A Message for Final Year Students

As many students would agree, entering final year of University is extremely daunting but yet quite exciting.  As you mentally prepare yourself all summer for the dreaded dissertation and promise yourself you will be organised this year; you buy a diary so you know your deadlines and make your way to Paperchase for pretty notebooks and matching files, pens and highlighters in every colour possible – you feel ready for it all to begin.  Now, all of a sudden, it’s March.  It feels like only a few weeks ago that Christmas was approaching, as were the deadlines, half the overpriced Paperchase pens were missing, your Christmas Spirit was overshadowed by that 3000 word assignment and the stress was absolutely real.  Despite the amount of times you heard, “You’ll be finished before you know it”, you felt there was literally no light at the end of the tunnel.  But, here we are, now a matter of weeks from ‘the end of an era’ and emotions right now are well and truly mixed; stress, fear, sadness and excitement are whirling around as we all approach our final deadlines as students and long-anticipated graduation.

Coping with final year studies as well as sleeping, retaining a social life and sanity and managing a part time job is without a doubt stressful.  For the past year whilst studying, I have worked part time in Ballyclare Secondary School, first as a clerical officer and this year as a classroom assistant also.  Despite the busy and sometimes long days, I am very lucky to be able to say this job is amazing.  Going ‘back to school’ as a member of staff was a little strange as it was only a few years ago I was a pupil – now I’m ‘Miss Hill’ and I can call teachers by their first names – for me, this took a bit of getting used to.  However, I can definitely say this is a job and school I absolutely adore and I will be devastated to leave when the time comes.


Recently, as a member of staff I have heard (for months) pupils fretting about the school formal; who’s taking who, where the best place for a spray tan is and about how ‘updos’ are no longer popular (who knew?!).  I remember these dilemmas myself when I was 17 and indeed they were (in most 17 year old’s head) the biggest issues in the world.  Fast forward 3 years and I really wish my biggest problem was where to get nail extensions – not how to write a dissertation, apply for jobs and revise for exams all at the same time.

Back in the day, in our little BHS bubble

Now, from a staff/adult perspective I can see that as a pupil in school, you’re unknowingly in a little bubble of safety, absolutely oblivious to the adult world – and quite rightly so.  You get to see your friends every day and you’re surrounded by teachers who will put their all into helping you achieve the grades you need, so that when you log in to UCAS on results day, it congratulates you on securing a place at the University you wanted to go to.  As a pupil, I definitely took this for granted; the routine, the friendships and the constant support available will, in my opinion, never be replicated.  Despite the hard work, determination, sweat and tears we will be putting into our dissertations and final year exams over the upcoming weeks, as a matter of fact, we have been working hard for this since the first day we sat in school as tiny year 8’s.

Oblivious to it at the age of 12, we were actually preparing ourselves for right now – entering ‘the big, bad world’, that place the adults always talked about.  When we were picking our GCSE or A-level subjects we were told to consider the ‘careers’ we wanted.  These choices we made from such a young age; the subjects we chose to study, the extra-curricular activities we participated in where we gained innumerable skills and qualities, the countless nights of revising and all-nighters of coursework have all contributed to the next matter of weeks and brought us to this point in our lives.

3 years later – Devan is engaged and training to be a primary school teacher.  I’m preparing to graduate and begin a career in PR.

From our sweet and innocent school days to the young adults we have become, we have been working for the next matter of weeks for years – that’s right, years.  Therefore, to everyone who is currently stressing about how fast May is approaching and the volume of work that is yet to be completed, remember you’ve had years of practice, you can and will get through the next matter of weeks with the same determination that got you here.

Good luck to everyone completing final year, make these next coming weeks count – what’s a few weeks in a lifetime?!


Lauren Hill is a Final Year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/



Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion

As many of you know, great PR will create a great reputation and great public image.  There is one PR campaign however which really stands out above all others and has undoubtedly captured the imaginations of people from all around the world.  At times his bravado and outrageous comments have stirred excitement and anticipation; at other times however, his circus has insulted, embarrassed and even angered many people, leaving us feeling a little weary.  Either way, it has worked.

He is Conor McGregor:  Dubliner, rock star, world champion fighter and the greatest walking, talking PR showman ever.  Not to mention every 14 year old boys absolute idol.  The former apprentice plumber from Dublin has rapidly become Ireland’s ‘Notorious’, and all through the power of his own publicity.  Like him or loath him he is the ultimate PR champion.

In 2007 Conor McGregor quit his apprentice plumbing job and had signed on to collect benefits so he could train with MMA coach, John Kavanagh.  He quickly made a name for himself as an MMA cage fighter but in 2013 he received the call from the UFC.  The rest quite simply is lucrative history.

Conor McGregor is now the reigning lightweight champion of UFC, he is the face of UFC and the sport’s biggest name.

He puts himself into headlines, he doesn’t just talk; he proclaims wild, bizarre and often insane pronouncements that simply cannot be ignored (a bit like Donald Trump, but maybe not as bad).  Take the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight of 2017; Mayweather was favourite to win, he was undefeated in the boxing ring and is arguably the world’s greatest ever boxer.  This however did not stop the ostentatious McGregor who had never boxed professionally in his life, “I’m gonna f**k this boy up. Make no mistake.”  He remained so confident in his ability, “Tell Floyd and Showtime, I’m coming. … I want $100 million cash to fight him under boxing rules because he’s afraid of a real fight.”  At this, every Irish lad quit their job, booked the flights and swiftly made their way to the bright lights of Vegas – seriously.

While UFC or boxing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or indeed the insults traded, through relentless and intense publicity, Conor McGregor has grabbed the attention of the world and made headlines.  The public had a thirst for the spectacle that these two mega-personalities were creating each week as the so called, ‘biggest fight of the century’ grew closer.  In the end, the luck of the Irish may not have been on McGregor’s side but yet, he was a triumph for PR.

He is Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.  Arguably Ireland’s biggest sporting star and despite his entertaining bravado, a very much respected sportsman.  Conor McGregor represents every working-class lad (or lass) from Ireland who wants to take a chance; the class which Conor McGregor personifies is real and current.  They too get up early and work hard, they compete with immigrants in the job, housing and health sectors, their wages are stagnating due to the economy and competition from abroad, yet they get on with it, they work for themselves and remain ambitious, much like McGregor.  They get out there like he did and do it themselves.  In Conor McGregor, the Irish see a hero.  Through mastering his craft, achieving success in PR and becoming ‘The Notorious’, McGregor is a self-made, successful and respected sportsman who never hid his ambition.  He is a representative of Ireland and what many Irish people stand for today.

Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion, Ultimate Fighting Champion.

Lauren Hill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/  


Syria: A Bleeding Country

Since 2011, more than 11 million people have been affected by the civil war in Syria and it is now the biggest humanitarian crisis this century has ever seen.

Before civil war broke out in Syria 6 years ago, it was already a country on its knees.  With high unemployment, widespread corruption and state repression under President Bashar al-Assad, it was only a matter of time before an uprising would occur.

It was only in October that two men attacked a police station in the Syrian Capital of Damascus where their double bomb attack killed 17 people.  These people have now been added to the estimated 475,000 already dead.  Attacks like this happen on a daily basis and the death toll rises every hour of every day.  This country is bleeding dead bodies.

Naturally, the effects of this bloodshed, endless fighting and fierce violence have been felt not only within Syria but across Europe.  ‘The Syrian Refugee Crisis’ is an issue surrounding the millions people who have fled Syria since 2011.  This country is also bleeding vulnerable yet hopeful refugees.

But what is your true opinion of ‘The Refugee Crisis’?  Is it a crisis that is being ignored by the public and politicians?  Have people’s opinions been decided or influenced by media and politics?  Is it selfish that some people do not want refugees in our country to live and work?  Or should it be that society unites and strives to help these hopeful refugees?

In September 2015, the image of 3 year old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body, washed up on a Turkish beach changed the world. It was this one image which impacted public and political opinion so much that it was only then that the West woke to the urgency of the Syrian Refugee Crisis – 4 years after it had begun.

Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washes up on a beach in Turkey

Public concern was marked by the immense social media campaigns which followed as ‘#RefugeesWelcome’ was used at least 20 million times the following year.

Weeks after this image went viral, the British government announced that 20,000 Syrians would be resettled within the UK by 2020 and so far 6,000 have been.

Recently, I began watching Educating Greater Manchester; a channel 4 documentary which each week focuses on issues and stories that surround everyday school life from teachers, pupils and parents’ points of view.  Cue the ‘terrible teens’, oversized tie knots, untucked school shirts and a whole lot of shouting (not just from teachers).

Episode one delved straight into the adjustments that staff and pupils in school faced due to the large influx of foreign pupils.  It focused on the challenges which the modern, multicultural school faced when Syrian refugees – who often spoke little English, joined the vast array of existing pupils and staff.

For me, Rani’s story made the episode an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish as we saw how he attempted to navigate his way through a new school life in Greater Manchester.  A language barrier saw the 11 year old placed into a remedial class where he had the opportunity to learn English and attempted to make friends.  In this heart-warming class, Rani explained to his new classmates and teachers where he was from and how sometimes he would see people being shot dead on his way to his old school in Syria.


However, it was the genuinely moving tale of the blossoming friendship between Rani and local lad Jack which captured mine and the nations hearts as they vowed to stay friends for life.  There was a lip-wobbling moment when Rani graduated from his remedial class into mainstream lessons and could sit next to new pal Jack.  Jack explained when he realised Rani was struggling to settle in, “I can see it’s difficult for him because he can’t bond with other people.”  But by the time the hour long episode was over the pair were ‘brothers’ and Rani had made a best friend for life.  Rani explained, “He is not like a friend, I think he is a brother”.


Despite the delight I felt for Rani, this episode still highlighted the struggles which another Syrian pupil named Murad met within the multicultural school as he came face to face with ‘Islamophobia’.  Murad confronted hurtful and upsetting comments from his peers who hurled playground insults at him, comparing him to a terrorist and Osama Bin Laden.  This emphasised the huge challenges which refugees are so often subjected to and unfortunately abuse like this is hugely popular inside and outside of school for refugees of every age.

This programme proved that schools in particular are playing a vital role within society to not only help young refugees but also educate the British public about the blight which refugees have faced and the challenges they meet in attempting to make a better life for themselves.  Teachers and pupils alike in this programme are not ignoring the crisis but are instead helping to develop pupils – who have come as refugees, into happy, well-educated, confident young people.  Subsequently, we as the viewing public can take lessons of our own away from Jack and Rani’s friendship as they proved how easy it is to accept others into our society, no matter where they are from, what religion they follow, what colour their skin is or what language they speak.

Lauren Hill is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/


Harvey Weinstein: Protected by PR

Over the past four weeks, Harvey Weinstein has joined the ever-growing list of men who apparently can’t keep their hands off women.  This list includes President Clinton, President Trump, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, men who don’t know how to behave as Gentlemen.   

How did a culture of silence build up around Harvey Weinstein?

The pace of the allegations against Weinstein has been rapid over the past four weeks, allegations against him include sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and the systematic silencing of victims.  The New York Times divulged the information on Harvey Weinstein in a scathing article which accounted for many of his victims.  According to The New York Times a female assistant working for The Weinstein Company claimed Mr Weinstein harassed her into giving him a massage while he was naked.

“I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”

– From Lauren O’Connor‘s memo



Since the explosive article appeared, the number of women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or sexual assault is staggering.  Over 50 women have bravely stood up and accused him of something.  Yet Mr Weinstein has, “Unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex.

I find it inconceivable that a man like Weinstein, with such a disturbing scope of behaviours was considered a normal and genuine man.

Harvey Weinstein has been protected by Hollywood.  All things ‘Hollywood’ are all things ‘PR’, and Weinstein was most definitely all things ‘Hollywood’.  He was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood – a ‘movie god’, possessing an unrivalled combination of political influence, power and money; and so it was clear the disgraced film mogul’s own institution were keen to keep quiet.  It is now the case that The Weinstein Company has fired Weinstein (that’s right, from his own company) in response to the publicity surrounding his sexual predatory behaviour.  In my opinion, The Weinstein Company should have had fired him 30 years ago when IT found out; rather than now, only when WE have found out.

Weinstein’s friends were his fixers and lawyers, they too are the powerful PR of Hollywood, yet once again, they kept quiet. Quentin Tarantino revealed on the 20th October 2017 he knew about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct towards women for years. “I knew enough to do more than I did”, the film director declared to The New York Times.  So why did he remain silent, consequently protecting Weinstein?  Behind the glitz and glam of Harvey Weinstein, he was piling up the victims and according to two company officials who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity; he had reached at least 8 silent settlements with women.

 “The men who do this, do it because they have the power and wealth to get away with it. They deliberately pick on women who are less powerful than themselves.”

– Joan Smith, writer, speaking about Weinstein

In a just world, Harvey Weinstein’s actions are indefensible, yet Weinstein defended them when he issued one of the strangest public apologies I have ever read. It’s clear he is now struggling to hire someone adequate enough to do his PR for him, now we all know the truth.

He starts by saying, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”  Sorry Mr Weinstein, but sexual harassment and assault was never culture, you should blame yourself, not ‘The culture’.

Weinstein goes on to say, “Over the last year, I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me, and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists, and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women, and regret what happened.”  Mr Weinstein, if you need a team of people and therapists to tutor you on how to behave like a civil, decent man and keep your hands to yourself; you really have no respect for anyone, not just women.

Weinstein closes with the following, “I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom, and I won’t disappoint her.”

As I’m sure many of you will agree, upon reading this my first thought was, “What is he talking about?”  How can he talk about the NRA, his Bar Mitzvah, the President, and an upcoming movie project all in an apology statement?  Is this an attempt by PR to distract us from the apology and his acknowledgement of his actions?  I don’t believe honouring his mother with a $5 million scholarship for women will eliminate the lifelong hurt and pain suffered by women he has abused either.

Harvey Weinstein has been protected by PR for most of his career and his serial sexual harassment went under the radar.  The powerful public’s who had every opportunity to challenge this animal unfortunately turned a very detrimental and destructive blind eye.

Lauren Hill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn.