Carrickfergus JD Wetherspoon- A storm ahead of the rest

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Huge waves strike the harbour wall and lighthouse on October 16, 2017 as Storm Ophelia hits the UK and Ireland

So as I’m sure you’re aware, on Monday 16th October, 2017, a hurricane named Ophelia paid a visit to our beautiful little island. Now for most of us the weather didn’t really affect our day-to-day lives and if you are anything like me, who got sent home from work early and was given a day of university, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get the fire lit, stick on my favourite Hepburn movie, get the cosy pyjamas on and sip on a vino or five. It was wonderful!!

However, as I was vegetating on the sofa and scrolling Facebook, the most brilliant post appeared on my Timeline written by JD Wetherspoon’s Bar in Carrickfergus.  The post (which I later noticed was extensively shared) read: “Morning all, so no one knows how bad this storm is gonna be, and it kicks off on my shift. If you live alone and are a little apprehensive come down to the bar and we will sit it out together, if your electric goes out and you need hot water for babies or the kids, come down and I will supply tea and coffee for free. If you are homeless in the area at this time our doors are open for shelter and heat no questions asked. If you get caught in it and can’t get home, use us as a safe point we will try and get you home. I will stay all night if need be, but above all be safe, it may amount to nothing but better being prepared. Please share and let people know. Robert”.

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A screenshot of the post by J.D Wetherspoon, Carrickfergus

After reading this post, I will admit, I was a little teary eyed. It really struck me how wonderful and caring this duty manager, Mr. Robert McCleneghan was, to open the doors of his business to absolutely anyone who needed help.

However, it then also occurred to me how bloody clever it was for a business to place a post like this on a public facing platform. Now don’t get me wrong, in no way am I taking away from Mr. McCleneghan’s desire to genuinely want to help vulnerable and isolated people within the community. But, this post, in my opinion, was an excellent example of effective Public Relations through the use of a social media platform, in this case Facebook.

By proving that the business valued and cared about the safety of the people of Carrickfergus and those travelling through the area (who most likely are their regular clientele), JD Wetherspoon gained the respect of their desired publics and Facebook followers, who in turn will hopefully return the favour by bringing their business to an establishment who clearly value their custom but most importantly their safety.

They say that out of crisis comes opportunity and this post was undoubtedly a huge success. To date it has had approximately 17k likes, 1600 comments and 13k shares. Posting such a heartfelt message will really work in favour for this little bar in Carrickfergus. Creating a Facebook post that had such a large reach is something that most businesses only dream of! People all over Northern Ireland, so overwhelmed by this thoughtful gesture, made it their business to share this post, placing JD Wetherspoon in Carrick on the map.

One comment that really caught my eye read as follows: “I don’t live near Carrick but next time I’m passing I’ll make a point of calling in. Good service deserves to be rewarded with good custom”. This quote sums up exactly what most people were thinking when they read this post. Intentionally or unintentionally, JD Wetherspoon, in posting such a caring message, have well and truly got people talking about their bar in positive way that can only benefit their business.

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A screenshot of the positive feedback flooding the comments section on Facebook

Moreover, this post didn’t go unnoticed by the local media. An online story was published by the Belfast News Letter and Belfast Live, who both praised the bar for their generosity during a time that potentially could have been difficult for certain groups of people within the community. Unsurprisingly, the bar gained even more positive feedback as a result, making JD Wetherspoon a much more attractive business to consider visiting when in the Carrickfergus area.

I believe that JD Wetherspoon really has stormed ahead of the rest of their competitors within the Carrickfergus area and most of them should take a leaf out of their book!

Their post really has shown that social media can be a powerful tool in putting your business on the map, gaining new customers, building relationships and increasing repeat custom whilst most importantly showing that the wellbeing of your customers and community are of the upmost importance to yourself and to the business that you run.

Hannah O’Connor is a final year Bsc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @hannarose94 and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-o-connor-0140b3150/