The Power of Protest

As a final year student, I am currently writing my dissertation. The topic I chose to explore was Public Relations and Lobbying within the agriculture industry, as the recent news topics sparked my interest as a farmer’s daughter.

 

2015 saw the farming income for Northern Ireland fall from £311.8m to £182.5m, which was largely due to supermarkets and processors driving down farm produce prices. This was not an issue just within Northern Ireland, but throughout the whole of the UK.

 

So to understand why this campaign matters so much to farmers, I will explain the complex system (for myself if nothing else). Dairy farmers milk their cows twice or three times a day 365 days a year, which is collected by a milk tanker (nearly every day) to be taken to the processors where it will be pasteurised for human consumption. The majority of dairy farmers are locked into a contract with these processors and unable to leave. Combining the facts that supermarkets and processors are cutting the prices of milk and the inflation of the prices of fuel, feed and production, farmers are struggling to keep their farms afloat. They can’t stop feeding their cows or harvesting crops as (1) it is cruelty to animals and (2) a farmer’s actions will have a long term effect in how they can run their farm in the future.

Power of protests

Discouraged by this, farmers took to protesting, which sparked the biggest grassroots campaign the farming industry had seen in recent years; partly funded by the Scottish Government who contributed £100,000. This campaign achieved national media coverage and saw the issue fought through social media, peaceful protests and farming coalitions who communicated on behalf of the farmers.

 

SOS Dairy harnessed the full power of the Internet through using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to bring the farmers together and to share the issue with the general public. More than 800 individuals added the SOS Dairy ribbon to their profile photos on Twitter, with hundreds more showing the same support on Facebook and using the #SOSDairy hashtag. During this campaign a video called ‘The #SOSdairy song,’ made up of protest footage, became an Internet hit, gaining over 38,000 hits on YouTube. Through the videos’ popularity, the BBC approached the creator to request he preform it on the radio- enabling them to promote the cause further.

To demonstrate a united industry, the issue saw farm groups set aside their differences to form a coalition between NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, Tenant Farmers Association and the Women’s Food and Farming Union. It also brought together those who relied on the farming community such as farming suppliers, vets and lawyers all over the country. Whilst leaders of the coalitions held talks with the processors and supermarkets to achieve fair prices, the farmers named and shamed the milk processors and supermarkets while carrying out protests throughout the country by obstructing processing plants night after night, to show their strength.

 

Through this campaign major supermarkets backed down by announcing fairer prices for farmers who directly supplied the supermarkets, and processors eventually backed down and in result abandoned their second price cut. A poll carried out by YouGov and The Grocer found that 83% of the public were aware of the protests and 67% stated they think farmers should be paid more, even if it increases the price of milk.

 

Although this campaign achieved what it set out to do, capturing the public interest and winning the support of the consumer, there is still a long way to go for the industry in order to create a sustainable industry where farmers will profit.

 

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/.

And the award goes to…?

One of the main roles of public relations is crisis management. This relates to how you as a business act and respond to a disruptive situation that can damage your reputation. Some key examples of times when crisis management was needed include disasters like the BP oil spill and the infamous Tesco horse meat scandal.

While these were massive environmental and health and safety disasters, a more minor call for crisis management came just a few days ago during the 2017 Oscars. So let’s talk about how they did.

What exactly happened:

So, during the 2017 Oscar ceremony “La La Land” was called to receive the award for Best Picture. The cast took to the stage during the usual applause and began the usual speeches thanking family and everyone involved in the movie. What was then unusual, was the interruption during which Jordan Horowitz, producer of the film, took over the microphone and announced that actually they hadn’t won and called Moonlight to the stage. Warren Beatty who made the false announcement, then explained that the card had read “Emma Stone-La La Land,” and that this had caused the mistake. The whole process was altogether awkward and confusing, made no better by Jimmy Kimmel’s following attempts to lighten the mood.

Who was at fault:

Many media outlets took to placing the blame solely with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway for reading the wrong film. However, later  focus shifted from the presenters to the people in charge of the envelopes containing the results. This responsibility fell to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who are in charge of calculating and distributing the results for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who run the awards ceremony.

It was then discovered that Brian Cullinan, chairman of the US board of PwC, was the one who gave Warren Beatty the wrong card, intended instead to announce Best Actress. As two members of PwC are the only ones to know the results during the ceremony, the blame could be placed entirely with them.

However, there is some speculation that the Academy attempted to alter the entrance of the presenters too close to the results, thereby affecting the flow of the whole process and confusing the PwC representatives.

This suggests that both parties were to blame.

So how did they do:

It took exactly two minutes and twenty five seconds for the mistake to be rectified from the time when the wrong announcement was made. This may not seem like a lot but if we instead say that two members of the cast had time to make heartfelt speeches before they were told something was wrong it comes across as a lot more significant.

Moreover, it then took three hours for PwC to release a statement of apology. While this also may not seem like a monumental amount of time, let’s remember that this event was broadcast live meaning that there was no gap between when the mistake was made and when it was discovered.

We sincerely apologize to “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.

We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

-PwC

This was also three hours of silence compared to the previously very active Twitter accounts of the two PwC representatives; activity that only further suggested that they were not paying attention and careless with their roles of handling the results. This three hours allowed media outlets to start placing blame on all parties including the innocent presenters.

Accountant Brian Cullinan's now deleted tweet which he posted just before the envelope mix up

Only after PwC made the statement accepting all accountability did the Academy issue their own apology to the presenters, cast and fans. This significant gap of three hours during which no comments were made by either PwC or the Academy allowed the media to speculate that neither party wanted to accept responsibility. This simply painted both parties in a negative light, furthering the damage done.

Moreover, the crisis was made worse by the fact that it overshadowed the opportunity for positivity on behalf of the Academy. After last year’s #OscarsSoWhite trend which called for more diversity in the awards, the victory of Moonlight would have been the perfect circumstance to highlight for some much needed positive publicity. The fact that this was overshadowed by the new trend #OscarFail made the crisis all the more damaging.

In conclusion, both parties attempted to manage the crisis separately in order to avoid shouldering the blame. It would have been better dealt with if PwC had accepted responsibility while the Academy brought the focus back to the success of the night. A united front accepting blame immediately but emphasising the positives might have limited even more confusion.

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples

The Super Bowl: The Golden Opportunity

American football, the Halftime Show, and legendary advertisements, a.k.a. the PR dream. Over time the Super Bowl has come to stand as a global attraction, with millions tuning in to watch the game, and more prevalently, to see the elusive adverts and the Halftime Show. Following Super Bowl 51, it is worth examining this annual sporting event as the golden PR opportunity that it is.

It’s that time of year when the big brands battle it out and pump huge amounts of money into the world’s most expensive advertising slots to create content that will grab the US’, and the globe’s, attention. Often cinematic in nature, these adverts become as big a talking point as the game itself, and so the execution needs to be perfect. This year, the adverts were notably rooted in current affairs, with political undertones across all of the brand messages, either to speak out against the current political situation, or to portray themselves as a bipartisan brand. Here’s Budweiser’s offering, which tells the tale of the company’s German co-founder, Adolphus Busch, arriving in America, facing and defeating adversity to set up his brewing company:

And here’s Coca-Cola’s ad, which first aired in 2014, but has the pertinent message, “America Is Beautiful” – perhaps a deliberate contrast to the Trump administration’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan:

Additionally, the Halftime Show in itself has become a platform for PR stunts, with performers trying to out-do the show from the year before with large scale displays of dance routines, flames, fireworks, drones: the works! And it’s no coincidence that they announce a new album or world tour simultaneously. Indeed Beyoncé twice used the Super Bowl stage to launch her  most recent albums and world tours. It’s a formula that works, and it only gets bigger and better every year.

beyonce-superbowl
Beyonce performs during the Super Bowl Halftime show.

With a saturated and noisy marketplace, the Super Bowl is still a surefire hit for reaching the largest amount of people almost instantaneously. With the dominance of social media, and the sporting event being broadcast live around the globe, the Super Bowl is the perfect platform to attract, engage and retain consumers, to generate virality, and to rocket brands, be they companies, products or celebrity performers, into the forefront of global consumers’ minds overnight.

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

Battle of the Christmas Ads

 

Advertising and Public Relations are two very different things. While advertising is a paid announcement shared on various media outlets, PR is a strategic communications process that works on building relationships for the company.

HOWEVER, having said that, when advertising becomes a sort of company tradition it could also be important for the company’s PR as it can help to develop consumer relationships and improve the perception of the company. This is never more relevant than right now with the epic annual battle of the Christmas ads well under way.  So let’s use these as a way to explore how advertising and PR can be linked.

John Lewis:

Let’s just imagine John Lewis didn’t run a Christmas ad next year? What would the consumer response be? Absolute outrage! Christmas would be cancelled and it would be all John Lewis’s fault.  Okay that might be a slight exaggeration but you can be absolutely sure that their reputation would suffer.

From 2007 John Lewis have launched creative Christmas themed advertisements to put their store in the consumer’s mind just before they start to spend. But in 2011 they used their Christmas ad to do so much more when they launched “The Long Wait.”

This ad was the first of theirs to create and follow a story; the story of a young boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. He tried to use magic to move the clocks forward and rushed to sleep on Christmas Eve. Not because he wanted his own presents but because he couldn’t wait to give one to his parents. It didn’t show any of their products and instead focused on creating an emotional connection with their consumers to cement their reputation as a company that understood what really mattered during the holidays.

Now every November consumers wait, with their Christmas jumpers at the ready, for the next ad to send them into a festive frenzy. Many believe that this ad is key in starting off the Christmas season. How can an annual tradition of Christmas ads which makes this company synonymous with festivity, giving and Christmas joy not be seen as an integral part of maintaining their image and relationships with consumers?

Coca-Cola:

I’m sure everyone reading this is well aware of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck ads. I would even be brave enough to say there is no other Christmas ad which so clearly influences a company’s PR activities than this. Started in 1995 the “Holidays are Coming” advert which featured the Coca-Cola Christmas trucks has now been on our screens annually for over twenty years. This advertisement has also gone on to inspire Coca-Cola’s annual PR event known as the Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour in which consumers are invited to come to various cities to watch these iconic Christmas trucks drive by. This ad and the corresponding events have done a lot to develop good relationships with Coca-Cola lovers.

 

However, given that it’s 2016, the year of shock and chaos, now seemed to be as good a time as any to finally make a change to this iconic advert. This year Coca-Cola removed Santa’s wink to the young boy at the end. This has caused havoc on twitter with some fans even considering creating a petition to #bringbackthewink. The fact that this small change could evoke such a passionate response shows that these advertisements have become an important part of many consumers’ Christmases and therefore can have a huge impact on their relationship with and perception of the company.

All’s Fair in Love and Ad Wars:

These two might be the most iconic and renowned, but nowadays it seems that every company can see the value in creating a formal salute to the holidays. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure increasing profit is still the end game here. But companies would be foolish to disregard the importance of that fuzzy feeling consumers get when they watch a doll find a home at Christmas (McDonalds link below). It can create a great sense of connection with the brand and if done right and for long enough like in the case of Coca-Cola and John Lewis, it can inspire positive relationships and even further events.

Some great ads that have caught my eye this year are:

McDonalds

 

Dementia Ad

 

Three Network (sequel to 2015 Christmas Ad)

 

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples