It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Scam Us – Beware Xmas Shopping Online

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Scam Us – Beware Xmas Shopping Online


Avoid losing your money to others looking to make a quick profit this Christmas

Well, it’s that time of year again. The run up to Christmas. It may not be as exciting as previous years, but thankfully we still have a holiday to look forward to. It’s around about this time that people will do their Christmas shopping, and now more than ever, a lot of it will be online.

Sadly, the good spirited nature of the season doesn’t spread as far and wide as we’d like to think. The online world can be very predatory to those who aren’t fully aware of the fact. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of surprising loved ones with splendid gifts or treating yourself to some seemingly lucrative business opportunities.

Well, this post is here to catch you up to speed. People want to cheat you out of your money this Christmas, and this year you will not let it happen!

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It’s A Pyramid Scheme

As the year 2020 painfully drags on, I’ve noticed a trend on social media that caught my eye.
Someone I followed on Instagram promoted a health drink that claimed to benefit the body in a list of ways. These unbranded coffees and juices somehow aid sleep and weight loss, boost your energy levels, increase your metabolism AND suppress hunger cravings. Sounds like a miracle in a glass for someone who wants to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

At the time I laughed it off because there is no way one drink can do all of this by adding the sachet of powder to some water. You can’t replace eating well and taking care of yourself by downing a glass of unbranded juice every morning. I thought after seeing that first post that I’d never really come across it again. How wrong I was.

Fast forward a month or two and the same unbranded “health products” start popping up on my Instagram again. Now a handful of individuals are promoting these products and praising the company behind it to no end.

So, I’m just cynical, right? These young people have taken the plunge on a business investment on a relatively new company. I’m just jealous that they’re riding the wave of success and I’m not.

I decided then to give these posts the benefit of the doubt. I paid attention to every single post I come across that mentions these miracle drinks.
Again, I noticed a trend:

·      In all the promotional material I’ve seen, a company or brand name is never mentioned even once. It’s always, “My company,” or “Our company.”

·      These people promote the business with the same generalised work benefits. You can work around your own schedule, there are seven ways to earn, and you can reap amazing bonuses like brand new high-end cars that the company will partly pay for.

·      The posts will ask poll questions like, “Do you want to hear more?” or “Do you want to start a new job?” The problem being that the only two answers to the polls are different ways of agreeing to the question asked.






This nameless company however has a name. If you were to look closely enough at the products being advertised, you’ll see the name Valentus.

If you google Valentus, the first result is their own website. It shows all the ways you can either buy their products or purchase their starter kit to sell items yourself for profit.

All the results following that, however, don’t paint the company in the same positive light.  

If you were to look up Valentus on the online forum site Reddit, for example, it only contains anecdotes about how they are a scam company and the people promoting it are only doing so to negate their own initial investment.

If you see anyone trying to promote any kind of product like this, or company like this, do not enquire about it. They will pander this investment to you. They are deceiving you to make a profit for themselves, so you’re left out of pocket, with junk product to sell.

Item Is Currently Out of Stock. Everywhere.

 Then there is a different breed of opportunist for emptying your wallets this festive season. Scalpers.

 Every year, there is always that must have product. In years gone by it was pieces of tech such as the Nintendo Wii or the original iPod Touch.
For 2020, the moniker for must have product falls on to the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

These products don’t even have an age demographic. I know ten-year-olds that have them on their Christmas list and people forty plus who want one. I want a PlayStation myself.

From my experience, this is probably one of the more reasonably priced launches of a new gaming console. For example, the PlayStation 5 can start at around £350 in the U.K. depending on what version you buy.

It may sound steep but go back thirteen years ago to the launch of the PlayStation 3, and that would set you back £425.

Although that price is meaningless if you can’t even get your hands on one. The PS5 launched on November 19th in the U.K. How long did it take to sell out entirely? Mere hours.

So, your child is begging you for the newest gaming console, but everywhere you look is out of stock. Naturally, you then check sites like eBay and Gumtree to see what you can find.

The penny drops.

These sites are over-saturated with hundreds of listings of either console, but not at retail value. The lowest you’re going to see is about £800.

Scalpers wait until launch day and have measures in place to scoop up as many units as they can. This then forces a monopoly onto the public who desperately need these products for Christmas. Making the scalpers almost triple their initial investment.

My advice for any parents out there who have children begging for these consoles. You will not get one by Christmas for a reasonable price. Please don’t indulge these selfish scalpers and help them make a profit. Come the new year, they will produce more units. These scalpers will fade away if given time, just wait it out. Waiting one more month and saving £500 is just plain sensible.

Just Be Careful Out There

No one needs any added misery this Christmas time. So wherever you may do your shopping this year, keep your head about you. Buy from reputable retailers and always research what someone is trying to sell you.
A more stress-free Christmas will make all the turkey sandwiches taste better.



Rory Skillen is a fourth year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

GAAs Response to Covid-19 and the effects upon its PR

GAAs Response to Covid-19 and the effects upon its PR

The GAAs response to Covid-19 was nothing short of decisive and responsible, and led by example compared to other sporting organisations and political institutions.

The 12th March 2020 is a date that will forever be embedded in our minds as the GAA called a halt to all GAA activity. Club gates were locked, social clubs shut and stadiums up and down the country seemed eerily quiet.  It was nervous times, not just for the GAA, but for the whole of society.  These unprecedented times had resulted in uneasiness and a fear amongst many.  We didn’t know the strange times that lay ahead, not just for our games, but the financial instability in people’s lives, the future and safety of our loved ones and in particular the vulnerable in our community.

The overall GAA response was favourable and certainly done their PR no harm apart from the odd hitch or debateable decision. But given the unpredictability of these times, we can forgive them for that.  They called a halt to all activity before our governmental institutions, before Downing Street and before Mr Trump, as well as multi-million pound institutions such as the Premier League and the Cheltenham Racing festival.  In contrast, the Cheltenham festival welcomed 250,000 spectators from all over the UK, Ireland and beyond travel through its gates that week.  This action was highly detrimental to the PR and integrity of the sport and a decision that was described by many as highly irresponsible and dangerous.

As we then entered the first weeks of lockdown and adopted to our new ways of life, the community value of our GAA family kicked in, and overall possessed themselves in the brightest of lights, and was very beneficial to the PR of the organisation.  Communities came together as one as they had done so many times before.  From delivering groceries and meals to the elderly and vulnerable, providing virtual entertainment for the youth, raising much needed funds from events such as sponsored runs, and even providing PPE for the key workers and the heroes in our society. There were even promotional videos made of the importance of staying at home, most notably the Ardboe O Donnovan Rossa club in Co Tyrone.  A survey carried out by the GAAs community and health department sent to 1,600 clubs across Ireland and abroad returned responses from 1,090 GAA clubs and shows that more than 19,000 club members have been involved in the provision of support to more than 34,500 people.  These actions portray the very best aspect and identity of our wonderful games.  It was all great PR for the GAA, and showed an organisation that people would be proud to be a part of, as well as encouraging their children and future generations to play an active role in.

Above: Photo shows members of the GAA community delivering goods to the vulnerable
The appeal video that was done by the Ardboe O Donnovan Rossa club in Co Tyrone

Three long months had gone by; no training, no matches, no craic with the lads, but on the 5th June 2020, we got that message of hope that we had craved.  The GAA announced the ‘gaelic games safe return roadmap’.  It was another responsible decision made by the GAA, it was seen as a safe return that would prove highly beneficial to the morale of the country and more importantly, to the physical and mental welfare of our players, members and supporters.  Water breaks, separate water bottles, limited spectators and no changing areas. Okay, there were differences. Perhaps, this was the ‘new normal’, but we were just so thrilled to be back.  The GAA were seen to be providing hope and joy at a time when it was so badly needed.

As we began to enjoy ‘some’ familiar scenes; the points, the goals and big Championship wins and the overwhelming joy and emotion that comes with those wins.  However, these emotions sometimes reached a boundary, a boundary that would prove detrimental to the PR of the GAA.  One obvious example was Dungannon Clarke’s invasion of the pitch in Healy Park, Omagh.  Yes, it was their first championship win in 52 years, yes the overwhelming joy and raw emotion of such an achievement can bring uncontrollable actions, but these outpouring of emotions were seen as dangerous and detrimental.  These pictures provided bad PR for the GAA, especially at a time when numbers were beginning to rise again in our country.  Arlene Foster described the scenes as “detrimental to the health of others”.

Picture above shows Dungannon Clarkes pitch invasion

Just one week later, the GAA was yet again receiving more negative PR with an appeared lack of social distancing at the Derry County Final between Magherafelt and Slaughtneill, which was held in Bellaghy.  The GAAs decision of not choosing a larger venue and the supporters in attendance lack of cohesion provided much unneeded bad PR following the events of the week before. Health minister Robin Swann stated that he was “disappointed and angry” at the scenes that he saw at the game.

The Derry Co Final which received much criticism due to the lack of social distancing which can be seen
Another picture showing the lack of social distancing

In response to the negative PR, Ulster GAA chief executive Brian McEvoy admitted that there was a direct link between Covid-19 clusters and County Finals due to the crowds that had developed and also some of the celebrations that had occurred in club houses and bars after the games.

Despite these negatives, the GAA have reddemed in some way their previous faults by calling another halt to all GAA  activity.  Again they acted promptly as our country in particular was struggling to control the spread of this virus.

Of course, we are unsure what lies ahead, but the PR of the GAA has been favourable and despite the odd hitch, which all organizations and government institutions can be guilty of given these extraordinary times that we are going through.

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

How many influencers have used the Covid 19 pandemic as a way to manipulate the media?

How many influencers have used the Covid 19 pandemic as a way to manipulate the media?

During this pandemic many thoughts wander through the mind and is hard to see what is going on around us with the mainstream media blasting content down our throats at every angle. After some thought went into to it, I wondered how many massive media representatives have been using this pandemic and its difficulties to their advantage.

This became apparent after watching some fellow students on a panel talking about Stephen Nolan from the Nolan’s show recent visit to the holy lands to showcase and portray how bad things were getting in terms of Covid 19 restrictions and guideline violations.

The well-known presenter made an effort to walk through the streets during peak times to exaggerate the gatherings and to make the students living there look bad. This had a massive knock on affect after this showcase as the media started blaming any spike in the covid 19 virus as a result of the students living in the holy lands.

This presenter seen an opportunity to approach drunken students who in their defence were only trying to make the best of these current times and enjoy student life. But the presenter knew when he challenged the drunk students that they would react accordingly and when provoked they did so which was exactly what the producers wanted to support their media efforts.

This brought a dark cloud over all students heads in my eyes as being a student myself in the holy lands I couldn’t help feel that anywhere I went people would assume I am part of the rise in Covid spike and therefore I and others who live in these areas are to blame.

Many other media influencers such as local members of parliament took to the high horse when the Covid pandemic hit as they used this as any way to gain media spotlight. In my opinion you don’t see these representatives do much unless it’s in the spotlight of the media to gain votes come election time. So, when the pandemic struck, they kicked into action doing anything at all to gain media spotlight to showcase their efforts in assisting the global pandemic.

Since it’s a global pandemic I will also have to talk about the biggest media representative in America of course! Donald trump tested positive for covid despite all the presidential efforts and strict guidelines. His son Eric trump spoke to CNN news when his father was not well. He stated that one day his father was that sick he thought he would lose him. Yet days later after this new vaccine “the cure” he was a different man and that no one could have done what his father has done for the covid vaccine front and how far they have come in terms of a cure. This in my opnion is a massive political stunt to gain the American vote again and I would dare say the president didn’t even have covid.

I’m not saying that I’m against all of these media representatives and influencers as I will still vote for whoever during election time and I will continue to watch the Stephen Nolan show but I’m highlighting the fact that all of these people only used the media spotlight to showcase something in order to gain support or to create a media campaign to create content. I believe this is not the type of thing that these people should be doing during this time rather than use their access to such a great media following to promote positivity and forward-thinking suggestions to making life easier during these scary times.

Dion Stewart is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

Boredom to Business

Boredom to Business

Sleeping, eating, scrolling on TikTok, doing the odd Chloe Ting workout and eating some more.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose life consisted of an endless cycle of these 5 activities during lockdown. The highlight of my day was seeing whether or not Flo fitted into her jeans. To cope with that overwhelming feeling of boredom, a lot of people started taking up new stay-at-home hobbies or going back to old forgotten ones. For me this was picking up painting again, something I hadn’t done in over a year, from my A-Level art days.

I decided to start a 50-day painting challenge to keep my mind from going mad, just sitting at home all day. I even set up an Instagram account to keep me accountable. At first, I was only getting around 30 likes on each picture, but I was happy as Larry, spending a couple of hours every day with a paintbrush in hand and a true crime podcast playing in the background.

Around a month later, when lockdown was still in full swing and seemed as if it would never end, I began getting more invested in my Instagram. I followed my favourite artists and started using stories, hashtags and IGTV. Before I knew it, I had grown to 2000 followers and was even getting enquires for commissioned paintings. Initially, the thought of other people paying for my art seemed crazy – I was far from a professional artist!

However, I made the decision to start accepting commissions in June and I was overwhelmed with the response I got! I ordered some hardback envelopes, some packaging materials and a lot more paint on eBay and got started. These are some of the very first commissions I did:

In those first few weeks of starting up I was lost in finding an appropriate amount to charge. So, I talked to a few other small art accounts and finally stumbled across this perfect formula:

(HOURLY RATE x COST PER PAINTING SIZE) + SUPPLIES & DELIVERY COST = PRICE

I’ve now had my business for 6 months and I’ve condensed everything I’ve learnt into 4 key points that anyone else looking to start their own business should know.

  1. Get yourself a logo and name straight away

Not only will this make your business seem more professional, but it will allow customers to spread word of mouth about it a lot more easily. Don’t let the thought of creating a logo being difficult, deter you! For a long time, I didn’t realise how easy it was. The app Canva is so user friendly and has hundreds of free templates you can use to create a unique logo.

  • Be consistent on social media

I’ve found Instagram and TikTok to be the best way of getting new customers, but you need to be consistent. Posting four or five times a week is a great way of gaining new followers and keeping your existing followers interested. If you’re stuck for content ideas, try posting about what you did that day, your packaging process or get inspiration from similar businesses. It’s so easy to be seen on TikTok and one of my videos got 970,000 views which gave me a huge increase in following! This is the video that got me started.

  • Don’t be shy to charge what you’re worth

At the end of the day, your business needs to be making you money. When you’re first starting out, I’d recommend keeping your prices low (still making sure you’re covering production costs) and then you can increase your price as you begin to get more customers. This pricing strategy is known as market penetration, and can help you get a foot in door when starting you’re business.

  • Keep track of EVERYTHING

Once you start taking orders and buying supplies it’s very easy to get lost in a sea of numbers, so I recommend setting up an excel spreadsheet for yourself. It’s such a handy software tool for making sure you’re not going over budget and it makes it very easy to see how much you’re earning. It also helps me to keep on track of orders and deadlines. If you’ve never used excel before, don’t be put off! Spend 10 minutes exploring the software and I’ll guarantee you’ll get the hang of all the basics. You can also take advantage of the hundreds of free YouTube videos explaining how to use it. I found this one particularly helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwbho0CgEAE

I hope you found this blog useful if you’re considering setting up your own business. It’s such a fun and exciting process and you’ll gain invaluable skills and experiences, so I highly recommend going for it!

Thanks for reading,

Ciara

Ciara McCabe is a second year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Linkedin.

The Realities of Racism in the UK

The Realities of Racism in the UK

For centuries now there has been a global demand for racial justice. This is not a new demand, as those who have been colonised and enslaved, denied freedom and opportunity have been calling out for racial justice for generations before our time. We have come a long away from the brutality of slavery that ended in the UK in 1833, 32 years ahead of the US which isn’t really something to be proud of. However, as a country we have progressed tremendously in tackling racism and have little tolerance for it happening around us. People tip toe around the topic of racism and often try to avoid seeing it but for many black people in the UK still do this day, it is their lived reality.

During the summer months, the major focus in the media was the Black Lives Matters Movement. People on every corner of this planet in some way were affected by this protest which came alive after the brutal murder of George Floyd which shook me and many others to the very core. The uproar for equality after his murder rippled throughout the world and many actions were taken to abolish racism for example, many of the worlds largest brands were quick to support the BLM Movement, in the UK statues and monuments of people with links to slavery were taken down and millions of pounds were raised for the George Floyd fund which helps fight racism.

The UK took a stand against racism as millions of people marched in the BLM Movement protest to fight for racial justice however the counter narrative pushed back on these protests was that Britain is not racist like America so what have the black community got to complain about? Well for a start to even compare the two shows little intelligence on the matter, the fact that racism is still relevant in the UK is the problem. One look at the replies under the Sainsbury’s tweet for their Christmas campaign will have you second guessing that question.

On the 14th November, Sainsburys tweeted their ‘Gravy Song’ advertisement as part of their Christmas Campaign, staring the black actors Deenie Davies and Ademide Bodunde. The advertisement portrayed a black family who were yearning to spend Christmas together which is perfectly normal. However, Sainsburys encountered major backlash from racist twitter accounts slamming the supermarket for only including a black family. Responses such as, “Absolutely sickening”, or “Where are the British people? What fresh hell is this?” or even “You may as well rename yourself Blackbury’s!”, “You’ve managed to completely alienate the few remaining white customers you still had”, amongst many others that are too offensive to re-share. People actually threatened to boycott Sainsbury’s after seeing this ad which is hard to believe and just shows that racism is as prevalent as ever in the UK today. Sainsbury’s were forced to respond, “At Sainsbury’s, we want to be the most inclusive retailer. That’s why, throughout all our advertising we aim to represent a modern Britain, which has a diverse range of communities. We have three stories of three different families in our advertising.”

Imagine feeling so privileged to expect every single TV advert to feature someone that looks like you and anything less is an outrage to our society? In my opinion, the Sainsbury’s ad is a realistic representation of a black family in the UK and this shouldn’t be a problem in 2020, in fact we should be applauding this behaviour. But sadly, Sainsbury’s are not alone with having backlash for supporting the black community. Recently 24,500 complaints were made to OFCOM which is the most in this decade, for the performance dedicated to Black lives matter on Britain’s Got Talent by the dance group Diversity. They also received complaints about Alesha Dixons choice of jewellery that said BLM as a means of protest during the show. The UK even went as far as scrutinising Marcus Rashford for investing in property worth over 2 million pounds as a way of undermining the amazing work he put in to get underprivileged children free school meals during this pandemic.

Following the controversial Sainsbury’s advert, it turns out that Tesco have been accused for cutting out a black couple in their latest food advert as they fear they will receive backlash, according to model Vanessa Vanderpuye. The model showed behind the scenes footage on her Instagram of her and a black male starring in the Tesco advert but when the advert came out, they were nowhere to be seen without any explanation as to why they had been cut. Tesco denied that the actors’ race had anything to do with the decision for them to be cut from the advert and stated that, ‘At Tesco, we believe that diversity in our business makes us stronger and our advertising campaigns are designed to represent everyone, showing the breadth of the communities and customers we serve’. I find this very hard to believe, in fact it’s quite embarrassing.

The UK is on the verge of progressing racial justice however there are so many Britain’s out there who still hold outrageous and outdated racial views. We are slowly learning what it is to make decisions that decisively reject racism but the few of many examples I have talked about here are what’s holding us back from equality and it needs to stop!

Aloisia Loughran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Has PR tested positive during Covid-19?

Has PR tested positive during Covid-19?

Coronavirus has threatened us all. Nine months on from what was, basically, a worldwide lockdown, we are still living and dealing with this virus and all the implications that have come from it. We are looking down the barrel of a recession shaped gun and a lot of PR professionals, and students, are wondering ‘how is PR going to survive?’

PR relies on the media. The media is currently relying on coronavirus headlines. Everyone is on panic mode and want to know all the latest updates on the pandemic – that is what is selling newspapers at the minute. Room for PR coverage is limited at best.

Events are all but virtual which completely takes away from the experience and makes it harder for those in PR hosting these events to create an exciting experience that attendees will remember when everything is via Zoom. After ‘covid’, ‘coronavirus’ and ‘lockdown’, ‘zoom’ HAS to be one of the most used words this year!

Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA, said: “All around the world, our industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. But thankfully, our worst fears at the beginning of this crisis have proved to be groundless. I stand by the prediction I made some months ago, that by the end of 2020, the industry will be 20% smaller in cash terms, and 10% smaller in terms of headcount. If that’s roughly right, then it could have been a lot worse frankly.”

Despite all the challenges and difficulties, the PR industry is one that has largely been able to successfully and safely adapt to the new world that was thrust upon us and every PR professional is doing their best to keep the cogs turning in this industry. Here are just a few ways that Covid-19 has impacted the PR industry for the better.

Better relationships

An email that opens with ‘Hi …….., hope you’re keeping well’ has never been more appreciated. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is worried. A kind word is all that is needed. Whilst journalists may not have the press release for your brand’s latest product at the top of their priority list when it comes to writing stories, it’s still good to check in with them and other media professionals who you rely on. This will bode far better for future projects and will ultimately benefit your relationships. We live in unprecedented times and whilst this mat not seem like the most effective use of your time, some PR professionals will have to do PR  a little different now and again – but it will all work in your favour.

Cold email templates for recruiters that can triple your response rates

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

No one was fully prepared for a worldwide pandemic of a virus that was only created last year. It has had enormous consequences in almost every industry, and companies had to quickly shift their goals, strategies and even budgets in order to try and successfully come out the other side of this pandemic. Many PR professionals have had to completely change plans that had been in the making for months, or even years. Postpone events, product releases, change client’s diaries – basically do a year’s worth of work in a few weeks and months. That is a lot of pressure. However, without even really knowing it, the PR industry has just gained a new skill – crisis planning! Adapting and changing plans to fit the current climate and still have a successful outcome has become a daily routine in the last few months. Should plans change last minute ever again – even the smallest of changes – PR is ready!

ᐈ Event canceled stock photos, Royalty Free event cancelled pictures |  download on Depositphotos®

Working wherever, whenever

Luckily, those in PR can work wherever they need to, whenever they need to. Unlike many other industries, PR didn’t have a meltdown when going to the office seemed more and more dangerous, computers and laptops were just sat on kitchen tables instead of work desks. Of course, many embraced this change, and many didn’t, but to have the reassurance that you could still do your job everyday safely was a relief that many others didn’t have the luxury of experiencing. There are still lots of unanswered questions about how the world will look post pandemic, but at least the work from home option should now always be there on the table, wherever that table might be.

How to work from home securely during a quarantine | NordVPN

2020’s stamp on the future

For all those working form home, is there even such a thing as a co-worker anymore? Are co-workers now just the other members of your house? Stopping by someone’s desk for a chat or to discuss an idea is now a scheduled zoom meeting with a specific date and time. Going out for lunch with a co-worker is again, via the webcam on your laptop. Life has gotten very scheduled. At the same time, however, our lunch breaks can be spent walking around the local park with your dog, or nipping out to the gym and not worrying as much about being a sweaty mess when you come back – you may even have time for a quick shower!

Video Webinar - Zoom

There is not one person on this planet that hasn’t been affected in some way by Covid-19, whether they realise it or not. Many industries have suffered massively. Many brands and companies just cannot survive in this current climate. It hasn’t been an easy year, but it has been an eye-opening one, and a year to make you count your blessings. In a year when many have lost their jobs, including in the PR industry, those in PR can be grateful that they can still ‘go to work’, even if it is at home. We can still carry out our job effectively and get things done. It’s not easy but it is possible.

See? It’s not all bad when you’re positive during Covid-19!

Amy Hamilton is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

*Inserts Covid-19 related quote along with sentence on how the world has been turned upside down, back around and discuss the fear of uncertainty.*

I’m as optimistic as they come but I can’t be 100% honest in saying lockdown 1 was a walk in the park…it hasn’t for any of us by any means but I think I speak for many people when I say we’re now just riding the wave, waiting to get back to shore – no one is deep diving and breast stroking their way faster than others, we’re all in the same boat.

Working from home has been a breath of fresh air for many and a nightmare for others. Connectivity issues, loud pets, lack of motivation and distractions are some of the many barriers people have had to eliminate in order to find themselves performing at an efficient and effective level.

I’ve been lucky to have a mixture of both, after returning back into the office in June I’ve now had a staggered schedule which include a few days at home, a day to catch up with university work and the rest spent in the office (socially distanced of course).

With shorter days, colder weather and the threat of a second lockdown in December looming over us, the motivation levels have also got shorter and colder to say the least. When it comes to relating to specific quotes and motivational speeches, I’ve kept it pretty basic and there’s really been one that resonates with me this time round = JUST DO IT!

Do it to get the job done, do it to reach the word count, do it to finish that report, do it to make yourself feel better.

JUST DO IT!

I’ve found making slight changes in my routine & staying consistent has helped me keep focused and follow the day through with productivity at an all-time high so I thought why not share this with some of you. It might help, it might not but it’s worth a shot – if you do anything different that you can recommend, let me know I would love to hear your recommendations.

  1. Consistent Morning Routine

Try waking around the same time every morning, you may start work at 8AM so maybe it’s best to not wake up at 7:55AM…yes you might get an extra few minutes in bed but we all know you wake up flustered, groggy & generally not prepared to take the day on. If you really love your extra time in bed, maybe pick a Friday to lay on. (Treat Yourself)

2. Get Dressed

Now when I speak about this point, I’m guilty of being miss professional on zoom from the waist up and miss loungewear from the waist down. After all, comfort is key so make the effort…even if this means changing from one pair of pyjamas to the next.

3. Make a list

This is one I swear by, in office and at home. I prefer the old fashioned way of writing down a list into my diary and ticking off as I go along. Many people prefer doing this on their devices and that’s perfectly fine, whatever works for you. Anything to keep track of what you have to do, this not only keeps you accountable for your actions but also allows you to reflect on what has been accomplished at the end of each day.

4. Network with others in your industry

As I’ve said, we’re all in the same boat looking for great ideas and recommendations to make our lives just a little bit easier. Share your best tips on LinkedIn or on your own favourite platform, even if it helps one person you’ve done a great job! Speaking with others within your industry will also give you an insight into what’s out there at the minute in terms of free courses, webinars & podcast episodes which will help you level up.

5. Go the extra mile…it’s not as long as it seems

All this extra time at home gives you the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. We’ll never (hopefully) get this chance to be at home with nowhere to go again, so take it in your stride and get productive. There are SO many free beneficial courses available, industry specific ones too that will look great on your CV along with your LinkedIn channel. REVISE – UTILISE – STRATEGISE.

6. Be authentic to your true self

If something does not feel right or you feel like you could add to a campaign by sharing your ideas = do it. You don’t ask you don’t get; you don’t contribute you don’t get featured. Even on the other end of the scale, if you feel pressured with work and need to take some time to catch up, speak out, this is NOT a sign of weakness or a sign that your incapable of handling your work load. If you have a strong & caring support group around you they will be more than happy to help you out…trust me.

I really could go on all day about there being so many tips, guides, and resources out there which can help all of us in many ways:

  • Those still working from home who need extra motivation.
  • Those transitioning back to office wanting to find their groove again.
  • Those who are seeking for new opportunities & want to add to their CV and personal brand.
  • Those looking for new job roles who want to increase their social media presence on a professional basis.

Of course I had to add in a few courses and free E-Books which I’ve found beneficial and valuable…you might too!

Thanks for reading!

Domilia Timonyte is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Autism and PR: The Do’s and Don’ts

Autism and PR: The Do’s and Don’ts

Recently reported quite heavily by the media has been the heavy backlash Sia’s received following the release of the trailer for her new movie, ‘Music’. Following the release of this trailer, the autism community got up-in-arms against Sia. Not only for the way she’s portrayed autism in her movie, but because of her views towards autism in general and the way she’s responded to it. This has resulted in the significant backlash against her, from both the autistic community, but various different allies as well, along with media outlets.

What’s unique about this is that it’s probably one the first major times that a major public figure has been criticised when it comes to autism and is baring the consequences of it quite publicly. Multiple news articles from news groups have been published discussing this at length, only increasing the scrutiny faced by Sia. This got me thinking, there isn’t really a ‘How to’ media guide for people when it comes to addressing autism. This means when somewhere wants to discuss or approach autism, it could potentially result in a PR disaster, as it did for Sia. So as an autistic person myself, I thought I’d just throw my two cents into the ring and briefly discuss what exactly went wrong for Sia, and how it could be avoided in the future.

The Context

First of all, we should look at the movie itself – the route reason for all this controversy. ‘Music’ is written, directed and produced by Sia herself, and follows ‘Music’ (who would’ve thought?’, an autistic, non-verbal girl as the main character. One of the mains reasons for this backlash is not that the movie has an autistic main character, but how she is portrayed. Rather than being played by an autistic actor, she is instead played by Maddie Ziegler, a frequent collaborator with Sia, and unfortunately for both Sia, the movie’s production team, and the autistic community: she isn’t autistic. This brings us to the first point:

Listen to Autistic people

The fact that Sia could’ve casted an autistic actor to play this role quite easily is one of the main talking points when it comes to reasons for the controversy. In fairness to Sia, she has stated she had previously casted an autistic actor in the role, only that she ended up being to stressed out by the production of the movie. However, this attempt at saving face fell only to flat-faces, as many autistic actors stated that they would’ve been ready to play the role at short notice, and brought up how she had a budget of $16 million, which could’ve supplied necessary accommodations for autistic actors anyway. This resulted in Sia coming into conflict with several disability activists and autistic actors on Twitter – rather than listening to their advice she lashed out of them as seen below. It is not a good luck for you if you end up publicly fighting with the same people you’re claiming to be supporting. This didn’t help Sia’s case at all. In order to avoid this, it is crucial that you have autistic people actively involved in your project from the very start: make sure that they’re voices are heard! If it is them you’re really trying to support, show it and listen to what they have to say!

Know your symbols

When asked about what symbol represents autism, most people would immediately think of the iconic puzzle piece used by various autism-related charities. However, the puzzle piece is widely viewed with negative connotations in the autistic community: it is thought to show that we are in complete as humans, and that we “have a piece meaning”, and “suffer from a puzzling condition”, as stated by the creator. Added on to this, the original puzzle piece symbol is depicted with a crying child in front of it, adding further gas to this fire! If you are choosing to have a campaign based around autism, instead of using the puzzle piece, I would highly recommend using the Neurodiversity infinity Symbol instead. This is the symbol most commonly used to represent the autism rights movement, and is the much more positively viewed.

The Neurodiversity Infinity Symbol
The original puzzle piece symbol

Watch Your Language

When it comes to talking about Autism, there’s a couple of ground rules to be aware of when it comes to how to phrase your language, and it can be an easy trap for one to fall into. For starters – identity first language rather than person first is the preferred by the majority of autistic people – well over 60% of autistic people agree on this. This means you should say ‘Autistic person’ rather than ‘person with autism’. The reason for this is because Autism is considered as part of an identity as much as physical appearance would be. Saying ‘person with autism’ is viewed as saying ‘person with tall’.

Functioning Labels are bad

Us autistic people have been going on about this one for years, we don’t like functioning labels! First of all, they cause an unnecessary division between autistic people, between those that would be called “high functioning” and those that would be “low functioning”. Differences between these 2 types are greatly emphasised among people, and are most commonly based off of stereotypes: high functioning autistic people are sociable and appear “more normal”, while low functioning autistic people are commonly thought to be quiet, reserved, and unable to communicate properly. Autistic people argue that these functioning labels are harmful for both sides here. In some of Sia’s tweets, she uses these functioning labels, which leaves a sour taste in our mouths. It leaves us wondering, “Is this really the person who claims she’s done 4 years of research on autism for this movie?”. Surely if she had actually done that, she’d at least have a clue.

Overall, the main advice I would give someone is this: do your research, and listen to the people you are supporting. Rather than going to people who are only connected to autistic people, go to them yourself and listen to what they have to say.

Lucas Fitzsimmons is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The impact Covid has had on the Hospitality and Arts Culture sectors and should the government be held accountable?

The impact Covid has had on the Hospitality and Arts Culture sectors and should the government be held accountable?

With the Coronavirus outbreak which started in March 2020, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the impact it would have on so many different aspects of everyday life. The initial thought when the national lockdown was announced was that it would be a three-week stint and would be over within them three weeks. Looking back now with the ability of hindsight it was a bit naïve to expect it to be eradicated in such a small space of time but at the time the public knew very little of the facts and figures surrounding it.

The initial UK lockdown dictated that only industries which could be seen as being ‘essential’ would be allowed to continue to open so that subsequently meant that the vast majority of businesses within Northern Ireland would have to close. From the start the government would use furlough to be able to pay for employees’ wages and would also supply the owners with financial help in order to get through the initial three weeks.

The furlough scheme and government funding worked relatively well for the first couple of months but there’s only so much which it can provide to support a family and pay bills. The constant extending of lockdown restrictions started to become increasingly frustrating for both business owners and employees. One thing I don’t think the government officials took into consideration is that these business owners and employees are only human and will still have bills to pay on a reduced wage with the bills staying the exact same price. 

At the start of the lockdown in early April it was recorded in Northern Ireland that one in three businesses were temporarily closed with the worst hit sectors being the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation. Even after there was some easing of restrictions in June there was still 60% of Arts, Entertainment and Recreation industries still remained closed.

When eventually the restrictions were lifted somewhat in early, July there was many new implications introduced in order to include good social distancing and reduce numbers within the premises. The hospitality sector took a major hit even after the easing of restrictions. The main aspect being the continuation of closed ‘wet bars’ in Northern Ireland. This resulted in a massive reshape of many wet bars having to incorporate meals into their premises. This would result in these businesses spending more money on preparing kitchens in order to open to the public. As well as this the introduction of the 11pm curfew would also result in reduced hours of service. This introduction would go against the wishes of the vast majority of owners and effect the income once again.

One positive introduction which was brought in to support the hospitality sector was the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme which was introduced in August. It was introduced in order to encourage people to eat out a restaurant for a discounted price while also supporting businesses. The scheme turned out to be a large success and potentially saved numerous businesses from closure and had a number of businesses continuing the scheme into September. 

Another large sector which has been affected badly is the Arts and Culture sector. Since March almost all of the arts sector has been closed indefinitely and majority of shows for 2020 have been cancelled. Within the UK there have been 400,000 job losses and £74bn of lost earnings across the arts sector. There is no signs of shows of any kind returning any time soon until a plausible and safe precautions are discussed and so that there is no negative financial returns. There have been many campaigns across social media one called #SAVETHEARTS which was introduced to bring attention to the despicable treatment of the entire arts and culture sector by the UK government. In response to this the government released a PR scheme which purpose was to try and get people within sectors which were not doing well e.g. the arts and culture to retrain in a different area. Safe to say this PR scheme didn’t go down well and only reiterated the lack of respect and support they have for the arts. 

With the continuous extending of restrictions here in Northern Ireland it is very difficult to try and gage how they will continue to stay afloat for the continuation of the restrictions. The Northern Ireland executive have completely disrespected and forgot about the different sectors within Northern Ireland. By announcing more restrictions, the day before they are meant to open is not only disrespectful but foolish on the executive’s decision making and only turns the public against them which has already happened. 

Rhys Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford, you may know him as footballer who plays for Manchester United and England, however over the last year he has shown us he is so much more than just your average footballer. Time and time again he’s shown everyone he is a man of the people, wanting to push for better, wanting to change young people’s lives.

I’m not the biggest fan of football but I will watch a game here or there, what I am a fan of is celebrities using their influential status for the better. Marcus Rashford has been doing just that and it’s such an amazing thing to see, he is setting an example for young people everywhere and also for his fellow footballers to follow suit. More recently during COVID-19 he has been relentlessly working on helping end child food poverty. In the month of October, he helped businesses who would be providing free meals for those entitled to it during school get the recognition they deserve while also providing publicity for businesses who were willing to help when the Government wasn’t. Following on from this Marcus worked with Food Foundation and created a petition to get the Government to provide a funding package to help alleviate child food poverty. This petition was signed by over 1 million people leading to the Government implementing this and providing those suffering from child food poverty to get the funding they rightly deserve. Due to these outstanding contributions Marcus was awarded an MBE to recognise his work. Marcus has become an ambassador for FareShareUK and since then there has been a huge spike in donations, in 2019 there was £800,000 worth of donations, whereas now in 2020 there are £1.28 Million Donations, since Marcus started fundraising. This includes other celebrities and big brands getting involved to raise money and donate food for the cause, these celebrities and brands include Matt Lucas, who is releasing a Christmas single and donating all proceeds to FareShareUK, Russell Brand who is volunteering in the local food banks delivering food to children in need and McDonalds who have donated over 5 Million meals, continuing to do so until 2021. These are just a few amazing examples that have been influenced by Marcus to make a difference.

Macmillan Children’s Books have recently Tweeted out that they will be publishing a book called “YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the BEST You Can Be”, this book is by Marcus Rashford himself and is all about helping those aged 11-16 “how to develop resilience, navigate adversity and discover the unstoppable power of their own voice”. Another step in the right direction for Marcus, he is encouraging the younger generation to never give up and always strive for excellence in everything you do, the book sounds like it’s going to provide a powerful message. Marcus has also created a book club for those who can’t afford books and to allow kids an escape from reality through reading. I think this is an excellent thing to have set up as I feel because of advanced technology reading has become lost.

I really don’t think there is much more you could ask of Marcus as he is constantly pushing the boat out and trying to make the world a better place, but if there’s anything more he can do, just know he will. Through all the bad press he’s gotten over the years, for simply trying to make a change, or buying himself a new home, he never seems to give up hope and won’t stop until he achieves his goals both on and off the pitch.

My Final thoughts
With Marcus Rashford helping children across the UK and managing to keep his incredible form going with Manchester United, this should inspire fellow athletes and celebrities to help raise awareness and make a change to societal issues that are stopping our younger generations to flourish. If there’s one thing I wish more celebrities would do it would be to let their audience know of charities and foundations they have helped out with or donated to, as it releases the stigma and stereotypes that they don’t use their money for good and it also encourages the general public to donate more as many people are extremely influenced by what their favourite celebrities are doing.

Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter and Linkedin.