As a student at the School of Communication, I would naturally love to further my career in this field. The past 13-months have taken a turn no one could have ever predicted. With the new virus taking over the world, people have gone into panic and are scared for their lives and the lives of others. People have had an unprecedented amount of new stress to deal with, and it seems the virus has touched every family in some way or someone who knows someone. It is no surprise that this pandemic has had a massive effect on recruitment and redundancy in negative ways. I’m sure there are other final year students out there who are also worried about the current job market and how difficult it may be to find a job, graduate scheme, or start a business. Which leads me to think, how will the virus affect our industry?
I said before that the virus had touched many families – mine was most certainly one of them. I contracted the virus in September, and it wasn’t an easy road. During this time, we were allowed to meet members of our family and friends outside. My boyfriend had gone for dinner with his friends, one of which unknowingly had the virus at the time and spread it to him and then him to me. It took a few days for it to come to light, as no one from the dinner started to show symptoms for around three days. Once the news came out after everyone had been tested because of their symptoms, I started my isolation period. I began to develop symptoms around day 5. I lost my sense of taste and smell and experienced extreme fatigue; luckily, I did not have any severe symptoms. Even luckier, I did not pass it to anyone who I came into contact with before isolation. I had a test sent to my house, and sure enough, it was positive. I was very fortunate that I had already started to work from home and was still able to attend Zoom meetings and complete work. However, the mental toll it takes can be severe. I was lucky enough to have family around me that would bring me food and leave it at my door, and I used an upstairs bathroom that no one else used to minimise any chance of my family contracting the virus. If I didn’t have the support of my family during those 14 days, just like a lot of people don’t, I know it could’ve been a completely different experience.
For a career in any field, it’s essential to network and link with others in your industry to make valuable connections and broaden your contacts. The virus has made this more difficult, with events now being limited and seminars having moved online, which takes away from the face to face interaction we all love. LinkedIn has become as powerful as ever. I have found myself getting more submerged in my news feed and looking through potential connections. This has proved valuable to many people as it can be a great way to find new connections, and as everyone is in the same boat, it will be much less daunting!
Thinking about how to navigate your career during this time will be tough. I think it’s comforting to believe that everyone is in the same boat. I have even seen a few changes on LinkedIn. I notice many professionals are changing their profile pictures to less formal ones to reflect their current reality of working from home. I think this is a great way to humanise the platform and show others that they’re not alone in this situation.
I believe post-Covid-19 will undoubtedly have its challenges for everyone. I think it’s essential for us to stay as resilient and look to the future positively because everything will go back to normal someday. To me, a career in Communications is a career of communicating effectively. I think this should spill into our personal lives, whereby we check on each other and ensure no one feels alone or lost. The effects of this second lockdown could be catastrophic to people’s mental health. The impacts of self-isolation on top of that are also hard to deal with.
There are many mental health websites and blogs that advise on how you can best keep your mind healthy.
Lauren Simmons is a final year student studying BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn
2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Effects from the year will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for years to come as every business has to adapt to the “new normal”. There is no business that has escaped unaffected. Therefore, businesses of every size globally have been forced to adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges this year has thrown at them. For many, this has been made possible thanks to the help of PR.
Here is just 4 reasons why PR is invaluable to businesses at the time of a crisis such as COVID19:
To Produce a Crisis Management Plan
Let’s face it, no one could have ever predicted a global pandemic and international lockdown. Coronavirus has brought new issues no one could have ever imagined having to face. However, a crisis management plan in place may have outlined the ways in which to overcome challenges in the event of the business having to temporarily close or reduce output for whatever reason.
Now, more than ever, businesses need to put in place a plan or evaluate their current one to reduce crisis impact in future. With lives and livelihoods at stake, a crisis management plan simply cannot be overlooked.
2. To Establish Trust and Integrity
Inevitably, the global pandemic has created mass distrust. A good PR strategy can instil a reputation of trustworthiness and credibility for a brand so that gradually consumers will trust the brand without question.
One way of doing this is through a macro/micro-influencer. An influencer is a powerful tool to gain credibility. However important it is for the blogger to be admired and trusted, most of all the brand and influencer relationship must be genuine, otherwise it will have the opposite effect if consumers sense a false association or a feeling that the influencer doesn’t even use the businesses products/services.
3. To Maintain a Positive Online Relationship
During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever before to maintain a relationship with consumers at home. Pre-pandemic business-consumer relationships have diminished especially for businesses that had no online presence or did not fully engage with consumers.
As society becomes more physically isolated, engaging online with consumers will make them feel more unified in an online community. It provides a safe space where they can maintain a personal relationship to the brand in a time of so much tragedy and negativity.
Many brands are using their online platform to spread messages of hope and the recurring theme of “stay safe” or “stay at home” which consumers engage well with when brands show they are connected and they care.
4. To Promote Success
After time it can be extremely beneficial to promote how well you’ve responded to issues caused by COVID19. For example, according to Deloitte (2020), 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.
Brands who highlight their success with steps they have taken on their part to control the virus or simply their role in “doing the right thing” are seen as more genuinely caring by consumers. For example, advertising store closures, social distancing measures, hand sanitising stations and new business practices not only provide information but show they are committed to the protection of the community.
Aveen Moore is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter
The athleisure wear industry is estimated to be worth £2.5 billion in the UK alone; and is only expected to increase throughout the next five years. This rise could be attributed to the increase in social media influencers who make their living sharing exercise related content; and have generated buzz around exercise, especially for their younger audiences.
In recent years, well-known high-street brands have reacted to this surge in interest for fitness by releasing their own range of sportswear. With most fast fashion brands, including Missguided and Pretty Little Thing, creating their own range of gym wear. But how could new brands establish themselves in an already saturated market?
This challenge has been accepted by Grace Beverley, a 23-year-old social media influencer, turned entrepreneur, who has already sent shockwaves through the industry. Storming straight to the top of Forbes 30 under 30 list, Grace has founded two successful fitness businesses in just a few years; with Tala launching in May 2019 and selling more than 60,000 products within the first few months. But what sets her apart from her competitors?
Described as “the brand you knew you wanted but could never quite find”, Tala is a fitness brand, creating ethical products with sustainability at the core of the brand. While sustainability within brands is not necessarily a new concept, Tala has promised to deliver ethical products that “wont break the planet, or the bank”, something consumers can smile about. Companies striving for sustainability have notoriously sold clothes with a hefty price point upwards of £100, which is simply impossible for most customers, making it difficult for the everyday consumer to shop sustainably.
Tala has made sure to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the business – from using recyclable materials to create the clothing, to selling Fibre Filer Bags, which cleverly catch the tiny microfibres released every time clothing is washed. The Fibre Filer Bag prevents the microfibres from contributing to pollution of our oceans as they can be disposed of from the Fibre Bags into the bin. The package is also made from 100% recycled material to ensure there is no waste ending up in landfill. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?
While fast fashion allows its consumers to purchase clothing at discounted rates, it has become known that exploitation is a serious issue in this industry. Brands selling their clothing at lesser rates than their competitors, are often known to take advantage of their workers in the factories who may be working extended hours but seeing very little return in the rate they are paid. Tala has made sure to provide clothing at an affordable rate, but customers can rest easy knowing they are wearing clothing that has been ethnically created. Not only do they pride themselves on operating sustainably, but they also ensure the products are created with suppliers who align with their beliefs by ensuring their factories are operating ethnically.
If you’re looking for a brand who has put thought into every aspect of their business, look no further! The tag on each item of clothing is filled with seasonal seeds. This means you can cut off the tag and grow a different plant with every tag you get. All you need to do is put the tag in some soil, sprinkle it with a drop of water and watch your very own plant grow. Talk about going the extra mile!
Putting diversity first
Within recent years, consumers have not been reserved in calling brands out for not including diversity within their marketing campaigns, as well as holding fashion brands accountable for not featuring models of different sizes on their websites. While we can acknowledge that brands have been showing more diversity within their campaigns, there is still work to be done. In 2020, inclusive marketing is an obvious choice to reflect real people and remove the unrealistic ideals put forward by “perfect” models. This is not an issue for those browsing the Tala website, as women of all shapes and sizes are featured. The diversity is carried through throughout the brands marketing and is sure to attract the attention of a diverse range of women.
While this brand is certainly one of the first paving the way for inclusive, sustainable, and ethical approaches to creating and marketing clothing; hopefully, it won’t be the last!
Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedinand Twitter
Paddy Power, if you haven’t heard of them before, are an Irish bookmaker who operate in the UK and Ireland. Paddy Power are a very established name in the betting industry, with shops in over 600 locations. However, many people will mostly be familiar with Paddy Power through their social media accounts. With over 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and over 650,000 followers on Twitter, it is very unlikely that you will not have come across one of their witty posts on your timeline.
Paddy Power use their social media accounts for a mix of betting information and poking fun at others, with the latter being their main point of focus. There is no doubt that if your favourite football team lose a game at the weekend, Paddy Power will pull no punches and be quick to have a laugh at their expense. The bookmaker is also very famous for their PR stunts, which usually come with plenty of talking points and sometimes some controversy. These stunts often get a lot of attention, some good some not so good, but certainly play a part in Paddy Power’s brand image.
One of Paddy Power’s biggest PR stunts was in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup which was taking place in Brazil. The Irish betting firm posted a message of support for the England national team in preparation for the tournament:
No sooner had this message of support been tweeted until the backlash started. Had Paddy Power really chopped down trees in the Amazon rainforest just as a publicity stunt? Not exactly, however they did let people have their say on social media before revealing the truth.
One user tweeted “@paddypower did you really commission that rainforest stunt? Disgusting! I hope you all go to jail or a long time!”
Another said “Jesus, @paddypower actually did wreck a portion of the rainforest as a publicity stunt? What a clusterf*ck.”
In typical Paddy Power style they replied to one of these tweets stating “we haven’t cut down that much!”
This was quickly picked up by the press and many articles were published, criticising the organisation for this seemingly lack of awareness of a massive global issue, all to raise publicity.
The reality was, Paddy Power had not cut down parts of the Amazon rain forest. In fact, they hadn’t stepped foot in Brazil at all. This was all a 3D model that was created by the guys at Paddy Power in order to create this publicity stunt. After letting the lie go on throughout the weekend, they eventually came clean, and it turned out that they were in fact attempting to raise awareness of the issue of deforestation in this area.
Their campaign to #SaveTheRainforest rather than #ShaveTheRainforest was a welcome relief to many on social media who had first of all slammed Paddy Power for the initial tweet. This in the end was a fantastic PR move by the organisation as they created lots of conversation around the initial post that in turn raised awareness for this wider issue, and presented the organisation as one who cares, rather than one out to destroy the Amazon rainforest for a few retweets.
This of course is not the only stunt Paddy Power has done prior to a World Cup tournament. The latest edition of the competition was held in 2018 in Russia and again the organisation opted for a shocking approach to get people talking about a wider issue. This time, the issue was polar bears and the stunt was not as straightforward as the previous one.
Again, the image and footage of Paddy Power “spray-painting” the St. George’s Cross onto a Polar Bear was leaked to the press causing outrage about this lack of respect for an endangered species. However, as it always goes with Paddy Power, not all was as it initially seemed. This again was completed with the aid of technology and the help of Polar Bear Agee and owner Mark Dumas. The stunt was again an attempt to raise awareness of Polar Bears in Russia and was fairly successful yet again in causing a stir on social media.
The stunts don’t stop there, Paddy Power also enjoy taking advantage of showing the brand on the biggest stages when the whole world are watching. They don’t do this in regular ways such as advertising hoardings at these events, instead they showcase their Paddy Power lucky pants!
In the group stages of the European Championships in 2012, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner scored against Portugal and proceeded to lower his shorts slightly and raise his jersey to show off his ‘lucky pants’ which were covered in the Paddy Power logo.
The stunt was accepted as funny by the large majority. Unfortunately, in the minority of those who found it not so funny, were the tournament organisers UEFA. They fined the footballer €100,000, which Paddy Power coughed up for, however this was a ludicrous punishment in comparison to the fine handed to the Croatian FA for racist chanting in the same week which was €80,000.
Bendtner was not the only sportsperson to don these infamous pants. In 2017, one of the biggest boxing fights in history took place between Floyd Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor. Paddy Power took advantage of this opportunity to show-off their pants with the world watching by getting Floyd to wear them at the weigh in for the bout. The logo on this occasion accompanied a pinstripe print that read ‘always bet on black’ and cost around £3,000 to manufacture, again showing that the betting firm don’t do things by half measures.
It’s fair to say Paddy Power are not afraid of the limelight, whether it be for the right or wrong reasons, and this brazen approach tends to work and hit its mark in majority of cases. There has been times where this close to the wire approach goes too far, such as running betting odds on the first species to be driven to extinction as a result of the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. However, I would personally say that their approach is very effective as regardless of whether the conversation happening is good or bad, at least the conversation is happening. Making change involves making noise, and Paddy Power certainly attempt to do that with stunts like the #SaveTheRainforest. Crowning them the ‘Kings of PR’ may be a bit premature, but it is impossible to ignore them when it comes to high profile PR stunts. Their ability to go as close to the line as they possibly can without crossing must be commended and if they keep this approach, I look forward to what they come up with next.
Phelim Sweeney is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn
2020 will always be a year that will be etched in every single one of our minds forever. A year that has tested every single individual and as the saying goes “it’s in time of adversity that we meet the real person”. That is a saying that we can truly relate to this year, in the extreme challenges that Covid-19 has brought us. We have seen in the actions of our supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ the real person and morals of the person and in terms of politics, the parties and people that are supposed to be leading our country.
We have seen this in our own country, that a deadly virus that put the health and future of our constituents in danger, the political leaders could still not abolish the infamous tags of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This came in the most direct way of Sinn Fein following the actions of our Counterparts in Dublin, whilst the DUP following the actions of just across the water. Either way many could argue that they have failed to lead with any sense of logic or integrity, coming with the latest inability to reach a decisive decision over the recent ‘circuit breaker’.
The PR of the political parties in this country has taken a dent, as would have been an invaluable opportunity to portray a level of togetherness and solidarity and to show how much we have moved on. Instead, the pandemic has shown the same old attitudes of old with Jim Allister’s “Dungannon park” comments, Edwin Poots comments about “Covid-19 being prominent in Nationalist areas” and Sinn Fein accusing the DUP of “wasting time”.
Although, the actions of our own political leaders have been detrimental to the PR to political parties, we have not been on our own which may of some comfort. Just over the water, Boris Johnsons chief advisor Dominic Cummings travelled 260 miles to self-isolate with his family throwing into disarray all the Governments previous efforts and all self-sacrifice that people had made. This was an action that damaged the reliability of the British government
It wasn’t just the integrity and morals of our political parties that we learned about during this pandemic, major business owners and worldwide companies also made error of judgements giving us all an insight into their true values. Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) was branded one of the villains of the Covid-19 pandemic after he laid some of his staff off unpaid. It was a highly unpopular move and one that was branded an “avoidable PR disaster”. Richard Fuller, the Tory when describing the Richard Branson sage and when talking about business owners at this time in general stated “Big or small—in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.” This is a very powerful message that demonstrates that actions taken at this time will go a long way on how a company is seen and something that could build or devalue their reputation. Although, Bransons actions were largely criticised, many Virgin employees leapt to his defence with Jenny Hall declaring “At least this is better than having to make redundancies. The unpaid leave will be spread out over the yearly salary. I personally would take this option over losing my job.
Mike Ashley (owner of Sports Direct chain) came under enormous scrutiny and was later forced to apologised after his chain sent an email to the Prime Minister insisting that his shop should be allowed to open on the basis that it is an essential service. An action that Ashley described as “ill-judged and badly timed”, and later he wrote a letter explaining that his communication to his staff and the public was poor and stated “”I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”. This was a disastrous PR stunt for Mr Ashley who was later described as valuing profit over the safety of human life.
It wasn’t just business owners that came under fire for decisions made through this pandemic, the two finalists from the 2019 European cup final and two of the richest football clubs in the world came under huge scrutiny. The two clubs revealed that they were placing staff on the furlough scheme, taking government money. Both clubs didn’t just come under pressure from immediate public but from their supporters. Former Liverpool FC player Stan Collymore revealed “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff. Fellow football fans, furlough is for small business staff to keep those small businesses from going bump”. As a Liverpool supporter myself, I was simply embarrassed and disgusted by this action, and action that Liverpool FC later apologised for and backtracked. A club that has always held itself with such dignity, had now shown itself in a light that previous members of the club ensured that it would be something that they would never be known for.
On a lighter note, someone that has portrayed himself in the most positive of lights is the 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. The young Manchester United and England player received huge plaudits from all over the country for his tireless work in campaigning for free school meals for kids. The award saw Rashford receive an MBE and the City of Manchester award. Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”.
These previous examples we have seen just how these trying times have really revealed some people character and tested their character to the core.
Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.
The debate continues if social media influencers can be classified as positive influences on younger generations, or are they brainwashing them?
The emergence of social media in the last 20 years has drastically changed people’s prospect on what they believe to be true, due to what they read online. A study conducted by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group investigated the motivations for individuals sharing content on social media platforms. They revealed that people desire to share valuable and entertaining content to others as it helps define them, enables them to grow and nourish relationships as well as emphasises the brands and causes they like to support.
The job role of a ‘social media influencer’ involves possessing a sizeable following on public platforms which is retained through regular publication and interaction with their followers. Social media influencers are frequently approached to market companies’ offerings such as a recent product launch or a new service available. I mean who doesn’t love a freebee?
Social media plays a key acquisitions in shaping our lives as it is current in every-day life. The average amount of time spent a day on social media by 16-43-year-olds was proven to be three hours a day. Many of these hours are spent scrolling through and watching their favourite social media influencers promoting what they believe to be the best products and services available.
A local social media influencer well known in Northern Ireland and beyond in countries like Australia and Dubai is Louise McDonnell, better known as ‘LMD’. LMD is a make-up artist by trade but also is a beauty influencer with a giant following of 115K on Instagram and 70K on Facebook. LMD shares all her beauty tips and tricks on a regular basis on her social media platforms, keeping her followers up to date by uploading content to her stories as well as posting pictures and videos to her social media grid.
But is LMD a positive influence on young people you ask? LMD can be seen as a role model as she built her dream job as a youngster into a successful business career and has now opened a salon in Magherafelt, launched her own beauty products range and collaborated with businesses such as BPerfect and Oh My Glam.
However, LMD acting as a public figure may not always be a positive influence on younger generations, some argue that she frames this fantasy world about how we should live, what luxuries we should have, creating false hope and expectations about reality. Young people will desire the things that she claims that are ‘must have items’ and this reflects negatively, brainwashing the younger generation that if LMD has it, they have to as well.
It has been proven that 70% of teens would trust social media influencers more than traditional celebrities. Teens are more likely to follow advice from influencers over conventional TV and sport celebrities, evidently indicating how influential these influencers can be on younger generations.
Joe Wicks better known as ‘The Body Coach’ is another social media influencer, he is renowned for his virtual PE classes that he held during the first lockdown back in March. Joe is a massive public figure in the UK and has a following of nearly four million on Instagram. That many followers for just recording exercise classes in your living room? Where do I sign up?
Joe has been trying to keep the nation fit and active as well as keep spirits high during lockdown through his fitness videos posted on social media as well as on his Youtube channel. His work has not gone unnoticed as he recently obtained an OBE from the queen. In November 2020, Joe also raised a phenomenal £2 million for Children in Need.
Joe as a social media influencer is impacting young people in a positive way as he is encouraging behaviour that improves their overall mental and physical well-being. Thus, the debate that all social media influencers brainwash younger generations and promote negative messages is not totally correct. Joe Wicks is a prime example of an influencer who is using his social media platforms to promote a healthy and promising lifestyle to the wider public and therefore lessens the idea that all influencers are brainwashing young people with the messages they broadcast on their social media.
Despite what is viewed online by young people cannot always be monitored, influencers can determine what they upload, share, and promote on their social media platforms. Therefore, they must try and establish a balance between what they publicise is realistic to younger generations in comparison to what is ‘brainwashing’ and reflecting negative towards them.
Emily McCann is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn
The journey from a creative to a creative PR professional
Creativity is deemed to be an essential quality of a PR professional as discovered by Parker, Wayne, and Kent Ltd. (2005) through their survey conducted amongst 104 professionals belonging to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Their survey discovered that 96% of these professionals considered creativity to play an extremely important role in the public relations process.
It could be argued that I was always destined to explore a career in public relations as I was often described as a very ‘imaginative’ and ‘creative’ child throughout my younger years. ‘She has some imagination’ my relatives would have said – and so I did. I had two imaginary friends: Lizzy and Dumb. They went everywhere with me at the annoyance of my sisters who were often demoted to the boot seats of our jeep so that my imaginary companions could sit beside me. I’m not sure whether this made me an imaginative child or just downright weird. I had great aspirations for my two best friends at the time. Lizzie progressed to be a hairdresser whereas Dumb, the more academic of the two (ironic I know), went on to attend University to become a doctor – but what did I want to be when I grew up? Well, a dancer of course, what else? I dedicated many of my junior days to blasting music in my living room, dancing until my heart was content and attending several dancing classes until one day, I decided it wasn’t for me, as most children do. Expressing my creativity and imagination through my work, however, is something I always knew I wanted to do, and I knew my future career had to involve this side of myself which I discovered from a young age.
During my teen years I began involving myself in creative pastimes such as drawing and painting which motivated me to opt for Art as a GCSE subject. My creativity also transferred to paper through my writing in English which I decided to take on for A level. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this decision would be beneficial in my future career when targeting publics as throughout A level English, I was taught to provide a deep analysis of written pieces composed from different points of view. I was never an overly scientific, mathematic, or athletic student in school. My performance was very much average in these areas and I didn’t really show much interest in pursuing them in the future. It was quite demotivating when I seen many students commended for being brainboxes and strong athletes, whereas there weren’t as many opportunities for the more creative students to portray their talents. However, growing up, my daddy ensured that my two sisters and I had a strong work ethic instilled in us from a young age. This work ethic enabled me to achieve my desired grades at both GCSE and A level and to this day it still enables me to work hard against any oppositions I face to do what needs to be done. I know that this will be useful throughout my PR career as I very rarely let anything stand in my way and will put in any amount of work needed to get a job done.
When it came to applying for UCAS in September 2016, I’m not going to lie, I had no clue what I wanted to apply for! At the tender age of 17 how are you expected to know what you want to do for the rest of your life? I had expressed interest in mental health nursing as I had an unrelenting desire to help people and have an impact on the lives of others, however, upon taking part in a two-day work experience it was revealed that you had to be a very emotionally strong person with the ability to detach yourself from your patients – an ability I didn’t think I possessed and so it was back to the drawing board for me. When I was researching what I wanted to study at university, I discovered that a job in public relations would allow me to express my creativity through innovative ideas on how to make a brand stand out when developing PR strategies and campaigns (which is a concept I have thoroughly enjoyed throughout the 3 years of studying my course so far). This was what first sparked my interest in PR and applying to study Communication Management and Public Relations.
What does Public Relations mean to me?
Despite the copious hours I have spent studying CMPR over the past 3 years, when people ask me what PR is, it is still something I struggle to underpin and define as it is constantly evolving. CIPR define public relations as, “The result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour” (CIPR, 2015).
It wasn’t until I spent my placement year working at The SHS Group, Belfast, and was given the opportunity to put the theory I had learnt into practice, that I gained a better understanding of what a career in PR included. I spent my year shadowing Kellie-Ann Hoey, Head of Group Communications, working as a Communications and PR intern. The knowledge and experience I gained throughout my placement year has been invaluable and has without a doubt boosted the beginning of my career in PR. My typical daily tasks at SHS included designing graphics, updating social media platforms and company websites and circulating PR communications such as press releases and emailers. I quickly realised that the ability to social network is essential in PR. Throughout my time at SHS I connected with many different contacts in the industry who only spoke highly of the work I had completed, which massively heightened my confidence in the career path I had chosen. Although I would describe myself as a very sociable person which made it easy for me to connect with these contacts, I also discovered that it is just as important to humble yourself, prepare to be flexible and adapt to different situations in the PR world to ensure you present yourself and your brand in the best possible light – especially during a crisis.
It was at SHS that I learnt that public relations is an extremely fast paced industry with each day guaranteed to be different from the last. To me this is a very appealing aspect of the industry as I am someone who tends to get bored with the same old repetitive patterns and processes. A career in PR can also quite literally take you anywhere in the world you want to go. The reason simply being that every company needs public relations to some extent and travelling with the job is a definite career perk for someone with huge wanderlust. Another perk of the job is that you are not confined to a desk like most other 9 to 5 professions. This only enhances my perception that I would love a career in PR and as they say if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!
Although a degree in public relations can take you down many different routes, the route I mostly gauged an interest in during my time at SHS was events management. I was heavily involved and had a great sense of responsibility in the organisation of launch events, company conferences, briefings, and seasonal parties. When organising my first event, I realised there is so much work necessary to host a successful event that I hadn’t even considered before, however, the sense of accomplishment you feel when the event you organised is a success not only to you but to others as well, is second to none and satisfies my need to impact the lives of others by providing them with a time to feel enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, each event brought it’s own set of challenges and stressful, ‘on the verge of tears’, moments as I navigated my way through the organisation of table plans, entertainment, guest speakers, taxi lists and charity activities. That is another thing about a career in PR; to be successful you must be on top of your crisis management game and be prepared for the worst to happen, armed with several back up plans and solutions for X, Y and Z. The stress that emerged from the trials and tribulations presented to me when organising events, could not outshine my desire to be successful and instead it provided me with an adrenaline rush that spurred me on and motivated me to overcome them.
In the PR world, it is essential that you keep yourself up to date with the latest trends to become fully aware of what your publics will want to see and engage with the most. As an avid social media user active on most platforms, who has a slight obsession with pinterest and reads far too many news articles, this is an enjoyable pastime for me. When I had finished my normal 9 to 5 day at SHS I often found myself screenshotting news stories and saving social media posts in the evenings which included material I thought could be beneficial to incorporate in our own PR strategies. This is the kind of work, to me that does not feel like work but that I get a great sense of pleasure out of.
Despite most of my work experience consisting of customer service and retail jobs, I value my past retail work experiences as great opportunities that have allowed me to develop skills which are frequently used in PR. I now have a better understanding of how customer needs can vary among different demographics and how in turn, they react to different situations. I hope to one day be working as part of a public relations and event management team at a global brand, but for now I look forward to improving the PR skills I have acquired so far and graduating in 2021.
Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagramand LinkedIn.
With the ever-growing popularity of social media, anyone with internet access has the ability to grow a following and share their life online. However, as a result of the huge growth in social platforms, a culture in “cancelling” public figures has taken shape.
What does it mean to be “#Cancelled”?
Cancel culture or being “#cancelled” is essentially an online punishment given to influencers, creators, celebrities, brands (etc) after unforgivable mishaps in the form of mass public shaming. Being involved in cancel culture has become hugely popular online to the point that in August 2019 YouTube rounded off all subscriber numbers to stop viewers watching the rise and fall in cancelled creators’ followers.
Prior to the recent popularity in cancel culture, being “cancelled” was in fact just a colloquial term used by twitterers in relation to something ‘cringeworthy’ done by a public figure. Then cancel culture was almost harmless… but is this still the case?
The rise of cancel culture.
In May 2019, one of the biggest influencer feuds occurred. Social media stars James Charles and Tati Westbrook took to YouTube to essentially ‘expose’ and ‘cancel’ each other for an audience of millions. James Charles, a 21-year-old beauty influencer with a now subscriber count of 22.8 million, was quickly ‘#cancelled’ by the internet after Tati’s (GlamLifeGuru) efforts to take down his career amid speculation of predatory behavior. Internet users saw James’ subscriber count fall drastically from 16.5 million to just under 14 million in 72 hours with the hashtags “#JamesCharlesIsCancelled” and “#JamesCharlesIsOverParty trending over all social platforms for days. This may be the biggest example of a cancelled public figure; although it was certainly not the first and most definitely wasn’t the last.
“So what?” you may ask, “it’s only followers”. Cancel culture results in huge public relations scandals for those involved, it is no longer about the drop in followers and frankly the least of their worries.
From a PR and business perspective, being cancelled is your worst nightmare. To you or me it may seem like nonsense, it’s only losing a few million followers and life goes on but to a public figure it is ‘social suicide’. As a result of being ‘#cancelled’ these influencers and figures lose huge contracts with brands as these brands are now skeptical of damaging their own image by supporting these deemed cancelled individuals. For example, another beauty industry creator Laura Lee was previously cancelled by the internet for her past racist comments over twitter. As a result, Laura lost ties with several major sponsors and even had her makeup line revoked from beauty retailer ‘Morphe’ indefinitely.
One of the biggest mainstream cancels this year was J.K Rowling for her transphobic and misogynistic comments; an unexpected scandal that kick started a wider cancel culture debate. Should we allow cancel culture and is it ethical? The pros of cancel culture can seem obvious to most as the public can seek accountability for inexcusable actions, in particular where the justice system has failed. For example, looking at the #metoo movement, cancel culture allows abusers to be cancelled as we saw with Harvey Weinstein. On the other hand, anti-cancel culture individuals highlight the increase in online bullying that leads to violence and threats often worse than the wrongdoing they’re calling out to begin with. Many cancelled individuals reveal the death threats and violent warnings they receive from internet trolls while being cancelled, and often confess to suicidal thoughts and PTSD as a result, like James Charles did during his scandal. So are we taking cancel culture too far? Is cancel culture even productive or is it just toxic?
Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn
“What are you going to be when you grow up?” A question that has undoubtedly puzzled the minds of all children and indeed some adults. Initially, my career drawing board held a predictable prospect, I was going to be a singer, like Hannah Montana specifically. Reach for the stars they say!
I highly doubt you will find a 10-year-old with a career aspiration in Public Relations (PR), but then again, with the widespread access to social media and internet these days, who knows?
Discovering Public Relations
During my time at school, I recall becoming increasingly concerned that I did not have a career path set in stone. “What do you want to do?”“Where do you see yourself in the future?” “What are your interests?” – all normal questions to ask an adolescent, but when you are that 16-year-old, with no clear answers and little career guidance, it is very daunting.
I am a planner. I thrive on organisation and my lack of career preparation helped shape a very anxious teen. Determined to discover my destined career aspirations, I scoured the internet, listing my qualities, interests and aptitudes, completed an abundance of ‘What career suits you?’ questionnaires and participated in countless career workshop sessions.
Through online self-evaluation, I discovered that my skills and interests paired me with the world of PR, something brand new to me, yetso very familiar.
Communication and PR – A Match Made in Heaven
With my newfound blossoming interest in mind, I chose to pursue Business Studies at A Level. I was immediately engrossed in the PR element of the subject, however, one element of Business Studies I was not so keen on was the equations and mathematical modules. My dislike for solving equations assisted me in resolving another matter, Business Studies was not the degree for me. This revelation narrowed my subject search, leading me to a course that seemed to roll all my interests into one: Communication Management and Public Relations. I firmly believe that studying Communication alongside PR will be tremendously advantageous throughout my career. Communication is key in the PR industry and being able to put my academic learnings into practice will be invaluable.
Personally, I believe I am an effective communicator and recognise I possess the capability and skills to successfully develop professional relationships with others and promote myself in a confident, friendly and formal manner. Throughout my professional career, I have been granted the opportunity to implement in practice the theoretical learnings I have obtained at university.
During my time on placement at the Irish News, I was privileged to play a predominant role in organising successful PR campaigns, briefing clients/customers and organising large-scale public events. This experience will benefit my future career in PR considerably. According to Petrison and Wang (1993), open-minded organisations are moving away from mass marketing and are placing a heightened importance on building relationships with their customers and potential clients. In this way, organisations reach potential consumers/clients on a more personal, focused level.
PR is an extremely wide-ranging industry. The ever-changing environment provides new challenges, hasty deadlines and fresh experiences each day. I am fortunate that I thrive under pressure, I endeavour to maintain a high level of organisation at all times, while multi-tasking and making effective decisions.
Building a Professional Portfolio
A career in PR provides an abundance of networking opportunities through cross-organisation events and campaigns. These experiences play a pivotal role in the development of one’s professional reputation. A particularly unique and advantageous element of a career in PR is the ability to develop your own professional portfolio. Through sharing my career highpoints on professional social networking sites, I have been able to enhance my position as a PR professional. Sharing content on LinkedIn and creating informative blog posts on the Ulster PR Student Blog have allowed me to connect with significant figures, putting my name out there, no matter how small it may currently be.
Throughout my placement, I was afforded the opportunity to work with many prestigious entrepreneurs throughout Ireland, directly witnessing how fulfilling a career in PR can potentially be. This was a highly motivational experience for me, enhancing my enthusiasm and reinforcing my ambition to strive for success in my final year at Ulster University, strengthening my vision to ultimately achieve employment in this exhilarating field.
An area of PR that I particularly enjoy is event management. During my time at the Irish News, I had the pleasure of organising multiple large-scale events, working with countless professional organisations. Successful management of these events involved meticulous planning, working as part of a team as well as independently, in a fast-paced, pressurised environment. The exciting anticipation of devising a project to capture the interest of a target audience, followed by the satisfaction experienced when the project is received, strengthens my belief that PR is the appropriate career path for me, spurring on my passion for the next venture.
Post COVID-19 Public Relations
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the professional world has changed dramatically, with remote work escalating, organisations closing, and public events being cancelled. Luckily, the PR industry is adaptable to change, making it extremely valuable at present as we plan to rectify the damage that COVID-19 has left behind. The ability to adapt to change in a rapidly evolving industry increases the appeal to follow my career aspirations. PR will be a considerable asset to organisations, applying crisis management, assisting in recuperation and supporting the adaption to online implementation, all of which excites me.
As the world familiarises itself with the ‘new normal’, social media relations have become extremely important. Although negative connotations have been associated with social media, I believe having grown up in the new digital era, I am able to identify and harness the positive aspects of social media to enhance my effectiveness in my chosen career path in the PR industry. Indeed, I have a fundamental and comprehensive understanding of the influence a successful social media campaign can provide. Moreover, through professional experience I have developed the skills to implement an effective PR campaign for an organisation with a view to increasing their exposure and making a positive impact on their reputation.
Social media is saturated with communication. In order to maintain a competitive edge, organisations must create an original, stand-out social campaign, to avoid getting left behind. Through my experience to date, I now see this is where I can excel.
As a consumer, I place huge importance on an organisation’s social media presence when purchasing a product or service. I have always maintained a passion for creativity, and I commend organisations on the originality of their online presence. Therefore, I believe this is an area that I would thrive in, allowing me to showcase my knowledge and opinions, in order to produce an engaging campaign that will influence consumers.
Finally, job prospects are uncertain at present, with many industries having a lack of job opportunities due to the collapsing economy and impact of COVID-19. Nonetheless, social media is an area of PR that I believe will thrive post-pandemic due to the continuing social consciousness of society. Fortunately, social media is the area of PR that particularly interests me and is the route I intend to pursue as a graduate.
Irrespective of the extent of potential demand in the future, I am certain that my degree and acquired knowledge and expertise will aid me in finding suitable employment locally, nationally or in the international field. I am confident however that the increasing popularity and consistent evolution in the industry will undoubtedly create a variety of future job opportunities. This combination of my degree and my professional experience should enhance my post-university PR career prospects, although the future will be a particularly challenging time for graduates.
Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.
“he was a champion of the arts and a huge influencer of taste” · marketing
a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
The universal definition of an ‘influencer’ that comes up when you type the word into google. It is hard to define the term influencer in everyday conversation. Does it depend on your amount of followers? Amount of likes? How ‘pretty’ you are? Your fashion sense? How many brands want to work with you?. The influencer marketing hub carried out research on influencer marketing in 2020 and found large companies have doubled the amount of creators they activate per campaign in the past two years. The influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately ¢9.7b by the end of 2020. But with the rise of influencers, comes the rise of the momfluencer.
There are many types of momfluencers, in the same way there are many different mums. The indie, hippie, van travelling mum. The stay at home, cleaning obsessed, bargain hunter mum. The picture perfect, themed snack, full time job mum. All different but in a lot of ways all the same. Mum blogs, parenting websites and online support groups have all been around for a long time, however the momfluncer is a new wave of ’support’. A lot of fellow mums question whether momfluencers really are there for support and advice, or are they just there to make you feel bad about what you’re not achieving. If you follow mums from each of these categories, you’re going to wish you could be just like each of them in different ways, which is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of momfluencers who are honest and open about the realities of motherhood. The sleepless nights, tears and tantrums (and not just from the children), the relationship struggles, financial worries and mental health problems. However, when you look at some momfluencers with their matching pyjamas, full-face of makeup, multiple smiling children and gleaming house you wonder how much of it is real and is it truthful advertising?
Stacey Solomon, a popular ‘Momfluencer’.
It is hard to judge momfluencers as a whole, as there are so many, both macro and micro influencers. Some who aim to spread awareness of important topics such as maternal mental health, baby loss, pregnancy struggles and parenting advice. Others give useful tips on cleaning, cooking, juggling work and relationship advice. Like most things, exposing yourself to momfluencers can be good in small doses. It is really up to the individual to manage their exposure, and take time to learn that not everything online is what it seems. Momfluencers are here to stay, so love them or hate them, choose the ones that are a help and not a hinder.
Brand’s however, love the momfluencer. Momfluence.co is a website that was launched specifically for brand’s to find the right momfluencer: ’Our platform will make it easy for you to find the right momfluencers for your brand, and set up campaigns that actually make you money and grow your business’. Brand’s such as Pampers, Dove, Johnson and Johnson, Ella’s Kitchen and Tommee Tippee all use brand ambassadors, influencers and paid stories and posts in their marketing. Influencers can paid anywhere between £50 – £500 to advertise a brands product or service. Mum’s buy things more than any other consumer group, and with mum’s always having a fear of judgement or not seeming good enough, most will do (buy) whatever it takes to keep up the image up of a good mum.
With lockdown babies continuing to be born through the current pandemic and online shopping not showing any signs of slowing down, the Momfleuncer is here to stay.
Aileen Gallagher is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter