Top Tips on How to Have a Very Merry Christmas

Top Tips on How to Have a Very Merry Christmas

Let’s all just admit it, the festive season is undoubtedly the best time of the year! From mouth-watering hot toddies to crazy work parties, it sure is the most perfect time to really let your hair down! With Christmas only coming once a year, it is important to make the most of every minute and what better way than with these fabulous top tips? Have a look!

Go on a fun Winter City Break

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A great way to kickstart the Christmas season is of course jetting off and enjoying a wonderful winter city break. Europe is renowned for its fun festive cities with bright lights, state of the art outdoor ice shrinks and cosy pubs offering every cocktail you could possibly think of. There are of course plenty of popular cities to choose from including Krakow, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague to name but just a few! Or perhaps, you may decide to keep it rather local by visiting Irelands very own capital city which is Dublin where you are sure to enjoy a tasty mulled wine or two in no other than the amazing Temple Bar! Wherever you decide to go, it is sure to be a magical and fairylike experience before heading home for Christmas day!

Christmas Movie Night with your Besties

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There are guaranteed to be plenty mad nights out where you and your friends will be celebrating the festive season a little too much, but be sure to also enjoy a fun night in consisting of a Christmas movie marathon! Yes, this means everything from Elf to Home Alone, Love Actually to Christmas with the Kranks! No movie night is complete without chilled bubbly, hot chocolate, pretzels and popcorn so be sure to stock up! It is a great way to enjoy a stress-free night with your nearest and dearest as well as a long overdue catch up!

Visit the Christmas Continental Markets

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It goes without saying that visiting the Christmas markets is on basically everyone’s to do list! Whether it may be with your friends, other half or family, it can be a fun and spiritual experience brisking through the various stalls offering everything from scented candles to handcrafted decorations. Or perhaps, if you happen to have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of candy and pastry stalls that will really hit the spot including Nutella smothered crepes, cinnamon covered waffles, sugar coated churros and more! Or maybe, if you’re feeling a little spontaneous and hoping to try something a little bit different this festive season, the Christmas markets won’t disappoint whether you are looking to try out a kangaroo burger or a flammkuchen (flat German pizza). Now the best part, the beer tent! The beer tent is the most perfect place to enjoy a strawberry beer or four whilst also belting your heart out to old but gold tunes, what’s not to love?

Host a Wine and Cheese Tasting Night

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If you’re trying to keep the Christmas celebrations super candid, hosting a wine and cheese tasting night is always a good idea! Here you will need a selection of both red and white wine as well as a fine platter of cheese and crackers! You may decide to go the extra mile and play some Christmas games to make the celebrations all the more enjoyable including charades or ‘Name that Christmas Carol!’ The tasting night will be a second to none experience for all who take part!

Make the Most of Family

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Lastly, but most importantly, enjoy valuable time with family! This does not mean buying expensive extravagant presents but instead helping with the Christmas decorations, assisting to make the Christmas dinner, getting drunk on baileys and watching the Eastenders Christmas Special together! It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, but who’s gathered around it!

Wherever you go or whatever you decide to do this Christmas, be sure to enjoy every single minute of the season that keeps on giving! It is the one time you can fully let loose and make a complete shambles of yourself before the struggles of working life again! After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year!

Shannon Grogan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-grogan-09712510b/ 

How PR is Changing our Perspective on Mental Health

Opening up about our mental health has always been considered a difficult topic. Up until recently, people were unaware of the meaning behind the term ‘Mental Health’ and what it involved. Understanding mental health and the issues that many people face is a relatively new concept. Thankfully, now in the 21st Century, people are becoming more accepting of mental health struggles; they are not as ignored as what they once were. According to public affairs expert and mental health advocate Katrina Gay, the stigma surrounding mental health is continuing to breakdown and the public relations sector has had a huge impact on this breakthrough.

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The public relations industry and the progression of mental health understanding work extremely well together. This is the case more so now than ever due to the digital advancements and the growing use of the Internet within the public relations sector. People do not want to be defined by their mental health issues; they want to be accepted for who they are as a person and valued for their personal qualities and skills. The Internet and particularly social media platforms, have provided people with a voice to express themselves with.

Creating campaigns to remove the stigma attached to mental health has become an increasingly popular method to achieve this goal. However, the way in which these campaigns are approached needs careful thought and attention. Mental health is a sensitive topic for many people to discuss, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and distress if approached in the wrong way. A fantastic campaign currently run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry known as Heads Together, has made tremendous improvements to how mental health is viewed by society. These Royals used their statuses to their advantage to promote mental health awareness. The campaign reaches out to a range of audiences such as young people and people who have lost loved ones. A fantastic way in which they promoted their campaign was to get involved in the 2017 London Marathon. Each runner that took part in the London Marathon received a ‘Heads Together’ headband and a letter from the three Royals wishing them luck on their marathon, and to also show support for Heads Together. This went viral, journalists, bloggers and mental health advocates instantly began to talk about this and what the Heads Together campaign was all about.

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Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are great tools to use for reaching out to people about mental health. This can be through campaign promotion, setting up a Facebook page where people can talk about their mental health struggles and how to seek help, or posting a Twitter blog on understanding mental health. A great Facebook page currently run by ‘The Mighty’  has a range of tips and advice on coping with mental health difficulties.

The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) makes a huge effort to promote mental health care, particularly around certain times of the year such as Mental Health Awareness Week. They work alongside the mental health charity ‘AWARE’ and aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The CIPR also provides information for people working within the PR industry on how to manage stress and the struggles involved within this career. 59% of people working within the PR industry have experienced mental ill health. It can be a challenging career and the CIPR aim to make public relations professionals more aware of mental health. Also, how organisations within this sector can support employees who may be struggling.

People within the public relations profession have a knowledge on how to effectively communicate. By using their skills, they can help to continue to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health. This can be through an effective campaign, working alongside mental health charities and advocates, sponsoring events such as Mental Health Awareness week, or simply by publishing reports on current speeches or events that have taken place regarding mental well-being.

It is vital that we continue to work on how we can change the way in which mental health is viewed and what can be done to create a positive energy surrounding discussion on this topic.

References:

https://www.headstogether.org.uk/prince-harry-opened-the-2017-virgin-money-london-marathon-expo-excel-centre-london/

https://ciprni.co.uk/be-more-aware-of-your-mental-health/

http://releasd.com/d5de

Anna Haughian is a final year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter  @anna_haughian and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-haughian-667834131/

 

 

Marie Curie – sharing memories this Christmas!

So, that time of the year again – its Christmas season!

And what’s more typical for Christmas than a huge tree covered in lights?

I agree, nothing! Who doesn’t love a huge, green, tinsel-covered monster in the corner of the room?

…but, what Marie Curie have done blows all of us average-Joes out of the park.

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As the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins, it’s easy to forget about what’s important. It’s not about the presents, or the fancy clothes or the big turkey dinner (although they are all additional positives!).

It’s about spending time and making memories with family and friends while we get the chance!

Every day we see more and more negative posts on social media whether it be politics and the latest news story, a not-so-uncommon celebrity scandal or Phil from down the road ranting about the local pub prices.  *YAWN*

However, this Christmas, the terminal illness charity Marie Curie, have created the world’s first ‘memory-powered’ Christmas tree.

Placed in front of the iconic London Eye on the Southbank, this visual spectacle started on the 4th of the month and runs right up until December 17th.

Each of the individual fairy lights on the tree will be powered by people sharing their memories on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #LightUpXmas.

In other words, the more people that post using the hashtag, the brighter the lights will shine.

Simple but GENIUS!

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The tree brings the charity to life as it serves as an important reminder of the work Marie Curie do providing care and support to people living with a terminal illness, some of whom will be trying to enjoy what might be their last Christmas with their family.

This piece of art symbolises the light that Marie Curie brings to every individual they help. It highlights how they allow families to spend Christmas together, making special memories with their loved ones.

A Marie Curie representative stated,

‘We’ve launched the memory-powered Christmas tree, to show the importance of creating positive memories, and show support for people living with terminal illnesses.’

You can share your special memories on Twitter or Instagram using #LightUpXmas – it could be any happy memory – your first memory, a Christmas memory or a memory of a loved one you’ve lost.

Marie Curie work tirelessly throughout the year helping thousands of families across the UK dealing with terminal illness.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’re in the situation, right? Hopefully, this wonderfully thought out idea will bring the charity the recognition and awareness which they deserve.

Below is examples of posts which thousands have already shared – just AMAZING.

 

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Come on, if this doesn’t melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what will and if you haven’t already, get sharing – Let’s light up London this Christmas!

A heart-warming, eye-watering and just downright beautiful PR stunt by the charity. 10 out of 10 for inventiveness and execution in my opinion.

BRAVO, Marie Curie!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-kearns-90819710b

Are you afraid of the dark… or afraid of Moz?

Like many people, I do await the Christmas TV ‘adverts’ around this time of year.

It’s that time of the year where high street stores compete in the sphere of PR, Advertising, and Marketing, (and in most cases all three), for the most original Christmas idea – trying to encourage consumers to ultimately go to their stores and spend a lot of well, money.

But in our modern digital age, these are no longer ‘just an advert’ between X Factor and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here these days.

In particular, anticipation for the ‘new John Lewis Christmas Ad’ has become public fascination with a multi-mix media communication operations behind it to generate as much publicity as possible; promoting with the biggest companies and brands such as Google, Spotify, Whatsapp, Sky and teaming up with the children’s charity Barnardos, with 10% of proceeds from merchandise of cuddly toys and mugs, going to young child carers.

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A spinning wheel of publicity, to reach as many people as possible, to get as many people talking abut you as possible, and to build excitement in as many people as possible, at the busiest time of the year.

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Previous John Lewis campaigns have included the compelling stories of the Man on the Moon, Monty the Penguin and Buster the trampoline bouncing Boxer; a recurring theme to center on emotional stories, and remove branding to ensure attention from a captivated audience.

Their latest campaign introduces us to the lovable Moz the Monster, which focuses on the tale of a little boy and his friendship with an imaginary monster living under his bed.

I have to admit, on first watching the advert, I felt underwhelmed from the lack of “Christmassy feelings” I got, and had to watch it a few times to understand what the message of the campaign was.

But as always, with major publicity, these campaigns don’t always please everyone.

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And as it turns out, not everyone is entirely happy with poor Moz.

Since the ad has aired, many parents have aired their concerns, with tweets joking “John Lewis putting the fear in every child thinking there is a monster under their bed! 10/10 guys.”

One annoyed parent also tweeted: “If your child is struggling with sleep related psychological trauma… John Lewis suggests you need to make them wait til Christmas for a bloomin’ night light.”

However, the glorious world of PR allows many to take on your own perceptions to the messages we receive from the media on a daily basis.

John Lewis’ tale is all about imagination.

My own interpretation is that to beat his fear of the dark, Joe creates an imaginary friend to overcome this fear… (albeit losing his recommended 8 hours sleep in the process).

But still, I believe the clever folk behind the John Lewis spinning machine aimed for the ad to be a very heart-warming, compelling story once again.

As always, parodies have made their way onto YouTube with millions of views, a nightlight featured in the ad was sold out online the next morning and #MozTheMonster and #JohnLewisChristmasAd was the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter, whilst many good-humored people also jumped on the bandwagon….

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Asking my fellow peers how much they thought cost to make the ad, the general answer was £500,000 to £1 million.

Add another £6 million… and the advert is reported to have cost a whopping £7 million to make!

Many are outraged to hear of such an expense, with public opinion being that instead of spending so much money on ‘one ad’ (that is ‘lackluster’ in general) this money could actually have been put to good use and given to charity – that the 10% ‘proceeds of merch’ to Barnardo’s just doesn’t cover it.

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However, brands are expected to spend a record £6 BILLION on Christmas advertising this year. This according to the Advertising Association, who state it is being driven by intense market competition, especially within the retail sector, and the rise of big-budget campaigns.

It believes spending on ads has jumped nearly 40% in just 7 years!

But with the likes of the delightful Ed Sheeran jumping on the Moz bandwagon – (and who doesn’t like Ed Sheeran these days?) is easy and cheap publicity in itself.

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So, was £7 million worth it on good ol’ Moz? Not Christmassy enough? Too scary for children?

I think my overall call to action is to start a petition to get the wee Man OFF the Moon for 2018.

Yup. (I will be posting the link for you all to sign it).

 

Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/chloe-campbell-337b26152 / Facebook: Chloe Campbell.

Today I Messed Up

In my first blog I stated I would cover the ‘state of the profession’ but we’re all meant to learn from each other, right? One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes, right? We all make mistakes, right? Right. Well, I made a big one.

Take yourself back, Thursday 7th December at 3:53pm – what were you doing? I was working for VO, an independent online heating oil company, a fairly large one with a mailing list in the tens of thousands in Northern Ireland alone. Doing weekly mailshots to NI & UK is part of my remit. So, twice a week I’ll send out an email to hundreds of thousands of people. Best emails you’ll never want to read. Apart from the one I sent on Thursday to our entire NI database.

I’ll give a bit of information, first, into my process when writing these emails, it goes like this:

  • Think of a play on words/horrible pun – Black Ice Friday was a personal favourite
  • Write the email trying my upmost to get people to get onto our website and order some home heating oil
  • Proofread
  • Send it to colleagues & one outsider to make sure my grammar is absolutely on point – people love a grammar error.
  • Wait for feedback from all parties
  • Press send and pray.

Well on this occasion, with snow being forecast, I wrote ‘the snow is falling throughout the country’. Apparently, removing the ‘the’ before the word ‘snow’ was more applicable. You may be able to see where this is going. In jest, I put F-ing, in front of the word ‘snow’, screenshotted it and sent it back asking if I’d fixed it. We use Mailchimp, I dare say there is no person dumb enough to hit send with a curse word still remaining, cause a normal human deletes it immediately after, right? Nope. In my defence, we were busy, the phone rang and I took an order so it slipped to the back of my mind. If you’ve heard a worse excuse than that, let me know. My boss asked if I had hit send on the email because it had gotten busy, I said no and hurriedly sent it.

Yup.

The word?

Still there.

The phones?

Went mental.

Here, see for yourself:

See that feeling you have right now, that one where you’re thinking ‘wow, what an idiot’. Multiply it by 10, then square it, put it in a cannon and shoot it into the sky. That was about half of my stress level. Understandably, I’d just ruined my career, the company and my life. Donald Trump was about to start Tweeting about me in 5 minutes and I had just become the reason for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I remembered from a lecture on crisis management that it is vital to get out in front, quickly. So, once I stated my mistake an apology email was sent, it was suggested that we go with ‘hacked’ and blamed it on a prankster. This was probably our only mistake. Cue a few emails and phone calls asking if personal information was stolen but alas, it was not. Just little ol’ me, being a very silly boy. But, if in doubt blame the Russians eh?

Disaster.

Or, was it?

It turned out that the response to the email was ridiculously positive, especially on social media. I monitored social media long into the night and I still am as I write this, responding to whoever mentions our name. Decided that the best way to deal with this, was with humour. And it worked, for the second time in my life people found me funny! The first being my birth.

We got 3 rt’s on Twitter for our apology, we’re an oil company, that probably matches our grand total. But I tried to use GIFs so I could use a bit of humour and not type because I no longer trusted my hands. Luckily, everyone loved it. If you go and look on social media you’ll see that I blamed a student on his second last day being a menace, a statement that I wasn’t sure was entirely false.

In terms of followers, the people who retweeted our/my error had a collective 14-15 thousand followers collectively, which is people we wouldn’t have reached. The email itself had a much higher open rate due to the apology email piquing interest. And we got a host of orders in the immediate aftermath. Although the snow may have played a role, but it was a lot more than we had gotten all day.

But I had work the next morning. I usually start at 12, but I aimed to be in for 9 as it wouldn’t be fair for anyone else to take the flak, but due to heavy snowfall and working in Mallusk, I made it in by 10:30. I spent most of the day dealing with complaints via email and phone call, those who were understandably offended by the profanity were largely receptive and accept-ive of the genuine apology after they’d given me a stern talking to, if any of you are somehow reading this, I’m still sorry!!

A lot of people found it hilarious and thought that it was a deliberate marketing ploy, fake it till you make it! It somehow worked an absolute treat and my one take away is that stepping away from the norm and taking risks can pay off. If this was deliberate I’d probably have the biggest head right now and be telling you how great I am. But, no, I still feel like an idiot. A lucky one. Hi potential future employers, I’ve learned, promise!

So here’s my takeaways from this:

  • PROOFREAD BEFORE YOU SEND AND NEVER, EVER SWEAR EVEN IF YOU DON’T INTEND TO SEND IT.
  • Taking risks sometimes works
  • Don’t bury your head in the sand and always tackle the issue head on, especially if it was your fault.

I hope you enjoyed reading this story more than I did living it. Even though this is a mistake that I would much prefer to bury and pretend didn’t happen, I like to own up to my own mistakes no matter the consequences, so go on, call me an idiot, I deserve it!

F**king snow, eh?

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/

Placement is ESSENTIAL!!!

When making the decision in my 2nd year on whether or not to go on placement I was tempted to skip onto final year and get my course done and dusted. How wrong I would have been. Making the choice to take on a placement at an organisation was so useful! I learnt quite a lot and had a great time.

I applied to do a placement for many organisations and received only a handful of offers for interviews which (at first) was demoralizing, I put a great deal of work into my CV, cover letters and online applications only to get a minimal response. This reinforced in my mind the idea that placement was a bad idea, I should just get on with final year and get it all over with. However the few interviews I was offered actually weren’t as bad as I thought, I always over think how tough the interviews will be and how much of an idiot I am going to sound by boasting on my accomplishments and skills. The interviews were great practical experience in adjusting to awkward situations where you are given something different and new, I gave it the “what the hell” attitude, if I succeed all the better, if I fail it’s an experience and I’m not losing anything. Eventually (and luckily) I got offered a 6 month placement with a charity called Volunteer Now. I was hoping for a yearlong placement but I liked the sound of what I was going to be doing with the charity and everyone within the organisation was really nice, happy and upbeat.

Beginning the placement was again awkward, but that comes again with any first time experience. I was taken on a walk round the building and I met most of the employees which was intense, there was over 40 people in an open plan office everyone could see each other and my desk was smack bang right in the middle of all these strangers. I couldn’t remember most people’s names and I was getting so much information my mind couldn’t catch up, I had 2 or 3 meetings on my first day (I had never been to a formal work meeting in my life) which I didn’t know what to expect would happen. But after the first week of meetings and introductions to everyone and what roles I was going to complete I started to relax and find it wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t tonnes of pressure put on me and my fellow colleagues were great craic and couldn’t have made me more welcome, they treated me like I was there for years.

The work I was given was interesting, I got to do a mixture of marketing, advertising and PR-ing. The fact that I hadn’t the exact same routine every day kept me looking forward to coming into Volunteer Now each morning. I got to be really creative, I was allowed create leaflets, posters, videos etc and put any ideas down and my colleagues would work with what I had done, they were always positive and encouraging. Any criticism I got was always constructive, I learnt how to make content look more professional, how to make my work look more attractive, how to find the important information and how to juggle many tasks effectively.

There was one main job that really gave me good experience and was completely new to me, training. I was one of the employees to manage social media for the organisation and over time I was asked many questions on how I did certain things with Facebook and Twitter and what Snapchat and Instagram was, then my manager and one of the directors asked me to teach and train the rest of the office on how to use social media, I agreed but worried about it so much. I was freaking out on how I would create a training session for all these professionals and how I would speak in front of everyone. However my colleagues reminded me that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed, all I had to do was talk about what I know and keep it simple. So the day came when I took my first training session and it went quite well, I got up in front of the first group and went through my slides, tweeted, posted and answered questions. My colleagues commended me, they actually found it useful! Quite a few of them took to social media in the following weeks, used my notes and didn’t find social media as scary as it initially seemed.

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To conclude and cut to the chase, please take on placement! I can’t recommend it enough and if you get the chance to work with Volunteer Now, take that opportunity! They were a fantastic organisation and I learnt piles from so many talented professionals!! Every day at my placement was a new day and the experiences I got I really do not think I could get anywhere else!!

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Niall Byrne is a Final Year student in BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96