Brands Building a Sustainable Future

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

‘REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.’ It’s a phrase that’s been instilled heavily into our lives especially over the past 10 years. The evidence is there to prove how much use of single usage products is impacting on society and the environment around us. From slogans such as ‘Save the Turtles’ and ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ to ‘Save the Earth’, our social responsibility is becoming more prevalent than ever. This social responsibility has become a Corporate Social Responsibility for business. Therefore, we have seen noticeable changes in packaging and quality provided by some of our larger brands- in some cases this was due to corporate decision making and in others this was due to influence from customer pressure.

Primark are one of the latest companies to add to their corporate social responsibility through their ‘Primark Cares Initiative’ which already has single-use plastics, sustainable cotton and recycled materials as commitments. They have a new large paper bag designed with a candy-stripe seasonal print which can be reused as gift-wrap to enhance their commitment to the environment.

Primark aren’t the first company to do this. FatFace had this initiative back in Winter 2019, obviously with a different print. They advertised this on their Instagram with a tutorial video on how customers may use the bag to wrap a gift, whilst also acknowledging that a tag can be cut out from the bag too. Whilst some may undermine this, the sustainability factor of a paper bag as gift wrap or even to back schoolbooks is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it save on paper wastage, but it also saves people money on purchasing wrapping paper! 

Of course, paper isn’t the only single-use product businesses are reducing. Last year, McDonald’s changed their classic plastic straws to paper ones, all due to a customer petition for them to change. The argument that plastic straws don’t degrade, only break up into smaller pieces which can be swallowed by turtles, large birds and fish made public support and sign it. The popularity of the petition weighed heavily in the corporate social responsibility conscience for McDonald’s leading to them making the executive decision to follow through and change to paper straws. This effectively in turn influenced other large brands such as Starbucks and KFC changing to paper straws to match the sustainability trend.

Our high streets and fast food chains aren’t the only places who are making changes to help create a more sustainable future. Recently, ASDA have opened a ‘new sustainability store’ as a trial at their Middleton store in Leeds, which is hoped to play a major part of their plastic reduction strategy in which customers will pay less for greener choices. In order to do this the supermarket chain have partnered with major UK household brands including Kellogg’s, Radox and Persil to name a few. Again, this is a major initiative from a large business to endeavour to help the public to reduce, reuse and recycle easily.

To compliment this further ASDA have also launched a national price promise called ‘Greener at Asda Price’ which vows that loose and unwrapped products (e.g. fruit and vegetables) will cost less than their wrapped equivalents. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it will save customers money when shopping at ASDA.

Whilst all the measures taken by the previously mentioned businesses above are a step in the right direction to achieve a greener planet, there are many businesses in society who have made little to no changes. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in their old ways and reluctant to change. Therefore, we need to make more sustainability driven decisions to improve things for our generation and for the generations to follow.

As a society we need to make changes to how we purchase, what we purchase and where we purchase from. These decisions may not seem like they are making big changes now, however over time they will have drastic effects. The responsibility ultimately comes to us to make ethically informed decisions to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet we live in! So, remember the mantra ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle’.

Holly Lucy Mc Allister is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn

Fundraising through a Pandemic – The Power of 4

Fundraising through a Pandemic – The Power of 4

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. – How I wish this quote didn’t reflect traits of my character, unfortunately, it does.

Who doesn’t love coming into work on a Monday morning to hear your manager has set up a gruelling 48 mile fundraising campaign in order to raise funds for the company’s charity partners – NSPCC Northern Ireland. I was leaning towards participating BUT waited for someone else to take one for the team until I heard “Are you sure you would be able to do this, it is 48 miles?” *characteristic traits kicking in.*

Putting my pride aside I knew the significance of this campaign and the difference we could potentially make for hundreds of children and young adults across Northern Ireland so all in all that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to endure those 48 miles.

Having worked with the NSPCC for over a year now I’ve seen and experienced the hard work that goes on behind the scenes from a fundraising perspective to ensure there are enough funds and donations generated to ensure capacity for calls to be answered around the clock from NSPCC & Childline’s selfless volunteers.

Since COVID-19, NSPCC NI have lost a huge fraction of their funding. With big events cancelled such as the London, Belfast and Edinburgh Marathon which was estimated to bring in over one million pounds in sponsorship not only this, but the charity also saw their volunteer numbers drop drastically by 30% following the pandemic. Large investments were needed to provide IT equipment for volunteers to work from home in order to meet rising levels of enquiries from vulnerable children and young adults who were ultimately ‘trapped with their abuser.’

Before I began creating the brief for this campaign, I wanted to delve deeper into the spine-chilling statement ‘trapped with their abuser’ in order to really emphasise on the urgency of this campaign that we were promoting. 48 miles meant nothing and everything at the same time and that is where ‘The Power of 4’ was created.

  • 4 Participants.
  • 4 Miles every 4 hours.
  • £4.00 for NSPCC volunteers to answer a child’s call for help.

Everyone will agree with me when I say Covid-19 has affected all of us in one way or another, most people will have been affected financially to the point in which charitable donations fell to the bottom of their ‘must do\must pay’ list, understandably so. I knew this was going to be a barrier that we would have to knock down, how? = CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS VIA QR CODE COLLABORATING WITH JUST GIVING.

Cash Card is king, especially during lockdown where everything has been done within a click of a button, QR codes are somewhat new to us and recently been introduced to nearly half of all restaurant and cafe menus across the UK so we’re slowly becoming very familiarised with the concept.

PR events that we would have hosted in our efforts to increase donations as a pre-cursor to an event in the past were no more…thanks Covid-19. Taking this in my stride, I knew ultimately that if there was ever a time to heavily convert and promote to cashless donations, that time was now.

We set up a Just Giving page and went from there, we got ‘The Power of 4’ t-shirts embroidered with an unmissable QR code in an attempt to entice passers-by to contribute. £4.00 for NSPCC volunteers to answer a child’s call for help was highlighted in everything that we did. As we were asking for £4.00 as a starting point it was important that we considered people’s financial positions were, to no surprise the correlation did not add up – the less we asked for, the more people chose to give. A good strategy to use as it eliminates the aspect of expecting people to give a higher amount than what they are comfortable with, leaving them to only negotiate with themselves.

The generosity of local businesses across Belfast was so overwhelmingly beautiful, seeing people come together and contribute different items was very much appreciated by our team who went out and informed them of our campaign. I know I said above we went cashless; however, we didn’t go 100% as all of the items donated by Taboo Donuts, Lidl NI and many more generous companies had to be put to good use and realistically if you work in Belfast or any other city for that matter following lunch hour nearly everyone has a pounds change lying about somewhere = RAFFLE.

Alongside our promotions as Charity Partners, NSPCC NI were also re-sharing and promoting our campaign to their audiences. Our promotional efforts got the attention of some key people who we wanted to reach out to, you can see below prominent campaign features which really boosted exposure levels.  

  • Having NSPCC NI Fundraising Manager on as a podcast guest.
  • Having David Tait, NSPCC ambassador who climbed Mount Everest five times in aid of the NSPCC and raised over £1,000,000 send us a video message of support.
  • NSPCC Trustee Lady Brenda McLaughlin write us a letter of achievement post event.
  • Full coverage on the ‘Love Belfast’ site in promoting of the event.

Ultimately, I can confidently say…I will never run 48 miles in 2.5 days ever again (and have not ran since) but the tremendous feeling of achievement is something I’ll probably remember for a long time. The blood, sweat and tears (no joke) were all worth it in the end up, not only did we exceed our £5,000 target and end up raising £10,282 but our efforts will see over 2,000 additional calls being answered when children are in their time of need and that’s the only thing that matters.

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to help out a charity that’s close to your heart, everything is appreciated and nothing is too little.

Domilia Timonyte is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Should we be following example or using our own initiative throughout this pandemic?

Should we be following example or using our own initiative throughout this pandemic?

Who could have predicted this time last year that a year on we would be in the midst of trying to survive a global pandemic. Before this pandemic the last time I had bought a hand sanitiser was in August while trying to kit out my schoolbag with all of the ‘essentials’ some of which would remain   unopened and forgotten  in the  bottom of my school bag.

Had I been told 10 years ago that in 2020 I would be working from home and taking a step back from my busy lifestyle I would have been very content, that’s the lifestyle we all dream of having, right? What I would have failed to do is consider the terms and conditions that come with living this type of lifestyle: not being able to visit family and friends, only being allowed out to do exercise once per day, having no restaurants, cafes or pubs open to visit at the weekends and having to sanitise and wear a facemask in every place I visited, to name but a few.

Don’t have a leg to stand on

Working out what the rules and regulations are has been challenging at times throughout this pandemic, with constant changes and updates happening daily. For many, the easiest way to keep track of what they can or cannot do is to follow the examples of those setting these guidelines, or so you would have thought. In reality though, following the example of these professionals and leaders could leave you digging deep in your pockets if faced with a large fine for breaching government guidelines.

14th September seen the implementation of the rule of six come into place to prohibit large social gatherings.  This rule seemed to have went unheard by Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader, who attended a dinner with eight other individuals. Unlike certain coronavirus guidelines this was one of the clearer restrictions however Corbyn, a very influential, well known political leader appeared to have missed this.

Unfortunately it’s not even responsible for the general public to follow the example set by some Chief Medical Officers. Dr Catherine Calderwood, former Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, broke restrictions during lockdown to visit her second home in Fife. This could have been excused had she apologised and learned from her mistake, however she was caught a second time breaking these restrictions. She later resigned from her position as Chief Medical Officer. The actions taken by her to visit her second home were extremely contradictory of her plea to the public to stay at home. As the BBC put it Dr Calderwood herself ‘echoed the mantra…that by staying at home we would help to protect the NHS- and thus to save lives.’

Practice what you preach

Up until March of 2020, masks were only ever worn by the general public at Halloween, either by younger children going trick or treating or adults attending a fancy dress party. With the exception of some professions where masks were required to be worn in the workplace they were never something that was seen regularly in day to day life. Skip three months into the year 2020 and the wearing of a face mask is a feature of everyday life. That’s because it’s now the law and who better to remind people of this than the loud, opinionated, voice of ‘reason’ that is DJ and television presenter, Stephen Nolan.

Recently Nolan spent the afternoon at a local filling station, confronting customers who came out of the shop not wearing a facemask. One video taken by Nolan’s camera crew caused quite a stir. It appeared to show footage of a man who was physically uncomfortable by Nolan who walked hastily behind him asking the question ‘why did you not wear a facemask…?’

What Nolan failed to consider was that he himself has not always followed these rules and was caught a month previous posing for pictures with students in the Holylands without a face mask in sight. Yes, Nolan could defend himself and say that he was out in an open space where a facemask is not required, however he cannot deny that in the photograph he was not two meters away from the students who were almost joint at the hips beside him. In Stephen Nolan’s own words ‘If people break the law, they are criminalising themselves.’ Now I am not one to sit here and judge because I understand that there are moments when you forget about the wearing of face masks. After all it takes time to get used to change, and as the saying goes change does not happen overnight.

I am in no way trying to paint everyone with the same brush. There are many public figures that are trying to follow the guidelines and set a good example. Simply put, I believe it’s important to weigh up the decisions you make and not be influenced by public figures who appear to have flouted the guidelines provided.

Aoife Teague is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @aoifeteague and Twitter: @aoifeteague

Oh Polly? More like ‘Oh No Polly!’ How a customer service nightmare shamed the fashion giants…

Oh Polly? More like ‘Oh No Polly!’ How a customer service nightmare shamed the fashion giants…

Way back in April when public displays of NHS appreciation were in their prime, 20-year-old NHS student nurse Lara Harper, found herself at the forefront of PR disaster by taking to Twitter to publicly ‘cancel’ fashion retailers Oh Polly. Things went wrong when the brand ran an exclusive competition to celebrate NHS staff working on the frontline during the strife of Covid-19, then ironically refused to award the winner as she was too busy working…on the frontline…for the NHS?? Something didn’t quite add up!

When receiving the Instagram message to be notified of her prize, Lara also received an invitation to join a virtual Zoom event the following Friday at 4pm, but notified the page that she couldn’t actually attend the event due to having to work a 12 hour shift on the front line. The response to this message took twitter by storm when much to the Internet’s dismay, Oh Polly replied with an apology and informed Lara that she wasn’t eligible for the prize anymore. Users of all ages and genders rushed to the student nurse’s defence and called Oh Polly out for their contradictive behaviour – wanting to show appreciation for NHS workers but then not allowing them to claim the prize when they’re too busy working on the front line and saving lives???

Thousands of twitter users (more than 60,000 in fact) were quick to jump behind Lara and support her disgust in the fashion brand who claims they are, “FOR GIRLS. BY GIRLS”. Many users commented agreeing that the customer service handling in this situation was completely ridiculous with one outraged supporter expressing their dismay by tweeting, “Shocking from the marketing team @ohpolly Hope this gets the negative publicity it deserves.” Given the extreme lengths that the NHS worker’s tweet was able to reach, I don’t think this is something that will be forgotten in any hurry!

The ‘Oh Polly’ Twitter page had no choice other than to publicly address their error and admit that they had made a huge mistake with their handling of the NHS competition. A thread of three tweets was published to cover their backs and explain what they believed had happened. Despite reacting quickly to the backlash that was being received, offering a written apology and taking responsibility for incident  as well as attempting to offer a solution, the damage was already done. Again, other Twitter users came out in full force to criticise the fashion giants.

To add to the humiliation of the brand, huge competitors such as ‘Pretty Little Thing’ decided to get a piece of the action and use Oh Polly’s customer service crisis as a strong marketing strategy by gaining customer’s respect. They reached out on Twitter and wrote: “Lara, we want to celebrate YOU & all the incredible things you are doing right now. DM us for a pretty little parcel. You deserve it Love PLT.”

This was a clever way of using the opportunity to subtly throw shade at their competitors but also showing full support of the 20 year-old, who at the time of the ordeal had only just began working for the health service after completing her placement as a Glasgow Caledonian University student.

In addition to large retailers, many small and start up businesses utilised the situation by offering Lara free care packages and took this as an opportunity to get their name’s out there. These kinds of comments were also well received by the public and gained numerous comments of positive feedback during a time deep negativity and uncertainty. I’m just glad that some positivity was able to come from such a disastrous situation!

Post apology from the boujee fashion brand, Lara came to Twitter to inform her rally of supporters that she said she would, “Take the new outfit that they were offering but wouldn’t be shopping with Oh Polly again.”

To be honest, I really don’t blame you Lara after this real life fashion dilemma…

Eimear Delargy is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

The world isn’t what it used to be. The past eight months or so have changed what we consider to be everyday normality.

For someone like myself, a student, I found the whole experience so far to be pretty surreal. One day I’m paying rent for a house so close to the train that you could slap the Translink logo. The next I’m moving back home to a fully stocked fridge and free heating because the city is in lockdown.

Whilst there is no denying how horrible the events of the last year have been, I want to focus on the positives instead.

Lockdown was oddly a perfect opportunity. When else will the world come to a grinding halt to give you a chance to self-reflect? Well that is what I did (unintentionally).It made me be more proactive in both my course and improving real world attributes that will serve me down the line in career prospects. Here’s why.

It only took a pandemic…

Before Covid:

Before the pandemic hit, I would be quite confident in saying I was an average student. I would attend my classes. Take notes. I would use the library to study or get work done. Sit in traffic for longer than I can bare. Then after I get home everyone is making their dinner, watching tv, and debating are we going out tonight or studying. Add in a few shifts for my part-time job and there you have it.  Some might call that a routine, it was really more of a rut. I just didn’t realise that yet.

Looking back on all of that, I think it’s safe to say I was just going through the motions. I was getting by, but I could have been doing more.

Without realising it, I was tunnel visioned. I was working my job in retail so I could afford rent and groceries. I was paying for those things so I could have a student experience living by myself and be closer to the university. I felt like I was beginning to mature and be more responsible.

After Lockdown:

Well this is where Coronavirus comes in.

No more student house or student nights means less distractions. Online classes now mean no more mad dashes in the morning. Are my friends here or will I be sitting by myself? It sounds a bit dramatic but when you take away these small grievances, all you’re left with is the lecture. From my perspective, I found myself concentrating better. No distractions.

Now I sit in my room, headphones on, relaxed, ready to learn.

The fact that the lectures are being recorded is personally something I wish had always been around. Being able to revisit the recorded lecture to better my understanding is something I didn’t even realise I wanted or needed. Long may that continue. It might be up for debate to see if university teaching was perfect the way it was before lockdown. Or could it benefit from some slight additions or structural changes.

Furthermore, I feel like I wasn’t being productive enough before. Time spent travelling. Going out for food. With more free time in the house I feel that I’ve finally been able to devise a schedule I can work around. Even saving a few hours a week now that I’m at home, it has made me realise how to organise myself better for when life returns closer to normality.

Applying What I Know:

A lot of marketing and PR has had to go mainly digital thanks to lockdown. No better time to apply what I’ve been studying. Having extensively delved into digital communication and marketing, it’s almost free experience being handed to me. Observing the amount of social media advertising from both brands and individuals, and being able to see their effectiveness, is invaluable going forward.

One trend I’ve definitely noticed across Instagram, are young women promoting these nameless health boost juices. The media they share seems so disingenuous and pandering. It seems to target vulnerable people locked in their homes who are maybe out of work. With more and more PR taking itself online, analysing what works and what doesn’t in a crisis like this will hopefully give an edge in the future.

As far as work is concerned. My job was a typical customer assistant for a large retailer. Another module I’m studying about organisational communication couldn’t be more relevant at the moment. Organisations must evolve or they will suffer. My place of work struggled to adapt its hierarchy correctly for the current situation. That lead to ineffective management, which led to ineffective engagement from employees. In the long run the organisation has now seen a large change in workforce due to that issue. Compare that to my sister’s place of work. Recently graduated and now working in a modern adaptive organisation, both her and her team’s engagement outshines anything I’ve ever experienced at my own job. I can physically see what I’m learning be applied right in front of me. It’s a lesson I’m going to be mindful of when looking for work in the future.

Wrapping things up:

With everything that’s been said, I still want to make it clear that like everyone else, I can’t wait for Covid:19 to disappear and for normality to return. What I am thankful for is that it presented me with an opportunity to make sure I’m going into that future as prepared as I can be.

Rory Skillen is a fourth year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

The impact of going Viral on Tiktok for a Small business

The impact of going Viral on Tiktok for a Small business

While Tiktok was launched in 2016, it has recently become extremely popular, and this popularity has allowed it to become a great advertising method for many small business who cannot afford to pay large amounts on advertising.

Time and time again, we see small businesses on Tiktok going from reaching an audience of sometimes less than a hundred people to reaching thousands of people and selling out their products. This has been an extremely successfully method for people who are selling art, clothes sellers, jewellery and makeup, including eyelashes and lipglosses. I have even bought jewellery of a seller after seeing their products advertised on Tiktok, as I liked the look of their handmade earrings, and I never would have purchased from that seller if I hadn’t seen the business on Tiktok.

Many of the small businesses who advertise on Tiktok focus on Customer Service and add an extra touch to their packages such as personalised thank you notes, packinging and treats such as scrunchies or sweets. This helps them stand out to consumers even if they are selling the same products as larger businesses, and usually at a higher price than those same businesses as their customer service allows them to charge that extra bit. Many businesses also show themselves packaging people’s parcels if requested and these videos alone are capable of reaching tens of thousands of people, and some people buy with the hopes of getting their product packaged on Tiktok, as they are interested in the experience of buying from these smaller businesses.  

A Small business I have seen apply these tactics is an American brand, is Beauty_holics who sells an assortment of products including  a bundle which is two pairs of eyelashes, and applicator, a spoolie and a scrunchie for $30.00. This item is regularly sold out despite being very expensive compared to competitors.

Examples of packaging brands like Beauty_holics use

This is mainly because of the packaging – the products are put into a miniature suitcase instead of a box which is fun and exciting to people and makes them want to buy the product. One of her videos has received 9.1M likes and has been viewed by 62.1M people which is an astonishing reach for someone running a small niched business out of their home, and immediately following this video going viral she completely sold out on her website.

Another reason a lot of Videos from small businesses go viral on Tiktok is because people are generally interested in a glimpse of other people’s lives and businesses and this is why brands that do ‘come to work with me’ or show people how they make some of their products are so successful.

A small business near me, XXI ice in Dundalk, reached an audience of 5.2 million people on one of their 1 minute long videos showing how they make their strawberry rolled ice cream, and has reached a similar audiences on more of their videos, and this advertising reaches places all over the world – not just in Ireland, and has left an impression on all of them from watching such a simple video. There is very few Social Medias which let you easily gain 5.2 million views, as easily as can be done from going TikTok viral.

Chicken Nugget ice Cream from XXI Ice Tiktok video

 The account also makes ice cream with other stranger items such as chicken nuggets which is controversial enough that it helps keep people intrigued as to what they will do next, and so people will be encouraged to follow them on Tiktok.

Many people who promote their business on Tiktok also offer a personal touch such as a mystery pack option. People like these products as it is exciting to get a package in your style but you don’t actually know what you’re getting. The business asks for a few of your likes or dislikes and works from there to personalise your product. One brand who does this well is ‘hissyfitclothing’ who has different kinds of mystery packs, such as pastel, dark, and rave themed ones, her brand is sold out of the mystery packs on a regular basis because they are so popular. The brand is also very responsive on tiktok so it is very popular for their customer service, and she is very open about how she sources and makes the clothing and so it popular for her ethical clothing. She was also able to turn a customer compliant into a viral video, she had a customer go viral by making a video complaining about how the 3 items in her mystery pack didn’t go with each other – which they hadn’t been marketed to do. In response to this she made a video called ‘styling that mystery pack’ where she styled the items from that pack in many different ways.

There is, however, is a downside to Tiktok as a marketing device as while you may get a lot of attention for a while after going viral, it is a very fast moving app and you need to work very hard to keep the attention as the spotlight is very quick to move onto the next viral videos and so it is very difficult to receive sustained attention, and you have to be prepared for the constant up and down of views and sales you receive from advertising through Tiktok.

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



Who runs the world? Influencers.

It is undeniable that social media has become an obligatory part of our everyday lives. According to, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in 2020. *MIND-BLOWN*

A major element of modern social media is influencers. Influencers are individuals who build a following on social media, based on their opinions and expertise on a specific topic, most commonly fashion, fitness or beauty related. Influencers post regularly, generating huge exposure from their loyal followers.

Molly-Mae Hague, you either know everything about her, or nothing at all. That is the beauty of influencers; megastars to their interested audience but not quite A-Lister household names. Molly-Mae is a 21-year-old, Social Media Influencer from Hertfordshire, who rose to fame in 2019 as a contestant on the UK hit series, Love Island.

Love Island has been known as a ‘gateway’ for Social Media Influencers to gain a higher following, overpowering the shows initial goal of finding ‘love’. Molly-Mae did not shy away from this and has since openly admitted that initially Love Island was simply a “business venture” to further her career in Influencer Marketing.

Molly-Mae’s career has gone from strength to strength, making her the most successful contestant to leave the show. This however is no accident, it is a result of meticulous planning, content creating and professional endeavours.

Upon leaving the villa, Molly-Mae’s business venture had already proven extremely successful, with all of the UK top clothing brands aiming to secure a deal with her. After considering her options, Molly-Mae signed an incredible £500,000 deal with Manchester based fashion company, Pretty Little Thing. This was the highest brand deal a 2019 Love Island contestant generated.

As Molly-Mae’s Pretty Little Thing collaboration rolled out, the brand found their sales increase dramatically, with the range selling out immediately. This therefore resulted in Molly Mae receiving another six-figure deal to extend the collaboration for an extra six months.

Molly-Mae donated all profits from one of her Pretty Little Thing collections to the mental health charity MIND following the death of friend and Love Island host, Caroline Flack. MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems. The charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding surrounding mental health.

The decision to donate all profits to MIND was a personal decision for Molly-Mae, due to the death her close friend. Doing this allowed Molly-Mae to use her huge platform to promote the importance of mental health awareness and understanding. Molly-Mae engages with a lot of young people through her social media following, maintaining a positive reputation and a high level of influence. It is important to target her following with important issues, encouraging them to speak out about their mental health.

On the back of her partnership with Pretty Little Thing, it was clear that Molly-Mae was a big hit. To ensure she captured her success at a high point, Molly-Mae decided to embark on her very own business venture. With a target audience in mind, through commitment and dedication, she successfully launched her very own tanning brand, Filter by Molly-Mae.

Filter is a collection of tanning products. However, some eager eyed fans have noticed the brand is listed on Endole as a ‘wholesale of perfume and cosmetics’, which gives them the rights to expand the range into a cosmetic and beauty brand. This expansion has been successfully carried out by many brands. Local brand bPerfect Cosmetics did exactly this, expanding their tanning brand into a makeup cosmetics line and most recently, opening a Mega Store in Belfast City Centre. *No pressure Molly-Mae*

In September 2020, Molly-Mae hit the significant milestone of one million subscribers on her ever-growing Youtube channel, where she documents her life through daily vlogs, behind the scenes on business ventures as well as hair, makeup and fashion tutorials.

It could be argued that Youtube is an extremely vital part in Molly-Mae’s success. Her loyal followers were introduced to her through Love Island, a TV show that followed her daily life, every day, for over two months. Therefore, people may feel that they know Molly-Mae on a more personal level and her Youtube ensures this relationship is continued.

To celebrate this milestone, Molly-Mae launched a huge giveaway on her Instagram account. This giveaway boasted £8,000 worth of prizes, with Louis Vuitton bags, Apple gadgets, as well as her tanning products from Filter by Molly-Mae.

Giveaways are an immediate way to create engagement on social media, with many influencers participating in brand collaboration giveaways. Collaborations benefit both the brand and the influencer, with brand specific prizes and entry requirements that increase following and engagement for both.

Molly-Mae decided to cut out the ‘middle-man’ and set up the giveaway on her own. This allowed her to include authentic prizes that were directly related to her personality, her brand and her followers’ interests. Doing this also allowed Molly-Mae to stay clear of the typical, robotic perception that comes with giveaways. She ensured her caption was sincere, including a message of gratitude to existing followers.

Molly-Mae posing with her £8,000 giveaway prize on Instagram.

The entry requirements on the giveaway were as follows:

  • Like this post & tag a friend
  • Subscribe to my Youtube channel
  • Make sure you’re following @mollymaehague and @filterbymollymae
  • Share this post to your story for a bonus entry

These entry requirements ensured multi-networking which generated a high level of engagement, increasing social media following, as well as building brand awareness for Filter by Molly-Mae.

The giveaway also created headlines for the tabloids, keeping Molly-Mae in the public eye. It is very important that influencers show commitment and dedication to content creation in order to maintain their public image. This is especially important in 2020, with events, launches and media appearances being minimal due to COVID-19.

Molly-Mae’s vision for the future was impeccable and the aim of this giveaway was certainty achieved, with the total entry level reaching almost THREE MILLION, her personal Instagram gaining over 200,000 new followers and 300,000 new Youtube subscribers.

Both her personal Instagram and Youtube account will benefit greatly from this surge in followers through an increase of sponsored posts as well as an increase in earnings through social media insights and engagements.

The biggest success to come out of the giveaway has been the increase in Instagram followers for her tanning brand. Filter by Molly-Mae gained a mind-blowing 500,000 followers and counting. Yes, that is correct – 500,000!

Social media giveaways are an effective way to generate engagement with a loyal, existing audience, as well as a way to reach out to new people. Molly-Mae utilised people’s desire to participate in competitions to increase engagement for her new brand, Filter by Molly-Mae. She done this at a time where her fame and engagement were high, gaining public exposure at a time where this is limited.

To be sure she obtains the benefits of her giveaway and retains the increase in engagement, it is essential that Molly-Mae develops strategic communication tactics to build a relationship with new followers, as they are not required to continue following her once the competition has ended. It is important that she remains consistent, sharing user generated content, as well as asking for feedback and recommendations.

As soon as the winner of the giveaway was announced, Molly-Mae was already forward-planning, building excitement for the next one on social media. This is the perfect way to keep followers, old and new interested. However, if the next prize is anything like the first… who wouldn’t be interested?

I have a good feeling about the next one… if you see me out and about in the near future with a 4-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set or Apple gadget bundle… thanks Molly-Mae!

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

The forgotten industry of Covid – Beauty is going Bust

The forgotten industry of Covid – Beauty is going Bust

2020… the year of world spread carnage, incarceration, and Corona. Ironically, the virus with the same name as a well enjoyed beverage has robbed us of our birthdays, freshers week, Christenings, Confirmations, weddings that have been years in the planning, holidays and in general, just having the right to a Saturday night boogie and a pint in your local. Some of us are thankful for this unexpected opportunity to save our student loans, rather than spending it on alcohol, new outfits, and makeup appointments, but while we are benefiting from all this new found fortune, the beauty industry has been hit… hard.

Facing Facts

Beauticians, nail and hair salons rely on their clients having social lives, so they can afford to have a life. Even world established beauty brands have experienced a knock-on effect and have lost millions in sales this year to date, with L’Oreal reporting a 4.8% drop in net sales, and Shiseido dropping a huge 15.8%. At the end of the day, if makeup artists aren’t using their products on clients, they won’t need to repurchase. If all us ladies are working and studying from home, heck, we aren’t wasting our £40 Urban Decay foundation to sit at our desks in our pyjamas for the day! It’s a never-ending cycle of disheartening loss for a once booming industry. Just look at these findings by international financial network, CNBC, which shows consumer spending on non-edible goods during Covid – we aren’t just being drama queens.

The Retail Wheel – it ain’t no Ferris ride

From a personal perspective, I have witnessed first-hand the struggles of which a beauty giant is experiencing as it weathers storm Covid. I have worked for bareMinerals since January. Owned by Shiseido, they are one of the only clean and vegan makeup and skincare brands on the market. Even though the products could practically sell themselves (I’m not biased at all), new limitations have been making my job almost impossible. The company, along with every other cosmetics brand, introduced a ‘No Touch Policy’ on counter from before lockdown even started, along with making the wearing of masks mandatory at all times while on work premises. These new rules are completely reasonable and required for our own protection and that of our customers, however, how am I going to convince a new customer that the £31 foundation that I have colour matched to her skin tone by eye alone is the right one for her? It’s not going to happen – she can’t even see my face from behind my mask to read the geniality in my smile and facial expressions. Actually, she can’t see my own makeup from behind it to gauge whether I am worthy of taking makeup advice from in the first place!

So lets take a different scenario: a repeat customer has came in and has asked for her concealer in shade medium… but we don’t have the product as we haven’t received a stock order in 6 weeks. Department stores are drowning in dept from this pandemic, without sales happening instore, they cannot afford to pay the brands for the stock they have already sent into their counters. The solution: stop sending products, and hope that the counter can sell through the unpopular leftover stock already in their cupboards. No stock for weeks on end results in unhappy customers, as well as unhappy employees whose targets are impossible to meet and therefore won’t be receiving any commission. But this is just our ‘New Norm’.

Redundancy? Not me

In September after 7 months of furlough, the reality of this pandemic hit me square across the face, and I was told I’d lost my 20-hour contract with bareMinerals – I was in total shock, panic, and desperation; how was I supposed to pay my bills? How was I going to find another job in an economy that was crashing and making redundancies was becoming a day to day occurrence? I was incredibly lucky when my area manager stepped in and offered me more hours within a Belfast store, I physically cried with relief in fact, but the guilt was eating me simultaneously – I had taken the few remaining hours of a contract that someone had just been made redundant from. But while I was swooped in and saved, what happens to those individuals who rely on only themselves to make money? They don’t have the safety of a signed contract that entitled me to furlough and employment rights.  

Michelle and Arlene save the day… sort of

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme developed by the NI Executive offered up 80% of an individual’s average monthly trading profits: hey! that’s great, right? Think again;  to qualify, your business had to be in trade from 2018, so new start-ups were swept straight under the carpet, and if you think it couldn’t get any worse, the grant is capped at £7,500. Of course, we all must give credit to our country leaders for the support they have provided us all during this pandemic, but these requirements for eligibility were so time-based for such a fresh industry with many new young start-ups.

Finally, let’s think of the forever changing and confusing minefield which are our government Corona Virus guidelines. Have you ever noticed these guidelines always leave the retail and beauty sectors on the side-lines and only seem to explicitly mention ‘Bars and Restaurants’, when beauty therapists are the ones facing close and physical contact with their clients on a day to day basis? They are left to read within the lines, while putting their well-being on the line to make a living.

So girls, if you fancy putting a full face on and wanting your brows done to look good on your next Zoom call, please feel free – you might just save the beauty industry.

Larissa McIlrath is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University, 2020-2021. She can be found on Instagram and Facebook.

Defining PR through a student lens

Defining PR through a student lens

When I think of blogging, I think of 7-year-old me writing a diary about everything I did every weekend throughout my childhood to look back at and remember the fond memories. Now that I have grown up and had the opportunity to look back at these supposed ‘blogs’ I drafted. It usually consisted of my weekly dance class and a sleepover at my favourite aunties house. But since this is my first ‘official’ blog lets start over. When my lecturer Conor asked us to each write a blog on a professional topic within the PR industry it got me thinking, how would I sum up in my head the definition of Public Relations?

The public relations and communications association (PRCA) defines public relations as ‘the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages. (PRCA, 2020)  

Yes, there is a lot of this definition I would agree with, however, in my eyes it’s so much more. So much more I could probably write 50 pages about. In a lecture with Conor he asked us to each come up with a definition of what we thought PR was. So, for me I got my pen and paper and started writing random words in bubbles around the page. He then asked us to ask a family member to see how they would sum it up and how their definition differed from mine. My mum made me laugh as she stood there making the dinner and said, ‘I take it it’s just marketing a company!’.  Three words kept appearing in the back of my head and it got me thinking, does anyone really know what PR is?

The first was the organisation. Now to me, an organisation is Tesco so I can understand when PRCA refers to ‘the way an organisation is represented in the media’ and how Tesco have TV adverts, radio adverts, social media platforms and even for me a monthly email to my inbox for some light bedtime reading!  But then Conor mentioned something that stuck, and it was ‘but the Kardashians wouldn’t be considered a company or organisation, would they?’ I’m not going to lie I did zone out for a few seconds because I’m one of those people who will agree with it being the biggest load of rubbish but secretly binge watch it all day on a Sunday afternoon. But in reality, the marketing and digital side to an organisation are all merging, so to me there is no clear, concise answer to that being considered the definition of PR. 

Secondly is publics. When I think of publics, I think it means segmenting our population into different groups and that the core message an organisation is trying to portray is relatable and when needed, they may tweak a message to make it suitable for the target audience.  When I look at the level of interest regarding publics, it’s clear to see that this cannot always be achieved by every organisation. For example, a local bakery may not be able to gain the same message to the publics as Tesco might or that one set of publics could be more ‘aware’ and the other more ‘latent’ when it comes to an organisation.  It’s about tailoring the core message to each set of publics in a way that will not conflict itself.  Jerry Silfwer, 2015 says ‘Group people on the basis on what situation that created them and how, when and where they choose to communicate. It’s easier, it’s faster, it makes more sense and most of all — it makes your public relations activities much more relevant and efficient.’

And finally, reputation. In the eyes of some, this factor is not held highly accountable but, in my opinion, reputation is important although it is not necessarily controlled by the PR team itself. Many people will disregard reputation and say that it is connected with relationships. But to me, they are categorised completely differently.  For me, it’s the image I envisage in my head when I think of an organisation, company or even the Kardashians! Or on the other hand, a bad scenario that sticks in my head when something is leaked or a few negative comments that one time on my 3am twitter rampage. But then again, not the full package of what a true definition of what public relations stands for. 

So, organisations, publics, and reputation are definitely relevant in shaping the definition of public relations but are by no means in my eyes what make up the full picture. So, what is the full picture? Will we ever know? For now, I’d say there is no single-handed answer to what or how to define public relations because the truth is its ever-changing and that is the beauty of it.  In my opinion of being a student studying the academic literature and history of what it has brought to the table over the years, I would say it’s a professional industry that helps organisations to communicate to its publics in an effective way which then helps to uphold a reputation which other organisations and departments can learn from within the workplace as well as outside the workplace and these messages are mostly perceived well by the media as they are sent and passed on.

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.

Is the media’s constant scare-mongering leading people to believe that COVID-19 isn’t serious?

Is the media’s constant scare-mongering leading people to believe that COVID-19 isn’t serious?

I write this blog after hearing the news that Northern Ireland will be going back in to lockdown, and i cant help but feel that we are now in a lockdown, reopen, cases rise again and back to lockdown cycle which will be hard to get out of.

Having worked in a bar since they were given the green light to reopen, i genuinely don’t know what people would talk about if the coronavirus wasn’t around. For the guts of 8 months, my social media feeds, news channels and general conversations have all heavily included the coronavirus topic, which is now growing to be quite a controversial one.

Are the media to blame for the fear factor?

Since the initial virus outbreak in January, most main stream medias have made it the forefront of their news outlets. I remember in February, seeing from BBC news that the coronavirus has reached Europe, still thinking that it wasn’t going to be anywhere near as serious as it has been. When COVID-19 finally hit the UK, the media instantly began to push the narrative that the “killer virus” was here to stay, this scared me (and i imagine a lot of others) and so i welcomed Boris’ announcement that we would be going in to lockdown for an initial 3 week period, which seems quite laughable now.

During the first 3 weeks of lockdown, I found myself almost forgetting about the virus, as it felt kind of like a holiday. However, the novelty soon wore off and this was when I became somewhat obsessed with the facts and figures about the virus. Every day I would watch the daily briefings, as it seemed we were in an endless spiral of rising cases and deaths. When you look back at it, yes the deaths and number of cases increased everyday, but you rarely seen stories of the people who had made recoveries, which makes you wonder, why would the media be so negative and focus on the negatives in a time that the people needed positive news just to feel a slight relief from the anxiety of it all.

What’s happening now?

At this point in time, I think many people are tired of the constant back and forth between normality and lockdowns/restrictions. I am quite a frequent twitter user, and my feed now compared to 6 months ago is like night and day. Now i see a focus on people who are fed up with not only the virus, but the mainstream media, who seemed to try extremely hard to scare the public with facts and figures but only highlighting the negatives. My worry is that if the public have made the decision to go against what the media and government are saying, the cases will continue to rise and the constant cycle of lockdown after lockdown will not be broken.

My take on it is this; the virus is not going to go away overnight and there will have to come a time where we learn to live with it. That being said, there are still so many vulnerable people that’s lives could be saved through restrictions. Let the most vulnerable shield and let everyone who feels comfortable, try and get back to some sort of normality, if that is even possible. In a time where everyone seems to be divided, largely down to the way the media have covered the crisis, we need to stick together and try and get through this long, hard winter.

PS: A massive thanks to every single front line worker who has risked their and their families well-being, you really are the MVP’S.

Daniel Hastings is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter.