So far, yet so good

So far, 2020 has been one big slap in the face. We all had big plans for this year, and I don’t think the “c-word” (behave, I mean the other c-word) was in any of them. But I have chosen not to let it break me.

If anyone here has read my last blog post on ‘Mindset’ you will know that I tend to look for the positives in everything and I like to make the best out of a bad situation. In this situation however, I didn’t have to look very far to see the good side. All I had to do was look outside and see that my neighbour who hasn’t gotten off the sofa in 10 years, is now outside doing their daily walk, or go onto Facebook and see my old school friend putting on a live concert in their living room just for the hell of it.

I want to make it clear that I understand how utterly horrible this virus is and I do hope it leaves us as quickly as it arrived. Nonetheless, the virus has put us all in the same situation. It’s here whether we like it or not, so we may as well make the most of it eh?

When our mate Boris announced the lockdown, it was bittersweet. On one hand, we all knew it needed to be done and that it was the only thing that was going to get us closer to defeating the enemy. On the other hand, there was a state of grief that masked the entire country. We had to say ‘see you later’ to a lot of the things that we take for granted every day – our friends, family members, hugs, our freedom.

I know I am extremely lucky in all of this; I live with my wonderful family, I have the countryside on my doorstep, and I am both emotionally and physically healthy. I am fully aware that there are others who don’t have the privileges I have and this lockdown may be mentally exhausting for them. To those people, I salute you. However, if you are in a similarly lucky position to me then I want you to stop moping around and start to see why lockdown is actually a blessing in disguise.

In the short time we have been gifted with lockdown, I have realised a few things about the human race:

1. We do a lot of things just to please other people

I don’t know about you, but I have not worn make up, washed my hair, dressed nicely, put on fake tan, or shaved my legs half as much as I would if we weren’t in lockdown. Boys, call me disgusting, but if a girl is telling you that she has, she’s probably lying.

The only time I have put on make-up or clothes that aren’t sweats, is when I am recording a video for my music pages. But why? Because that’s the only time other people see me.

We all like to pretend that we wear make-up and do all these things for ourselves to feel good – and don’t get me wrong, it does feel good to strut around your bedroom feeling like Rihanna – but can anyone here honestly tell me that they have put in half the effort in the last 4 weeks as they would have in normal times? Of course not!  I mean, what’s the point in making an effort just so you can stare at yourself in the mirror?

Maybe it is about time we started doing these things for ourselves. If you want to buy nice underwear, curl your hair and wear red lipstick just to make your morning coffee, then do it. Likewise, if you feel your best in a pair of sweats and a messy bun, that’s okay too! We’ve got to start saying “I am going to do this because it makes me feel good” because right now, you are all you have.

2. We all needed a break

I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the origin of this virus. I do like to entertain the idea of conspiracies and theories, just because they are a lot more exciting than some dude in China scranning a bat and starting a global crisis. Nobody has a definite answer as to where this started or where it will all end but what I do believe is that this needed to happen.

I said it from the start, but maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to chill the f*#k out. It’s like she has given us this beautiful planet with all its resources, where we can roam freely and do as we please – as long as we don’t take it too far. The same way our parents allowed us to go and play with our friends, as long as we are back before the streetlights go on. But what happens when stay out till after dark? We get grounded. Our parents trusted us to be home by curfew but when we broke that trust, the privilege got taken away from us.

We have been abusing our planet for years, thinking we could continue to do so and we would keep getting more and more chances. But we were on our final straw and we didn’t even know it. We pushed our luck and used our last chance.

I read an article about the fish returning to the rivers in Venice since the residents and tourists have disappeared. This, among other amazing observations, shows how much we as humans have damaged the earth’s natural beauty and maybe the only way to restore the planet is to keep the humans away for a while. An American living in Wuhan said, “I used to think there weren’t really any birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”

As well as the world needing a break from the humans, I think the humans needed a break from the world.

We wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep, then we wake up and do it all again the next day. I work in the events industry and someone said to me at the beginning of all this, “what are you going to do if you can’t work?”. I replied “I am going to walk, run, cycle, play guitar, draw, write, sing, read, listen to music… maybe just live my life?”

They were shocked. Imagine your life not revolving around work?

As a society, we live to work, we don’t work to live. All I ever hear are people saying:

I need a break…’

‘How is it Monday again already?’

‘I wish I could have some time off to do nothing…’

We have been given the break we’ve been asking for, yet there are people who can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’. We go through the rat race of life, constantly competing with others. Whether it is for a promotion or scrolling through Instagram to see who has the most expensive handbag, we are always pushing other people down in order to raise ourselves up. And we call this normal?

I read a tweet that said “Coronavirus has proved that everything around us is a fake social construct. We are learning to live without things our lives revolved around, like work, school, gym, malls and society. It’s taught us that in the end its your own home and family that keep you safe.”

Now that all the things we thought were important have been taken away from us, it’s like we are being forced to face ourselves. To ask ourselves, when all is said and done, what is really important, what is really ‘normal’. The system has been shut down and we don’t have to keep running anymore; we don’t have to keep pretending anymore.

So before you try and rush back to ‘normal life’, ask yourself which parts of ‘normal’ are really worth rushing back to. 

3. When this is over, we gotta seize the day

Carpe Diem. We’ve all heard it, I’m sure some of you even have it hanging on the back of your door. But have you ever thought about what it means?

How many of you have made plans in your life that you just ‘never got round to’? Maybe you were planning to find your dream job, maybe you were planning on going to the gym to get your dream body, or maybe you were planning to travel the world – but you just ‘never got round to it’.

I had plans, we all did. There are things we say we are going to do, but we always put them off.

“The gym will still be open on Monday, I’ll start then.”

“The flights are too expensive this year, I’ll travel next year”

“I’ll go see granny next weekend instead, she will understand.”

The truth is, you have been telling yourself you will start the gym every Monday for the last 10 years and your poor granny boils the kettle for you every Sunday but you are always too busy.

Too often, we take these little privileges for granted and expect them to be available to us forever. But guess what? The gym isn’t open on Monday, you can’t fly anywhere anytime soon and you most definitely cannot go and see your granny next weekend.

We need to start seizing the day. We have been putting our goals off for too long, and now the possibility of achieving them has been taken away from us. None of us expected this to happen but we assume that these things will always just be there when we want them, and now they’re not.

We will reach the other side of this and it is not the end of the world. But one day it will be, so if there is anything you can take away from this lockdown, it’s that life is short. Book that flight, apply for that job, buy that car you’ve always wanted. Start working on your dreams, before it’s too late.

4. Humanity is at its best when we are united

Finally: the most positive thing to arise from our current situation. Never before has the whole world had to come together to fight one common enemy (except in the last season of Game of Thrones).

For the first time in the history of mankind, celebrities, CEOS, politicians, cleaners, receptionists and interns are all in the same boat. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how much money you have – nobody is immune and the only thing that is going to get us through is the common realisation that we are all the same.

Personally, I think I speak to my friends and family more now than I did before lockdown. We are so far apart but, in some ways, we are closer than ever. We are finding new ways to communicate and using our imagination to keep ourselves entertained.

I never thought I’d see the day when all my friends would spend their Saturday night doing a virtual pub quiz and I certainly never thought we’d be in our 20’s still nominating each other to neck pints and do handstands, but hey, we adapt.

The thing is, normally we are all too busy to see each other or hang out. We always have something more important to do or someone else to please, but when everything is stripped back, that’s when we can see the people who will keep us sane during the hard times. The people who are always there in the background. You may not always have time to show them your appreciation, but when life gets too much and you feel like falling down, those are the people who you will catch you. Every. Single. Time.

One of my best friends recently said to me, “I am so grateful I’ve had this time to bond with my little sister. I never had a childhood with her because I moved away when she was younger but we are so much closer now”. 

And that’s what this is about. As I said at the start, I know this isn’t an ideal situation and there are definitely some people who aren’t as blessed as you and I, but we are the lucky ones and it’s time we started recognising it.

This post is based on my own individual situation. If you are someone who is finding it tough to see if the positive side of this, please read my blogpost on ‘Mindset’ and to see how you can break the situation down into more manageable pieces: https://niamhdoherty.com/2019/11/02/you-are-the-puppet-your-mindset-is-your-master/

If you just need a listening ear, send me a message on Instagram (@niamhydoc) and we can have a cup of tea via Skype and a virtual hug.

 

Niamh Doherty graduated from Ulster University last year with a BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations. She now works at ICC Belfast, attracting large conferences to the city. Niamh can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-doherty-b49ba2179/. She blogs at: https://niamhdoherty.com/

How To Market the C-Word

If there’s anything I love more than a salted chilli chicken snack box, it’s a good old piece of reactive marketing.

Brands use reactive marketing as a way of engaging their audience with spur of the moment content and advertisements responding to real-time events, news, topics, TV shows, hashtags and threads. It’s a way to appear relevant, relatable and humorous. Although generally successful in getting people talking and your brand noticed, it’s a tricky business in terms of having a limited time to create the content before its irrelevant, and the risk of offending the generation of snowflakes, whom I refuse to identify with. The fallout from a bad piece of reactive marketing can cause a lot of damage to a brand’s reputation and often they would have been better of just remaining silent… but that’s no craic. We all love a bit of controversy.

It’s no shock that the only real-time event that most brands are responding to right now is COVID-19. As the pandemic, unfortunately, continues to spread brands are thinking of creative ways to encourage us to partake in social distancing, stay indoors and wash our hands, MORE OFTEN! Please don’t tell me you ever ever ever need to be reminded to wash your hands, you detty pig. Here are a few of my faves.

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Netflix #YouShouldveStayedAtHome

A reactive marketing masterpiece if you ask me. I found this piece as I was scrolling through twitter a few weeks ago and it was a breath of fresh air amongst upsetting coronavirus updates, pessimistic tweets *unfollow* and reminders that there are still people who think it’s okay to bounce around households and see their friends. Did ye not hear what Boris said.

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The campaign had the aim to encourage people to stay at home by creating Billboards and Adshels with spoilers from Netflix shows including Money Heist, Love is Blind and Stranger Things with the tag line “You Should’ve Stayed at Home.” I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t actually real and was actually an idea by a duo from an advertising school in Miami who created the concept as a marketing suggestion for Netflix. I did see some comments where people were infuriated at the thought of seeing a spoiler for their favourite Netflix show when they were on their way to essential work or to get essential supplies. Which is a fair point. But how amazing if those who are not following guidelines, acting like they are above the law and are single handily decreasing the chances of us seeing our loved ones, or having pints with our mates anytime soon had their favourite binge of the moment ruined. Karma. SPOILER ALERT: if you have a life and didn’t binge Love is Blind in 3 days please look away now.

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Guinness #StayAtHome

Copywriter Luke O’Reillys created this piece of advertising as part of a One Minute brief challenge and Guinness loved it. They’ve fully credited the creator Luke and have used it as their way of encouraging people to stay at home during this time. I love the simplicity of it. Guinness also created a pretty emotional video in light of St. Patrick’s celebrations being cancelled across the world. Anyone else still pure devastated about this btw?

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The Guinness team collected clips of Guinness and St. Patricks day celebrations over the years and told us all that although we can’t celebrate together this year, we must stick together during this pretty tough time and, “Don’t worry, we’ll march again.” How emotional. I don’t even drink Guinness but I want a Guinness.

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Coke and McDonald’s response to the pandemic was spacing out their lettering to encourage social distances, whilst Burger King rejigged their tagline “home of the whopper.” to “Stay home.”

Contrary to popular belief there are other things we can talk about aside the Coronavirus. Can someone remind my Mum of this, please? So here are just a few honourable mentions I want to include from some of my favourite reactive marketing of all time.

#Sainsbey

When Beyonce dropped her latest Ivy Park collection we couldn’t help but die at the fact we could all go to a fancy dress party as a Sainsbury employee if we bought this particular piece. The memes came in almost instantly and soon went viral with the hashtag #SainsBey. Later that day Sainsbury were absolute legends in the field of reactive marketing and came out with this. Bravo Sainsbury.

It’s……….Innocent Smoothies

Coolen Rooney’s outstanding piece of cryptic literature in 2019 is the best thing I’ve read since the Great Gatsby. The suspense throughout had my heart in my mouth. I still can’t believe It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account. The dispute took the Twittersphere by storm and if any brand had any wits about them they would have taken every opportunity to use it for some quality reactive marketing. And Innocent Smoothie was soon to score with their newest “bolt from blue” drink saying it was “THE ONLY THING JUICIER THAN COLEEN V REBEKAH.” Must be pretty damn juicy.

“I’ve had te go te Burger King.”

Remember in 2018 when KFC ran out of Chicken and it was the WORST THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN and people were literally claiming it to be a national emergency. We really didn’t know what 2020 had in store, did we? Anyway, I have the utmost respect for KFC staying cool, calm and collected and rejigging their branding to read FCK. Reassuring to know even Colonel Sanders fcks up sometimes.

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So they’re just a few of my favourite reactive marketing campaigns over the past year or so. Over the past month, I have loved seeing the biggest brands ditch their product placements and USP ploys and simply encourage us to stick together and beat this virus.

Stay safe & healthy everyone and whilst the NHS work endlessly to protect us (ye legends) please protect them by staying at home.

Catherine Maguire is a final year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

Career Path Overload…

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

Choosing a Career

At the age of 6 I wanted to be a fire fighter, 9 a forensic scientist, 15 a journalist and now at the age of 21 I feel I can now answer that dreaded question- “what do you want to be when you grow up”? after years of uncertainty it took 21 years of ruling many different jobs out in order to find the place where I feel most me. After experiencing numerous work environments and feeling like a lost sheep in most of them, I was totally filled with dread that I would have to settle for a job that I didn’t find purpose or fulfilment in. It took 21 years of life experiences and 3 years of university to finally find a role where I can be the best version of me. From a young age, I have always been pushed towards higher education. My parents saw it as the only option for me, they saw it as an opportunity to make something of myself. Neither of my parents continued with their education after the age of 17 and always say how it is one of their biggest regrets in their lives. My father has had every job under the sun, you name it he’s done it, he has never felt a proper sense of security in any of his jobs and if I’m being totally honest, that scares me. I’ve seen struggle first hand which has prompted me to get to where I am today. My aim from a very young age was to obtain a career that want to get out of bed for every morning, have financial security and to achieve a sense of comfort and purpose in my chosen career path.  the big question for me for so long was, ‘what career will it be’? I can happily say after one of the hardest years of my life, I’ve finally found it.

 

Why public relations?

There are many reasons why anyone would want to work in public relations. Whether it be Endless variety, the not so shabby salary or the chance to become a globe trotter doing what you love for a living. Public relations is seen as a very desirable job, one I was oblivious too for a long time.Before I chose a university course I done a test online to find the ‘perfect job for me’ it asked me various questions about my likes, dislikes and wants in a job- the result was unanimous, Public relations. from here I began to research what all was involved in the role of a public relations professional and I couldn’t have been more enthralled.it all just seemed too good to be true, so what were the main points that initially attracted me to PR? Media-I like discovery and experimenting with new media tools such as social media as it was one of the reasons I discovered public relations. Another is the variety that comes with a public relation role. In the words of Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi, there are over 20 potential roles and areas that you can specialise in the PR industry (Johnston & Zawawi 2004, p. 8). Finding something I was passionate about was an important factor when choosing a degree, the variety component instantly led me to CMPR.  And lastly communication, I am a very people- driven person, being in a job that gave me countless opportunities to build relationships was a huge driving factor, I loved the idea of creating a positive impact on my community and thought through public relations I could achieve this goal.

 

A career in Public Relations

Incorporating Public relations into my chosen career path will be an attractive feature that not many other candidates in the teaching world will obtain and I will use it to my full advantage. as you may have gathered my chosen career path is to teach. Preferably in a secondary school as a business studies teacher.For the past two years, I’ve worked in my local secondary school as a learning support assistant and it has been the best two years of my life, before this I’ve never considered teaching as a career. I then went on to consider if my degree and teaching could go hand in hand with each other and discovered the skills I’ve gained over my past three years of university could be transferred into my life as a teacher. So, how do public relations relate to teaching? Now that we are in the 21st century and the Age of Information, a school district needs a communications professional to manage communication strategies that are proactive for a school district, instead of reactive. School districts must make a choice to be an active player in their community, not a passive one of the past. (Marsha Chappelow, Ph.D.https://www.nspra.org/getting_started,. ) As a public relation graduate I could provide support and a professional insight into how to Communicate with internal and external publics, help as a Community relations liaison and take different actions to ensure the schools continued success. I would do this with the help of Public relations research such as polls and surveys, I could also conduct research that will help determine the publics opinion on the school itself as a base to set an action plan in place. I will use all components of my degree to help in and out of the classroom.

 

Incorporating public relations into the school environment

From my time in university I’ve become familiar with the use of SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This would help evaluate the internal and external factors of the school. I would then highlight in on certain factors, these factors could be used on multiple publics. I would also use them in the classroom environment as public relations is a huge component of the business studies course.

 Attract the customer– Firstly recognise who the customer is, in this environment it is the school employees, the students and their parents and the members of the community. Each customer requires different needs for example school employees need to feel valued, the better an employee is treated, the better they will perform, also to ensure a high level of employee retention.

Ensuring school website is “with the times”– never judge a book by its cover, right? Well in this case, this is exactly what potential students and their parents will do. By ensuring the content is of high quality and up to date, this is a high potential selling point for the school if done correctly. You are trying to sell the school to potential customers and If a website isn’t attractive, those customers may make the decision to go elsewhere, based on appearance alone.

Stories:I know you’re probably thinking, story telling seriously. From my own experience story telling has been a factor of public relations that immediately grabs my attention every time. This is because People want to hear success stories to help ensure they are making the right decision. Stories move people. A good story can convince parents that entrusting their children into your hands is a smart choice—or that spending their resources, both time and money, on the school will be an investment in their child’s future. As Terry Tempest Williams wrote “story telling is the oldest form of education.” (Terry Tempest Williams (1984). “Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland”, p.4, UNM Press). Just recently I was asked by the principal of the secondary school I used to attend if I would write a short article for the newspaper as it was the schools 60thanniversary. She simply wanted my thoughts on the school and my most fond memories of my time there. This is a great example of how public relations is being used to its highest accord. Getting past pupils to share their fondest memories in a 6-page spread, will highlight to potential students/parents, the surrounding the community and competitors of their continued success.

Social media-I am a strong believer that social media sells. Years ago, it may have been difficult to measure your public relations success. Social media is unique in the sense that you can adequately assess your relationships with your key audiences by measuring the number of shares, comments and likes to see what they enjoy seeing most and using that to provide your audience with content that is of interest to them. The social media platform also allows you to measure the number of people who are viewing each post. These are useful tools to ensure that you can measure the amount of recognition the school is receiving from the targeted publics. All these components are indicators of how good public relations can build strong relationships through good communication.

 

Conclusion

To conclude I believe that public relations has been a detrimental factor in my chosen career path. As you can see from above I’ve already began to plan different techniques of how to improve public relations within the school environment by mentioning some of the approaches I find most effective and interesting. By being equipped with my knowledge of public relations and clear goals of what I aim to achieve I hope this will set me aside from other competitors. I hope to implement these both within the classroom itself and throughout the school community. Public relations has shaped a huge part of the way I think and see things, it has allowed me to think outside of the box, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

 

Rachel Magee is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelmagee98 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-magee-52328016b/

The world works in mysterious ways

As I returned home from my Barcelona placement excursion I secured a job in Dublin. My main incentive was to gain some more experience for my CV and to prepare me for the world of work. 

Before I knew it, my 2nd big city experience of the year commenced.

Initially, Dublin didn’t seem a city I thought I would gel with, but I was so wrong!

I started my new job in an event management company on Camden Street, smack bang in the centre of the Dublin scene. My new workplace was everything I wanted and more, the happiness you get when having delightful work colleagues has such a detrimental impact on your daily wellbeing. I slowly found myself walking into work in the morning with a spring in my step. An eagerness to learn and excitement to see my works pals. I very quickly became one of the team.

Working on some of the coolest events the country had to offer I became very tired but so appreciative of the opportunities I was getting to experience! Seeing the most extravagant corporate employee parties to the madness behind the festival preparation scene. The backstage hustle was one I definitely loved and it gave me such an insight into my future career, and my excitement for it.

Not losing sight of the beauty that is our capital city… I loved the walk to work in the morning, getting to walk the streets of ‘the big smoke.’ Seeing the Molly Malone statue sit nicely whilst sipping on my Butlers coffee, I had never felt more at home. My lifestyle in Dublin seemed to be one that I fitted into perfectly. From the 9-5 working day to the sociable evenings with friends or a run around UCD campus to clear my head, I couldn’t fault it.

Being a stone’s throw from St Stephens Green made for lovely lunch time strolls and being only quick jaunt to Grafton Street was perfect for the occasional lunchtime shopping trip… ok very frequent shopping trip.

Back to the job, my favourite project had to be the “Tesco Finest* Banquet at Electric Picnic”. The Tesco Banquet was a fine dining experience prepared by chefs Derry Clarke and Mark Moriarty. Creating that finest experience at Electric Picnic, with all proceeds going to Pieta House (a charity helping those with mental health illnesses) and Temple St Children’s Hospital.

The set up began and then, all of a sudden it was festival week and we were in a field. The hard work was about to begin. The Marquee shot up, deliveries were arriving, crew men were assembling sets. Photo opportunities started to look the part, the bar was installed and stocked up, trees and décor began to take over what once was a plain old field. And with a wave of a magic wand we had a Banquet fit for the President himself. (It was not this simple and straightforward at the time, it was extremely stressful, but alas).

Showtime was upon us (EEK!). The Banquet began on the Saturday of Electric Picnic weekend so we had one more day to ensure absolute and utter perfection.

Well, before I knew it I was greeting Greg O’Shea (Ahhh!) and friends alongside other special guests into our Tesco finest* dining experience and showing them to their seats. Playing it very professional and cool, of course. The dining commenced on our first sitting and everything after that was a blur, but, it was amazing. The feedback was great and the general feel of the Banquet was beautiful. The Tiny Quartet’s strings accompanied by Niamh Farrell’s vocals sent goose bumps racing up your arms whilst guests sampled a 5 course meal fit for a king.

Just like that, it was over. We had 4 sittings with hundreds of guests and some very happy clients. With a whopper of a sum raised for the charities selected, how could we not be happy?

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Undeniably a stressful, yet incredible, and very fulfilling job to take part in. I very much look forward to see what next year holds! 

As Mark Anthony once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/

Life with Asthma

Most of you will know what Asthma is, but for those who don’t it is a chronic respiratory disease. Basically when your airways are branded as ‘sensitive’, meaning they easily become inflamed and are itching to react as soon as they come into contact with something they don’t like.

CL1My dad has it, my brother has it and of course I have it. I was diagnosed with Asthma before I was five, extremely young for such as serious disease. My Asthma as a child was awful verging on severe. In all honesty, I know so many people that underestimate the disease and how deadly it can be. But it only takes a quick look at the stats to change this.

‘In the UK every 10 seconds someone has a life threating Asthma attack with a death rate of 3 people per day.’

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Don’t get me wrong as a child I loved a wee spin in an ambulance every few months. Isn’t that every child’s dream to be speeding up the road with the flashing blue lights on and the serine blurring feeling like a VIP. Mummy not so much. The water works were on and the worry was through the roof. I knew it was bad when even the out of hour’s doctors knew my name.

Everyone has their own triggers and their own ways of dealing with it. Anything can really set it off. For me it ranges from the cold, winter air to damp, dusty carpets. Not ideal when you’re living in a student house. Even little things have me struggling, e.g. cleaning my room without the dust getting to me. Luckily, my mummy comes to the rescue here which is a big win as my room has seen some states. When I can feel an asthma attack coming on I always find that breathing through/into something helps me to focus on my breathing whether it is into a paper bag or an anti-allergy pillow. 

On the downside one of my triggers is hay. An absolute nightmare with my grandparents and 5 out of 7 of my uncles on my mum’s side being farmers. Having to stay out of sheds and not being able to go away up the farm with my cousins had me tortured as a child. You wouldn’t have wanted to see the tantrums I had, especially when they were feeding pet lambs. Worse yet, have you ever riden a horse? Because I haven’t.

Trust me plenty of people with Asthma smoke but it really depends on how bad you have it. Me? Well if I took one puff out of a cigarette I’d be wheezing for a month or two at least. Personally, other people smoking around me doesn’t bother me as long as the smoke isn’t blowing in my face but I think that’s a pet hate for a lot of people. Just a quick heads up, if you see me on a night out please don’t be that one annoying person that keeps offering me a fag. There’s only so many times I can say ‘no’ nicely.

But that’s not even the most annoying thing.

It’s that annual Asthma check-up. Oh how I dread it every year. Only because of the Peak Flow test. Yes, it looks simple. Yes, all you have to do is blow into a tube. And yes, I still suck at it. Leading to that endless row with the nurses about how I could never do it, for them to tell me that I should be scoring better and giving me the same rant as the years before. SO ANNOYING.

TOP TIP: If you want to infuriate a person with Asthma then here’s an easy way to do it. Tell them that you had it or your sister had it and it was cured. Yes, sometimes Asthma can disappear in children or settle down for adolescences but there is NO cure for Asthma. So, we really don’t want to hear it.

Lucky for me my Asthma has settled down over the past few years. I no longer have to constantly worry about the activities I’m doing or where I’m going and I’ve had no recent spins in an ambulance. But I still do keep my inhalers close just in case that changes. On that note I’ll leave you here with a photo of my younger self, how cute was I?

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Claire Loughran is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/claire-loughran-959871169/

Defying the Stereotype!

In today’s society, people are told they can be who they want to be, but is this true? Growing up, like every little girl I wanted to be a princess, then a doctor or vet; but when it came time to decide what I wanted to do with my life I didn’t know. So, I thought about what I enjoyed doing. When I thought about it, I realised that I wasn’t the typical “girly girl”, I like building things, looking at cars and fixing them, going to lorry shows and car shows. This led me to think, why not become a builder but this was not normal for a girl to do so I was told to pick a more practical career goal. This was probably the right decision to make and stick to a career I could fit into, but I decide not to just fit in. 

When choosing my GCSE subjects, I chose to go with technology and design and then again at A-Level I chose construction and ICT. These decisions were questioned by both my family and by my teachers as I was the only female in these classes. I worked hard to prove them wrong, that girls were able to fit into the construction world. After the 4 years of building, designing, creating and even learning the laws around building and development I came top in my class with an A* and two marks off getting 100%. I was the first student at my school to every receive this grade. At the age of 18 receiving this grade I was smug and proud to be proving everyone wrong. 

Following into my university stage, I applied for Engineering Management. I studied this for a year only to realise that it would result in staying in an office working through paperwork and not becoming a practical job. It was also extremely difficult, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be who I wanted to be. I gave up. I questioned whether the stereotype was right and only men belonged in this world. I wasn’t ready to give on a career though. So, before finishing with the engineering course I thought about what else I was interested in. 

 I found myself always interested in how social media influencers promoted products through their Instagram. They would be sent products to wear and use and then have to post pictures or create short videos in their stories and review the products. This grabbed my attention even more as it grew more popular. This is when I decided to apply for the Communication Management and Public Relations (CMPR) course. 

Throughout this course i have learned a lot about how the marketing world works. I have also learned a lot about how this world works and how society is changing. Women are more expected now to do things out of the ordinary. There was a time when even advertising showed that women couldn’t buy a snickers bar through their television adverts. Women are now taking on more “masculin” roles in society. They have now abandoned the stereotype and strived to do what they want. More women are becoming CEO’s of companies, building their own companies, becoming lorries drivers and other male dominated job roles. This has taught me to do what makes me happy and leave the stereotype behind. 

Although, this also applies to men. Men can be nurses, hairdressers and stay-at-home dads. These aren’t simply female job roles anymore. We are turning our back on a stereotypical job role and not turning away the opposite sex simply for not being the “correct gender” for the role that they have applied for. 

This has encouraged me to continue with pursuing what I want to do with my career. The drive and mindset that other women have has encourage me to be who I want to be and not conform to what certain parts of society think a woman should be doing. Once I finish my degree in CMPR, I have decided to complete and mechanicing course and possibly obtain my HGV license. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I will continue on to do so. We are all equal, which means we can all do equal jobs. 

We must continue to be true to ourselves and defy the stereotype. That is why I would encourage everyone to be who they want to be and not listen to the judgement that we go through when we are striving to become who we want to be. 

 Hollie Walls is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/hollie-walls-565716198/ and Instagram – @holliewallss

Everyone go put Alberta, Canada on your bucket list right now eh!

In my humble opinion – Alberta, Canada is the most beautiful place in the world. Granted, I haven’t won the lottery (yet!) and gotten the chance to visit all 194 countries our wee Earth has to offer; but from my other travels, extensive Instagram stalking and google images ‘research’, that is the conclusion I have came to.

I mean, in 20 years time you could ask me – “where is the most beautiful place you’ve visited?” – and my answer may well be completely different; but right now in my 22nd year of life my answer is Alberta, Canada and that’s that.

You know in all those super awkward ice breakers you have to do in school or at the start of a new job, well my “interesting fact” was always “omg I’m like so totally half – Canadian eh!”, I just wanted to sound cool and cultured even though I’ve never actually lived there I just piggyback on my Mom’s nationality. So because my Mom was born there she made it a tradition in our house to visit her family in Canada as much as possible and I’ve carried this tradition into my adult life as well.

GD2When I visited at a young age it was all about maple syrup, big malls and ice hockey games; but as I got older my cousins who grew up there started to take me on hikes and mountain trails with them. I mean I know Ireland is basically a big green hill but walking up the Rockies is completely different territory.

To the right is a photo of me at stunning Lake Louise which is about a 3 hour drive from Calgary, the most populous city in Alberta. This is me at the start of a 4 hour hike – I had just gotten a spray tan the day before (#justholidaythings) and it’s safe to say after walking up mountains in the blazing sun for 4 hours my lovely white top was NOT white anymore.

As hard as the hikes are, everything is worth it once you get to your destination. I’m sure everyone has seen that Instagram caption – “The best view comes after the hardest climb” – I’m certain whoever came up with it must have been making their way up the Rockies.

 

 

GD6This is a photo from the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff which is a town situated in the middle of the Rockies in Alberta. I took this picture in July of 2019. The only real way to describe the view if you haven’t seen it in person, is that it literally looks like your staring at the worlds biggest postcard.

 

When I visited in summer 2018, I stayed with my family in Calgary, it was then that my cousin introduced me to the concept of “sunrise hikes’’. In my head this sounded magical and exciting when in reality it was a very grumpy and sleep deprived me being dragged out of bed at 3am to go look at the stupid sun rise. My mood quickly changed however when we arrived at Moraine Lake to watch that “stupid” sun rise.

I took these photos moments apart when we reached the top of Moraine Lake’s viewpoint at about 5am. Again there are no words to describe the view, watching the sky change from pink to blue and yellow in a matter of seconds is something I will never forget. I know you can watch the sunrise from anywhere in the world but watching it in a place like Moraine Lake with the Rockies as a backdrop; it really makes you appreciate the natural beauty the world has to offer.

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This is another picture from an attempted sunrise hike at Peyto Lake, which is an hour from Moraine Lake. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the sunrise because it was a super cloudy morning but we didn’t mind because we got to spend our time wandering about with our heads literally in the clouds.

I could share plenty more photos of mountains, lakes and skylines but the views aren’t the only things that make Alberta beautiful. It is definitely a stereotype that Canadian people are “the nicest people in the world”, but in my experience they actually are. When you walk into a shop it’s not hard to imagine the clerk or even another customer getting down on one knee and pulling out a Tiffany’s box they are that happy to see you and there’s no difference between stepping into a Walmart, a 5 star hotel or just walking down the street, Canadians genuinely are happy to see you.

It’s funny I was talking to someone recently about Canadians and they asked me “but aren’t they too nice?” and it just stuck with me; because in the world that we live in today I don’t know how anyone could be too nice, kindness is something we can actually control and why wouldn’t you want to be as kind as possible and put a smile on someone’s face in the midst of all this uncertainty.

So I urge anyone reading this that is planning a holiday soon, put Alberta on your bucket list! It’s an amazing place filled with spectacular scenery, kind and generous people that LOVE anyone Irish and a welcoming nature that feels like you’ve never left home.

I’ve included a video below of Moraine Lake during the sunrise, just in case the photos haven’t twisted your arms!

Gareth Donnelly is a Final Year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at University of Ulster. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-donnelly-1a6161196 , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__

Small Steps Together …

Oscar Wilde once said ‘The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention’.

I recognise how agonising it may feel when lecturers continue to brag about the important of volunteering in order to enhance your CV, but last summer volunteering became much more to me, much more.

‘’We are delighted to be in a position to offer you a place in our 2019 Volunteer programme.’’ The email that started my African adventure, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet my team, it all happened so fast I literally blinked, and it was time to go.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment we stepped of the plane, that overwhelming feeling of ‘I can’t believe I am actually here in South Africa with nine other people’.  We were all as apprehensive as each other and didn’t really know what lay ahead of us. As we drove for hours upon hours upon HOURS, I had the opportunity to absorb what would be a defining experience for me.

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While in South Africa I had the opportunity to teach in Michael’s Secondary in Supinstad. NM3It wasn’t like teaching at home where you have 25 children in a class, along with an interactive whiteboard and a multitude of resources. Instead, my class (yes, my class) had 35-45 children per day with a blackboard being our only resource. We had to get very creative when making lesson plans which kept the children interested. Words cannot describe how the children absorbed every word we said, they literally loved to learn. (Unlike children here; school as a heaven of peace, not a punishment.)  It was so humbling to see how children with nothing more than a pencil and paper tried so hard in the classroom. I will never forget how excited the children got when we did a science experience with a balloon and Dearbhla’s hair- it is a moment I will never forget. Also think of the best teacher you have had in your life and multiply it by 100 that is the equivalent to the principal Shaki: he is the most inspirational teacher I have ever met. While we were in South Africa, he traveled 8 hours to Johannesburg so a child could sit an exam with the hopes of attending university. This is just one of the amazing things he did to give the children of his school the best opportunities he could.

After two and a half weeks in Supinstad we moved to Phokeng, a much larger town than we were used to. Within this town, situated a shopping mall…a very different type… IT HAD FIVE SHOPS!

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While in Phokeng, we worked in a squatter’s camp… breath-taking is all I can say. Everywhere I looked it was just tin huts with no electricity or running water and small shacks which people lived in. The most heart-breaking part of it all was seeing children run around these homes, with no care at all because they obviously don’t know any different at all. The Tsholofelo Community (Community of Hope) which we worked with run the crèche’s, school and clinics within the camp, the camps have around 15-20,000 people living in them. While teaching at the creche and school it was amazing to see how interested the children were as they would literally move their chairs as close to you as possible, they were so eager to learn… there was no such things as too close for comfort.

Volunteering for Friends of Africa gave me the chance to meet 9 of the most amazing people I have ever met, I had a chance to get to know them in a way that I never would have, had not for that experience. They are the only nine people in the whole world who can relate to this experience with me.

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Don’t get me wrong it was also very hard at times, hearing about the natural everyday hardships that they face every day and seeing the strength they must overcome them while knowing the only problems I have truly faced are nowhere near in comparison.

South Africa will always have a special place in my heart. If you ever have the chance to do international volunteering, please do it you will not regret it.

It took me until I was leaving Africa to fully grasp the fact that I had arrived.

Niamh McNally is a Final Year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – NiamhMc_Nally

How Brands Are Supporting Us During the Coronavirus Outbreak

As we’ve all seen in the last few weeks Covid-19 has caused disruption to our livelihoods, communities and businesses all around the world. However, I’ve noticed, particularly from social media that many brands and corporations are using their creativity and their social power to spread important Coronavirus health messages such as social distancing. 

Below are just a few of the brands and corporations who are doing their part to try and tackle the pandemic and keep our communities save.  

  1. Unilever promises €100 million to tackle the virus

 

Unilever – a consumer goods manufacturer of brands such as Dove, Lifebuoy and Sure, as well as being the world’s largest soap company have recognised their moral responsibility to help people around the world who are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unilever have recently announced that are working to make soap more readily available across the globe as demand surges. They revealed their commitment to adapting their current manufacturing lines to produce sanitisers for hospitals, schools and other institutional settings while also providing many communities with free soap, sanitiser and food valuing a total of €100 million!

We all understand the importance of washing our hands and medical authorities have made it pretty clear that washing our hands will help prevent the spread of infection, and because there’s no vaccine yet, soap remains our most trusted line of defence. As a result, Unilever have decided to teach people the most effective way to wash their hands in a hope to protect lives, families and communities.



 

 

 

The corporation are also making early payments to their most vulnerable small and medium sized suppliers, to help with any financial challenges they face at this time. Employees will also be protected from any drops in pay because of market disruption or because they simply can’t perform their job for a 3-month period.

2. Guinness reveals fund of €1.5 million to help bar staff and the elderly

With pubs closed across the island of Ireland and people consequently left out of work, Guinness has decided to provide a whooping €1.2 million to bar staff to give a helping hand to those who usually pour ‘the black stuff.’

The remaining €300,000 will be used to support elderly citizens during the current health crisis. This will be accomplished by partnering up with Alone, a charity which helps the elderly deal with loneliness, ill health and poverty to name just a few. In a time of such uncertainty, Guinness has really recognised that vulnerable communities require heightened support, and therefore they’ve shown that they’re committed to playing their part.

Also, on the run up to St. Patrick’s Day Guinness acknowledged that this year it would be a little different (which is was). No parades, no bars and no pubs. However, Guinness managed to lift our spirits and highlight what was required from all of us at such an unsettling and disheartening time.

We know that St. Patrick’s Day feels different this year. But we’ve been around for 260 years and learned over time that we’re pretty tough when we stick together. However you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, stay safe and be good to one another,” Guinness said.

3. Supermarkets provide special shopping hours for the elderly and NHS Workers plus additional measures to encourage social distancing

 

 

 

 

 

As consumers continued to ignore every supermarket’s plea to stop panic-buying many stores quickly stepped up to help make sure everyone got an equal share of the necessities. UK supermarkets (all of the above) decided to dedicate specific opening hours to vulnerable consumers like the elderly, NHS staff and social care workers all of which found themselves walking into supermarkets full of empty shelves. These hours involve opening early or dedicating the first hour of trading to those specific people. Many supermarkets have removed multi-buy promotions as well as introducing shopping limits of 3 items on every product line! I know what you’re thinking. Does this include toilet roll? And the answer is YES!

 

 

 

 

 

Sainsbury’s have announced that consumers over the age of 70 and those with a disability will be prioritised regarding their online delivery slots. While 120 Marks & Spencer franchises are committed to no delivery fees.

All of the above are great measures but you might be wondering what these retail giants are doing around social distancing? Well, Sainsburys and Aldi are encouraging people to avoid using cash and to make use of contactless card payments and Apple Pay as well as asking everyone to remain at least 2 meters apart. Tesco have made use of floor markings within their store and in car parks to ensure we can stay separate from each other. They have also installed protected screens at checkouts to help protect customers and staff.

Our UK supermarkets are doing all they can in order to keep us, and our families safe ensuring we all have the essentials we need. For food and other household items to remain in good supply we must respect these measures and help supermarkets to deal with such a crisis. Afterall they are doing all of this for us!

4. ASOS encouraging us to stay at home & Reebok keeping us stay healthy while we’re here

ASOS has encouraged us to stay at home by providing a list of activities we can do to keep ourselves entertained. ASOS have really paid attention to their target audience by focusing on activities that are all likely to appeal to millennials which they’ve done this using some gentle humour. 

Getting our 60 minutes of exercise each day is hard enough never mind when we’re faced with a pandemic like Covid-19. Fear not, because Reebok has got us covered when we’re trying to stay physically and mentally healthy. Working out may be difficult when we’re stuck inside however, Reebok has decided to create customised workouts we can easily do at home with the equipment we have. This has taken personalisation is the next level if you ask me. Check out their tweet below.

 

 

 

5. Some iconic logos staying relevant and encouraging social distancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These logos are some of the world’s most powerful and influential brands, all of which have redesigned their logos to better communicate the current message of social distancing. All of the logo readjustments are positive images highlighting how everyone around the world must play their part to help fight against the pandemic. All of these images are communicating the same message, but it feels a little more light-hearted and authentic in comparison to the traditional media. I feel this is a great way to create a global sense of unity and to reinforce that a global effort is needed to practice all the relevant measures to combat Covid-19.

All of the brands mentioned above are examples of positive brand communication and each have shown us how they are using their power to help us during a global crisis. The next few days, weeks and months are going to be difficult, but everyone has to be willing to do their bit and each of these brands show how they’re doing theirs. They are making good of a bad situation and I believe that these are the ones that will benefit the most once this pandemic comes to an end.

Alice Byrne is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Linkedin: Alice Byrne and Twitter: @alice_byrne

#CancelCulture: Should brands be able to bounce back from a PR scandal?

Cancel culture is a term that was virtually unheard of just years ago but now is a prominent feature of the digital age. So what exactly is cancel culture? It can be described as an environment that facilitates a form of public shaming, usually occurring on the Internet, where a person or an organisation is denounced for perceived misconduct. Every week, seemingly a new person or organisation is ‘cancelled’, from celebrities whose transgressions have come to light (think Kevin Spacey) to brands who have alienated or offended their customers (remember that controversial Pepsi ad?).

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The rise of social media has changed how brands interact with their publics forever, consumers can now share their positive and negative experiences in real-time at the click of a button. It is now common practice for companies to engage with influencer marketing in order to build up an increased presence online or to increase sales. Conversely, it can be difficult territory to navigate as a negative review or comment from one of these influencers can cause shockwaves for a brand. The crisis communications and reputation management aspects of public relations are therefore of increasing importance and brands need to have a firm strategy in place to rebuild trust with their customers. When a crisis hits and a brand is unwilling to acknowledge or apologise for their fault, it raises the question if brands can or should be able to resurge after a PR disaster.

When influencer marketing goes wrong: DOTE and their representation crisis

One brand that tried to utilise the power of influencer marketing had a huge PR scandal during the Summer. DOTE is a shopping app that primarily focuses on the Generation Z audience. To target this section of the demographic, DOTE created a community of influencers from Youtube and Instagram that were referred to as ‘dote girls’. These dote girls were sent on sponsored brand trips to promote their clothing and the lifestyle that DOTE was trying to sell. Two of these trips, one to Fiji and the other to Coachella, had huge fall-out and resulted in a PR disaster. It emerged that during these trips that the influencers of colour were treated differently from the other dote girls. Specifically, on the Coachella trip, DOTE segregated the group and placed the white Youtubers in the more luxurious section of the house whereas the people of colour had to sleep on couches at the opposite end of the accommodation. They were also not photographed as much as the other girls and didn’t feature as heavily on DOTE’s social media pages.

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What ensued from this was dozens of videos where the girls outlined their negative experience which resulted in thousands upon thousands of comments condemning the brand for their possible racism. How did DOTE rectify the situation and try to rebuild their credibility as a brand? They began to delete photographs on their social media that featured predominately white people and began to feature more people of colour in their posts with the statement ‘this is what dote looks like.’ Many people picked up on this and it further alienated their audiences with YouTubers like Tiffany Ferg commenting on how fabricated the brand now appeared. DOTE  released a statement apologising for their mistake and continue to be more representative of all girls, however, they have lost invaluable partnerships and will be hard-pressed to find an influencer who would now promote them on their channel. Could DOTE as a brand have done anything differently?

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Steps to take in a social media crisis

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(Source)

Social media is now arguably the most important factor in crisis communications. In this smart-phone era, it is highly likely that a PR disaster will appear as a result of a blunder on social media or at the very least will be discussed in-depth online.  As the above infographic outlines, it is vital for brands to continually monitor the tone of discussion online. Only in this way can they be prepared when a social media storm hits. It is also important for companies not to be overly defensive and instead take criticism on board so that consumers can genuinely feel that their feedback may be able to make a difference.

As the DOTE scandal illustrates, one badly handled PR crisis can tarnish a brand’s reputation exponentially. What once was a thriving social-media focused company with a plethora of followers has greatly plummeted, this may be as a result of ignoring comments focusing on their representation issues in the past.  However, DOTE’s efforts to improve their representation along with their apology, although appearing fake right now,  may genuinely produce positive results as they move forward from this crisis.

Sarah Sweeney is a final year student BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-sweeney-ab6635143/  and Instagram @sarahsween3y