Always take the scenic route…

‘Always take the scenic route’ has unintentionally become a bit of a life motto for me. Following a leave of absence earlier this year –  in Week 9 of Semester 2 of a 1 year course – a move that perhaps shocked me as much as it did my lecturers and course director at the time – I am absolutely buzzing to be back studying at UUJ for what could well be – finally – the last time! Although…. Never say never, right?! My PhD may be calling…

Last year, I promised myself that I would start blogging, but I just didn’t get round to it. I suppose I did sometimes make excuses, like not having enough time or not wanting to come across as narcissistic, but it all boiled down to my own lack of self-confidence in my ability to take the plunge and just do it.

Well, here I am. Blogging. It might be rubbish, but so what? It’s my first time!

I’m writing this to simply offer some encouragement to my fellow students, at whatever point of your student life you happen to be reading it. I want to reassure you that it’s OK to give things a go, and it’s also OK if things don’t quite work out how you had thought they would. I think it’s really important to adopt this attitude as early as possible in the academic year, because you never know what curveballs life is going to throw at you! It doesn’t matter how many fail safe measures you attempt to put in place, or how confident you are in your own ability. Life may, and often does, get in the way.

For me, it’s been a mixture of health related issues and other personal or professional commitments which have made what ‘should have’ been four years study stretch out to what has now been my eighth September at a university. Some people think I’m crazy for sticking it out this long. Some people might even jump to their own conclusions and think that I’m not cut out for it, that I’m lazy or that I am non-committal.

I am none of these things.

Only I truly know all of the circumstances behind taking the scenic route to get to this point, and frankly, it is my business and nobody else’s. Sure, I might be asked to explain the dates of study at an interview, but it hasn’t happened yet, and as I have always held at least one part time job alongside my studies, I don’t need to fill in that uncomfortably prying question to ‘explain any gaps in your employment history’ when I apply for jobs.

What’s ultimately important, and again, I really hope this encourages some of you out there – I have always done what is right for me, and right by me. Yes, there’s been the odd leap of faith, or ‘positive risk taking’. I haven’t always made decisions with full knowledge of the repercussions of them (do any of us, all of the time?), but I can’t say that I regret any of the decisions I have made which have subsequently led me to where I am today. Not in relation to university, anyway!

I’m certainly not suggesting I am a role model, or that I would recommend my choices to others. We are all unique, as are our circumstances. This should be common knowledge, but there’s also such pressure in today’s society to conform and live your life in a certain way, and it can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters in such a commercial environment. A lot of this stuff you will learn in your Communication/PR degree, so I shan’t bore you with the details! I’m writing this to offer hope to those who might ponder on the ‘what ifs’ of the future, or otherwise panic if they realise their chosen course is not right for them, or not right for them right now.

For me, the best thing about taking a bit longer to ‘get there’ has been the opportunity to get to know and understand myself a lot more. My values, my dreams, my career aspirations… some have changed during the 10 years since leaving school, while others have become more concrete in my mind and in turn, life. What I’ve learnt that really helps along the way, is having people you can relate to, bounce off, and who will support you in your studies and decision making. For many of you this will be family and friends, whether on your course or not, but please do not underestimate the importance of a good working relationship with your course director, lecturers, studies advisers and the wider university and students union team.

Find out what works for you, find out who you can trust, and always go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But try not to see the world in black and white – it’s so much more wonderful in full colour and shades! You may well have slip ups, but they will not be the end of the world. A self-coaching technique I learnt a long time ago now that has served me well is really easy for anyone to use: when things aren’t going your way, you’re confused, or feeling overwhelmed, simply ask yourself; what is the worst thing that could happen? It almost definitely will not be life or death (except in some circumstances, almost all linked to physical or mental health – and remember, your health is your wealth!).

Take the risks, even if you are not following the crowd. Sometimes, especially if you are not following the crowd.

Do yourself proud. What you think will make your loved ones or educators proud may not actually be an accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings, and quite possibly may not make you happy or successful in the long run.

Do what is right for you, and by you. Be true to yourself, and you will ultimately succeed.

It might not look quite like what you thought it would – but most things never turn out exactly how you thought they would… do you ever try and recreate Pinterest or Instagram posts – how did that work out for you?!

This has definitely been a longer first post than I intended, but I do hope that it won’t be my last. I’ve deliberately been vague in my own experiences so I can expand upon these in the future – but I hope that despite this, the message is not too philosophical or cliché-heavy for your liking! I have included the clichés because they ring true, and can help illustrate a point without too much self-disclosure required, and because I want you as an individual to be able to relate and take away some comfort.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post; I really appreciate it. I wish you every success, and remember, you do you!

BElieve in YOUrself

Rosalie Edge is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Healthcare student at Ulster University. You can find her on Twitter @rosalieedge and LinkedIn Rosalie Edge

A Series of Unfortunate Events ft. Meghan Markle

Words I associate with a Princess;

‘compassionate’, ‘selfless’, ‘humble’

Words associated with Meghan Markle;

fake’, ‘hypocrite’, ‘manipulating monster’

I might be basing my associations off the entire range of Disney princess movies but we all know these malicious words should not define a member of the Royal family. These are only a few of the negative comments that circulate the internet and feature in the news headlines when you come across reports on the Duchess. Meghan Markle has fallen victim to an endless amount of mistreatment since she started dating Prince Harry in 2016. Upon scanning the internet, I even found that a rather infuriated member of the public who quite clearly has it in for Meghan, has taken to Urban Dictionary and coined the term ‘Markled’, defining her as; ‘someone who ghosts you once you have no more benefit’ I mean, come on? This girl doesn’t even know her! And it doesn’t end there.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Meghan%20Markle

As you would expect, becoming a royal family member makes you vulnerable to heightened publicity and speculation. However, Meghan was already used to the fame having left behind her career in acting and being notorious for her role as Rachel Zane on Suits. Watching her go from the fictional role of lawyer to embracing the doors of Kensington Palace holding the title of ‘Princess’ in real life, I have to admit, it was strange but remarkable at the same time.

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It’s no surprise when you pop onto the news you will see Meghan Markle appear under ‘trending’ or latest stories. Whether it is discussing serious recent affairs or that she managed to shut the car door by herself (You’re doing amazing sweetie!) you’ll read it all. Tabloids take advantage of her background, race and personality to relentlessly bully her, sharing inaccurate information and feral commentary, disregarding all human costs. She faces immense scrutiny all the time. Does she deserve this? No human being does. What would the media talk about if Harry and Meghan never met?

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In the latest episode of the Markle dramas, Meghan is in the process of suing the publisher of Mail On Sunday for publishing a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father. With the endless propaganda she has faced over the past three years, I don’t blame her. There is only so much a person can deal with when continually being attacked by powerful forces.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/01/meghan-sues-mail-on-sunday-for-publishing-letter-to-her-father

Harry spoke out about the recent actions-sharing on behalf of Meghan and himself; “There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.” The hurt and anger transmit out of Harry’s words, only making you sympathise with their suffering and understanding why they are taking this action. As many of you would probably agree, the media’s main focus should turn to Prince Andrew, but hey that’s a raunchy topic for another day!

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The majority of backlash comes from people who have never known Meghan on a personal level. A recent release of a trailer from 60 minutes Australia features Katie Hopkins who embraces the nickname ‘Biggest B*tch in Britain’ (wouldn’t be wrong there), she is a woman who is unquestionably racist and xenophobic. Katie is someone who is not afraid to share her honest opinions and does not take into consideration feelings, causing quite a lot of controversy. In this documentary she completely degrades Meghan; “Meghan Markle is the biggest hypocrite there is”, “Abdicate. Off you go” and “a nobody” who “wears bad clothes”. Who goes so low as to criticise somebody’s clothing style? Her insensitivity is perhaps what continues to get her work in the industry but anything that escapes from her mouth should be dismissed.

Meghan only tries her best in being a humanitarian, shining an important light on many issues from gender violence to poverty and education. Recent events show the Duke and Duchess’ tour to Africa undertaking a series of public engagements. From meeting female leaders in South Africa, tackling violence against women, visiting Bishop Desmond Tutu and paying tributes to Uyinene Mrwetyana. For years she has been an advocate for women and girls’ rights-an incredibly powerful movement to be a part of and something that should be associated with the Princess opposed to the unpleasant hatred she receives.

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Meghan is the also the subject of frequent conspiracy-led and racist attacks on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram host multiple accounts which are dedicated to sharing abusive theories about Meghan, including speculation her pregnancy is faked. Even in times when she is displaying her selflessness and caring nature it only attracts more backlash from the public. On her visit to One25 – a sex worker charity, Meghan used bananas to write thoughtful messages; ‘You are strong’, ‘You are special’. However it was only used as ammunition by internet trolls for racist tweets who devised the term “banana baroness”. One Twitter account in particular uses a photo shopped image of Meghan eating a banana as its icon.

https://news.sky.com/story/trolling-of-meghan-how-duchess-is-abused-over-race-and-pregnancy-11696606

Despite attacks like these Meghan still remains to glow, clearly she is a strong individual. The hatred she receives from trolls hidden behind computer screens is disgusting, something I, personally would not be able to deal with. It is unprecedented to anything that I’ve ever seen before – fuelled by racism and negative media coverage-unfortunately it does not appear to be stopping any time soon. So much for her fairy-tale ending.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Visit South Africa

 

Fionnuala Hegarty is a Bsc Communication Management and PR Student at Ulster University and can be found at: Twitter -@fionnualaheg ; LinkedIn -https://www.linkedin.com/in/fionnuala-hegarty-108127160/ ; and Instagram -https://www.instagram.com/fionnualahegarty/

 

 

A quick guide to Public Relations Tweetchats

“Twitter is the new melting pot of ideas, people, and disruptive innovation.” Audun Utengen, Co-founder of Symplur and the Healthcare Hashtag Project

social-media-488886_1280

#PowerandInfluence Tweetchat

One very high profile #PR tweetchat which took place on Wednesday 2 October 2019 was #PowerandInfluence founded by @EllaMinty who is Co-Chair of the Energy Leadership Platform @CIPR_UK, @ILM_UK Fellow, and Crisis and Reputation Management Consultant.

Conor McGrath, Lecturer in PR and Lobbying at Ulster University hosted the tweetchat which was an overwhelming success.

Screenshot 2019-10-04 at 01.18.56 - Edited

A simple tip for having a peep at the Tweetchat is to log into http://tchat.io and enter the tweetchat hashtag! Give it a go! Lurk and learn. 🙋‍♀️

If you want to find out more, check out some of the best Twitter moments from the Tweetchat, click on this link: https://twitter.com/i/moments/1179497828281962496?s=13

What is a Tweetchat?

A tweetchat simply affords Twitter users the opportunity to engage in conversation with each other. A community of like minded people gather around a particular subject or keyword using a hashtag at an agreed time and date. It is a bit like watching the subtitles in silence on a fast paced TV debate although you will find there is plenty of noise!

I have taken part in many tweetchats over the years. I founded my own and co-hosted others such as #ebnjc for the Evidence Based Nursing British Medical Journal! I was also invited to speak about tweetchats at the NHS Confederation Conference in 2015. Tweetchats could potentially bring you on on amazing journey with your #PR Tribe. Typically, the tweetchat general topic(s) or specific questions will be shared by the founder and host(s) of the tweetchat in advance either on a blog or using images such as the one used below in #PowerandInfluence last week.

Screenshot 2019-10-03 at 19.02.05 - Edited

Merits of #PR Tweetchats

Tweetchats are so much fun. You can connect with #PR people from academia and professional practice who are based all around the world. These PR tweeps share their ideas and expertise freely! This is important if you are a new #PRStudent seeking to understand Public Relations. It is also relevant for those tweeps with more PR knowledge and experience who wish to thrash out and debate the nitty gritty of #PR.

However, on a more serious note, a PR tweetchat also provides a #PRStudent with “real time information” as to what #PR academics and professionals are saying about a particular topic and many networking opportunities!

map-acp

#IrishMed Tweetchat NodeXL Social Media Graph shared with kind permission of Dr Liam Farrell

What is a hashtag?

In the healthcare world, Symplur have advised that if you want to understand what the conversations are all about for any topic, what is trending, how it is changing over time and learn how the healthcare stakeholders differ and what they have in common you can drill down to the individual tweets using the hashtag.

This is equally applicable to the world of #PublicRelations on Twitter.

Some of the hashtags used both on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for finding, curating and publishing Public Relations content are:

 

#PublicRelations

#PR

#PRStudent

#WIPRNI (Women in PR Northern Ireland)

#WomeninPR (Women in PR)

I am looking forward to connecting with you on Twitter!

Nóirín O’Neill is an MSc Student in Communication & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @Noirin0Neill and on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/n%C3%B3ir%C3%ADn-o-neill-426b91110/

 

Thank u… but, try again.

On Sunday 22nd September, Ariana Grande brought her much anticipated ‘Sweetener World Tour’ to Dublin’s 3Arena for 3 sold out shows. Her tickets sold out within 3 minutes on release clearly showing the hype and popularity she has gathered in the past year after the release of her ‘Sweetener’ album and return to the music scene following the devastating Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 at her concert. As a massive fangirl or “stan”, if you will, I was counting down the days until I got to sing my heart out to her endless bops and just stare in awe at the biggest pop star in the world today (in my opinion however, if you disagree I can’t guarantee I’ll listen to your argument).

Upon her arrival and stay in Dublin, the media were in a frenzy reporting on the anticipation for last minute tickets and any glimpse people got of her roaming the streets of Dublin. It was fair to say, there was much excitement in the air and after scrolling through my Twitter feed that weekend, I stumbled across a tweet from Cadbury Ireland and it’s clear they were really TRYING to get in on the hype with a little shameless PR stunt.

Screenshot 2019-09-30 at 18.52.19

Cadbury Ireland’s tweet on Ariana’s opening night

After reading this tweet and staring at it for a few minutes, I had mixed reactions, none of which were positive may I add but, I feel the most appropriate way to explain how I felt is best depicted with memes.

 

  1. Initial reaction

meme1 blog

If I’m honest, when I first read the tweet, I thought it made no sense. What is the relevance between a box of roses to Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank u, next’? In what world do we gift our exes a box of chocolates for the pain and life lessons they’ve given us? What is this weird point they’re trying to promote? I had too many questions for what was clearly meant to be a quick promo for a box of Roses and once, I figured out the message they were aiming for, it seemed a bit lackluster. In my opinion if a company wants to quickly promote a product or message through social media, it should be smart and easy to understand and a lot of the time, memorable for good reasons. This tweet on the other hand left me scratching my head like a lot of other Twitter users in the thread.

 

  1. Follow up reaction

meme 2 blog

This meme really depicts my follow up reaction for a few reasons. As mentioned before, I am a Ariana Grande fan but, I’m pretty sure over the past 2 years, without even being a fan of Ariana’s, a lot of people are very aware of what has happened in her life and what led to the creation of ‘Thank u, next’.

After reading Cadbury Ireland’s tweet, it’s imaginable that the person who came up with the idea has a 12 year old niece who was going to one of the shows and despite not really knowing much about her, it was all they were hearing about from young people so, they might as well post a ‘relatable’ tweet to stay relevant with the current hype.

My main observation though was that 0 research was done and there wasn’t much knowledge on Ariana. The reason behind my assumption being that there was no regard for the insensitivity towards suggesting Ariana should have gave her exes a box of chocolates when,

  1. Her ex Mac Miller, whom is mentioned in the song tragically died from a drug overdose and
  2. Her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson struggles with his mental health and openly discussed suicide following calling off their engagement.

Both of these incidents inspired Ariana to write ‘Thank u, next’. She commemorates them for the life lessons, love and pain that they’ve taught her and ultimately allowed her to take time to love and focus on herself.

Taking all of this on board, I feel Cadbury Ireland’s social media team could have taken a better approach to engaging with Ariana being in Dublin. I understand it was likely an attempted light-hearted joke however, when promoting your products and making links to celebrities, songs, events etc. I believe it’s always necessary to have an understanding of background details like the above and to use these links with the appropriate context.

When carrying out PR work you are always trying to influence opinions and behaviours positively however, without research and knowledge on the message you are promoting, it appears less credible, sloppy and in this case a bit distasteful. Looking through the thread, twitter users were providing nothing, but negative feedback aimed at Cadbury Ireland’s marketing team, which is evidently not what their goal was.

Initially I was wondering was I overreacting and perhaps looking too deep into it however, the tweet didn’t perform overly well, with the general reaction in the thread reflecting my own thoughts.

Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 17.31.50Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 17.32.16Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 17.34.23Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 17.34.58Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 17.35.30

 

I began to look at Cadbury Ireland’s other tweets to gauge whether this is how their social media team usually portray themselves however, I was quick to notice that their other tweets were consistent in their social media voice and tone. This is what you expect from a company when they are interacting with their audience online. This made it all clearer that this Ariana plug was a spare of the moment thought and confirmed my assumptions that they were trying to stay on trend by feeding into the hype around current events.

 

So, on that note the only question I have left for Cadbury Ireland’s marketing team is…

meme 4 blog

 

Marie-Claire Leung is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @MarieClaireL_PR and LinkedIn – Marie-Claire Leung

Return of The Student – A Sequel 20 Years in the Making.

Here goes, first blog. This is all so different to the last time. It was 1999 the bookend to the decade of Britpop, The Peace Process and Pre Spinning Around Kylie – in no particular order. That was also the year I obtained my BA in English which naturally led on to a career in the Financial Services sector. After living the dream for 20 glorious years I have taken the financial and personal plunge back into the world of Academia in an attempt to revive my long mummified intellectual creativity….it may be a deep dive

A simple question to begin – why now? Its not that I didn’t enjoy getting to grips with endless analysis of policy wording for Property Insurance and when you throw in the endless submissions detailing the construction of rural factories and workshops – well what’s not to love. But in truth while my children were little this was fine and I really do believe some to the skills honed during this period will stand me in good stead. For me though it is now time to try something new, something that can make a positive impact on the world around me – if that doesn’t sound too cheesy 🙂

Of course organisations need comprehensive insurance cover but I’ve definitely served my time. However part of the job I have enjoyed involved interactions with business placers – the face to face meetings in Dungiven and the like, the trouble shooting workshops over the phone – in other words the communication aspect. If I can apply this interest to a framework which I find both fascinating and frustrating in equal measures – again what’s not to love. A hint maybe that my specialism will be Politics – an interest cultivated at school and maintained ever since. Someone needs to sort out Brexit I suppose…maybe not in my first week though!

After such a long break from education I can say that the landscape has certainly changed. So its all about Blogging, Vlogging, Social Media – you get the picture. These concepts simply weren’t a thing in 1999 and since then not something I would necessarily equate to Academic life but here we are. It is amazing to learn that YouTube channels are the way to go now, but all is not lost. I can call on my secret weapon the J.O.E – my 12 year old son. This guided missile of modern communication has been broadcasting away for several years-with nothing but his phone and a headful of opinions on the MEU (Marvel Extended Universe). With 99 followers and his broadcast on why Apu should not be binned from The Simpsons reaching 800 views he will most certainly be my personal social media mentor. Let the good times roll.

 

See the source image

 

Deirdre Vaughan is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter:  @e65434f0fdba4bf and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deirdre-vaughan-48274166/

Does Anybody At #PFW19 have a €170 Fine For Cardi?

Cardi B publicly parades Richard Quinn’s *literal* Head-To-Toe Victorian-Esque ensemble at Paris Fashion Week and breaks French “Burqa Ban” Law. #PFW19 – I’m telling you this does matter. 

Cardi B Modelling in Quinn’s Design

I love to see creativity BLOOM.  

At 2019s Paris Fashion Week many celebrities and models are arriving as they do each year to show case some extraordinary designs by famous and still-to-be-discovered designers. I always look forward to this time of year as I can pick up on new trends, new seasonal accessory ideas and new names in the game. Whilst having my usual Sunday-soak up consisting of coffee and chats with my boyfriend, I scrolled across a design I remember seeing in British Vogue by London designer Richard Quinn back in July; only this time it was worn by American Artist Cardi B upon her arrival to #PFW19.  

It got me thinking amidst my Sunday morning grouch… Was this fair display of future-fashion suitable for showcasing in a country where veiled fashion is technically illegal? And if so, will the consequences be dealt with? Would the public or politicians even notice or have a discussion about it?

I’m a supporter of Cardi B for not only her music but her ethics. She stays true to her roots and throughout her “glow-up” she hasn’t lost her sense of home-kind or those she once worked side by side with. She is handling Motherhood, success and fame with dignity and a good sense of humour along her diamanté incrusted path.  

For British designer Richard Quinn – a textile designer’s dream. His designs are incredible, balancing both lightweight and heavier materials upon the strong framed models who wear them. He embraces nature prints and jewels that would turn any fashion-lovers head. But- this one particular combination of outfit choice and geographical location has me jarred.  

British Vogue Release of Quinn’s Design – July 2019

British Vogue Release: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzkV7B2h1EF/ 
Richard Quinn’s Website: https://www.richardquinn.london/ 
Handle: @rqstudio 

Cardi B Indoors Wearing Quinn’s Design

Due to French Law (passed April 2011) the European country has banned full-faced veils worn by anyone

A Woman Holds a Poster Reading “Please Don’t Shut Me Up!”

Here is where my heart begins to break a little.  Although the law makes no religious links, I can’t help but think of the estimated 2,000 Muslim Women living in France today whom if were to take to the streets in their own choice of fashion (one not so different to Quinn’s design) would be fined a minimum of €170 for covering their faces with a veil, niqab or burqa.  

I am asking – How can the French Government allow public media promotion of Paris Fashion Week – something that catches the eyes, ears and mouths of viewers in-app, online and on paper GLOBALLY each year, How can they somehow forget to mention that if a local woman of any religion were to try to wear the design on the same street in Paris they would be penalized?

Paris Fashion Week brings in an estimated 30,000 visitors where they each will promote designs, network and form conclusions in the province. Amongst the bustling creativity and waves of excitement – I feel as though the ‘Burqa Ban’ should be a topic of conversation amongst creatives in the city this week.

Since 2011, Women have been fighting The Burqa Ban as a breach of their human rights (Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali. – The first women taken to court for breaking the Burqa Ban.) Surely, a celebrity strutting her stuff in the streets of Paris wearing a forbidden facial accessory is bound to make many of the 2,000 women feel as though they have been kicked in the teeth. Surely they wish they could wear their burqa or niqabs without receiving a €170 fine. Surely they feel as though they are being forgotten?  

Many women who are in situations where religion asks them to remain private have been subdued to becoming recluses, they are told, “you can’t leave your home as you cannot show your face publicly, you must stay hidden by other means.” – I’m not sure about your financial situation, but I certainly couldn’t afford a min. €170 fine every time I’ve had to run down to my local EuroSpar for some milk. – The word oppression springs to my mind. 

Maybe I’m thinking too critically.  

“Make sure a car don’t hit me ’cause a b—- can’t see.”

Instagram: @iamcardib 

I would love to see this as a socially responsible ‘Ode To Oppression’ and that Cardi, her management team and Richard Quinn are trying to do good work here and highlight the severity that many Muslim women face in France today where they remain hidden by the country’s own laws. I would love to hear more on this in my newsfeeds, as well as in the fashion industry.  

Should we expect the French Government to dispatch a fine to Paris Fashion Week? Will they fine the A-List Celebrity Cardi B for wearing a design that was made for her? Will they fine designer Richard Quinn?  
Will anything happen at all? 

 

Sarah Morrow is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahannemorrow
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahannemorrow/
LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-morrow-904284125/

 

Following in Dad’s footsteps – how did I end up here?

From the ages of 12 to 16, if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer certainly would’ve changed depending on my mood. Whether it was a barrister, a pathologist, or a translator, I pretty much wanted to be everything under the sun at one point or another. But one thing that stayed consistent was that I had absolutely no interest in following in my parents’ footsteps and becoming a civil servant or going in to marketing.

I just always had the mentality that following in your parents’ footsteps would somehow take away from your own individuality – something that was very important to me. So, how is it then that 5 years later I’m embarking on the final year of my CAM degree and currently working as a marketing assistant?

Again, it wasn’t just that I woke up one day and decided to copy my dad and go on to study marketing, it was a very unconventional and at times very difficult path that brought me to where I am today. I’ll begin with September 2014, aged 16 and just starting lower sixth studying French, Irish, Maths and History, not anywhere close to the subjects you would expect a future CAM student to study, right? Well as I said I couldn’t decide on a specific career path before picking A Levels so with the idea that a lot of degree courses don’t expect specific subjects, I decided the safest option would be to go for the ones I enjoyed most.

But, week one of lower sixth comes to an end and my whole life changed. On Friday 5th September 2014, my dad suffered a massive stroke that initially left him with a 30% chance of survival, complete right side paralysis and global aphasia*. We were told that our whole lives would have to change and that my dad would be left in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, never speak again and would need 24/7 care. Being the optimists that we are, we took this with a pinch of salt and kept focusing on him making a full recovery (side note – five years on he is walking, driving and even has limited speech). We did however, know that this was going to take a lot of time, effort and money from the whole family. With my mum and sister both working full time, I even considered  leaving school to care for him but after lots of discussions, I realised that as an educator, my dad would never have accepted this. We decided we had to keep everything as normal as possible because after all, our lives had changed enough – I was going to stay in school, my mum and sister were going to stay in work and we were all going to take on the responsibility of caring for my dad and taking turns with the everyday responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.

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This was of course very difficult and I could write an entire book on that story alone but alas we are talking about my path to marketing. During the mid-term break over Halloween, all lower sixth students had to embark on a week’s work experience, not having time to apply for work experience myself because my dad was still in hospital gravely ill, I reached out to two of my dad’s friends who worked in PR and Graphic Design to ask if they could take me on for a couple of days. They were of course willing to do anything possible to help and so began my journey into this industry.

I spent the first three days of the week shadowing Joanne McNeill at her PR agency, McNeill Communications – at this point I had zero idea what PR actually meant, apart from knowing that some of my friends did PR for Thompsons and Filthys. I did know that it was along the same lines as marketing and had therefore decided that although this experience wouldn’t help me in my career, it would be nice to get a few days away from school and the hospital. Within the first few hours of shadowing Joanne, my mind had been completely changed. We had been working on launch events and planning for a Red Bull event and it all seemed like the most interesting work in the world – I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time. The last two days of the week were spent with Mark Mulholland at Whitenoise Designs and although we both knew for certain that I was never going to me a graphic designer, he brought me to an event set up and showed the ins and outs of all the technical and branding elements. This was an amazing experience and set in stone my love for corporate events.

I’ll skip on a year to the start of upper sixth when we were about to attend the open days at Queen’s and Ulster and we had to do some research on the degrees they offered so that we could make the most of our time and attend specific talks. At this point, I still had some interest in keeping on my language studies and I was STILL set against studying straight marketing because I did not want to end up on the same career path as my dad, after all it was PR I’d fallen in love with at this stage. I hadn’t heard of anyone doing a degree in PR and didn’t really think such a thing existed so I was leaning towards French and International Business at Queen’s. Then, as I was browsing through the Ulster open day schedule, I noticed the CMPR and CAM talks and was instantly intrigued.

I went on to apply for both courses and sit my A Levels and months later after painstakenly waiting for remarks to meet the CAM grade boundaries, I was officially a CAM student.

Now three years on I’ve just completed a twelve month Corporate Communications internship in London at The Walt Disney Company and I’m currently working as a Marketing Assistant at Mirror Media. Needless to say, my 17 year old self was naive to the similarities between PR and marketing and when I decided to go into PR I firmly believed I was not following in my dad’s footsteps. But, alas, here I am, unintentionally following my dad’s discipline that I’d always been so against and I have to say that I couldn’t be happier. The past five years have of course taught me a lot but I’ve mainly learned that the bad things that happen to us are only going to teach us lessons that no book will and sometimes they’ll even lead you down the best path. I’ve learned that it’s important not to stress too much about your career path and as cliché as it sounds, everything will work itself out in the end.  

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*Global Aphasia – This is the most severe form of aphasia, a language impairment, and is applied to patients who can produce few recognizable words and understand little or no spoken language. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write.

Emily Spackman McKee is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter @_spackman and LinkedIn Emily Spackman McKee