Placement is ESSENTIAL!!!

When making the decision in my 2nd year on whether or not to go on placement I was tempted to skip onto final year and get my course done and dusted. How wrong I would have been. Making the choice to take on a placement at an organisation was so useful! I learnt quite a lot and had a great time.

I applied to do a placement for many organisations and received only a handful of offers for interviews which (at first) was demoralizing, I put a great deal of work into my CV, cover letters and online applications only to get a minimal response. This reinforced in my mind the idea that placement was a bad idea, I should just get on with final year and get it all over with. However the few interviews I was offered actually weren’t as bad as I thought, I always over think how tough the interviews will be and how much of an idiot I am going to sound by boasting on my accomplishments and skills. The interviews were great practical experience in adjusting to awkward situations where you are given something different and new, I gave it the “what the hell” attitude, if I succeed all the better, if I fail it’s an experience and I’m not losing anything. Eventually (and luckily) I got offered a 6 month placement with a charity called Volunteer Now. I was hoping for a yearlong placement but I liked the sound of what I was going to be doing with the charity and everyone within the organisation was really nice, happy and upbeat.

Beginning the placement was again awkward, but that comes again with any first time experience. I was taken on a walk round the building and I met most of the employees which was intense, there was over 40 people in an open plan office everyone could see each other and my desk was smack bang right in the middle of all these strangers. I couldn’t remember most people’s names and I was getting so much information my mind couldn’t catch up, I had 2 or 3 meetings on my first day (I had never been to a formal work meeting in my life) which I didn’t know what to expect would happen. But after the first week of meetings and introductions to everyone and what roles I was going to complete I started to relax and find it wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t tonnes of pressure put on me and my fellow colleagues were great craic and couldn’t have made me more welcome, they treated me like I was there for years.

The work I was given was interesting, I got to do a mixture of marketing, advertising and PR-ing. The fact that I hadn’t the exact same routine every day kept me looking forward to coming into Volunteer Now each morning. I got to be really creative, I was allowed create leaflets, posters, videos etc and put any ideas down and my colleagues would work with what I had done, they were always positive and encouraging. Any criticism I got was always constructive, I learnt how to make content look more professional, how to make my work look more attractive, how to find the important information and how to juggle many tasks effectively.

There was one main job that really gave me good experience and was completely new to me, training. I was one of the employees to manage social media for the organisation and over time I was asked many questions on how I did certain things with Facebook and Twitter and what Snapchat and Instagram was, then my manager and one of the directors asked me to teach and train the rest of the office on how to use social media, I agreed but worried about it so much. I was freaking out on how I would create a training session for all these professionals and how I would speak in front of everyone. However my colleagues reminded me that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed, all I had to do was talk about what I know and keep it simple. So the day came when I took my first training session and it went quite well, I got up in front of the first group and went through my slides, tweeted, posted and answered questions. My colleagues commended me, they actually found it useful! Quite a few of them took to social media in the following weeks, used my notes and didn’t find social media as scary as it initially seemed.

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To conclude and cut to the chase, please take on placement! I can’t recommend it enough and if you get the chance to work with Volunteer Now, take that opportunity! They were a fantastic organisation and I learnt piles from so many talented professionals!! Every day at my placement was a new day and the experiences I got I really do not think I could get anywhere else!!

NB6

 

Niall Byrne is a Final Year student in BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96

The strange thing about Stranger Things

The strange thing about Stranger Things

Two unheard of writers with no previous television hits, a bunch of dorky Dungeons and Dragons playing kids, and a random girl with a shaved head and some freaky powers. How did all of this turn in to the most watched Netflix series to date?

Note: For those who do not watch Stranger Things, I do apologise for the references in this post that you will not understand.

If you haven’t yet seen Stranger Things, then you must be living under a rock (or in the ‘Upside Down’, but you obviously don’t know what that is). The thrilling Netflix series is set in a small fictional town in Indiana named Hawkins and stars four young monster-obsessed boys.

The sci-fi sensation crept on to our Netflix home pages with an unanticipated effect. Fans of ET and the Goonies would be patiently waiting for the series arrival. But how did the non-monster loving fans get so hooked?

The phenomenon that is Stranger Things took the world by storm, so much so that people are wondering what they ever did without the show.  According to the shows writers, the Duffer brothers, the show was rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks before Netflix took it on (Thank you Netflix).

 So what is the strange thing about Stranger Things?

 Unfamiliarity 

Prior to watching Stranger Things, had you heard of any of the cast before? Probably not.  Most of them have had brief TV appearances before, except of course for Winona Ryder (Will’s mum) who is said to be one of the most iconic actresses of the 1990s.

The unfamiliarity of the cast is immensely successful, despite all odds. It is interesting to watch the characters and develop your own opinion on them, rather than comparing them to a previous show you’ve seen them in. Think about it, do you really see Daniel Radcliffe in any other film and not instantly think of Harry Potter?

Dustin GIF

 The kids

There is typicality about shows on Netflix nowadays with most being drug, prison or White House related. So what made Stranger Things stand out?

It’s simple – the kids! Of course, the story line itself is a very far stretch from drug mules and prison gangs but ultimately it’s the use of unheard of kid actors that make it so original. I think Stranger Things has everything that Netflix was missing – a cute adorable little dork like Dustin.

It’s difficult to grasp the challenge of a series starring teenagers, but not specifically directed towards a teenage audience and the Duffer Brothers did this perfectly! The average age of the Stranger Things fans is 18-29, a social media obsessed audience, which is evident in its media coverage online.

As well as this, there is a relatability about Stranger Things.

Dungeons and Dragons author David Ewalt says,

“You don’t have to have been a nerd in the 1980s to see yourself in one of those kids,” Ewalt continues. “We were all kids and we were all kids who faced our own monsters, whatever they were, and we’re going to relate to these characters who have a mission and troubles they have to face. Even a kid who’s that age today can look at Stranger Things and relate to it.”

Group GIF

 Nostalgia and the absence of tech

Imagine if Lucas, Will, Dustin and Mike could Snapchat each other instead of using walky-talkies? What if Will could somehow text his mum from the Upside Down instead of talking to her through the light bulbs? Or if Nancy put out a ‘Missing person! Find Barb, please like and share’ on Facebook?

Lightbulb GIF

The absence of modern technology makes it for a much more exciting series. By stripping communication lines back to that day in 1983, it has our adrenaline racing considerably more.

 What is even stranger about Stranger Things?

As I previously said, there was nothing to warn us about the arrival of the demogorgon, the shadow monster or the darkness of the upside down.

So how did this sci-fi thriller turn in to an overnight sensation?

Just plain and simple Word of Mouth marketing

It’s easy, we trust our friends! If your friend tells you with their blood shot eyes that they have shamelessly been living under a duvet and bingeing on Stranger Things for two days, you are going to believe that it really must be something worth watching.

I need Help

Sometimes, word of mouth marketing is the only option, and it is a huge risk. The Duffer Brothers had a low budget and therefore had to gamble that people would love the show, and then talk about how much they loved the show – and this is exactly what they did.

Thanks to the success of Season 1, The Duffer Brothers had extra budget to splurge out on the ultimate advertising opportunity for the Season 2 premiere – The Super bowl. It captured the most social media buzz out of the 65 ads that were showcased during the game and generated an undeniable excitement 9 months before the series even returned to Netflix.

Strange Partnerships

What could be better than Topshop AND Stranger Things? The quick-witted Topshop launched an exclusive collection in partnership with Netflix to join in on the Season 2 excitement, and obviously massively increase their sales – clever Topshop! They flaunted Stranger Things retro inspired tshirts, jumpers and bags as well as a massive in-store Hawkins experience at their Oxford Circus store.

There is no doubt about the massive buzz about the new sci-fi Stranger Things, a show you never thought you would be this obsessed with (I know I didn’t). However, if you made it to the end of this blog and still haven’t watched Stranger things…

ST Shocked

…why haven’t you?

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8

Guinness adverts sell more than a ‘pint of black’

Guinness adverts sell more than a ‘pint of black’

Have you ever been to the Guinness Factory? I can now successfully say I have after convincing the girls into taking a trip down last weekend. (above- the must do Dublin Guinness Factory picture). It was a great day out and of course, we did not pass up the opportunity to go into the city and treat ourselves to dinner and drinks. BUT, the factory itself was, in fact, really interesting and definitely something I would encourage everyone to do. As part of the tour we went into a room with huge screens showing the Guinness adverts playing on repeat. This sparked an interest with me into the Guinness adverts themselves and I soon realised that, despite there being hundreds of diverse adverts, they all have one thing in common… A storytelling technique, which creates an effective emotional appeal.

Take the ‘surfer’ commercial (I’m sure you will immediately visualise this, but if not I have inserted it below) which tells the story of the surfers waiting with anticipation to catch the perfect wave. The surfer waiting symbolises the slow pour of the Guinness pint and how we should feel when we are waiting on the pint. This advert was released in 1998, and really was the first of its kind to UK TV. I remember watching the advert as a kid, completely unaware of the symbolism it carried. I simply just watched the surf and the galloping white horses, no concept of the legacy this PR technique has left, allowing many to become hooked on a ‘pint of black’.

 

 

Another commercial shown, entitled “Empty Chair” caught my attention. This showed a group of young men playing basketball in wheelchairs. This advert adopted an unusual, unique technique as it deliberately withheld information from the audience. The abstract setting of the advertisement initially led me to question: “what has a game of wheelchair basketball got to do with my choice of drink in the pub on a Friday night?” The hidden gem of information in this advertisement was that all but one of the men were actually able-bodied and capable of walking thus capable of playing a game of basketball without the aid of a wheelchair. This was intelligently revealed only at the end when the game drew to a close. The message to this particular story was about friendship and loyalty with the theme of inclusivity also featuring prominently. This further relayed the brand’s key message that Guinness is a drink to be enjoyed by all, regardless of who you are. No matter how many times I watch this advert, I am still filled with a sense of happiness and content as I can appreciate the message being portrayed.

 

 

A final commercial I want to mention is the ‘Sapeurs’ one (again linked below). What I loved most about this advert was the positive message it portrayed about Africa, something which is rarely shown. With most adverts about Africa being those of charities, focussing on pity and promoting a call to action to donate, it was nice to see this was different. The message, however in this advert was this ability to defy your set circumstances and live beyond boundaries. Another dimension to this advert I observed was the focus on globalisation of the Guinness Brand. When someone mentions Guinness, a lot of people immediately and jokingly make reference to leprechauns and pots of gold. However, this advert shows the famous stout being enjoyed in a very contrast setting than to that typically associated with the brand. Again, this highlights the fact that the Guinness brand is recognised and enjoyed by those of various races from many different countries and cultures.

There is also a subtle reference to the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Two lines are quoted from the poem: “I am the master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul”. The title of this poem translated from Latin to English means “unconquerable” or “undefeated”; portraying the lasting legacy of the famous Guinness brand worldwide.

 

 

These three adverts have no direct link. If you removed the Guinness branding and played these adverts you would have no idea that they are from the same company promoting the same product. But, what they all do is tell a story and engage us in feeling something whether it be anticipation, happiness, inspiration or positivity or even all of these things. What they all do is make us emotional and make us feel something. It is these feelings that they want us to associate with Guinness. They want us to believe that waiting the 120 seconds (fact learnt at the factory) to enjoy the perfect pint is worth the wait. Personally, I am yet to become hooked on the Guinness product itself but I do appreciate their creative advertising.

 

Niamh Webb is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @1234niamh, and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-webb-2b5260107/

Top Tips to ace your placement interview

KL1Before I started looking for placement, I think I had one interview for a job as a waitress. Although I was a nervous wreck and didn’t have a clue how to make coffee, I somehow managed to get the job (and learnt how to make the best lattes ever). I remember asking my friends and family for tips on how to properly prepare for an interview, all of which was great advice and eventually got me a fantastic placement! So I thought I would share these interview tips with you all, hopefully they’ll be as useful to you.

 

Research the company – and make sure it’s the right company

I know this sounds obvious but it’s so easily done especially with smaller organisations. You Google the company, click on the first link and learn facts from the website to impress in the interview… except it’s actually the wrong company and the interviewer is as baffled as you are. The easiest way to avoid this is to check for a web link on any emails from the company or even just look out for their logo. Try and go the extra mile and check their social media accounts to see what projects they’re working on at the moment, they’ll be impressed that you’ve done more than just look at their website.

Dress for success

Your appearance in interviews is important, you need to look professional and appropriate for the role you want. I’m not saying you have to wear the most sophisticated dress ever with your new stunning black high heels from Zara, wear whatever you feel most confident in. If you feel comfortable wearing heels every day at work then do that and fair play to you, I however wore heels once and complained about it for a solid month (so not worth the pain).

Be Punctual

Organisations can be quite strict in terms of employees’ time keeping, your interview is giving them an impression of what you’re going to be like as an employee so it only makes sense to be punctual. It’s good to get there a few minutes early and give yourself some time, although don’t be like me and turn up 30 minutes early for an interview, it’s a bit much if I do say so myself.

Practice

My housemates were really encouraging when I was preparing for my placement interviews and helped me practice. If you look up interview practice questions, spend a few minutes thinking about how your skills are relevant to the job and question being asked. I found this website really useful for sample questions . Even the smallest things you’ve done can be made relevant to an interview, don’t sell yourself short.

Show your personality

Interviews can be so nerve wrecking and intense, it can be hard to feel comfortable and confident in those situations. One thing I have been good at is showing my personality and hiding the nerves, although it doesn’t feel like I’m hiding them well. I tend to try and laugh the nerves off and apparently it works well. My manager told me that showing my personality in my interview really made the difference. Of course the company wants the best qualified person for their job, but they also want someone they can work with and feel they will get along with.

Stay Positive and relax 

Again this is definitely easier said than done. It’s understandable to be panicked and worrying because you really want the job, but it is important to remember that it is only an interview and not the end of the world. If the interview didn’t go to well, see it as a learning experience and finding out what to change for the next one. If the interview goes fantastic and you get the job, well then you’ll know these tips were the reason for it, obviously.

 

Good Luck!

Kellina Loughran is a final year student on the BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellina-loughran-a382a9123/ , Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellina_x , and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellinaloughran/

Meet the media… Cool FM and Downtown Radio

Last week I had the privilege of attending CIPR NI Meet the Media Event, hosted by Cool FM and Downtown Radio. For a lot of people getting to see where the likes of Pete Snodden, Rebecca McKinney and Gary Myles create the magic that goes into their nationwide breakfast shows is a onetime opportunity. Luckily for me, I have the pleasure of being a member of Cool FM and Downtown’s street team, so the station is not an unfamiliar sight. Getting to work for Northern Ireland’s leading radio station really is a dream come true, and ‘work’ doesn’t feel like ‘work’ when every event is even more exciting than the last.

MTP1

Although I know how successful Cool FM, Downtown and the stations newest recruit Downtown Country are, it never ceases to amaze me to see the colossal listening figures they bring in. The day began with Mark Mahaffy, Managing Director, taking us through ‘What’s New in Local Media’ and more importantly, ‘What’s New in Cool FM/Downtown’. As Northern Ireland have the strongest affinity for local radio in the UK, it is not surprising that Cool FM and Downtown are thriving, with the Cool Breakfast Show with Pete, Paolo and Rebecca alone bringing in 297,000 listeners. With listening figures at an all-time high of 697,000, PR practitioners should be utilising the power of radio to promote their clients.  But it’s not just through radio that Cool FM and Downtown reach the masses, their Facebook page has 668,000 followers. As programming director and presenter Stuart Robinson pointed out, ‘with Facebook it’s all about engagement’. With their quirky news stories and hilarious memes Cool FM’s engagement on Facebook is sky high. So being able to get a story or promotion for your client on Cool FM or Downtown’s social media accounts, could maximise exposure.

MTP2

As there were facts and figures flying about, a break was much needed. But not just any tea break, in true radio fashion, it was quiz time. Having to identify five songs from Cool FM, Downtown and Downtown Country, did not prove well for me, scoring a feeble five points (my music knowledge selective to Cool FM). Luckily for the rest of the room there were some budding music experts who won Digital Radios and Shania Twain tickets for their impressive scores. However, I did notice a few other embarrassed faces whose music taste must be similar to my own, anything top 40 from the last decade.

MTP3

Next, and most importantly for the PR professionals in the room, Caroline Beatty from the Creative Solutions department talked us through some of the creative media campaigns they have created for clients. A shining example being Metro, who wanted to promote their £2 night fare. The Creative Solutions department cleverly crafted the Metro Matchmaking campaign, where singletons took to a bus in Belfast City Centre for some speed double dating.  By tailoring to clients objectives and budget the Creative Solutions Department offer a full creative media service, to boost exposure as much as possible.

Finally, Head of News, Nigel Gould, explained the work of the news team and how best to approach getting a story coverage. With 17 daily news bulletins across the stations, news has become as big as the music. By covering consumer, lifestyle and business news alongside the hard hitting stuff, Cool FM and Downtown are appealing to all ages and backgrounds with their news coverage. His top tip to PR professionals who want to get a story covered was to ‘help yourself by recording your story, but make sure the person is being interviewed and not just reading from a sheet’.

Of course our day had to end with a tour around the studios to see where the real fun takes place. We were lucky enough to have sneak peak of the new video production suite which will be used to record local artists, Facebook videos and so much more, so keep a look out for what’s to come from Cool FM, Downtown and Downtown Country in 2018, Northern Ireland’s leading commercial broadcaster.

MTP4

Olivia x

Olivia McAleenan is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @OliviaMcAleenan / LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mcaleenan-88774413b /Facebook – Olivia McAleenan / Instagram @oliviamcaleenan

 

How to lose 7lbs in 10 days

How to lose 7lbs in 10 days

A few weeks ago a personal trainer named Tara Grimes, who is also a brand ambassador for Spar NI, asked would I trial her new “10 day kick-start” program. It was the second week of university, so my final ever ‘Freshers’ week had taken its toll on me. I was also recently back from Thailand (which meant eating out four times a day, and drinking beer from noon to night) and had put on the ‘placement pounds’… as sitting at a desk from 9-5 without eating some sort of chocolate is basically impossible. So I thought, sure why not?!

TG

I play Gaelic football so train regularly, although my eating isn’t great and has never been. I eat out regularly and can’t go a day without bread! So when I read what the program consisted of, the Sunday night before I started it, I was really doubting myself.

TG1

On Monday 16th October I started the program. It was a calorie deficient program where you were only allowed 1400 calories daily. I know, it sounds terrible! On the first day for breakfast I had scrambled eggs, bacon, tomatoes and spinach WITHOUT bread and it was surprisingly lovely. Lunch consisted of a tuna salad and dinner was chicken and vegetables. The first day was awful as I found it so hard to not snack (especially when storm Ophelia was battering outside and everyone in my house was drinking hot chocolate).

On the first day I was also required to do a HIIT session, which is a high intensity interval training session where you do certain exercises and repeat them in sets of four, whilst taking a thirty second break in-between. I am not joking when I say, I could not walk for two days after. I hadn’t done proper training like this in months so this was definitely a shock to the system!

Days two-five continued on like this which a very regular routine of breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack when it allowed for it on the plan. It was extremely difficult, especially being a student in Belfast when there is temptation everywhere. In saying that the meals were great with lots of options and choice to cater for everyone’s taste. There were ten different breakfasts, lunches and dinners however I found my favourites and stuck to them. The turkey mince curry was one of my favourites. There was also carbs on the program which was ideal!!

On the kick-start program, no alcohol was permitted. Not to sound like an alcoholic or anything, but I did my first ever sober night out in Belfast on day two, and it was fine – although there are only so many glasses of water you can drink!

Day six rolled around and I thought, I will weigh myself that morning to see if this is working at all. I could not believe it. I had lost four pounds in basically five days!! The HIIT session that morning was surprisingly easier than normal as weighing myself was the best motivation to keep going strong.

Tara wanted someone in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s to trial the program to see if it actually worked before she officially launched it to the public. We had a private Facebook group where we all posted in pictures of our food, any questions we had and really motivated each other throughout the process. Around day 6/7 other women had weighed themselves and also lost in and around 5 pounds too. So clearly, the “kickstart” program definitely works. The private Facebook group now has over 300 people all supporting each other.

By the time day ten had come around, I felt like I wasn’t as hungry in-between meals and that my body had started to get used to the normal routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner without eating any crap. On the tenth day I really couldn’t believe it when I had lost a total of 7 pounds. It is a crazy amount to loose in ten days but I never felt like I was totally starving myself, as the portions Tara planned were huge! It was an amazing feeling and clearly visible as my clothes were fitting better. I had tried a formal dress on two weeks before I started the program, which didn’t zip up. After the ten days it zipped and fitted perfectly!

Two sober nights out, no take-aways and no coffee was extremely hard. In saying that there are no juices, no powders or pills, it is just good food! However, when you realise that 10 days is only a third of a month, a small percentage of your year and a tiny part of your life – it is so worth it!

Tara has now launched her ten day “Kickstart program” on her website and the sales are rocketing! For the launch period she has a brilliant deal were you can buy the program for only £14 instead of £28. Get it here at https://taragrimesfitness.com/product/10-day-kickstart/

I can vouch for it – It is truly AMAZING!

TG - Logo

Helen McAleer is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on linkedin.com/in/helen-mcaleer-6b1221b4 and on Twitter: @Helen_McAleer30