The Rise of Veganism – Is Veganism Taking Over?

The Rise of Veganism – Is Veganism Taking Over?

We are seeing vegan options being added to the menus of most cafes and restaurants, and the introduction of vegan brands to nearly all supermarkets. Some examples include Wicked Kitchen in Tesco, Plant Pioneers in Sainsbury’s and Plant Kitchen in M&S. With over half a million people in the UK pledging to go vegan in January, let’s explore why veganism is taking over? 

First of all, let’s look at the trend of going vegan in January, also known as Veganuary, which has been growing in popularity in recent years. According to charity Veganuary, 582,538 people signed-up to take part in a challenge to go completely vegan in January 2021, compared to 400,000 in 2020 – exceeding the charity’s 2021 target of 500,000. Due to the rising popularity of the challenge, Veganuary drove supermarkets to increase their vegan range with most supermarkets now offering a full section dedicated to plant-based alternatives. For example, in Tesco, their meat alternative range is based at the end of one of their meat aisles to encourage meat eaters to have a nosey when they reach the end of the aisle and see the alternatives on offer.

But why are people turning vegan? The BBC reported on a survey carried out by Mintel of 1,040 British adults and asked the reasoning behind people eating less meat and I have included the results below:

49% of those interested in cutting down on their meat intake said they would for health reasons, with over 50% of those who are non-meat eaters stating their biggest reason is for animal welfare.

You can read more on this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44488051

In addition, a growing number of celebrities are announcing they’re vegan including Beyonce, Madonna, Ariana Grande and Zac Efron. There are also a number of YouTube stars and influencers are also vegan including Lucy Watson and Fearne Cotton. 

The popularity of video app TikTok has also encouraged increasing numbers of young people to make the change to veganism as there are plenty of videos of recipes to illustrate how easy it is to make that change. If you want to explore how TikTok is doing this then read this great article from the Independent explaining how vegan influencers are helping others to make that change: https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/sustainable-living/vegan-based-tik-tok-plantboiis-b1795724.html

So, is veganism taking over? Veganism is definitely gaining more popularity with over 580,000 people across the UK pledging to go vegan for at least a month this year. Furthermore, research on plant-based meat alternatives conducted by investment bank UBS found that the number of people who tried plant-based meat alternatives increased from 48% to 53% between March and November last year. Of those who tried plant-based alternatives, approximately half said that they would continue to eat them at least once a week.

The amount of people taking on the vegan lifestyle in the UK is increasing every year and exceeding expectations. Would you be interested in going vegan? With the growing number of vegan options, it’s probably easier than you think!

Niamh Deeny is currently on her work placement year for BSc Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

“Bob Geldof’s Progressive PR Skills Were Alive With The Sound Of Live Aid”

“Bob Geldof’s Progressive PR Skills Were Alive With The Sound Of Live Aid”

In 1984, after watching a ten-minute BBC news report about a horrific famine in war-torn Ethiopia, the Irish rock musician Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof decided that he just had to travel there; and what he witnessed changed his life.

It’s hard to imagine now, but the civil war in Ethiopia was the longest-running war of the 20th century, and not only had fighting displaced millions of people from their homes, it also left 30 million people directly affected by famine. At this stage, the famine had killed hundreds of thousands of people, and it was expected to kill millions more.

Bob once said in an interview “There was a town in northern Ethiopia, where literally hundreds of thousands of people just sat down to die. It still resonates with me, and I sat there, very disturbed, and my wife had tears in her eyes. We just had had a little girl, and I was outraged by what I saw.  I thought it’s not enough to put a pound in the charity box. This requires something of the self.”

To help the starving in Africa, Geldof decided to assemble a group of pop and rock stars to record a Christmas single written by himself and Ultravox singer Midge Ure, which was released on 3rd December 1984. It was the best-selling single in Britain to that date and raised more than $10 million.

Live Aid Concert Stage (Photo by Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The crisis continued in Ethiopia, and with neighbouring Sudan also stricken with famine, Bob wanted to raise more money and increase awareness for the situation, so he suggested creating a super concert. In just ten weeks, Live Aid was staged, and the line-up featured more than 75 acts.

Almost everyone in the eighties who witnessed the event, which took place simultaneously at in London and Philadelphia, no doubt understands just how impressive and momentous the double event was. Let’s drill down on some details here.

The “superconcert” lasted for a total of 16 hours, was globally linked by satellite to 95% of the televisions on earth, to 1.2 billion viewers in 110 nations. And during the broadcast, over 40 of those nations held live telethons to raise more money. This was the most ambitious rock concert of its time. The Guardian, has even labelled Live Aid as being “the prototype for a new style of celebrity activism – from Richard Gere campaigning for Tibet to the benefit concerts for the Asian tsunami.”

Impressive, right? So how did he manage to do this?

Progressive PR

Bob Geldof engaged his attention and energy on the publics he knew he would need to affect change i.e., government agencies, private philanthropists, the performers that participated to both the single and the concert, and the general public.

(Photo by Staff/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Famous people have a long history of political involvement (even The Rock couldn’t stop himself) and using music culture and media together to promote social awareness is not a new concept either. Bob Geldof used the power of music to engage his audience and managed to convince millions of individuals across the globe to care about people living an existence so far removed from their own norms, values and beliefs.

The famine had already been picked up by the mainstream media for a few years before Bob created Live Aid, so there was a lot of footage in existence, and this enabled Bob to use these videos to influence high-profile entertainers to commit to a project of this type. From this, many of the ‘high-profile famous publics’ travelled to the affected areas to record a series of videos which provided the visual evidence and encouraged the millions of viewers to donate.  Geldof, according to PR Distribution, in many ways, “wrote the manual on PR for progressive projects”. He even managed to get Phil Collins to play one set in London before jetting on a Concorde over to New York to play his solo set.

Nowadays, using ‘intense’ imagery has become synonymous with internet and television charity appeals, however in 1985, it was an innovative decision. During the concert, after David Bowie’s set, a short video was played on the large screen, which highlighted the horrendous conditions the people of Africa were living in. The pictures of the starving children shocked both the crowds at the live gigs, and the rest of the world. As soon as the film ended, the donations came in at over £20k every 60 seconds. Nothing like this had ever been witnessed before and this response from the public ensured the image formula would be used many times over. 

Poignantly, Bob Geldof believes something like Live Aid could never happen now. In a recent interview for CBC he suggests that music is no longer the central spine of our culture, as it was then, so using music as the instrument of change is no longer conceivable. 

He says “The web has broken down the world into individualism and that’s easy for authoritarians to use. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be Greta Thunberg and stand in front of your school silently and just say no. That’s still there. The possibility to steer your world in the direction you need to live in, that’s there, but it ain’t this cyber wanking into the digital void.”

He continues “We’ve reduced ourselves. The 21st century is reductionist and it’s using the great tool of reductionism, the Internet, and we need to know how to use this thing, which is the most powerful tool ever invented.”

Geldof may or may not have known then that he was a trailblazer for progressive PR, but one thing is for sure, he is a genuinely compassionate human.

In a recent interview he said, “to die of want in a world of surplus is not only intellectually absurd but is economically illiterate and, of course, morally repulsive.”

And whether you like him or loathe him, it is hard to argue with that.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates

Harry Styles – Watermelon, Sugar, Hello…

Harry Styles – Watermelon, Sugar, Hello…

The journey from going in One Direction to leading his own.

Originally auditioning as a solo artist on X-Factor, 2010, Simon Cowell created the boyband One Direction and Harry Styles became one fifth of it. During their reign, they broke multiple billboard records, some previously held by the Beatles, and soared in international fame.  That was up until 2016 when they eventually drew to a hiatus.

We have seen that old cliché happen time and time again – A band becomes famous, some members think they can do it alone, some members hearts are no longer in it, they split, and we see who champions as an individual solo artist – Beyoncé, Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake come to mind.

Even at that, success as an individual celebrity does not necessarily mean achieving success as a solo musician. Take for example Victoria Beckham, she has cultivated a luxury fashion line in her name and has recently signed a, “£16 million Netflix series, offering exclusive insight into their lives.” (Coke 2020).  Mel B also remains as a regular TV personality and the other three former spice girls? ‘Goodbye my friend’…

Thus, for those who survive the split, it is not merely the result of divination or pure talent, but rather a calculated effort to craft an individual image for the former band member. This image is crafted through a series of P.R. stunts and rebirth of Harry Styles has been no exception.

Striking while the iron is still hot, Styles launched a debut album in 2017, followed by an international tour that embedded the slogan, “Treat people with kindness.” In support of this message he donated, “$1.2 million of the profits to 62 charities, which included Time’s Up, Help Refugees and the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.” (Bugler 2020). He is a humble personality and that is reflected in his good doings.

Another notable moment of his P.R. journey aligns with the designer Gucci and their 2019 campaign that embraced elements of the indie/hippie culture with odes to fluid sexuality and youth. This video visualises his transition from a teenage pop icon to a reborn man, carving out his own identity.

Am I personally biased toward the teenage crush that I haven’t outgrown? Absolutely, (maybe a little bit), not. Although I can appreciate the effort that has went into evolving his P.R. image, he has managed to stay relevant and grown alongside the milestones of his fanbase, e.g.) the journey through sexuality and figuring oneself out.

He has challenged traditional gender norms through numerous P.R. fashion statements, e.g.) The 2019 Met Gala:

And his recent cover on Vogue embodied further elements of femininity:

I think it would be insular to consider these P.R. activities as simple tactics to gain more attention, he reinforces this notion in a 2019 interview with Lamont, stating,

“I think it’s a very free, and freeing, time. I think people are asking, ‘Why not?’ a lot more. Which excites me. It’s not just clothes where lines have been blurred, it’s going across so many things. I think you can relate it to music, and how genres are blurring…”

Sexuality, too, I say.

“Yep,” says Styles. “Yep.”

Styles nods. “Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No.”

It is a very liberating time for Harry Styles, and he aligns with current cultural trends towards liberation and individualism. His fashion cover with Vogue however, was criticized by US political figure Candice Owens as “bring back manly men.” And in retaliation, he sarcastically reposted the slogan in an Instagram post,

Although he handled the attack on his masculinity with great composure, this notion of famous solo artists challenging gender fashion norms isn’t something new. The former example of Harry Styles’ Instagram post is eerily reminiscent of this David Bowies image,

Many celebrities have used fashion to craft their unique identity and it offers many complementary P.R. activities. Harry Styles has gained much publicity regarding his image and he has stayed relevant in recent news by featuring on GQ’s Best-Dressed Men Of The Year list in 2020.  

As well as being chart topping musician and influential fashion icon, Styles has also managed to gain regular appearances on talk shows, Saturday Night Live, The Graham Norton and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Oh, and don’t forget that acting role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Harry Styles has managed to gain some sort of monopoly in each of these sectors and his legitimacy as an individual, separate from his boyband image, has been achieved.

This transition is difficult to achieve and a wholistic P.R. strategy that incorporates a range of industries for support is needed.  Lee 2020, States, “The transition from boy band member to adult man solo artist is not an easy one. The scramble to assert oneself as a legitimate, relevant musician can be full of pressure, and not everyone walks away with equal amounts of fame and success.” This is evident in her article, “2 Winners and 3 Losers from One Direction’s Solo Albums.”

Harry Styles has arguably risen as the most successful artist following the split and I believe this to be the result of talent, complemented with a selective P.R. strategy that has allowed him, “the rare ability to disappear for months, but, when he returns, it is with just as much momentum as when he left.” Bugler (2020).

Sara Lynch is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University – interning with Ulster University’s Access, Digital and Distributed Learning department. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Arsenal Football Club vs. Mesut Özil and Gunnersaurus: A Relationship Gone Sour.

Arsenal Football Club vs. Mesut Özil and Gunnersaurus: A Relationship Gone Sour.

You may have heard recently that Arsenal Football Club have made the decision to relieve club mascot ‘Gunnersaurus’ of his duties, after 27 years of being with the club. As Arsenal are one of the biggest football clubs in world with an incredible amount of financial backing and turnover, this decision did not go down well with Arsenal fans or the general public.

How can a football club spending £350k a week on a player who keeps the bench warm justify sacking a fan favourite mascot, who would be on a much more humble wage packet? That player in question, is German World Cup winner Mesut Özil and this is where this story gets very interesting, going much deeper than it initially seems.

Mesut Özil joined Arsenal from Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2013 and immediately made an impact on and off the pitch. As well as being recognised for being world class on the pitch, Mesut has been praised for many of the things he has done off the pitch as well. He boasts 25 million Twitter followers and 22.2 million followers on Instagram. This is in comparison to Arsenal, his employer, which has 16.4 million followers on Twitter and 18.4 million on Instagram. His social media presence is massive, and there have been many occasions which he has used his large platform for good causes.

In 2014, Mesut Özil was announced as an ambassador for the ‘Big Shoe’ initiative which uses the FIFA World Cup as inspiration to fund operations for young people around the world. The 2014 World Cup took place in Brazil, and while the tournament was ongoing and Mesut was on the pitch winning the World Cup for his country, he funded 11 operations for children in Brazil the host nation. He promoted this project across his social media to raise awareness of this charity and the cause. Most recently, he has helped 40 children get life-changing surgery in Myanmar, Southeast Asia through this charity. This charity work gave Mesut lots of good publicity and was well backed by many football fans online who praised Mesut for his generosity.

However, this story begins to turn sour when in December 2019, Mesut used his platform to raise awareness of a much more different issue, the mistreatment of the Uighur Muslims in China. He released a statement across all of his social media accounts to raise awareness of this issue and was quoted as stating that the Uighur Muslims in China were “warriors who resist persecution”. Mesut himself is a Muslim and this was an issue clearly close to his heart, however this did not go down smoothly with the Chinese population or his employers at Arsenal.

China immediately reacted by pulling one of Arsenal’s games from the state TV schedule and some Chinese fans even burnt his jerseys in protest. The most significant statement however, came from Arsenal who made it clear that these were the views of Mesut and not of the football club by stating the club “always adheres to the principles” of not getting involved in politics on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Arsenal’s statement was an attempt to keep China on their good side as at the end of the day, Arsenal are a business with millions of Chinese fans and to cut off that revenue stream would be quite idiotic from the outside looking in. However I believe there comes a time to stand up for what is right and in this instance, Mesut is in the right. This is a crisis I would not have been aware of if it were not for the Germans statement and I was not alone in the view that Arsenal’s “statement” if you can even call it that, was very disappointing.

This all coincided with Özil dropping out of the team as the club took on a new first team manager. It’s widely accepted that this is due to his lack of form when he was playing, however is it worth questioning whether or not these public disagreements off the pitch has contributed to his lack of playing time? I think it’s possible, especially as this PR battle did not end here.

We are all now well aware of the shocking events that took place in America in which George Floyd was killed by an American police officer, which resulted in the more prominent promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Premier League and all of its clubs backed this movement by displaying Black Lives Matter on the back of jerseys and players taking a knee before each game as the league kicked off again during the Covid-19 pandemic. Arsenal were very vocal in their support of this movement with lots of content on social media tagging #BlackLivesMatter.

All of this left Mesut scratching his head as when it came to the Muslim crisis in China, why was he was left on his own? Özil was supportive of the BLM movement and this is something him and the club agrees on however it must have been bittersweet to think that after their reply to his statement in December, they’ve now got involved in this as heavily as they have. He did an interview with sports outlet The Athletic and was disappointed in Arsenal and was quoted as saying “I have given a lot to Arsenal, on and off the pitch, so the reaction was disappointing. They said they don’t get involved in politics but this isn’t politics and they have got involved in other issues.”

This brings me onto the most recent news and the latest in this PR battle between the high profile star and his football club, beloved mascot Gunnersaurus. The man in the suit is called Jerry Quy and has held the job of being Arsenal’s mascot for 27 years, however he is the latest Arsenal staff member to fall victim to the Covid-19 sackings. He along with 55 others have found themselves redundant as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. These redundancies have not been received well by football fans as this is a football club who can afford to pay around £1 million in wages to players and coaches each week, but can’t afford to keep low level staff who are on much lower wages.

The latest and most high profile sacking however was Gunnersaurus. This already was giving the club a bad name, but then Mesut Özil decided he needed to do something about it. A day after the news broke, Özil released a statement on his social media “offering to reimburse Arsenal with the full salary of our big green guy as long as I will be an Arsenal player so Jerry can continue his job that he loves so much”. A very classy move by Özil which was applauded by many across football including young superstar Kylian Mbappe.

However, how bad does this make Arsenal look? Having a player cover the cost of your mascot’s wages? And of all players, it’s Mesut who has publicly has disagreements with the club before? It does not shine Arsenal in a good light at all, once again. Some may be of the opinion that Özil is doing this so publicly as a way to embarrass the club as payback for the previous issues between himself and the club. There are rumours that Arsenal did plan on giving Jerry his job back once fans were allowed back in to the stadiums and this had all been blown out of proportion however there has been no official word of this as of yet.

A relationship that started so rosy between Arsenal and Mesut Özil has soured in recent months and has the potential to end as a PR battle between both parties with Mesut’s contract due to expire in 2021. So far I would say that Mesut has won this battle of the statements as his bravery to use his platform to speak up on these issues is to be applauded. Arsenal may not have come out of this looking the best that they could, but they could still have the last say on this if they decide to bring Jerry back. At the moment it’s all up in the air about Mesut’s future at Arsenal Football Club but I also doubt that this is the last PR war the two have against each other.

Phelim Sweeney is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

Is All Press Still Good Press in an Era of ‘Cancel Culture’

Is All Press Still Good Press in an Era of ‘Cancel Culture’

I’ m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “All press is good press even bad press” before. And if not, it basically means as long as your name is in the press, your being spoken about.

But in the age of ‘Cancel Culture’ can this still be the case?

Cancel Culture seems to have taken over the internet, you never really know what who’s is getting cancelled next…

But let’s begin with what ‘Cancel Culture’ is; it is when those who are in the public eye are denounced by the society that follow them, for making racist, sexists or just generally offence remarks. We have entered a whole new era with ‘woke’ audiences, who have decided that they are not letting celebs and influencers get away with offensive remarks or actions scott free.

It can happen in an instance, one-minute people are using your song in every other tiktok the next it’s like it’s disappeared out of thin air, because your racist comments from online chat rooms where found. (Doja Cat).

But can Cancel Culture have a serious impacted on a person’s career?

Many celebrities have faced the raft of cancel culture between 2019-2020. As the internet continues to expand and our society becomes less tolerant towards racists and homophobe’s, there is no were left to hide. It seems celebrities past comments and mistakes are being found one by one. While some have made a recovery from their time in cancellation, others have lost job opportunities, followings and the publics respect.  

Kevin Hart

A great example of Cancel Culture damaging a person’s career is Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart made the decision to step down as the Oscars host in 2018, due to backlash from old tweets from 2011 making offensive homophobic jokes. Hart refused to make any more apologies about the topic but insisted that he would step down to avoid any distraction from the event. However, this is not worse a case scenario. While he may have to step down from his Oscars role, since the incident Kevin Hart has still managed to maintain a successful career and has appeared in many films.

Shane Dawson

If your looking for worst case scenario, look no further than YouTuber Shane Dawson. Dawson has participated in many YouTube drama and feuds over the years. But the nail in the coffin for Shane Dawson, was the old videos of him making inappropriate jokes towards a young 11-year-old Willow Smith and videos of him doing blackface. The online community decided that they were done with his actions, Shane lost a million subscribers in the two weeks following the controversy, according to Social Blade and YouTube demonetized three of Shane Dawson’s YouTube channels. From July 2020-Late October 2020, Shane Dawson wasn’t heard of and with his returned to YouTube video, Dawson decided not to speak about any of the previous controversary. So, for now there is no telling whether or not Dawson’s career will ever make a great recovery.

A New Cancellation Platform?

These days, the press is not the younger generations main source of news, especially when hearing about the latest scandal. Social media is. Tiktok whilst mostly being a platform for funny videos and 60 second dances, has recently been took over by cancel culture. It’s no longer the public using this platform to call out and cancel influencers and celebrity. Famous TikToker’s and Youtubers, are using this platform to cancel out each other.

Charlie D’Amelio’s, a 16-year-old TikToker with a huge following of 95million as of November 2020, has recently been a target of a tiktok cancellation/call out. A short clip of D’Amelio was aired, where she was seemingly complaining about her food made by a private chef and not being at 100 million followers yet, spark angry amongst Tiktok users. However, this situation was then blown up by another huge TikToker Trisha Paytas decided to call D’Amelio out herself. This act resulted in Charlie D’Amelio getting tones of hate, death threats and 1 million followers. This has also led to what seems to be a cancellation war between the D’Amelio’s, Paytas and Youtuber James Charles, who called Trisha out for her actions.

So, is all press still good press?

Personally it’s a no from me. The public are now watching celebrities every move, it’s almost like people are waiting for them to trip up, say a word they shouldn’t, for the chance to take them down. And the crying apology videos are becoming less and less sympathetic as time goes on. Not to say there’ll never be a recovery from a public cancellation. But any Celebrity who may find themselves in the midst of a cancelling situation, is going to need to give their publicists one hell of a pay rise.

Keela Costello is a third year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford, you may know him as footballer who plays for Manchester United and England, however over the last year he has shown us he is so much more than just your average footballer. Time and time again he’s shown everyone he is a man of the people, wanting to push for better, wanting to change young people’s lives.

I’m not the biggest fan of football but I will watch a game here or there, what I am a fan of is celebrities using their influential status for the better. Marcus Rashford has been doing just that and it’s such an amazing thing to see, he is setting an example for young people everywhere and also for his fellow footballers to follow suit. More recently during COVID-19 he has been relentlessly working on helping end child food poverty. In the month of October, he helped businesses who would be providing free meals for those entitled to it during school get the recognition they deserve while also providing publicity for businesses who were willing to help when the Government wasn’t. Following on from this Marcus worked with Food Foundation and created a petition to get the Government to provide a funding package to help alleviate child food poverty. This petition was signed by over 1 million people leading to the Government implementing this and providing those suffering from child food poverty to get the funding they rightly deserve. Due to these outstanding contributions Marcus was awarded an MBE to recognise his work. Marcus has become an ambassador for FareShareUK and since then there has been a huge spike in donations, in 2019 there was £800,000 worth of donations, whereas now in 2020 there are £1.28 Million Donations, since Marcus started fundraising. This includes other celebrities and big brands getting involved to raise money and donate food for the cause, these celebrities and brands include Matt Lucas, who is releasing a Christmas single and donating all proceeds to FareShareUK, Russell Brand who is volunteering in the local food banks delivering food to children in need and McDonalds who have donated over 5 Million meals, continuing to do so until 2021. These are just a few amazing examples that have been influenced by Marcus to make a difference.

Macmillan Children’s Books have recently Tweeted out that they will be publishing a book called “YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the BEST You Can Be”, this book is by Marcus Rashford himself and is all about helping those aged 11-16 “how to develop resilience, navigate adversity and discover the unstoppable power of their own voice”. Another step in the right direction for Marcus, he is encouraging the younger generation to never give up and always strive for excellence in everything you do, the book sounds like it’s going to provide a powerful message. Marcus has also created a book club for those who can’t afford books and to allow kids an escape from reality through reading. I think this is an excellent thing to have set up as I feel because of advanced technology reading has become lost.

I really don’t think there is much more you could ask of Marcus as he is constantly pushing the boat out and trying to make the world a better place, but if there’s anything more he can do, just know he will. Through all the bad press he’s gotten over the years, for simply trying to make a change, or buying himself a new home, he never seems to give up hope and won’t stop until he achieves his goals both on and off the pitch.

My Final thoughts
With Marcus Rashford helping children across the UK and managing to keep his incredible form going with Manchester United, this should inspire fellow athletes and celebrities to help raise awareness and make a change to societal issues that are stopping our younger generations to flourish. If there’s one thing I wish more celebrities would do it would be to let their audience know of charities and foundations they have helped out with or donated to, as it releases the stigma and stereotypes that they don’t use their money for good and it also encourages the general public to donate more as many people are extremely influenced by what their favourite celebrities are doing.

Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

For added support, just chuck a ‘Rock’ at it.

Years ago, before the introduction of social media, we all relied on the information provided to us by media outlets like television, tabloid, newspapers, radio and the like to help us understand the world and form our opinions. In the present day, the reliance on these regulated forms of media may still be important in the formation of public opinion, particularly with the older generations, however it appears that social media has introduced an immediate two-way conversation between celebrities and their fans that never existed until recently; a type of democratisation of a fan club in real-time.

Celebrities crossing over from their usual world of popularity into the political sphere to use their huge fan-base to help influence the outcome of an upcoming election or even to simply make a political statement, is not uncommon.

Marlon Brando in 1973, was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. In his stead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. In protest against the long-standing failure for the USA to honour the treaties it had made with Native American nations and as a proclamation against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in TV and film, she refused the award on Marlon’s behalf. Before this, politics had been pretty much left out of the Oscars, and worryingly for The Academy, on the night, Sacheen’s words were met with a mixture of booing and applause.

This show of ‘political shenanigans’ prompted the Academy, who were fearing a PR disaster, to ban any future award recipients from sending proxies on their behalf. There have been many other occasions where outside politics have taken centre stage at the Oscars. Who can forget Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in 1993, and the fine performance of Michael Moore in 2003. Yes, not exactly politics as such, but certainly showing how one human can have a strong influence on matters.

Meanwhile in politics

In 1966, an actor who starred in such films as ‘The Bad Man’ called Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California and later became the President of the United States. Moving through the years, in 2008, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney openly and loudly endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; as of yet, neither of them have opted run for President, but who knows? During the same campaign, American musician Hank Williams Jr chose to write a song, endorsing Senator John McCain’s campaign.

Chucking A ‘Rock’ At The Election

Recently, on Sunday, Sept. 27 2020, The Rock, a man who certainly knows how to spin his own PR, decided to post a video on Instagram that was far different from anything he had posted before. In his own words, “it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”. He wanted his followers “to vote blue in the 2020 election”. So with an audience of 190 million, he officially endorsed former VP Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.  

His caption read “As a political independent and centrist for many years, I’ve voted for Democrats in the past and as well as Republican. In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.” At the time of the post, The Rock had 198 million followers on Instagram, and with him rumoured to earn up to $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, he has a lot sway in the world of social media.

“it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”

Prior to this post, when The Rock posted content, his millions of adoring fans would applaud him with nothing but kind words and platitudes, however this post changed everything.

A Rolling Rock Obviously Gathers No Moss

Many Trump fans took to his account to leave their comments of dislike, and to praise their man-child of a President. Did it harm his account?

Actually no. It has grown even more, to well over 200 million. So exactly how can we define that success? In votes? In followers? Just how influential was his message in shaping the political landscape? It is near impossible to measure. It’s not like there are statisticians standing outside each polling station waiting to ask every voter questions like “which celebrity influenced your vote”?

Public attitudes.

A recent study by the YouGov-Cambridge Centre concluded that only 14% of British voters think social media is good for society.

In the same study it shows clearly that many voters actually doubt the internet has been positive for political campaigning.

According to another recent study, the USA public attitudes toward political engagement on social media are equally as eye-opening. 42% get involved online with social or political issues that are important to them, while 37% feel that social media offers a place to express their political opinions.

I am not writing this with the suggestion that celebrities should be left out of all political discourse, however I do feel that in a world where celebrities with huge social media reach are role models and supposed policy experts, there is no limit to just much they can influence the shaping of public opinion; particularly with Generation Z.

What about the older citizens? Could older generations start using social media as an online activism tool?  Professor Jen Shradie suggests “Online activism was supposed to be a utopian dream. Rather than rely on big institutions, everyone’s voices were supposed to be heard,” she says. She goes on to suggest that online activism tends to attract the younger generations to engage, not to mention the better educated; and those with the technology and communication skills do tend to get their point across to win online arguments. After all, older generations obviously hold opinions, but many of these may not be getting captured online.

It’s voting time

So, could politically uneducated, yet powerfully influential PR astute celebrities like The Rock be seen as being a potentially dangerous combination in the overall process of forming social opinion within the political sphere? Perhaps, this is a conversation we should be engaging in more often.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates

The Power of PR in Pop Culture

Public Relations surrounds me in my life and, whether I like it or not, influences me.
Pity it only took me three years into a degree to fully understand how much of an impact it has.EO3
The undeniable Queens of publicity stunts- the Kardashians- influence what half the teenage girls in the world are probably buying. We have an image in our heads of who they are and we feel like we personally know them due to the fact that they have spent years creating and building upon it. They have such a strong public image and following that now when they buy a product and show us it on their social media, we believe it’s the best of the best. So why will we so easily believe that Kim K’s new skin brand is all we need to make our life better but still ignore centuries of advice from the more experienced skin specialists. Do people only believe what they want to believe?
There have been some obvious Public Relations horror stories documented over the years in the music industry but the big question is where any of these people or their brand seriously affected or are perceptions of big celebrities and public image something as trivial as gossip and rumors? Here are three major examples of when the person behind the story was too popular to be brought down.

Kanye west

Kanye West has NEVER been one to shy away from speaking his mind and giving his opinion on subjects, even if he is not asked to. The American singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and fashion designer has had his fair share of publicity blunders and bad reactions from fans. Although he is the rap worlds equivalent to Marmite and despised by so many the big questions is,
Does Kanye even care?
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Back in 2009 Kanye west made his first widely controversial debut by interrupting Taylor Swifts speech to accept her MTV award to tell the audience Beyoncé should have won instead…. Ouch. Although this resulted in some huge backlash from the general public and from other celebrities who were at the MTV awards that night it did not affect Kanye’s own sales of his album at the time. So yes, everyone thought what Kanye did was horrible, but they still will listen to and buy his music? For someone with Kanye’s ego, does this really affect him in any way? Probably not due to the fact that it gave him nothing but attention. This started a spiral of PR blunders from Mr. West who has been recorded stating president Bush doesn’t care about black people, that he is in full support of Donald Trump and that he wants to run for President himself. Kanye again came under backlash in the mid 2000’s when he defended Chris Brown for beating his girlfriend. Endless Twitter feuds with celebrities and public figures mean Kanye is never out of the tabloid headlines especially since he is married to Queen Kim K. Dr Phil even went as far as to diagnose him with mental health problems on Television. Despite all of this Kanye will still sell out every tour date he release, lives in a mansion with his multi-millionaire wife and continues to be a successful business man. So is Kanye invincible because no matter what PR disaster comes his way he survives and becomes more successful, or has Kanye created the best image for himself to do whatever he wants and not have to deal with as much back lash because that’s just what people expect of him now. Is he a mad man who doesn’t care or a genius marketing expert who has always known exactly what he is doing?

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was a chart-topping success both as a child with the Jackson five and as a solo artist, so it is easy to see why die-hard fans refuse to see him as anything other than the king of Pop. MJ’s whole life was filled with controversy and publicity blunders but due to the fact he has a following of devoted fans who had watched him grow up he was immune to the bad press. Who else in the world can turn into a different race and carry on as if nothing ever happened? Who else is the world can change their nose, skin and entire face but still receive nothing but love and encouragement from fans who continued to buy all his merchandise and defend him to the death that this was a skin condition and Michael had nothing to do with it.? Nobody else I can think of off the top of my head has got away with such extreme dramatic changes with such ease. Growing up I heard whispered rumors of MJ being involved with young boys but it seemed to be something nobody wanted to speak of until the recent documentary that came out in 2019 called ‘Leaving Neverland.’ This movie on Netflix is the testimony of how two boys were groomed in MJ’s mansion by the man himself. If you heard these types of allegations about your neighbor or relative you would be shocked and appalled and not stop until the truth is uncovered however MJ’s team merely brushed the documentary under the carpet as ‘Fake News’. The movie was met with hostile incredulity from Michaels die hard fans who said the boys were lying for compensation. With such a disputed take on events and many different people’s opinions coming out since his death it still doesn’t change anything and it does not take away his ‘King of Pop’ title. This makes me ask myself, what will?
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R. Kelly
Surviving R. Kelly is a 2019 documentary on Netflix that presents substantial evidence that R. Kelly was having sexual relationships with underage girls. Key witnesses, ex-wives, lawyers, friends and even his brother came forward in the movie to speak about the years and years of horror R. Kelly inflicted on the women in his life. The most shocking part of the documentary was that although the evidence was there this was still seen as a conflicting situation in people’s eyes as they did not want to give up the music and the artist they held so dear in their lives. The evidence against him was so over whelming yet his public image was so strong that R Kelly appeared to be invincible. Every time a story came out or a young girls parents tried to alert the public R Kelly would release another banger that distracted the media and not once during his years of torture and negative headlines did his record sales drop once. That is of course until recently when radio stations across America have refused to play his songs because of the Surviving R Kelly movement. All he had to do was simply re-brand himself and his loyal following would accept everything he said. He changed his image from the Pied-Piper of RnB who sings songs like ‘bump n Grind’ to a spiritual black man singing gospel songs such as I Believe I can Fly.

So, although headlines and stories could be irritating to these celebrities does it actually have any sort of overall effect of their careers or is it just an inconvenience to them?

Emer O’Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – emeroneill29 ; and Facebook Emer O’Neill

Feuds: Easy Press or PR Nightmare?

We all love a good argument. The drama, the intrigue, taking sides; it’s all fascinating. But, when there is a public feud between celebrities all of these aspects are multiplied. We love to know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about who said what, who did they say it to, who was actually involved. It’s sometimes even more interesting to see who gets themselves involved. But, do these feuds provide easy press coverage for both parties? Do they prove to be beneficial for both sides? And what happens when your dirty laundry is aired all over the internet for everyone to see?

Now celebrity feuds are nothing new and the Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Feuds have been happening in the celebrity world for as long as anyone can remember, the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford which began in 1935 was so iconic it has since had its own dedicated series documenting the events. Since the likes of Twitter and Instagram were obviously not around in 1935 the two were creative in how they played out their feud in the press. Without their own personal outlets to voice their opinions, the feud centered around statement given by the two in newspapers, something we could not imagine today with the rise of social media. At the peak of their feud when Bette Davis was married to the CEO of Pepsi, Joan had a Coca Cola machine in her dressing room, probably the sassiest thing to happen in 1935. Joan however did not fare as well out of the feud as what Bette Davis did, her action got her branded as petty and cruel. It also destroyed her friendship with Bette as it was assumed that Joan, as Bettes friend knew of her attraction to the man in question.

Over the years, since the scandal of 1935, celebrity feuds have been played out quite differently than the tactics of Bette and Joan. On the whole they are still fuelled by statements given by the opposing parties, but they are mainly focussed on Twitter and Instagram. 

The Kanye West and Taylor Swift feud started on live TV, who could forget that acceptance speech for best album. From then the feud escalated. Kanye did apologise, but took the apology back and added more fuel to the fire by using Taylor’s name in his song famous. Kanye was very vocal across social media, something his PR team must have been absolutely thrilled about. But that didn’t stop the world being fascinated by the argument. With Team Kanyes and Team Taylors firmly established the feud became interactive on twitter with the world voicing their opinions in the matter. With 10 years passed since the feud was ignited, will these two put their differences aside and finally make up? Or will they make for more celeb news in the future? The exposure for both sides could really be considered as invaluable.

Celebrity feuds bring a reality to the saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad press?’. No topic is left untouched when it comes to a feud no matter how personal. Feuds can bring celebs to the forefront of the media even when they are considered to be minor on the celeb scene. 

No feud is more prevalent in this than the emotional feud that erupted between Khloé Kardashian and Jordyn Woods at the beginning of last year. With Jordyn being accused of using her friendship with the entire Kardashian family to boost her own career, she was slated for admitting to kissing Khloés baby daddy Tristan Thomas. Jordyn did not come out of this feud unscathed however. Khloé very publicly accused her of a user, and a liar. She was also cut off from the whole Kardashian family. Jordyn also lost a huge following on her social media accounts as a result of the allegations, despite her attempt to make amends with the Kardashian tribe by doing a media interview. Khloé however, did not receive the same backlash for her actions, which she received some hate for her tweets she did not receive the same amount of hate as what Jordyn did and was relatively praised for how she handled the entire situation. But, are we surprised that this feud started days before Khloé stepped out at a launch event for PrettyLittleThing?

On the other hand to personal feuds which start in the public eye, there are some feuds which could be settled behind closed doors. The now infamous instagram post from Coleen Rooney exposing Rebekah Vardy could easily have been settled in a text message, however Coleen decided to expose the mole in Rebekahs staff to the whole of Instagram and Twitter. Neither Coleen or Rebekah are known for much more than being married to footballers, so this has massively boosted both parties images. Coleen has, of course, come out the better of the two in this case. 

The media coverage of celebrity feuds has become a focal point of our daily entertainment news feeds. It seems nowadays that celebs are not worried if the press they are getting is bad press as long as they are being considered a talking point in the daily trending pages of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All of this press equates into searches, views and likes for the participants involved.

So, is involving yourself in a feud with someone more famous than you really worth the hassle for a little bit of press?

Niamh Magee is a second year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Twitter: niamhmagee_ and Instagram: neevmagee

My Top Favourite Campaigns!

Ever since I started to study PR and started to understand the effort that goes into creating a PR and marketing campaign, I have gained an appreciation for a campaign that can make me stop and think!

For me, the campaigns I remember the most are those were companies use their platforms to highlight the social issues happening all around the world to gain consumers attention to the social issues as well as the product they are promoting.  These campaigns are always very controversial and inspiring, social media however allows everyone to post their opinions and views without focusing on the issues being promoted. Campaigns are becoming increasing more difficult to promote as consumers are always finding ways to avoid watching or listening to ads, which requires companies to work harder than ever to gain our attention.

Here are a few of my favourite Campaigns that focus on social issues:

Nike

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

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Like many, I didn’t really understand the sacrifice that Kaepernick made when taking a knee during an NFL game, it wasn’t until I seen the Nike campaign that I actually researched what it all actually meant. Nike took a stance on a social issue for their 30th anniversary campaign, the campaign featured former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Kaepernick took a knee during a pregame playing of the American national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice America, as a result of this he has not been signed by another team. This caused outrage among many people including President Trump who attacked the advert ‘’I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it.’’

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Many went as far as to burn or cut the Nike logo off their products in solidarity with their country, many felt it was unpatriotic and incited rage among consumers.. However, the campaign actually increased Nikes stocks by 5%.

Following this controversial campaign, Nike also launched a campaign featuring women in sports.

 

‘Dream Crazier’

Nike also released a campaign focusing on ‘crazy’ women in sport. This campaign worked to redefine what it means to be a ‘crazy’ woman and remove the negative connection of the word. It focuses on female athletes who have worked to break down barriers, to inspire the next generation of female athletes.

It features tennis champion Serena Williams who speaks throughout the campaign as she has personal experience of being called over emotional. She was questioned by both the media and social media when she returned to the sport after giving birth to her daughter.  Throughout history women have always been seen to be inferior to men within sport, to this day these negative stereotypes still apply.

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I have always appreciated Nike’s ability to tackle the most controversial issues without worrying how it will affect their brand but focusing more on bringing attention to issues that they support. Nike founder Phil Knight, said “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”

Jigsaw

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Jigsaw is a luxury British Fashion clothing and accessories retailer, that took a stand on immigration with their ‘Heart Immigration’ manifesto which challenged the idea that  anything or anyone 100% British.

NM24This comes at a time when no one knows what is in store for us in regard to Brexit and what this means for immigration. It focuses on the idea that is nothing is ever completely British, it is a little of this and a little of that. This was done exceptionally well by working aside ancestry UK to show how diverse fashion is as ‘British style is not 100% British. In fact, it’s just as diverse as we are’. It received a lot of support from social media as well as critiques who felt that it is not the brands place to speak on such a controversial issue.

Are we ever just one thing, if you look within your family or friend group are they a mixture of different nationalities or all one? I don’t believe any of us are just one. By using none traditional ways of promoting there brand they made me click into their campaign and look at the clothes in a more in-depth way than I would a brand who just use the same pretty pictures with pretty clothes as everyone else.

Gillette

It is  impossible to not know what the ‘me too’ movement is unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years. Gillette is just one of many brands who had to change their stance. They changed their tagline from ”The best a man can get”, replacing it with ”The best men can be”.

As a well-known men’s brand, Gillette challenged sexism, the dangers of toxic masculinity and the importance of setting a good example for boys. Throughout the ad, it shows examples of cyber bullying, sexual harassment and mansplaining. The advert also highlights the proliferation of the phrase “boys will be boys” as a means of excusing harmful or violent behaviour exhibited by young boys.

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This ad has been praised as being ‘pro humanity’ as opposed to ‘anti-male’. Actor Terry Crews supported the campaign ‘I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”

Throughout the ad, there was many examples of ways for men to improve the negative stereotype surrounding them following such a huge #metoo movement, I felt it was a very well thought out campaign that used the timing of the #metoo movement to their advantage. This is only one step they have take to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man. As a company they have promised to donate $1m a year for three years to non-profit organisations with programs “designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation”.

Piers Morgan tweeted ‘I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this is absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away’. Does he really think anyone cares about his opinion?

Project 84: Calm

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Did you know that 84 men every week commit suicide? It is one of the leading causes of death among men in the UK. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) started a conversation about male suicide On World Mental Health Day, by creating 84 sculptures standing on top of This morning Studios in London.

NM20On the projects websites there are names and details of each of the men, who stories were told by those close to them. It shows that no matter where you’re from, what age or race you too can struggle. This campaign was implemented to put pressure on the government to make a change, this was achieved by the first UK suicide prevention minister being appointed. This campaign raised awareness for a every growing issue within the UK with  powerful message in a dignified way.

 

I can’t wait to see what campaigns are coming in 2020, as I embark on a carer in PR myself.

Niamh McNally is a final year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @NiamhMc_Nally