You are formally invited to…

You are formally invited to…

My event organising only goes so far as school formals and after-parties, but everyone has to start somewhere, correct? It’s like Barack Obama running for class president in High School, you have to start off small and make your way to the top.

My latest project was the School of Communication 2017 Winter Formal. The one night where us students get the opportunity to get out of our athleisure wear and slip into floor-length gowns and act classy. I myself am still only learning when it comes to events-planning and management, but I thought I would share the tips and tricks I learned during this opportunity.

You can’t do it all by yourself

Get yourself a dedicated team. Ask your course director/lecturer to send an email calling for a formal committee. Once you’ve found yourself your army, you can start on your mission. This time around I created a Facebook closed group – perfect for sharing ideas, opinions and updates on what is happening.

Take inspo from all angles

Inspiration is hiding in every corner, you just have to think what would be appropriate to your event and your budget. I wasn’t going to order a mechanical bull for a school formal, but a photo-booth would capture the perfect shot of all your party guests – and they get a free keepsake!

Bloggers, Pinterest and previous events you have attended can all feed you ideas of what type of entertainment you can have. Keeping in mind my budget, we opted for goody bags (filled with sweet treats), ‘Selfie Face-mats’, a photo-booth and a candy floss machine.

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‘Selfie Face-mats’ bought off Amazon made us look Amazing

I had originally seen the Face-mats at a 21st birthday I attended, and with the whole ‘selfie’ phenomenon currently happening, the guests had the best craic trying on the different faces. This was a sure way to keep my guests busy and energised whilst they waited for their food in the dining room.

Keep note

My laptop was my best friend for the guts of a month, as I was constantly updating my database filled with names of people that have paid, people promising to pay and entertainment companies I have handed money to. Keep these all in separate lists!

The key to running a successful event is definitely organisation. I found satisfaction out of always having the answer to questions before they were asked. Make a list of everything you need to know from your venue, from your entertainment companies and from your committee and have the answers written out in a Word document.

Invest in a whiteboard in Tesco for £5 (fulfil your secondary school guilty pleasure of scribbling on a whiteboard) and have everything you need to do in the days preceding the event written down. The satisfaction I got from wiping the marker off the board was unprecedented. Yes, I am also the person who gets excited when mopping a dirty floor.

Promoting still applies to University events!

It’s a School formal, surely everyone wants to go enjoy a night with their university mates, right?

Wrong.

Right up until 2 days before the event, I was still encouraging other students to come to the formal. You have to create the buzz around your event. If you’re not excited about it, what gives anyone else the right to be excited?

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Promotion overload – Free Red Bull, Formal Tickets and Snapchat filters

The School of Communication hasn’t held a formal in quite a few years due to lack of interest and no one willing to take control of the event. So to tackle this and help make this an annual thing, you needed to share the fun with as many people as possible to make them want to go next year – AKA make EVERY moment a photo opportunity, so that social media knows how good of a night it was.

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The candy floss machine ensured every snap was insta-worthy

Of course at the event you need a Snapchat filter. A filter is a given at any event nowadays, but you would be surprised how easy it is to create and how much of a reaction it gets from the crowd. I found it was these simple details that tied the whole event together and shaped the amazing atmosphere the formal had.

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The filter was used 121 times during the night, and viewed a total of 19,242 times!!!!!

and RELAX…

So you’re at the event, you have spent time and money making yourself feel glamorous. Do not waste all of your hard work being stressed! Everything has obviously turned out fine since you have made it to that point. Take some of the prosecco they are offering you (because every event needs a prosecco reception) and enjoy your night!

 

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @SQbabes.

AE2017 for Dummies

As this is my first blog on the Ulster PR Student site, I want to introduce myself as Shannon – a lover of tea (strictly Punjana), Yankee Candles (Lovely Kiku obviously) and American Country music. Although these are the things that keep me sane, I also dabble in some PR, Events and Marketing activities as a student of Communications, Advertising and Marketing.

Swiftly moving on to the election that will shape generations to come..

I have spent the last few days spending my time explaining the basics of the election to co-workers (some in their 40’s, some not yet legal to vote), family members and class-mates.

This is by no means a comprehensive analysis of the Assembly Election, however if you are like the majority of people and have enough interest in politics to know that Sinn Fein are nationalist, this quick guide will help you make sense of the political jargon that is plastered on your newsfeed.

The basics – what you need to know

There were 90 seats up for grabs in comparison to 2016’s election where there were 108 seats to be won. That means there are 90 people across Northern Ireland that will be voted to represent you and your constituency in the NI Assembly. It is written in NI’s constitution that there must be a unionist and nationalist coalition of parties in power – power sharing. The leader of the party with the most seats takes ‘first minister’ position, traditionally this is the leader of the DUP – in this case Arlene Foster – and the ‘deputy first minister’ position taken by the leader of the second biggest party – traditionally Sinn Fein (Michelle O’Neill).

OK. Now that we have the basics out of the way, this is how the results went.

Final results in 2017 NI Assembly

AKA DUP got served, Sinn Fein triumphed, SDLP winged it, UUP are in tatters and Alliance keep getting the vote of those who think their party is about ‘friendship’.

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“Sorry.. My party lost HOW many seats?”

 

So what does it all mean?

The biggest turn out of electorate since The Troubles

812,783 of you got out of the house and utilised your vote. That’s more than 80,000 more votes than just 10 months ago at the last election. Think of it as Croke Park stadium being packed out, and everyone there is really angry at Arlene Foster and they show up to vote against her.

Petition of Concern – Yay Gay!

As you may or may not have seen in recent times, the DUP have consecutively blocked the motion of ‘Gay Marriage’ passing through to legislation (FIVE times) – despite a clear want from the people of the modern world. Now, because the DUP failed to attain 30 seats, they have lost that petition of concern, and are now unable to SOLELY block this. This does not guarantee us that gay marriage will be legalised, but it’s one hell of a way to show those in NI still stuck in the 1900’s that discrimination won’t be tolerated any more in a new, modern Northern Ireland.

No ‘Perpetual’ Unionist Majority

For the first time since the Good Friday Agreement.. or ever for that matter, there is no Unionist majority voted in to the Assembly. Currently as it stands, 40 of those candidates voted in are unionist, and 39 are nationalist. The rest deem themselves as ‘other’ and can fall on either side of the divide. Michelle O’Neill has hailed this as the biggest victory of the election, claiming AE17 has ‘demolished any notion of a perpetual unionist majority in the North’.

The UUP were Nes-troyed at the polls

The party leader – Mike Nesbitt – has left the party leaderless after an abysmal polling result, which is only to be expected as a lot of unionist voters would have shifted their vote to the DUP to back the party with more chance to withstand a nationalist majority. This probably means nothing to the standard voter, as the smaller opposition parties are now starting to dwindle and come the next election – they might not be here at all unless there is a big shake up in party organisation!

Are we heading towards a United Ireland?

Probably not. Although those who have always voted Sinn Fein will use this result as a way to express a public ‘need’ for a new referendum on a united Ireland (a public vote), it is more likely that the increase in SF and reduction in DUP votes was a reaction to decades of arrogance from the DUP and a retaliation to the RHI scandal (a whole other blog is needed for that one, sorry guys).

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You mean to say you didn’t vote Sinn Fein because you want a united Ireland?

So where does this leave Northern Ireland?

Well, with Arlene Foster in trouble, the DUP could be left leaderless alongside their unionist counterpart UUP party. This means a totally new legion of Stormont leaders could emerge since just 4 months ago, when Foster and Martin McGuinness shared power.          As for Brexit, Michelle will use her party’s newly regenerated popularity to fight against Theresa May’s exit from the EU… or Stormont may turn vacant once again.

Basically, you can wake up in the morning knowing that things are changing. And for the better.

 

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @SQbabes.

Social Media Crisis Management

Social Media Crisis Management

Having recently completed the dissertation aspect of my MSc qualification, it seemed timely to revisit the crux of the subject area which I explored, for the purposes of an initial blog.

My area of study focused specifically on social media crisis management, and the technicalities of proactivity, prevention and management.

I set out to analyse, collate and form information (and practical tactics) which could help businesses/organisations/public figures minimise risk and protect reputation during (and in advance of) social media crises.

As a communications consultant I work (on a daily basis) with various clients who operate within the digital sphere. Providing digital consultancy is part of my daily routine, and having worked on large scale crisis projects with commercial clients, I became fascinated by this area of communication.social-media-crisis%20image%2011

The hand of business has, in many ways been forced into the age of social media. Businesses are now well aware of the market potential within social media and, with research showing that 82% of people are more likely to trust a company which engages on social media, businesses are left with little choice but to communicate on digital platforms. Trust aside, social media is increasingly geared towards sales, thus, to avoid such a lucrative channel would be to limit market potential.

Despite the fact that social media has been growing steadily for over 10 years, my findings concluded that many businesses are (to this day) ill-equipped to deal with adverse social media situations, with many of the practices ad-hoc and reactive.

Members can comment on your brand, and there’s not much you can do about it. The marketing channel is reversed- rather than top-down, things now move from the bottom up. Now that your customers can talk back, it pays to listen to what they have to say.”

There have been countless instances of social media crises at both a local and international level, and, interestingly, “during 2016, 19% of PR crises broke on Twitter, more than Facebook (16%), YouTube (4%) and blogs (4%). Brands appear more likely to receive criticism on Twitter than they are on other social networking platforms, with users being 17% more likely to send a negative tweet than a negative Facebook post.

As noted by many voices of authority in this sphere, “a social media crisis can (in certain cases) be something that occurs offline and is then brought to social media channels, or it can begin on social media channels, and then spread.”

One notable, worldwide example of the former was with Volkswagen, when what started as a product feature, spiralled into a social media storm and created subsequent reputational damage. Volkswagen’s manner and speed of response was strongly criticised “with video apologies from respective CEOs the only posts addressing the crisis after more than a week.”

With social media, your reputation can be completely eradicated in 48 hours, so you don’t have the luxury of time that you once did to methodically put together a step-by-step process.”

To conclude, here are 5 tactical recommendations for business (more to follow in next blog)

  1. Be prepared, a social media crisis can happen at any time- audit your social media channels to ensure you are equipped
  2. Create and implement an organisational crisis policy (particularly for organisations with multiple users)
  3. Make speedy decisions on action. Consider whether to reach out publicly (in a crisis situation) or take the conversation off line, and out of the public domain
  4. Tactics like disabling or reviewing posts (via Facebook) from visitors can be a useful first step in crisis situations. Also, think about how ‘boosted’ posts can take content out of your control and place it into (for example), previously banned page users and ‘non-likers’ of page
  5. Hide/delete unwanted or dangerous comments/posts/messages where necessary

John McManus graduated from Ulster University in December 2016 with an MSc in Political Lobbying & Public Affairs. He is a consultant at Turley PR & Public Affairs in Belfast. John can be contacted on Twitter @JohnPolMcManus and on LinkedIn: https://ie.linkedin.com/in/john-mcmanus-82509a49

Destination Social Media

When does social media become more than just another trend for likes, shares and followers? Social media is revolutionising the travel and hospitality industry across the world with sites such as Instagram, Facebook and TripAdvisor, providing a platform for consumers to research their trip or to share their experiences through selfies, check-ins and reviews. It has modernised the consumer’s approach to industry, becoming big enough to encourage thousands of people all over the world to jump on a plane and boost the tourism industry.

Trip Advisor

TripAdvisor is one of the world’s largest travel sites with 475 million reviews and opinions covering 7 million businesses and properties worldwide, reaching an average of 390 million people per month. In a survey by TrustYou, 95% of respondents read reviews before booking their trip. This platform provides credible and authentic user generated content, which is changing the face of customer service, in particular how customers make complaints. Often customers voice their frustrations publicly on social media rather than deal with the hassle of phoning the company. Due to this, often complaints go ‘viral’ triggering a response from the business to address the issue.

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Instagram

At six years old, Instagram has 600+million active users monthly and 400+ million users daily. Instagram has built a community of personal users, brands and influencers who share high quality, vibrant photographs, which inspire others to travel. In 2015, Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand, attracted Instagram influencers to the country who captured and shared wanderlust-inducing photographs. Specifically, they brought in American photographer Chris Burkard, who has 1.5 million Instagram followers; his photos received up to 50,000 “likes” each. This strategy saw tourism rise 14% within the town.

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Facebook

With about 1.23 billion daily active users, Facebook is becoming a travel motivator. Often we see our friend’s check-in and post photos of their trip, which in turn you begin to imagine yourself there and soon you have flights booked. In 2011 a survey by Travel Industry Wire found that 52% stated they were inspired to book a trip after seeing friends’ Facebook photos and posts.

Innovation Norway took advantage of Facebook’s increasing popularity in order to promote Norway. They created and executed a 45-day Facebook campaign inviting people to take part in the campaign with a chance to win daily prizes through taking part in a daily competition. This campaign saw Innovation Norway’s Facebook following boost from 12,000 to 31,000 and the traffic to the company website boost 40% year on year.

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Social media has impacted the travel industry massively and often influencing how or where consumers make their travel arrangements as a survey revealed that 92% consumers trust earned media more than any form of advertising.

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0/ 

And the award goes to…?

One of the main roles of public relations is crisis management. This relates to how you as a business act and respond to a disruptive situation that can damage your reputation. Some key examples of times when crisis management was needed include disasters like the BP oil spill and the infamous Tesco horse meat scandal.

While these were massive environmental and health and safety disasters, a more minor call for crisis management came just a few days ago during the 2017 Oscars. So let’s talk about how they did.

What exactly happened:

So, during the 2017 Oscar ceremony “La La Land” was called to receive the award for Best Picture. The cast took to the stage during the usual applause and began the usual speeches thanking family and everyone involved in the movie. What was then unusual, was the interruption during which Jordan Horowitz, producer of the film, took over the microphone and announced that actually they hadn’t won and called Moonlight to the stage. Warren Beatty who made the false announcement, then explained that the card had read “Emma Stone-La La Land,” and that this had caused the mistake. The whole process was altogether awkward and confusing, made no better by Jimmy Kimmel’s following attempts to lighten the mood.

Who was at fault:

Many media outlets took to placing the blame solely with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway for reading the wrong film. However, later  focus shifted from the presenters to the people in charge of the envelopes containing the results. This responsibility fell to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who are in charge of calculating and distributing the results for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who run the awards ceremony.

It was then discovered that Brian Cullinan, chairman of the US board of PwC, was the one who gave Warren Beatty the wrong card, intended instead to announce Best Actress. As two members of PwC are the only ones to know the results during the ceremony, the blame could be placed entirely with them.

However, there is some speculation that the Academy attempted to alter the entrance of the presenters too close to the results, thereby affecting the flow of the whole process and confusing the PwC representatives.

This suggests that both parties were to blame.

So how did they do:

It took exactly two minutes and twenty five seconds for the mistake to be rectified from the time when the wrong announcement was made. This may not seem like a lot but if we instead say that two members of the cast had time to make heartfelt speeches before they were told something was wrong it comes across as a lot more significant.

Moreover, it then took three hours for PwC to release a statement of apology. While this also may not seem like a monumental amount of time, let’s remember that this event was broadcast live meaning that there was no gap between when the mistake was made and when it was discovered.

We sincerely apologize to “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.

We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

-PwC

This was also three hours of silence compared to the previously very active Twitter accounts of the two PwC representatives; activity that only further suggested that they were not paying attention and careless with their roles of handling the results. This three hours allowed media outlets to start placing blame on all parties including the innocent presenters.

Accountant Brian Cullinan's now deleted tweet which he posted just before the envelope mix up

Only after PwC made the statement accepting all accountability did the Academy issue their own apology to the presenters, cast and fans. This significant gap of three hours during which no comments were made by either PwC or the Academy allowed the media to speculate that neither party wanted to accept responsibility. This simply painted both parties in a negative light, furthering the damage done.

Moreover, the crisis was made worse by the fact that it overshadowed the opportunity for positivity on behalf of the Academy. After last year’s #OscarsSoWhite trend which called for more diversity in the awards, the victory of Moonlight would have been the perfect circumstance to highlight for some much needed positive publicity. The fact that this was overshadowed by the new trend #OscarFail made the crisis all the more damaging.

In conclusion, both parties attempted to manage the crisis separately in order to avoid shouldering the blame. It would have been better dealt with if PwC had accepted responsibility while the Academy brought the focus back to the success of the night. A united front accepting blame immediately but emphasising the positives might have limited even more confusion.

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

YouTubers and Instagram Stars Have Quickly Become the Only Voice That Matters for Consumers in the Beauty Industry.

On YouTube, I am subscribed to 40 (yes, 40!) beauty “gurus”.  Excessive? Let me explain.

Over the past decade, YouTube has exploded as a user-generated platform for companies and people around the world to share their ideas, their work, their talents and their opinions. This platform has facilitated the oh-so-important co-creation process for brands and consumers to mutually create and share content.

For the beauty industry, YouTube is now an intrinsic part of communication strategy with thousands of beauty channels providing access to millions of consumers. L’Oreal’s most recent advertisement even included beauty YouTuber KaushalBeauty alongside long-time L’Oreal ambassador, Cheryl.

YouTube videos are the earned media that today’s makeup brands need to survive. These makeup channels post regular product reviews and makeup tutorials with the latest products, providing consumers with real, mostly unbiased information that they want and need before they make a purchase decision. If they don’t like the product, they tell you! Essentially, it allows consumers to ignore traditional advertisements for new products and base their decisions solely on other people’s opinions. They cut out half of the purchase decision-making process!

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Paid media is also increasingly a major part of YouTube, with makeup sponsoring videos, where the “guru” is asked to use and promote a new product, or they are sending them new products for free to review. This was my downfall – never considering that these YouTubers were getting these products for free, I was the ideal consumer for these brands: the girl who went out and bought these “must-have” products immediately, spending hundreds of pounds to keep up with my favourite influencers! (No regrets.)

YouTube and Instagram have revolutionised word-of-mouth communication, where I can search a specific term or product and instantly have access to thousands of posts and videos telling me the pros and cons of a product, and showing me how to use it. Additionally, I have access to the opinions of people of different ages, different skin tones, different skin types, different genders, from different countries (where certain brands may not be available), ex-MAC makeup artists, celebrity makeup artists… every opinion a consumer could possibly need!

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Need more proof of the power of these beauty gurus? The number of cosmetic surgery procedures fell 40% in 2016, with analysts suggesting the rise of makeup contouring tutorials may have been a contributing factor.

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YouTube heavyweight Carli Bybel demonstrating her famous nose contouring.

Currently, I am following 40 YouTubers who are more influential upon my makeup purchase decisions than any TV or print ad. Ultimately, Maybelline and Estee Lauder may promise “flawless coverage” with their new product offerings, but until NikkieTutorials and MannyMUA tell me it’s true, I won’t be convinced.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94

All things digital

In today’s society, many organisations have established themselves through ‘digital’ offerings, creating online specific content, allowing users to access news in alternative ways and diverging the uses of social platforms.

BuzzFeed

An American internet media company that focuses on social media, news and entertainment. Although the platform has a reputation for offering the weirdest quizzes available, BuzzFeed should not be laughed at. The organisation is worth $1.5 billion. The company has grown from strength to strength over the years, providing coverage over a diverse range of topics, from politics and DIY to animals and business.

The business is completely independent and has a very strong social media presence, utilising Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. The content offered on their apps and website is mostly targeted at millennials.  Allowing for an already highly engaged audience, to consume and share content which is relevant, factual and highly entertaining. But it isn’t the witty news articles that is gaining BuzzFeed attention at the minute. It is their digital shows that are rapidly growing in popularity.

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Ellen DeGeneres and BuzzFeed are both heavily invested in creating the Brother Orange movie

BuzzFeed’s online video content has gained staggering momentum, with more than seven billion views per month and whilst funny animal videos can be attributed to these statistics, BuzzFeed is taking their digital content very seriously. Ellen DeGeneres has recently partnered with them to create their original movie ‘Brother Orange’. Furthermore, their YouTube channel ‘BuzzFeed Food’ is another platform that is quickly growing, with 774,104 global subscribers.

Facebook

Facebook, the platform we all know and love. Sure it’s handy if you want to post a few pictures, share how you’re feeling or leave a review on that restaurant where you had your dinner. However, Facebook is much more powerful than that.

Towards the end of 2016, Facebook launched ‘Marketplace’. Informally, many ‘buy and sell’ pages have  existed on Facebook for quite some time. With Marketplace, products that are being sold in your local community are easily accessed. Allowing users to discover items that are for sale, enhancing the relationship between the buyer/seller and making it easier to sell your unwanted goods.

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Facebook states that 450million have used the platform to sell and purchase goods

Facebook is also heavily investing in advertising. Recently I was shopping on Amazon, I went out of the app and into Facebook and on my newsfeed there were recommendations and offers of the products I was looking at. Although the adverts are tailored and relevant to the user, many people are complaining that there are more adverts on their newsfeed rather than friends’ updates and photos.

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People need to ensure they are not sharing too much information on Facebook, confirming their privacy

Snapchat

Snapchat, launched in 2011, is a multimedia and instant messaging platform with over 158 million daily active users. It is one of the most popular social platforms currently available, sending photos that last for a maximum of 10 seconds. Offering users entertaining filters, instant messaging and video chats.

Recently Snapchat introduced Snap Ads, these are video adverts that are inserted between users stories or on their discover section and although annoying, there are much more visually pleasing than Facebook’s and can be skipped unlike the majority of YouTube’s adverts.

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The adverts offered by the organisation are short and appeal to the users of the social platform

However, what is a growing use for Snapchat is journalism. Large and mostly traditional news outlets are utilising the platform, providing its users with instant access to breaking global news stories. Organisations such as The New Yorker, BBC News and The Washington Post all have Snapchat accounts.

But the content being shown by these outlets is not a simple video of the latest current events, they are taking full advantage of Snapchat’s features. Utilising stickers, emojis and filters, to highlight certain aspects of the story and engage their audience.

Evidently, there is a multitude of benefits accessing the most recent content online, however, users should ensure their privacy remains intact.

Alex Slaine is a first year CAM student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @alexslainee