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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

It was this time a year ago I quit the job I had for 13 years.

Carrying plates for a living begun as a way to earn some extra money back in university in the heady days of the nineties. University soon fell to the wayside and before I knew it, I found myself trapped in a regional hotel that made Jack Nicholson’s break-down in the Shining seem quite reasonable. This situation had to change, so I took my rabid consumption of the music press and turned my hand to writing about music.

I wrote, for free, for a local glossy magazine called Alternative Ulster. I promoted up and coming bands, I DJed anywhere that would take me. I did stand up comedy, I stage managed, I guested on Across the Line and turned my hand to restaurant critique. I also studied journalism but made the rookie error of starting my course mere months before the bottom fell out of the print industry.

Then I had a part time job as the in-house writer for a large promotions and bar company. It was the heady days before the 2007 property crash, and everyone was so rich we were buying Terry Bradley prints like they were going out of fashion (which they did) and paying to have tiny fish eat our feet. Almost overnight the bubble burst, the money was gone and Belfast’s nightlife died a slow death that year.  I was one of the unlucky ones, and so it was back to the restaurants.

Fast forward almost ten years. I’ve kept my hand in and continue to write. I’m looking for a placement in my third year as a CMPR student, but the market is very competitive, especially for a mature student. I’ve since quit my job in the restaurant, as I now have a family and a degree to worry about. The placement is hard to come by and I’m running through my contacts getting a lot of encouragement, the promise of passing on details, and then, out of no-where, word that a local venue is looking a digital marketing assistant.

It’s not a full time position, but more importantly it’s paid and I can continue to study while working on my final year. Within a few months the social media feeds have benefited from a dedicated member of staff and I am learning every day about the ins and outs of promotion.

Things turn full circle when my original boss from the promotions company gets in touch. He’s running Oktoberfest at Custom House Square and he’s looking someone for Digital. It would have been rude to say no.

What has this taught me? It would be easy to say that picking up work is not a matter of what you know, but who you know, but I would disagree. In these challenging times money is still a big factor and people demand a return on their investment. I’d prefer to say that work brings in work. Do your best, get a reputation and put yourself out there. I’ve since got two leads for more digital work, thanks to a high profile event.

If you’re asked, say yes and work out how you’ll do it afterwards. If you’re asked once and say no, there’s plenty of others who’ll say yes and you won’t get asked again!

Shane Horan is a mature student in his final year of BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

Saturday Night on the Other Side

Saturday Night on the Other Side

Saturday night is the night we all look forward to. We get dressed in our best, spend hours on hair and make-up, make plans, and then re-plan in the group chat where the pre is gonna happen and then go out into the City, drink, dance and be merry, and at the end of the night have that compulsory take away before we head home. This has always been the Saturday night that I have experienced, until last December when during my placement with the PSNI I embarked on a Saturday night in Belfast City Centre on duty.

As it was December, Christmas celebrations were in full swing, and this goes for inside the police station where Red TSG (Tactical Support Group) are based, as when I arrived there was two fully uniformed officers singing along to Merry Christmas Everyone by Shaking Stephens, their way of ‘preing’ for the night ahead. I sat in the debrief room and listened to the Sergeant in charge running through how they planned the night to go. I was to go with the Sergeant and two Constables on City Centre duty. It was around two weeks before Christmas and therefore they knew that Christmas parties were going to add to what is normally the busiest night of the week. The PSNI were also in the midst of running their Winter Drink Driving campaign so all officers were asked to be extra vigilant with car checks when out on patrol.

 

TSG chat to the drink driver

We set off into the city centre around 7pm and after one spin around the town we headed up towards West Belfast when a driver hit the wing mirror of the patrol car and appeared to drive off in an erratic manner, tipping off the officers that he may be intoxicated. The driver was pulled over and breathalysed. With his result coming back fail, the man was arrested for drink driving and brought to Musgrave Custody Suite. Now, many believe that all police officers do is arrest and bring arrestees into custody, however this one person arrested meant the team lost one of his officers who had to fill out copious amounts of paperwork, and as the drunk driver was a foreign national it meant they had to wait on a translator also.

Back on duty, we set back into the city and within 10 minutes we received a call over the radio for rapid response. When we got to the scene three young men had overdosed on cocaine on the street and gone into cardiac arrest. An ambulance had arrived already and paramedics were performing CPR and administrating Adrenaline to the males which thankfully brought them all round. The street became crowded with residents of the surrounding area and passersby, and the police worked on securing the scene to protect the dignity of the young men and help out the paramedics trying to save the men’s lives. One of the police officers also helped the paramedics out as he was a first aider and the Ambulance service were stretched as it was on a busy Saturday night. The partnership between the emergency services is one that many forget and is one that helps so many in wider society.

A PSNI Facebook image of the incident

Once the men had been loaded into the ambulances and more police were able to arrive on scene, we left to go back on patrol when I noticed a man lying on the ground. We pulled over and it turned out the man was having a heart attack and had come out of his house to get help. We were aware that the ambulance service was stretched to capacity now, this being about 10.30pm so the officers used all their first aid skills they knew and waited until another crew were able to come and help the man.

At around 1am, we went into the City Centre again and in the space off two hours had handed out three tickets for public urination and stopped two fights from pub revellers.

To see a Saturday night from a different perspective gave me a lot of respect for the emergency services who under hard cuts and pressures go out and do their job with a smile and are able to have a few laughs along the way. If it hadn’t been for the emergency services three young men would have lost their lives in the middle of the road, another could have caused serious damage under the influence of alcohol and many others may not have gotten home safely. In one Saturday the three officers I shadowed dealt with at least 50 different people and were shouted at and abused. It reminded me that as I get ready for my Saturday night out, there are others who are doing the same, but to ensure our safety throughout our night.

Rosa O’Farrell is a final year student in BSc Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosa-o-farrell-2a796a23/

PRide and Joy: NI’s outstanding communicators celebrate 2017

PRide and Joy: NI’s outstanding communicators celebrate 2017

Friday 13th may be unlucky for some, but for many of Northern Ireland’s PR practitioners, the night ended in trophies, applause and possibly some sore heads in the morning!

For the past 18 months, I have had the privilege of sitting on the CIPR NI Committee as a Student Ambassador. During my time I have sat opposite some the leading lights in Northern Irish public relations and have witnessed the organisation of some brilliant events for PR professionals across the country.

There is however, one event on the PR calendar which can’t be missed – The PRide Awards.

Now, I’ve heard the rumours about PR, “it’s all parties and drinking and schmoozing”, and despite what this post may suggest, trust me it isn’t. But for one night a year, that stereotype might be a little true.

The CIPR PRide Awards NI is an annual awards ceremony to recognise the hard work and creativity of PR professionals and communicators over the past 12 months. It’s that one night of the year when professionals put away their laptops, put down the phone and come together for a night of celebration and healthy competition.

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Like previous years, the PRide Awards 2017 were held in the Culloden Hotel, Holywood. Taking the lead in organising the event along with the team at CIPR HQ were Seona McGrath from Smarts Communicate, Jane Williams from JComms along with Sinead Doyle and Alana Taylor from MCE Public Relations, who put together a brilliant evening.

I was kindly asked to be this year’s trophy assistant at what would be my first year in attendance, which much to my surprise included an official announcement and my name on the screen, hopefully, the amount of make-up on face hid my reaction. The awards portion of the night was hosted by Stephen and Cate from Q Radio, while I was tasked with delivering winner envelopes and passing on trophies. Thankfully, I didn’t manage to mess it up.

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There I am, in the background, looking the wrong way

The big winners on the night were PR agency powerhouses Smarts Communicate, with Seona McGrath deservedly picking up the Outstanding Young Communicator Award, and JComms. Also showing very strongly, proving the strength of practitioners across the country were in-house communication teams. Some of the winners included Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, North West Regional College and Translink.

Click on this link if you want to see a full list of the winners from the night along with the winning case studies: https://www.cipr.co.uk/content/awards-events/pride-awards/northern-ireland/results-and-case-studies

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For those of us studying and working in the industry, we know first-hand that public relations is often one filled with misconceptions. For most, PR is ‘selling tickets to nightclubs’. The PRide awards are the perfect response for those who criticise the industry and its professionals, and give us students who face questions about how ‘serious’ our degree is, some back up for those unwanted questions.

Another important aspect of the night, was supporting the CIPR NI charity of the year, AWARE. AWARE NI are the national depression charity for Northern Ireland and provide vital support across the country for those suffering from a mental health condition. Led by an incredible team, AWARE NI offer many essential programmes which require funding. Thanks to some great raffle prizes and generous donations, £1450 was raised impacting the lives of 96 pupils across NI – a job well done!

If you want to find out more about AWARE NI check out their website:

http://www.aware-ni.org/

The PRide Awards and the CIPR NI in general offer a great chance for young professionals to meet established practitioners, so if you get the chance check out one of the social events I would really advise doing so. Our industry is in great hands and growing year on year which can only be a good thing for those us who need a job in the next few years.

Images are courtesy of Press Eye

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/kirsty-wallace-851504115 and on twitter @KayyWallace

5 Places You Need To Know About

DISCLAIMER: if you don’t like coffee or people who take pictures of their food then you’re probably going to want to click off this.


In this new ‘café culture’ there are a select class of caffeinators and connoisseurs who have the beans to categorize themselves as a coffee/food snob, and let me tell you that there is no snob more outrageously self-righteous than these.

Personally, I am convinced that coffee doesn’t taste any better if you brew it in a ‘GCSE science-looking’ contraption. This is something coffee-snobs may want to disagree with but for me, it’s not autumn until you’ve walked through the vividly coloured, leaf-scattered Botanic Avenue on an October afternoon with a pumpkin spice latte in your hand. #basicwhitegirl

If you follow me on social media, you will know how much of a pain I am when it comes to food and coffee pictures. In my opinion Mondays are for coffee and two coffees a day does indeed keep the grumpy away – but within reason, because if it’s after 4pm I won’t sleep.

Let me ask you a question – are you even really a student if the majority of your loan isn’t spent on needless brunch stops (or McDonalds) as well as those three coffees you really didn’t need between getting to and during that 9am lecture? If your answer to that is no then you’ve probably ignored my disclaimer and kept reading, which was at your own discretion.

So, whether you are a student looking for somewhere to kill a few hours between classes, a full-time bruncher or coffee enthusiast here’s my top 5 places all you caffeinators and foodies need to know about if you’re wanting inspiration for somewhere new to try:

(NOTE: most of the pictures featured are of coffee, mainly because I’m too impatient to take pictures of food before I start eating it, sorry not sorry).

 

5A Lockview Road

@5Acafe

Situated on the doorstep of Stranmillis University, 5A takes a wholehearted approach to brunching despite their tiny yet charming premises. With exceptional attention to detail, particularly allergies, and quality food for a reasonable price – 5A is a must if you haven’t yet been. Not only is their coffee consistently delicious but paired with a warm ‘Californian’ sandwich, peanut butter ball to follow, or 2, (seriously, if you haven’t tried one of these yet you haven’t lived) and cozy atmosphere: your Sunday afternoons are well and truly sorted.

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Established Coffee

@establishedcoffee

Situated in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, and therefore being just around the corner from the UUB Campus (my poor little bank card is thankful I’m not here for classes yet), Established Coffee is a bright and spacious coffee shop, with productive space for work or relaxing and an incredibly chilled atmosphere. This ‘city centre trendsetter’ offers an exceptional variety of coffee brews, including Farami from Costa Rica and Bulega from Ethiopia. Check this out -they also serve iced lattes and Americanos without looking at you like you’ve totally lost it! With poached eggs, avo toast (again, #basicwhitegirl) and a weekly Sunday pie to die for, this is the perfect spot for catch-ups, people-watching (we all do it) and coffee’s to-go if you’re out and about in the centre of Belfast.

 

General Merchants 361

@generalmerchants361

 Co-owned with 5A, the Australia-inspired General Merchants 361 boasts similar qualities only on a larger scale and with a secondary reputation as a luncher, General Merchants really know how to do it. One Monday morning over summer, as a devoted ‘I’ll start eating clean next week’ kind-of-girl, I opted to switch my typical ‘Melbourne Breakfast’ for a ‘Bircher muesli bowl’ and I haven’t gone back since – hands down the tastiest muesli bowl I have ever had. Their food menu, coffee and vibrant ambience all go hand-in-hand to create an authentic experience with a unique vibe and though I’ve never been to Australia, it makes you feel as though Belfast is right on the edge of the Tasman Sea.

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Kaffe O

@kaffeo

Inspired by Nordic coffee, Kaffe O was a new find for me and has quickly become a favourite. Their unique beans, from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Costa Rica, are roasted and shipped from the Danish capital to our very own little Belfast – delicately combined to create the perfect flat white. If you’re looking for a minimalistic place to get work done or simply to just hide from the rain, here is perfect.

NOTE: their brownies are fab-u-lous, but if you live nearby this may prove dangerous.

 

Guilt Trip Coffee and Donuts

@guilttripcoffee

After seeing the most aesthetically-pleasing pictures of Guilt Trip Coffee and Donuts on a daily basis all over my Instagram feed, I decided to give it a try because despite not being a huge fan of donuts, at least it would make a good picture. After hemming and hawing over what flavour to try, I eventually decided to have a blueberry and peanut butter donut (because that counts as one of your five a day, right?) and boy was I thankful I had ordered a whole one for myself. With their aim being to ‘sell the best donuts in town’ they certainly have my vote. These were the first donuts I’ve ever eaten that weren’t sickeningly sweet and actually tasted how they claimed – peanut butter heaven, perfectly combined with a flat white. If you are planning on visiting I highly recommend going early to get the best selection of donuts!

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NOTE: After seeing these pictures you’re maybe thinking “I bet she doesn’t drink cortados” but as an avid flat white sipper I thought a cortado was a type of instrument until a few months ago (although, if you are a cortados drinker then check out 5A – apparently the best in town).

 

Amy Greer is a second year BSc CAM student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr