“Who are you wearing?” (Hilton. P, 2017)

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Just over 3 years ago, my 18-year-old self, boarded a one-way Aer Lingus flight to London. As I sat in my overpriced seat I was confident, more confident than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had just left my Mum, pretending to cry into the sleeve of her jumper, outside WHSmith in Belfast International Airport to pursue my dream of working in Television. Fast forward 3 years, I return, to the same sight of my crying mother, with my tail between my legs and my bank account £1000 overdrawn, having failed to secure Holly Willoughby’s daytime slot.

Living in London introduced me to a great concept, I previously had not heard of, called ‘growing up’. I would have voted myself, the least likely out of my undergraduate course, to pursue a Master’s Degree, however, somehow, I have found myself back in Belfast, learning about this concept of “public relations”. Image may contain: night and outdoor
As interesting as I find myself, I have learned to find PR even more interesting, since starting my MSc. My only real experience in the field of PR stemmed from my part-time job in a restaurant, dealing with the public all day, every day. I learned more about ‘people’ waiting on tables in that small restaurant that I had in the previous 18 years of my life. If I could take one thing away from the customer service industry, it would be the idea of “giving the people what they want”.

Like Jade, in the iconic “Bratz” movie, I have a “passion for fashion”. Growing up, when most boys my age were idolizing Gary from Geordie Shore, my only interests were the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model. The fashion industry is ever evolving, and this week, the biggest piece of news in the industry was Gucci’s decision to stop using real fur in their designs.
Fur in the fashion world has always been a controversial topic, however, it is an issue I have always remained relatively neutral on. Recently I have begun to think, is fur really necessary in the fashion industry? For years, organizations such as PETA have campaigned against the use of fur in the industry, but why now in 2017 has such an iconic brand such as Gucci decided not to carry on using real fur?

I recently was reminded in my Strategic Marketing module, of this idea that you should “give the people what they want, not what you think they want”. Which perhaps is what Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzari is now beginning to do. In PR, we learn about the idea of ‘publics’, does this mean that Bizzari has decided that his customers do not need real fur anymore?

Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA said “The writing was on the wall: Today’s shoppers don’t want to wear the skins of animals who were caged, then electrocuted or bludgeoned to death. Until all animal skins and coats are finally off the racks of clothing stores worldwide, PETA will keep up the pressure on the clothing and fashion industry.” (Holt, 2017)

Gucci, along with other brands such as Ralph Lauren or Stella McCartney has been able to adapt to ‘give the people what they want’ which is becoming refreshing, seeing as other brands such as Versace, stick to the conservative idea of ‘tradition’. I said previously, that I have always remained neutral on the issue of fur within the fashion industry, however, after Gucci’s decision of taking fur off the catwalk, my opinions have swayed. The fashion industry and current trends change season by season but the issue of fur has been a long-lasting battle. Should other brands now follow in Gucci’s footsteps?


Before enrolling on this course, I would have never thought about issues like these in this way, however, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the world around me. In the PR industry, likewise with marketing, I have learned that we cannot sit on the fence. Opinions are a great thing, and questioning others’ opinions, is also great.

This time next year, I hope to sit again on a flight to London. Although this time, I am not after a seat on the “This Morning” sofa.

Jordan Spry is studying for an MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @jordanspry_

Mayday – Why Theresa Should Have Taken Some Improv Classes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have seen how badly Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference went.

First off let’s reiterate just how important the leader’s speech is at any political conference. It’s the only bit anyone outside the conference really pays attention to. In recent years they’ve become dull because party leaders simply cannot afford to mess up so they play it safe. If you want to find the last Leader’s conference speech that was as disastrous, you have to go back to 2003 and Iain Duncan Smith’s infamous “quiet man” speech.

Mrs May took to the stage with all the usual pressure and then some. This year’s was even more important as she recently led the party to  a disappointing General Election result, there’s tension in the cabinet and Brexit negotiations don’t seem to be going well.

With that in mind it couldn’t have gone worse.

You’ll have read about the voice loss. You’ll have read about the sign falling apart directly behind her. But the part of the speech that got the most coverage was undoubtedly when comedian Simon Brodkin gave Mrs May a P45, supposedly from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

P45

Look at that! That is brutal! It’s iconic and it’s going to follow Mrs May around for the rest of her political career. There’s not much she could have done about the sign falling apart and sure, she could have rested her voice to try and avoid the cough, but once it started she could only struggle through. The one thing she had full control over was (as the stoics tell us) her reaction to the stunt.

Ignoring the question of how a man got that close to the prime minister,  May’s reaction completely fed into the image of her as an unemotional character. By all accounts she is a very warm person but in this instant we can see a microcosm of how people perceive her. Distant. Staring ahead. Droning relentlessly on.

Eventually she took the P45 from the comedian, placed it gently on the floor and continued on with her speech. As he was escorted out by security, she tried a joke about Jeremy Corbyn but by then the whole thing had gone on too long and it didn’t really land.

While Mrs May is undoubtedly damning every comedian under the sun, any comedian worth their salt would be able to tell her how to have handled it. This guy was just a heckler. I’ve worked with loads of comedians and they all have their own ways of dealing with hecklers, because being heckled is a part of being a comedian, it’s a skill they have to learn. The best advice I’ve heard for hecklers is “cut them off early and use the crowd”.

To explain what that means, let’s imagine the situation had gone differently. Imagine if instead of trying to ignore the comedian, May had reached down, taken the P45 out of his hand and spoken directly to the crowd. Remember she’s addressing conference, this is her crowd, it’s the heckler who’s in enemy territory (this is the same with comedians and their hecklers). Now imagine May had said to the crowd something like “This man wants to hand me a P45, but I say we’ve got too much work left to do, are you with me?”

The crowd would have gone wild for it. If May had ripped up the P45 while she said it, the party faithful would have torn the roof off the place and the press coverage would have shown May as triumphant, not awkward; victorious, not embattled.

It’s easy to think of what you should have said in hindsight of course and if I’d been in May’s shoes I might have just cried when I saw that P45, but there was a moment where she could have turned it around, she just didn’t have the skills for it.

I think there’s a really important lesson to be learned here, one that has come up already in my studies and that’s the importance of creativity. Suggesting to the Prime Minister of the UK that she sit in on a comedy class would probably have you laughed out of the room, but  May has for a long time had the communication problem of seeming like she’s incapable of reacting to other people naturally and in that context comedy classes could be a creative solution to a genuine problem.

So my question is this; What’s the most creative/left field/wacky solution to a communication problem that’s worked in real life? Tweet, email or comment, I’ll update if I find any really good ones.

 

Jason Ashford is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Political Lobbying at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @jasonashford89.

Pourquoi ?

Pourquoi, the French word meaning why. A question that I’ve been asking myself several times since moving from Toulouse, situated in the sunny South of France back to the cold, rainy hills of Donegal. I was happy there, felt settled and have made some lifelong friendships. One word stands out in that sentence to me. Settled. In my eyes, being settled in this context is synonymous to being in your comfort zone. Does anybody like the feeling of change? It can be rather scary and overwhelming at first. Anyway, I decided a change is what I needed to gain a career I’ll enjoy.

During the first week of uni, our lecturer, Conor McGrath, told us to question everything in PR – including his own words. I find this a refreshing outlook to have in life in general. Mind you, since moving home, I’ve already had the joy of attempting to answering why the simple things in life are the way they are to my four-year-old niece! Is it just me or do we seem to lose this curious nature the older we become? We don’t seem to question anything until it directly affects us.

 

 

During the same week, someone else asked me about the master’s course I was going to be studying. When I told them about it, the response I got was ‘Oh, public relations, are they going to train you how to answer the phone?’. Oh, touché my friend. A few hours later, I was reading the first paper we had been given for our seminar the following week. One part of the paper stumbles upon the professionalisation of public relations. It briefly comments on how there are few people outside of the profession that accept it as that: a profession. It made me realise how oblivious many people are to what is behind PR and the power in which it holds from the way we view the world to how we view people in the media. Perhaps this ignorance plays to the advantage of PR practitioners. Or am I already feeding into that stereotype of PR practitioners being nothing but untrustworthy beings out to do us all wrong?

Having just finished my second week on the course, I find myself questioning one event. PM Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Firstly, the lyrics ‘Who knows why it’s gotta be this way?’ from Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ song ‘This is what you came for’ filled the room as she entered. Why pick this song? I’m guessing this is her attempt to form a link between herself and the younger supporters of the party?

Those who attended the conference got more than what they had thought they came for. You couldn’t make it all up. Between a P45 being handed to her by prankster, Lee Nelson, to her coughing fit that went on for what felt like a decade, to the Chancellor giving her a lozenge to somehow help the situation, to her coughing some more, to the letters of the slogan on the wall falling behind her mid-speech. Not long after the conference she posted this on Twitter:

 

 

Right, so she is making light of what just happened. Top marks for having a witty response on social media within hours of the event happening. But can anything help her reputation at this point? Today, the day after the conference, numerous ministers have been backing her publicly. However, former Conservative minister, Ed Vaizey, has suggested that numerous MPs feel it’s time for her to resign. Her lack of leadership is evident but who would replace her during this crisis?

I have many British friends living in France, currently EU citizens living in another EU country, wondering what Brexit has in store for them and their livelihoods. Theresa May isn’t exactly giving them the picture of hope. Likewise, she isn’t giving me any hope. I live a short 15-minute drive to the border of Northern Ireland and I had no say in the Brexit vote yet the outcome of what is yet to come will potentially affect my town and community.

I would say I had a mild interest in British politics up until around two years ago. Like I said at the beginning, we don’t seem to question anything until it directly affects us…

Louise Harvey is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @louiseharvey_ Instagram: @louiseharvey93

What in the world is PR?

Having studied a degree in English and Drama at undergrad level, for my masters I wanted to throw myself into something I had never done before; the world of PR. Public Relations, to my untrained mind – my PR role model being Samantha Jones – was writing press releases, going to fancy events and ‘schmoozing’ clients. From just one lecture I soon realised this certainly is not the case. I will not profess that after just one week on my PR and Communications MSc I am immediately a PR guru, however, I can say that I now know what in the world PR actually is. For me, this image sums it up perfectly…

 

PR-vs-Ad

It is easy to tell someone that something is ‘great’ but getting someone else to say it, is an art form. PR practitioners are utilizing their communications skills to uphold the reputation of companies, big and small. In today’s competitive marketplace, for a business to be successful it must be able to withstand its competition. Look no further than the Ryanair scandal which has dominated social media and the press for the past few weeks. Other airlines have cleverly cashed in on their competitor’s misfortunes…

 

AL-Ryanair

Alongside my first week at Ulster University, I had the pleasure of hosting my sister’s Hen Party in Edinburgh. I quickly realised that planning a hen party was great experience for my future PR career. From the early stages of planning, my sister was adamant she did not want anything ‘tacky’ at her hen. No inappropriate straws or strippers popping up at any point. My main focus had to be my sister’s reputation, which I can say was very much still intact by the end of the weekend. Although it was gratifying to hear my sister’s admiration for her wonderful hen party, it was even nicer to see her seventeen other hens posting on social media about their fabulous experience.

 

Bride To Be

When I first set out to write this blog I did some online searching for other young PR bloggers to gain some ‘blogsperation’. I stumbled upon Livi Wilkes on twitter (@LiviWilkesPR), and soon became hooked on her blog ‘Live Love Laugh PR’. The first thing that really stood out for me was her advice to gain experience alongside my degree. I immediately got myself into gear and began sending out emails to PR companies in Northern Ireland to generate work experience (which I assume is what most of my class have been doing). To attempt to stand out from the crowd I revamped my CV, making it as aesthetically pleasing as possible using Canva.

As pretty as my CV may be, I recognise that it alone will not get me a job. Having gone straight into a masters from my undergrad, it was daunting to hear the amount of experience my peers have already achieved. I did not let this dishearten me, and in fact, it made me more determined to get my name out there in the world of PR. My twitter newsfeed has gone from Gemma Collins memes to PR companies and bloggers imparting their words of wisdom. A simple follow or like on a company’s post could mean that my name may be remembered.

Basically, as scary as it is to start something completely new, delving into a fresh world can be daunting but exciting. My journey into the big bad world of PR is just starting but I will keep you updated on where it leads me to…

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

Ribs, Bibs and Blackboards: In At the Deep End

I started classes for my Masters in Communications and PR in the University of Ulster on the 26th of September and one of the first things I’ve learned so far is that jokes about domestic violence are a terrible way to sell ribs.

That’s going to need a little context. Ribs n’ Bibs is a small restaurant in Belfast owned by a man called Malachi Toner. On the 27th of September images started doing the rounds on social media of their advertising blackboard:

 

 

Eesh. A “joke” in really poor taste that is deeply offensive to victims of domestic abuse. It did not go down well.

First things first, if anyone reading this has been a victim of domestic violence, here’s a link to Womens Aid NI. A lot of smarter and more eloquent people than me have written about why domestic violence jokes are so horrible, for example.

This blog isn’t about the joke itself but about how the company reacted and what I think they should have done. It’s going to be a bit of an experiment to look back after my Masters and (hopefully) have much better ideas and be able to back them up with way more knowledge.

When the image above started circulating on social media, there was an immediate call from some users to let Ribs n Bibs know how out of order the joke was in the easiest way possible; by leaving 1 star reviews on their Facebook page. A company like Ribs n’ Bibs lives and dies on its Facebook reviews. If you’re visiting Belfast and looking for somewhere to eat, you check online. You also  avoid the places with one star reviews.

Within a matter of hours, the restaurant had received approximately 200 1 star reviews, dragging its overall rating down to 1. As of writing there are currently 756 1 star reviews and 98 5 star reviews. It’s overall rating is currently 1.5.

Ouch.

The restaurant’s first reaction, or at least the first reaction of whoever was running their Facebook page was this:

 

 

I have a three month old niece. She’s the most perfect baby who has ever lived, but her entire communication skill set consists of staring, the occasional grunt and crying when she’s hungry.

I am certain that she could have come up with a better response than the one above.

The next morning the owner, Malachi Toner, did the rounds of the local Talk Radio shows to try and undo the damage. These will be on demand if you want to listen back. He apologised (which is good) and talked about training and fund raisers (also good) without any actual details (not so good). It didn’t go down as well as Mr Toner would have hoped. Many people online accused him of deflecting, of trying to paint his staff and himself as victims.

What Ribs n’ Bibs  have ignored is their conversations with their customers are two-way and symmetric. I gave it a bit of thought and came up with a three step process to try and deal with the problem. I like to think my 3 step programme is a) the right thing to do and b) helps the company resolve a difficult PR problem.

  • Apologise. Do it soon. Do it sincerely. Ribs n’ Bibs didn’t get a proper “I’m sorry” out for over twelve hours.  The boss needs to take the heat and needs to do it with humility. The most important thing here is speed. Social media doesn’t sleep, the earlier you get involved, the more you can direct the narrative.
  • There are plenty of charities and organisations across Northern Ireland that provide help, advice and support to victims of domestic abuse. Contact one of them, explain that you realise the joke was deeply offensive and you want your staff to go through training to explain why it angered so many people and what they should do in the future. Set a date.
  • With this same charity organise a fundraiser. I don’t mean a vague promise, set a date. 

Once step 2 and 3 are done, put out a joint statement with the charity with details of the training and fundraiser.

By the time you go on the morning radio circuit, you have the chance to move the narrative from “Restaurant makes offensive joke” to “Restaurant quickly learns lesson, donates to charity”.

The very same people who get angry and go destroy your rating on Facebook are the same people who will actually reward you for attempting to right your wrong. This might have been turned into good PR exposure while also raising money for a good cause.

Or maybe not. It’s my first week.

 

Jason Ashford is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Political Lobbying at the University of Ulster. He can be found on Twitter @jasonashford89.

 

Public Relations Vs. Advertising

Public Relations and Advertising are regularly confused and it’s commonly thought they play the same roles within an organisation, despite having different end goals and effects.

PR is a strategic communication process to create a positive reputation for a company in order to gain support and understanding through influencing opinions and behaviours of their publics. Whereas on the other hand, Advertising is the use of paid messages on various media platforms to inform and influence the target audience to make a purchase.

PR-Ad1

Free vs. Paid

  • PR: Primarily PR is focused on securing free media to gain exposure for the company and their products/services through use of strategies and tactics. Through using media you have no control of how they portray the company and present the information you provide and they are not required to publish any material you send. Due to this, you are in constant contact with the media and building relationships with them in order to have your press releases used.
  • Advertising: In advertising, companies pay for ad space for specific days and times so they are aware of when they will be ran. Due to this it allows you to have (1) creative control of what goes into the advert; and (2) media control of where the advert appears and when.

Duration

  • PR: You will only submit a press release of a new product launch or an event once so therefore this will only circulate once, as the editor will not re-run it but, you can send each press release to a number of journalists who will each write the story in their own styles.
  • Advertising: Due to paying for the advertising space, the advert will run for the duration which you have purchased.

Credibility

  • PR: The public often find third party sources such as newspapers more credible as it is perceived to be an informative source; this method does not encourage someone to make a purchase but it creates a positive reputation for the brand and manufacturer.
  • Advertising: Often the target audience will look and read an advert with scepticism, as they know the purpose of the advert is to influence them to buy a product or service.

Audience

  • PR: In order to have an editor run a press release or cover your event, you must create content that hooks both them and the target audience.
  • Advertising: Your advertisement is geared towards your target audience, making use of buzzwords in order to influence and motivate the target audience.

 

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0/

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

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

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

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

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

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

nikkietutorials2

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

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

youtubers

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

contour
YouTube heavyweight Carli Bybel demonstrating her famous nose contouring.

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

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