Hush From Scratch

There’s something very satisfying about launching a new nightclub event. Especially in a small city like Belfast where the competitors witness your every move and try their best to trip you up at every hurdle. It’s a thrilling and hands-on process that brings great success, but it requires more work than you can imagine. However, the proud moment when you succeed makes the stress all that more rewarding.

Here is a little insight to how we developed HUSH, a successful Saturday night brand that was located in the city centre. HUSH was introduced to the renowned Belfast nightlife scene following a strategic 6-week launch campaign similar to any PR campaign you would see from our beloved duo, Grunig and Hunt.

First was the long and draining planning stage. It was crucial for the basis of the brand. We brainstormed the initial fundamentals of any club night; gaps in the market, where we wanted to position, the target demographic, brand names, artwork design for online and print, the music policy and things of that nature.

We sent off different brand ideas to our graphic designer who came up variations of logos in terms of font, style and colour. It was exciting seeing all our ideas slowly but surely coming to life. These variations were pitched to focus groups consisting of staff and our target market. The final call was then made. We now had a brand and a logo, it was time to get this show on the road!

Next was the implementation stage. This involved increasing brand awareness by getting as many ‘eyes’ as possible on our new brand, creating a buzz amongst our customers and giving them a taste of what’s to come. This was completed using both traditional methods and more contemporary digitalised methods.

The process involved a lot of questions and answers. “What are the best channels to reach our target audience?” It’s apparent that social media is leaps and bounds above other platforms. We discovered Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are a club promoter’s dream. You can interact instantly with your consumers 24/7 for relatively no costs. Cheap, cheerful and easy, just the way it should be.

According to McGaritty, P. (2017), “Facebook is dominant social media platform with over 65% of adults using it in Northern Ireland.” Building the HUSH Facebook ‘business page’ was our main focus, as this was by far our most important asset. This page was our customers first point of contact where they could message us with any questions or booking requests. This is where we created events for every Saturday, uploaded photo albums, constructed a ‘guest list’ and booked in tables.

Content on the page varied, however it was designed to be interactive, relatable and relevant. This increased the likelihood of customers sharing the content from their own personal profiles and ‘tagging’ other friends. They would soon become brand evangelists and advocates! Content could be anything at all; drinks deals, funny videos or ‘memes’, DJ graphics, entry prices or generic promotional posts.

It was important to build the likes, reach and interaction amongst customers and ultimately drive all traffic through this platform. We used many tricks of the trade such as competition give-aways and a few promoter wizardry skills that need to be kept HUSH HUSH…The first video we posted was an interactive competition for the launch night to win free entry, a reserved table and drinks. To enter this, we asked customers to ‘like’ the Facebook page, share the video to their own profile and tag 5 friends. This technique caused the video to spread like wildfire and it reached 37,978 people, 16.2k views, 349 likes and 306 comments.

We did not forget about the traditional methods for our PR campaign. We smartly used our contacts to our advantage to save on major costs. The club GM was personal friends with an executive from The Belfast Telegraph and we luckily secured a press release about the launch into the paper. This was also published by ‘The Tab’ – an online newsletter for students and on Belfast Live’s website and Facebook page. One of our DJs was also a radio DJ for Blast 106. He hooked us up with a 30 second radio ad for a fraction of the price and promoted the brand every day between 6-9pm. These were great additions to our campaign and increased the awareness dramatically.

The last stage was the launch. This was Judgment Day for us. Would the long hours of tedious work be worth it? It was the most exciting day, adrenaline was flowing around the air and there was a special buzz which cannot be easily replicated. It was the time to ensure that everything was in place and making sure staff knew their roles. Knowing all the tables were sold out and seeing the guest-list numbers get higher and higher was a sign that success was on the horizon. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous counting down the hours before we opened our doors for the first time.

There is no better feeling than coming up with something from scratch, building it up, utilising all methods, pulling it off and becoming a success. You know it has all been worth it after witnessing the happy customers having a great time and wanting to come back. We were a full house on our launch night and the event has continued to attract steady numbers ever since. Success for the not so HUSH!
If you want to know more about the experience, please feel free to contact me.


Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account

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McGaritty, P.  (2017). Social Media Use in Northern Ireland.

The Part-Time Preacher

It’s safe to say that being a student is stressful to say the least. We’ve all been there. Struggling to balance the pile of books to and from classes, trying not to have a mental breakdown over the magnitude of those looming assignments, attending your job AND having a social life. There’s certainly not enough hours in the day for that unrealistic miracle.

What student doesn’t loathe the run up to Christmas when their assignment deadlines are suddenly dawning upon them? It’s like an express train is coming full pelt at you and you’re tied to the train tracks. Not to mention the period after the holidays spent revising for January exams. Some unlucky students spend their Christmas worrying about three different assignments and exams every semester. Even the thought of that makes me feel uneasy. Luckily for me, that worry and angst has disappeared like students’ social lives!


I’ll start with a bit of a background to my University career – it’s probably not like any you have ever come across. I have been in University for five years and still have two years left. I know what you’re thinking – how on earth could I stick that? There has admittedly been hiccups along the way, but I’m glad to see that sweet finish line in the distance.

I, like most pupils in Upper-Sixth, had the idea that for a successful life, I had to follow the same repetitive journey as everyone else to get me to where I wanted to be. School, University and then, a big boy job. Isn’t that what life’s all about? I started Northumbria University studying Geography and that’s when it clicked with me – I was on a path that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I had no interest in the birth rates of Guatemala or the angle that rain fell. Who would?

After passing first year, I decided to swiftly move away from this course into something that I would enjoy. I applied to a Communications Management course, continuing living the life in the ‘Toon’ and finally, I was loving it.

Towards the end of my second year in Newcastle, my old boss contacted me with an offer I couldn’t refuse – a huge promotion back in Belfast to work alongside him. After endless emails and phone calls with UU, they thankfully agreed to let me study my degree back home, going straight into their second-year course. I was over the moon!

Trust me, if you think you’ve made the wrong decision studying away from home, give Belfast a go, you won’t be disappointed! The main reason I came home was to focus on my full-time job, running events. As September approached, I was getting more anxious about it. Everybody would already have their friendship groups and I didn’t want to be left out; the dread was an awful feeling.

Trying to juggle a full-time job and a full-time degree meant that I was struggling with both to say the least. I knew that another change had to happen – this time, I needed to get it right. My course director in UU suggested I finish my degree part-time. Something I had never even thought about. This allowed me to focus the majority of my time on my job, whilst also completing my degree. I haven’t looked back since! Studying part-time was by far the better option for me. I hope my honesty and uneasy journey will help someone out there!

The content is exactly the same, only it takes double the time. The full-time students worry about completing six modules a year with different assignments and exams – no easy task! Luckily, one year for a full-time student is spread out over two years for me. I know it doesn’t sound great but if you have other things to juggle like me, it’s an excellent option.

Part-time allows you to dedicate more time to each module. I definitely don’t miss stressing about cramming in revision for those exams. Since I have swapped to part-time, my work has improved drastically! I have developed from only scraping a pass in first year in Newcastle, to completing my second year with a first – result or what?!

Now I’m in final-year. The supposedly dreadful year. But for me, it’s a whole lot easier. As opposed to covering four modules along with a dissertation like most students, I can focus solely on my dissertation for a whole year. Jealous?


Some students I’ve chatted to about the part-time option, are very keen about it and I can’t blame them. Although my abnormal journey has not been an easy one, I can benefit other students by advising them on their University path. If you’re one of those students who are unsure about your future, feel free to contact me. Everybody has a different path, I can certainly help to get you on the right track!


Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account


The Travel Bug

The term ‘travel bug’ is something which I have discovered is very real. The moment you have the opportunity to wander aimlessly around a strange destination, is the moment you will be bitten. Is it the people you fall in love with? Or the fact you can do whatever you want, when you want? For me, it is a concoction of desires whipped up into a great, big mixing bowl; and Thailand is my first delicacy.


It wasn’t hard to pick Thailand as a worthy contender for my first trip. The cheap food, booze and stunning beaches is something which people worldwide are drawn to. Some of my University friends have been before and gave me advice and recommendations on the areas and activities. The possibilities are endless. Kayaking in a crystal clear blue lagoon, snorkelling with sharks and hiking massive mountains, have always been on my bucket list.


Discovering the culture was one of my favourite parts. It’s a whole different world to what we live back home. The hustle and bustle of Bangkok was the first taste of this month-long holiday. I had never seen something so chaotic yet so wonderful. Seeing the street sellers, massage ladies and smelling the local delicacies was something I’ll never forget. The constant smiles of Thai locals and their effort to sell you anything and everything always makes me laugh.


Scorpions, cockroaches and spiders for 1000 baht? Seems like a tasty bargain to me. Toasting under the intense heat, they were calling my name. “When in Thailand,” I thought. After tasting the crunch and spray of blood I knew I had made a huge mistake. But that unexpected aftertaste of crispy bacon made this one of my favourite moments.


Around the corner from the food vendors and restaurants, was the apparent madness of Khao San Road. It certainly lived up to its expectations. I’ll always remember the smell of buckets upon buckets of alcohol and crowds of dancing people who had similar traits of happiness. This reminded me of New York City being the ‘city that never sleeps’. The loud noises, bright lights and weirdly unique people – this lifestyle was wonderfully mad.


Although I loved the chaos of the city, it was time to unwind on the scenic beaches. There’s nothing better than feeling the sand beneath your toes and the sun on your skin. This place was paradise! I had seen Thailand on TV and on social media videos but it’s even more beautiful in person.


I was excited to wake up at the crack of dawn, relax on a boat and float over to Maya Bay. Supposedly one of the most stunning beaches in South East Asia, this dream island is the one from the movie “The Beach”. I could see why this place was so popular. Being one of the first people on the island was surreal. The limestone rocks looked like they were perfectly chiselled and the wooden long-tail boats were picture perfect. The crystal-clear water was so inviting and the cheeky monkeys’ stealing belongings was  like being in an outdoor paradise comedy show.


Visiting the elephant sanctuary was up there with one of the best days of my life. We learnt about the cruel elephant trading that happens around the world and this sanctuary is one step closer to combatting this, as the proceeds go towards helping these big, friendly giants. It was amazing feeding and bathing them and swimming under a freezing waterfall whilst the two youngest elephants were play -fighting. To end the day on a high, I attended a cooking school where I whipped up 6 delicious Thai cuisines from scratch. When I arrived back to the hotel with a full stomach, they luckily upgraded me to the most extravagant room. As if that day could get any better!


After travelling to 7 cities and islands, the urge to cancel my flight home was stronger than ever as the final day was approaching. We ended our journey in the same place where we started – Bangkok. This time, we splurged out our remaining cash on one of the most spectacular rooftop bars you could ever imagine. Looking over the city allowed us to reminisce about our memories of the past month, there were too many to even count!



Spinning around a plastic world globe is something you see in movies. My next trip will be 100 times more exciting as I’m travelling the world with one of my best pals. Australia, New Zealand and South America are definitely on the list. But who knows where we’ll end up!


Usually a bug’s bite is something that would irritate and annoy you. But the travel bug is a bite like no other. Go on, there’s a whole world out there to discover.

If you want to know more about the experience, please feel free to contact me.


Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account