism and whether or not there should be a cure for it has been a controversial topic for quite some time now. Of course I’m sure we are all quite familiar with the notorious theory that the MMR vaccine caused autism, which not only was a potential health risk as it may have made some parents refuse to let their children receive the vaccine, but was also harmful towards the autistic community as well due to the negativity in which it displayed the disorder under.

This continues to more than just the MMR vaccine. In 2007 animals rights organisation PETA received a lot of backlash from the autism community when they published their ad ‘Got Autism?’, a play on words of the popular ‘Got milk?’ phrase. In this campaign PETA sought to try to dissuade people from buying dairy based milk and turn to alternatives instead, claiming that there was a link between cows milk and autism. This received major backlash from both the autistic community and the scientific community. PETA was blasted for the lack of scientific evidence in support of their claim, with people saying it was dangerous misinformation. The backlash was strong from the autistic community, with the autism rights group Autistic Self Advocacy Network successfully campaigning to have a billboard from the campaign brought down.

I find that this case study represents the findings of the study we looked at earlier particularly well. In the study, the researchers found that the news articles progressed from mainly focusing on ’cause and cure’, to eventually a more positive and accepting portrayal of autism. The co-author, Noa Lewin, stated that “There’s less focus on cause and a bigger focus on accommodation,”. They cite the reason for this being the autism and disability rights movements, saying that they’re helping change the publics attitudes of autism to more of an accepting and accommodating one, that doesn’t view autism as a disease needing cured as it once was.

Having looked at the trends we can see how the media has changed it’s coverage so greatly in appearance in just the span of a few decades, both in volume and tone. Autism is a subject that a lot of the general public may not be to aware of, and a lot of the views they have on it are most likely from what they were informed on by the media. If the trend that’s immerged in the past few decades continues, then it is safe to say that the perception towards autism will continue to grow as a positive one.

Lucas Fitzsimmons is in Final Year for BSc Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn

How many times can we reinvent the wheel?

How many times can we reinvent the wheel?

When apps first came on the scenes all those years ago it seemed like each app had its own niche. These new apps wiped out the old social media sites like Bebo (who remembers that one) and brought with it the new social media age when we didn’t have to sit at a computer screen to connect, we could do it wherever and whenever we liked.  

But now it seems like all of these apps are morphing into different versions of each other. Instagram has recently announced “Instagram Guides” which is, in a nutshell, blogging on Instagram. While this feature has been about for a while but has only been released to all accounts from November 2020 it’s hard to understand how this will be a part of the platform which will really take off. To begin with the appeal of Instagram was its quick and easy nature – snap a picture and post it, caption optional. Now with the introduction of longer posts with more information to take in will this turn out to be a curse on Instagram’s behalf. 

In a new venture for Twitter, they have now introduced stories. So, moving on from their USP of 140-character posts you can now post stories. Stories are now featuring on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Linked In. So, the question would be how many stories can one person tell? Surely, it’s obvious that some features are better suited to some apps and not so well suited to others. 

With the difference between apps becoming less distinguishable, from a PR perspective, does this make all of these apps equally as viable for pushing content out on? Will business start to push content out on Linked In stories, even though stories have been closely associated with Snapchat and Instagram and are usually used for short, snappy not necessarily very important content. 

Will we now start to see a linear approach to digital communication where business won’t need to change their posting tactics to suit the general approach to each app. It could be a possibility in years to come that instead of seeing business change things up between different social media apps that it will be one generic post posted across 4 or 5 platforms, solely for the fact that these apps have become so similar in the last 12 months. 

Niamh Magee is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Twitter and LinkedIn

The secrets to happiness, life, and love, according to my 95-year-old Granny

The secrets to happiness, life, and love, according to my 95-year-old Granny

Life is all about the choices we make and the chances we take. One of the most valuable things in life is the connections we make with other people. My Granny was originally from a small village in County Kerry and my Grandad was from a small village in County Derry. They both made the choice at a young age to go to work in England and that is where they eventually met. My Granny was married to my late Grandad for over 60 years.  On a rainy evening during lockdown, I decided I would ask my Granny a few questions about life, love, and happiness.

Perspective and gratitude are everything

My Granny lived with her nine siblings in a small house in Kerry. There were three bedrooms in the house; one for her parents, one for the boys and one for the girls. She never felt poor as she says, “there was food on the table”, and they ate together as a family, every evening. She never went on a family holiday, and rarely even got to the beach, but she enjoyed the Summer with her friends and neighbours. She never received any gifts from Santa, even though she knew of his existence. She did, however, love the time she spent visiting her aunt and Grandmother during the holidays and was grateful for the things she had and never compared it to anyone else.

Teamwork makes the dream work

My Granny said that their secret was to make decisions together, work as a team and never go to bed angry. “It was a joint effort and we had to work on it every day.” My Granny and Grandad were the perfect team; they even worked together when my Grandad was a bus driver and my Granny worked as the bus ticket collector. She loved my Grandad’s “kind nature” and her favourite thing about marriage was settling down and having children. 

My Granny and Grandad on their Wedding day and their 60th Wedding Annviersary

Take Chances

The more I was tormenting my Granny with my 101 different questions, the more I realised that she made hard decisions and took chances that became life changing. We laughed as she recalled sneaking out of the house when she was younger, but she also took chances leaving school early to work in a convent and she later took the chance to work in England. She was not the only one who took chances in her life. My Grandad was sent by his friend to tell Granny that he was not coming on their pre-arranged date. My Grandad then took a chance, walked her back to the bus and asked her out, after talking on the way there. Within a year, my Granny and Grandad were married.

Hard and Honest Work

My Granny told me how she started her job in the convent at 5am, every day, at just 15 years old. Since then, her lifestyle and mindset changed.  She believes that life’s rewards are all brought about through honesty and integrity. She worked hard in both her personal and professional life, from the multitude of jobs she worked, to raising her children.  “In everything you do, try your best and work hard.” My Granny faithfully follows a routine in her life – she shops on a Friday, goes to the hairdressers on a Thursday and even goes to bingo faithfully on a Tuesday. Although we laugh that she has such a set routine you need to book an appointment with her, she thinks that routines help you stay productive and busy. She likes to get the most out of every day, and after 95 years, she has made some great memories and still makes routines for herself (even if it is washing the floors twice a day in a national lockdown!).

And lastly, I asked her the secret to a long life. It’s a pretty simple concept but it is useful when baring the hard times:

 “Keep on keeping on, and when things get tougher just know that easier times are to come” ~ Johanna Lagan, 2021 (my lifelong inspiration).

Erin McKenna is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn.