GE2017 For Dummies

An Election Guide for Dummies: Take 2

This time around it is the recent General Election I will be breaking down, which sees the electorate take to the polls to vote for one candidate from a political party to see them through to one of the 650 seats up for grabs across the UK (18 of which are in Northern Ireland).

My thoughts on this election are summed up in these 5 words.

As you might have already heard, the Conservatives suffered crippling losses at the hands of Theresa May’s ‘gamble’ to call this premature election in the first place. In order for the Tories to take sole leadership in the UK, they must hold a majority of 326 seats. Although, they only managed to gain 318 seats, meaning they lost their reigning majority in the House of Commons and ultimately the sole power to run this country.


But lets be honest, it was probably the farmers revolt against Theresa for ruining their crops.


Although they still hold the most seats of any party in the UK, they need the help of a smaller party to form a government  – this is when the DUP come in to play.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn triumphed in this election, turning around their less than satisfactory polling in the 2015 election to gain 29 brand new seats, upping their total number of seats to 261. I am pinning this unbelievable result on the students who registered to make their voice heard in an election campaign where Corbyn capitalised on student debt worries and promised a free ride to higher education if he was voted PM. It was the mass student outcry in key Uni areas such as Kent and Leeds that helped Labour win over the Conservatives in historic proportions.


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This is the way I’m currently imagining Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction


What Labour did in this election, is similar to how the Sinn Fein removed the DUP majority in Stormont elections just months ago. This is a tremendous achievement for both liberalism and socialism.


What does this mean for NI?

In NI, a vote holds a completely different political agenda as to if you were voting Labour or Conservative in the rest of the UK. Instead of voting Left or Right, you most likely voted Republican or Loyalist. The reason I use the two more extreme versions of the NI division (instead of Nationalist and Unionist), is because Northern Ireland has seen a surge in radicalisation, as the NI voters decided to mostly go DUP or Sinn Fein.

As predicted in my last blog, we have seen a total annihilation of the UUP and SDLP, two ‘softer’ parties with less hard-line policies (despite the UUP and DUP being as backward as each other). The Foyle constituency, described as a ‘Citadel of the SDLP’, was a historic win for Sinn Fein as it has been for decades the political stronghold of the SDLP. Another huge success for SF is South Down where Chris Hazzard won the seat from SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie. DUP also stole the seats of South Antrim and South Belfast.

  • Sinn Fein will continue their policy of abstention where they do not take their seats at Westminster.


Where do the DUP come into all of this?

Since announced by Theresa May that the Tories will be entering into an official partnership with the DUP to be able to form a minority government, the DUP have been the most searched political party on Google in the UK. Voters will be wondering who Arlene Foster is and what her political agenda is. They will come across articles on the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal, her bigoted stance on gay marriage and abortion and her pro-Brexit policy. Of course, English news websites have highlighted Foster’s troubled past with the IRA, likely to resonate with those in England still fearful of the terrorist group since the 1990’s. I should not need to go into the ancient, obnoxious policies of the DUP, but it is imperative that you know that their stance on some key humanitarian issues have no place in modern day society in NI.


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As a line dancer myself, I find the first one most upsetting…..


The DUP’s aim with working with Theresa May is to help achieve their Brexit goals, like pushing for a soft border due to the special circumstances which surround NI and the ROI. In a way, it is good that Northern Ireland finally have a significant impact on the going-ons in Westminster, but on the other hand I am frightened that it is the DUP who have the say.

So there we have it. Despite the British people showing a clear want for a political reform, we have against all odds seen the most shocking election in decades, with a Conservative government upheld only by the Democratic Unionist Party.

In 2 and a half years, I have voted in 4 elections. Each time I made my voice heard, despite belonging to one of the most secure nationalist constituencies in the North. I still need to utilise that vote to make sure the party I believe in are getting popular support. If you didn’t vote, I have no doubt you will get the chance to very soon.


Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

Don’t tweet lies – strategise

Is your company using digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to reel in more interest in your product or service?

They are? Ok. Now ask yourself, is your company using digital platforms effectively?

‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Seven words can also be – “Did you see that video on Facebook?” or “Just found the cutest bedsheets on pinterest!” – So A LOT can happen in seven words.

You may be applying these ‘digital technologies’ and clicking send on an aimless Facebook status, but what you want to be doing is ‘achieving marketing objectives’ by doing so. And to achieve marketing objectives, you need to create them through a well thought out strategic plan! This blog will help show you the benefits of developing your own digital strategic plan for your business – big or small.

What does ‘Digital’ include?

Since the creation of the first website in 1989, the digital world has been expanding to include more than just websites. Today you can advertise your business through SEO, email marketing, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest etc.), online video content (YouTube), pay-per-click advertising and mobile marketing.

You might have a sound marketing strategy for your physical business, but when it comes to connecting to your target audience on a digital level, you need to know which of these platforms are applicable and which you can utilise in order to build your brand and boost your revenue on a digital scale.

The benefits of going digital are endless….

It is now easier to satisfy customers with an easy to use website, promotional messages that work and are coherent with the rest of your social media and a quicker response time for customer service via messaging.  This can be an amazing way to boost your brand image, creating personal and intriguing content that will entice customers to purchase and repurchase from your business – for example video content has the power to go viral with the click of the ‘share’ button, all you have to do is be creative.

Tip:  With Instagram now introducing a ‘shop now’ feature without the user actually having to leave the app, it is those online retail companies with formidable strategic digital plans who will respond first to this opportunity and increase their online presence further whilst also up-selling their products.

With the help of tools such as Google Analytics, it is now easier to track and monitor your website statistics. This is an easy to use tool that can help you interpret data, transform it into tangible information and increase your awareness of your target audience.

Tip:  Ask your customers to subscribe to promotional emails when they purchase an item from you. This can further your revenue through repurchase whilst gently increasing awareness of your brand.

BUT you need to be careful too!

In the modern age, not just the basic needs of the customer need to be satisfied, but there are numerous extras that are expected from a company’s online website. The ease of use, performance and presentation are all considered when a website is launched, and these are inadvertently judged by those using it.

Be creative, but be coherent. Your website can’t have any broken links, as no one wants to go to the effort of clicking something (exhausting, I know!) to be disappointed with a webpage that doesn’t work. Even worse, for a webpage that doesn’t include the information they clicked on.

Lastly, the reputation of your brand is dependent on the reviews customers give the company – whether by word of mouth or online. Both have the potential to be damaging if they are stories of poor quality, customer service or of a bad experience. A good recommendation by an individual with a strong following on Facebook or Twitter could make or break your business – use this as an opportunity for celebrity endorsement of your product in order to boost your reputation, but make sure they like your product/service first!

Let’s look at Missguided for example

Innovation is at the heart of Missguided’s solid digital strategic plan. They realise that their targeted value market sector – “the determined dreamer, stylish professional and cautious creative” all have strong online presences. They took advantage of this. The aim of their 2015 Executive Summary was to ‘elevate the brands positioning, increase sales and endorse the brands core values and messages’. Instead of their marketing team posting aimless status’ and tweets, they filled the consumer with meaningful content which helped improved the image of Missguided.

Their marketing primarily focuses on competitions, celebrity endorsements, guerrilla marketing, web advertising and a cohesive social media campaign. Building the brand’s personality through informal and fun interactions on social media has been a key part of Missguided’s strategy creating a fun, quirky, youthful and above all – affordable – alternative to the online retail experience.

Most importantly, Missguided realise the need for an integrated strategy for both their digital and physical markets, resulting in both components complimenting each other. For example, their Facebook offered a competition to win two VIP tickets to their store opening in Manchester, they showed sneak peeks on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr of their new store’s interior which emulates the brand values projected on their website, and their website also featured a live countdown of the opening of the store.

Within the store itself, digital screens were used to display social media engagement, such as when someone hash tagged a photo of a new purchase, and signs which encouraged customers to follow the brand on Snapchat. Even the writing around the store – “99% unicorn” and “eat, sleep, slay” – mirrors the brand’s playful tone of voice that can be seen across its social platforms.


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So what can you do to develop your strategy?

PR Smith’s SOSTAC is an excellent framework for developing aims and goals stemming from a detailed situational analysis which looks at your outside and inside environment. This scan helps you get an advantage over your competitors, whilst keeping your own business focused and efficient. Alongside some of the tools mentioned above, SOSTAC will also help you monitor and control your strategy so that you know what to do if something goes wrong.

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In conclusion, don’t tweet lies – strategise!

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

Queen of Crohns

It has been a while since I have put fingers to keyboard to blog about things close to my heart, but as May marks ‘Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month’, it is only natural I write a feature blog on one of my best friends, Rachel Nugent, who battles this disease fearlessly every day of her life.

I have known Rachel since I was around 14 when we went to hip-hop classes together (hilarious, I know), but I have always known her as a happy, positive and care-free girl. If something was ever wrong, all she had to do was stick on her earphones and play ‘Cascada-Everytime We Touch’ until she was feeling better. Or was it Tiesto?

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Like how could I forget December 2011….

But despite being obsessed with terrible EDM and hip hop dancing, she always seemed have these bouts of sickness which had never been explained. Her back would give her problems, damaging her thriving hip-hop career (if you can’t already tell, this is a joke), her mouth would be full of ulcers making it difficult for her to speak and her foot would randomly swell making it look like a ballooned animal. Her symptoms were so random, that it took until Rachel went to A&E with excruciating stomach pains for them to discover she suffered from Crohn’s disease. In 2014, after being put on steroids, she suffered depression which she eventually overcome, until she was discovered to have an abscess in her bowel. After this Rachel then underwent a ileostomy, or for the every day person – “The bag”.

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Doesn’t stop her topping up the vitamin D.

So what is Crohn’s?

I don’t want to go online and get some faceless definition from a health website. So in Rachel’s own words, Crohn’s is “the devil lol”. But in all seriousness, she sent me this as the best definition of the disease.

Crohn’s is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut. As well as affecting the lining of the bowel, Crohn’s may also go deeper into the bowel wall.  Crohn’s is a chronic condition. This means that it is on-going and life long.

How it has affected her

So far you have only heard a very brief overview of Rachel’s story, and it does not show the fear, anxiety or the pain that Rachel had to feel throughout the last few years. Before people knew Rachel suffered from Crohn’s, and due to the severe swelling of her lips, she went under intense scrutiny from the local area over an alleged ‘lip job’. I spent the majority of my energy explaining to these people that Rachel suffered from a disease that even I didn’t understand and that she hadn’t had her lips done. There were times when Rachel couldn’t even produce words from her mouth because her lips were giving her that much pain. It broke my heart, I couldn’t even imagine how she felt.


A lot of people didn’t know Rachel was going through the post-traumatic stress of one day having full control of your body, and the next having to rely on a bag. This played on Rachel’s mind for months, severe anxiety haunted her behind closed doors, depression came as a side-effect of the steroids – despite partying with her friends almost every weekend – it took her a while to come to terms with the disease.

Where is she now?

After her disease meant that she had to quit her education in Belfast, Rachel then trained with numerous MUA’s and is now one herself. She has set up her own Make-Up Salon from her house where she performs literal miracles on people like myself. Currently, her ileostomy is temporary and there is always hope that she will be able to get the bag off, but right now she is focused on raising awareness for this invisible disease.

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Rachel in action

But she still gets her bad days, despite being the most incredibly positive person I have ever come across! She has expressed her fears over not financially being able to cope as you never know when the next bout of sickness is going to come, not meeting someone who understands fully how to handle this disease, never being able to move away as she relies so heavily on the NHS and her mum and dad. She has helped my own family with advice and tips on the bag, always offering herself up as someone for them to talk to about it.

She is one of my biggest inspirations, and she should be yours too. x

How can you help?

Share this blog, let your Facebook followers see how Crohn’s can affect someone.

Or you can attend Rachel’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Casino Night in Sense Nightclub on the 26th May. Event details @


Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

The Power of Protest

As a final year student, I am currently writing my dissertation. The topic I chose to explore was Public Relations and Lobbying within the agriculture industry, as the recent news topics sparked my interest as a farmer’s daughter.


2015 saw the farming income for Northern Ireland fall from £311.8m to £182.5m, which was largely due to supermarkets and processors driving down farm produce prices. This was not an issue just within Northern Ireland, but throughout the whole of the UK.


So to understand why this campaign matters so much to farmers, I will explain the complex system (for myself if nothing else). Dairy farmers milk their cows twice or three times a day 365 days a year, which is collected by a milk tanker (nearly every day) to be taken to the processors where it will be pasteurised for human consumption. The majority of dairy farmers are locked into a contract with these processors and unable to leave. Combining the facts that supermarkets and processors are cutting the prices of milk and the inflation of the prices of fuel, feed and production, farmers are struggling to keep their farms afloat. They can’t stop feeding their cows or harvesting crops as (1) it is cruelty to animals and (2) a farmer’s actions will have a long term effect in how they can run their farm in the future.

Power of protests

Discouraged by this, farmers took to protesting, which sparked the biggest grassroots campaign the farming industry had seen in recent years; partly funded by the Scottish Government who contributed £100,000. This campaign achieved national media coverage and saw the issue fought through social media, peaceful protests and farming coalitions who communicated on behalf of the farmers.


SOS Dairy harnessed the full power of the Internet through using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to bring the farmers together and to share the issue with the general public. More than 800 individuals added the SOS Dairy ribbon to their profile photos on Twitter, with hundreds more showing the same support on Facebook and using the #SOSDairy hashtag. During this campaign a video called ‘The #SOSdairy song,’ made up of protest footage, became an Internet hit, gaining over 38,000 hits on YouTube. Through the videos’ popularity, the BBC approached the creator to request he preform it on the radio- enabling them to promote the cause further.

To demonstrate a united industry, the issue saw farm groups set aside their differences to form a coalition between NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, Tenant Farmers Association and the Women’s Food and Farming Union. It also brought together those who relied on the farming community such as farming suppliers, vets and lawyers all over the country. Whilst leaders of the coalitions held talks with the processors and supermarkets to achieve fair prices, the farmers named and shamed the milk processors and supermarkets while carrying out protests throughout the country by obstructing processing plants night after night, to show their strength.


Through this campaign major supermarkets backed down by announcing fairer prices for farmers who directly supplied the supermarkets, and processors eventually backed down and in result abandoned their second price cut. A poll carried out by YouGov and The Grocer found that 83% of the public were aware of the protests and 67% stated they think farmers should be paid more, even if it increases the price of milk.


Although this campaign achieved what it set out to do, capturing the public interest and winning the support of the consumer, there is still a long way to go for the industry in order to create a sustainable industry where farmers will profit.


Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at

Photography in Public Relations

We all know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and as an amateur photographer I firmly believe in this. So in Public Relations why should this be any different?

How often do you flick through a newspaper or magazine and a photograph catches your eye? Or how often does the photograph encourage you to read the article? So why submit a good story with a low quality photograph and limit the potential coverage your story could achieve?

Within an article or advert photos tend to stand out as they often consume more space; if this fails to capture the public’s attention they will often move on without reading the text, as articles with images gain 94% more views. Often the power of photographs is under estimated, so here are some guidelines on using photographs within your work:

  1. Preparation

Plan and prepare (1) what you intend to photograph; (2) why you intend to photograph it; and (3) how you will capture the photograph. Through preparation it will help you capture a range of photographs for different purposes that may be appropriate for future uses.

  1. Invest in a Photographer

A photographer will have the knowledge to know what type of photographs will be of an advantage to your company as well as being creative to capture unique photos that portray the company’s message. A professional will also have the correct equipment and skills to capture and edit photographs so that they best represent your message.

  1. Tell a Story

Quality photographs have the power to tell the client’s story and deliver a message to those who view it. Well-written stories accompanied by high quality photographs will grab both the editor’s and target public’s attention; therefore increasing the likeliness that the editor will publish your story as the photographs will increase the story’s appeal.

If people hear information they are likely to recall 10% of it three days later, whereas if that information is paired with a relevant image they will retain at least 65% of the information three days later. This highlights the importance of selecting a relevant photograph for your press release, as it will help increase brand recognition within your target publics as they will be able to recall the article when they see the product or service you offer.

  1. Social Media

Using quality photographs on social media is important as all platforms adapting to encourage users to upload photographs. The use of photographs on social media has been proven to increase the engagement rate, for example, on Twitter; tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without.

Photography in PR

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at

Since my last political post faired out so well, I have decided to continue to include my own opinion on the going-on’s in Northern Ireland’s ever-changing political landscape.

If Facebook was invented during the Troubles, I can only imagine that the war would have been fought with a keyboard instead of with guns. As social media has grew in popularity, a steady decline of humility and feeling has occurred. This negative correlation showed itself to me firstly when Margaret Thatcher died, as thousands flooded my timeline to show their courtesy – yet simultaneous disrespect – to her death.

However, on 21/03/2017, I was genuinely shocked to come on to Facebook and Twitter, and see so many disgusting comments at the death of Martin McGuinness. A man without whom Northern Ireland would still be very much stuck in the 1980’s.

As Margaret Thatcher is the only person who comes to mind when trying to compare the two political giants’ deaths, I must remind you of the background of each character.

Baroness Thatcher came from a well-to-do family and grew up in a quiet market town in Lincolnshire. Martin McGuinness was raised in the Bogside of Derry City, which to those who haven’t studied an ounce of NI history (half of my Facebook timeline), was a highly deprived area where Catholics were discriminated against at the electoral polls and at the housing executive. He left school at the age of 15 and without the right education behind him to express his anger at the British Government through speech, he delved into the violence that was rife at that time throughout NI.

I found this tweet sums up a great deal of Martin McGuinness’ early years.


This is not a post to make excuses for McGuinness’ early years, when he was obviously under the influence of the romanticised Irish patriots of the 20th century, but instead a post to commemorate his final 20 years where he pushed for change for Northern Ireland.

The progress he made throughout his political career is unparalleled – being the chief negotiator for Sinn Fein and Irish republicans through the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and staying with the power sharing Executive throughout its 19 year period. He too had to make compromises when dealing with the opposition who he fought with violence so vehemently just years previously. His warm and witty personality caught the attention of US President Bill Clinton, who spoke at his funeral.

The most poignant part of Clinton’s speech was when he mentioned Nelson Mandela. The South-African freedom fighter has come to epitomise peace and revolution – despite being involved in similar militant tactics as a young man. Clinton said that in a conversation with Mandela, Mandela told his people “if I can get over ‘it’ you can too, we have got to build a future”, which is exactly the attitude Martin McGuinness had when realising that until republicans and loyalist sides learned to move forward together, they wouldn’t move at all.


Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinnesswatched by First minister Peter Robinson (centre) at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Photograph: PA
McGuinness shaking Queen Elizabeth II’s hand. “If I can get over it, you can too. We have got to build a future.” – Nelson Mandela


If the Queen can shake Martin McGuinness’ hand although he was head of the IRA when her cousin Mountbatten was murdered by them – then surely everyone can pay respect to him (or perhaps not react at all), because after all he is a human being.

It is easy to judge someone when you only see them in black and white. But when I think of Martin McGuinness, his past reflects a rainbow of triumphs and turbulence.

Martin McGuinness “expanded the definition of ‘us’, and shrunk the definition of ‘them”

– Bill Clinton.

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Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.


Public Relations Vs. Advertising

Public Relations and Advertising are regularly confused and it’s commonly thought they play the same roles within an organisation, despite having different end goals and effects.

PR is a strategic communication process to create a positive reputation for a company in order to gain support and understanding through influencing opinions and behaviours of their publics. Whereas on the other hand, Advertising is the use of paid messages on various media platforms to inform and influence the target audience to make a purchase.


Free vs. Paid

  • PR: Primarily PR is focused on securing free media to gain exposure for the company and their products/services through use of strategies and tactics. Through using media you have no control of how they portray the company and present the information you provide and they are not required to publish any material you send. Due to this, you are in constant contact with the media and building relationships with them in order to have your press releases used.
  • Advertising: In advertising, companies pay for ad space for specific days and times so they are aware of when they will be ran. Due to this it allows you to have (1) creative control of what goes into the advert; and (2) media control of where the advert appears and when.


  • PR: You will only submit a press release of a new product launch or an event once so therefore this will only circulate once, as the editor will not re-run it but, you can send each press release to a number of journalists who will each write the story in their own styles.
  • Advertising: Due to paying for the advertising space, the advert will run for the duration which you have purchased.


  • PR: The public often find third party sources such as newspapers more credible as it is perceived to be an informative source; this method does not encourage someone to make a purchase but it creates a positive reputation for the brand and manufacturer.
  • Advertising: Often the target audience will look and read an advert with scepticism, as they know the purpose of the advert is to influence them to buy a product or service.


  • PR: In order to have an editor run a press release or cover your event, you must create content that hooks both them and the target audience.
  • Advertising: Your advertisement is geared towards your target audience, making use of buzzwords in order to influence and motivate the target audience.


Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at