“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_

Don’t tweet lies – strategise

Is your company using digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to reel in more interest in your product or service?

They are? Ok. Now ask yourself, is your company using digital platforms effectively?

‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Seven words can also be – “Did you see that video on Facebook?” or “Just found the cutest bedsheets on pinterest!” – So A LOT can happen in seven words.

You may be applying these ‘digital technologies’ and clicking send on an aimless Facebook status, but what you want to be doing is ‘achieving marketing objectives’ by doing so. And to achieve marketing objectives, you need to create them through a well thought out strategic plan! This blog will help show you the benefits of developing your own digital strategic plan for your business – big or small.

What does ‘Digital’ include?

Since the creation of the first website in 1989, the digital world has been expanding to include more than just websites. Today you can advertise your business through SEO, email marketing, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest etc.), online video content (YouTube), pay-per-click advertising and mobile marketing.

You might have a sound marketing strategy for your physical business, but when it comes to connecting to your target audience on a digital level, you need to know which of these platforms are applicable and which you can utilise in order to build your brand and boost your revenue on a digital scale.

The benefits of going digital are endless….

It is now easier to satisfy customers with an easy to use website, promotional messages that work and are coherent with the rest of your social media and a quicker response time for customer service via messaging.  This can be an amazing way to boost your brand image, creating personal and intriguing content that will entice customers to purchase and repurchase from your business – for example video content has the power to go viral with the click of the ‘share’ button, all you have to do is be creative.

Tip:  With Instagram now introducing a ‘shop now’ feature without the user actually having to leave the app, it is those online retail companies with formidable strategic digital plans who will respond first to this opportunity and increase their online presence further whilst also up-selling their products.

With the help of tools such as Google Analytics, it is now easier to track and monitor your website statistics. This is an easy to use tool that can help you interpret data, transform it into tangible information and increase your awareness of your target audience.

Tip:  Ask your customers to subscribe to promotional emails when they purchase an item from you. This can further your revenue through repurchase whilst gently increasing awareness of your brand.

BUT you need to be careful too!

In the modern age, not just the basic needs of the customer need to be satisfied, but there are numerous extras that are expected from a company’s online website. The ease of use, performance and presentation are all considered when a website is launched, and these are inadvertently judged by those using it.

Be creative, but be coherent. Your website can’t have any broken links, as no one wants to go to the effort of clicking something (exhausting, I know!) to be disappointed with a webpage that doesn’t work. Even worse, for a webpage that doesn’t include the information they clicked on.

Lastly, the reputation of your brand is dependent on the reviews customers give the company – whether by word of mouth or online. Both have the potential to be damaging if they are stories of poor quality, customer service or of a bad experience. A good recommendation by an individual with a strong following on Facebook or Twitter could make or break your business – use this as an opportunity for celebrity endorsement of your product in order to boost your reputation, but make sure they like your product/service first!

Let’s look at Missguided for example

Innovation is at the heart of Missguided’s solid digital strategic plan. They realise that their targeted value market sector – “the determined dreamer, stylish professional and cautious creative” all have strong online presences. They took advantage of this. The aim of their 2015 Executive Summary was to ‘elevate the brands positioning, increase sales and endorse the brands core values and messages’. Instead of their marketing team posting aimless status’ and tweets, they filled the consumer with meaningful content which helped improved the image of Missguided.

Their marketing primarily focuses on competitions, celebrity endorsements, guerrilla marketing, web advertising and a cohesive social media campaign. Building the brand’s personality through informal and fun interactions on social media has been a key part of Missguided’s strategy creating a fun, quirky, youthful and above all – affordable – alternative to the online retail experience.

Most importantly, Missguided realise the need for an integrated strategy for both their digital and physical markets, resulting in both components complimenting each other. For example, their Facebook offered a competition to win two VIP tickets to their store opening in Manchester, they showed sneak peeks on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr of their new store’s interior which emulates the brand values projected on their website, and their website also featured a live countdown of the opening of the store.

Within the store itself, digital screens were used to display social media engagement, such as when someone hash tagged a photo of a new purchase, and signs which encouraged customers to follow the brand on Snapchat. Even the writing around the store – “99% unicorn” and “eat, sleep, slay” – mirrors the brand’s playful tone of voice that can be seen across its social platforms.

 

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So what can you do to develop your strategy?

PR Smith’s SOSTAC is an excellent framework for developing aims and goals stemming from a detailed situational analysis which looks at your outside and inside environment. This scan helps you get an advantage over your competitors, whilst keeping your own business focused and efficient. Alongside some of the tools mentioned above, SOSTAC will also help you monitor and control your strategy so that you know what to do if something goes wrong.

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In conclusion, don’t tweet lies – strategise!

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

Destination Social Media

When does social media become more than just another trend for likes, shares and followers? Social media is revolutionising the travel and hospitality industry across the world with sites such as Instagram, Facebook and TripAdvisor, providing a platform for consumers to research their trip or to share their experiences through selfies, check-ins and reviews. It has modernised the consumer’s approach to industry, becoming big enough to encourage thousands of people all over the world to jump on a plane and boost the tourism industry.

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TripAdvisor is one of the world’s largest travel sites with 475 million reviews and opinions covering 7 million businesses and properties worldwide, reaching an average of 390 million people per month. In a survey by TrustYou, 95% of respondents read reviews before booking their trip. This platform provides credible and authentic user generated content, which is changing the face of customer service, in particular how customers make complaints. Often customers voice their frustrations publicly on social media rather than deal with the hassle of phoning the company. Due to this, often complaints go ‘viral’ triggering a response from the business to address the issue.

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Instagram

At six years old, Instagram has 600+million active users monthly and 400+ million users daily. Instagram has built a community of personal users, brands and influencers who share high quality, vibrant photographs, which inspire others to travel. In 2015, Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand, attracted Instagram influencers to the country who captured and shared wanderlust-inducing photographs. Specifically, they brought in American photographer Chris Burkard, who has 1.5 million Instagram followers; his photos received up to 50,000 “likes” each. This strategy saw tourism rise 14% within the town.

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Facebook

With about 1.23 billion daily active users, Facebook is becoming a travel motivator. Often we see our friend’s check-in and post photos of their trip, which in turn you begin to imagine yourself there and soon you have flights booked. In 2011 a survey by Travel Industry Wire found that 52% stated they were inspired to book a trip after seeing friends’ Facebook photos and posts.

Innovation Norway took advantage of Facebook’s increasing popularity in order to promote Norway. They created and executed a 45-day Facebook campaign inviting people to take part in the campaign with a chance to win daily prizes through taking part in a daily competition. This campaign saw Innovation Norway’s Facebook following boost from 12,000 to 31,000 and the traffic to the company website boost 40% year on year.

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Social media has impacted the travel industry massively and often influencing how or where consumers make their travel arrangements as a survey revealed that 92% consumers trust earned media more than any form of advertising.

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://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!

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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!

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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.

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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