COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Effects from the year will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for years to come as every business has to adapt to the “new normal”. There is no business that has escaped unaffected. Therefore, businesses of every size globally have been forced to adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges this year has thrown at them. For many, this has been made possible thanks to the help of PR.

Here is just 4 reasons why PR is invaluable to businesses at the time of a crisis such as COVID19: 

  1. To Produce a Crisis Management Plan

Let’s face it, no one could have ever predicted a global pandemic and international lockdown. Coronavirus has brought new issues no one could have ever imagined having to face. However, a crisis management plan in place may have outlined the ways in which to overcome challenges in the event of the business having to temporarily close or reduce output for whatever reason. 

Now, more than ever, businesses need to put in place a plan or evaluate their current one to reduce crisis impact in future. With lives and livelihoods at stake, a crisis management plan simply cannot be overlooked. 

2. To Establish Trust and Integrity 

Inevitably, the global pandemic has created mass distrust. A good PR strategy can instil a  reputation of trustworthiness and credibility for a brand so that gradually consumers will trust the brand without question. 

One way of doing this is through a macro/micro-influencer. An influencer is a powerful tool to gain credibility. However important it is for the blogger to be admired and trusted, most of all the brand and influencer relationship must be genuine, otherwise it will have the opposite effect if consumers sense a false association or a feeling that the influencer doesn’t even use the businesses products/services. 

3. To Maintain a Positive Online Relationship

During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever before to maintain a relationship with consumers at home. Pre-pandemic business-consumer relationships have diminished especially for businesses that had no online presence or did not fully engage with consumers. 

As society becomes more physically isolated, engaging online with consumers will make them feel more unified in an online community. It provides a safe space where they can maintain a personal relationship to the brand in a time of so much tragedy and negativity. 

Many brands are using their online platform to spread messages of hope and the recurring theme of “stay safe” or “stay at home” which consumers engage well with when brands show they are connected and they care. 

4. To Promote Success

After time it can be extremely beneficial to promote how well you’ve responded to issues caused by COVID19. For example, according to Deloitte (2020), 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.

Brands who highlight their success with steps they have taken on their part to control the virus or simply their role in “doing the right thing” are seen as more genuinely caring by consumers. For example, advertising store closures, social distancing measures, hand sanitising stations and new business practices not only provide information but show they are committed to the protection of the community.

Aveen Moore is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

2020 will always be a year that will be etched in every single one of our minds forever. A year that has tested every single individual and as the saying goes “it’s in time of adversity that we meet the real person”. That is a saying that we can truly relate to this year, in the extreme challenges that Covid-19 has brought us. We have seen in the actions of our supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ the real person and morals of the person and in terms of politics, the parties and people that are supposed to be leading our country. 

We have seen this in our own country, that a deadly virus that put the health and future of our constituents in danger, the political leaders could still not abolish the infamous tags of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This came in the most direct way of Sinn Fein following the actions of our Counterparts in Dublin, whilst the DUP following the actions of just across the water.  Either way many could argue that they have failed to lead with any sense of logic or integrity, coming with the latest inability to reach a decisive decision over the recent ‘circuit breaker’. 

The PR of the political parties in this country has taken a dent, as would have been an invaluable opportunity to portray a level of togetherness and solidarity and to show how much we have moved on. Instead, the pandemic has shown the same old attitudes of old with Jim Allister’s “Dungannon park” comments, Edwin Poots comments about “Covid-19 being prominent in Nationalist areas” and Sinn Fein accusing the DUP of “wasting time”. 

Although, the actions of our own political leaders have been detrimental to the PR to political parties, we have not been on our own which may of some comfort.  Just over the water, Boris Johnsons chief advisor Dominic Cummings travelled 260 miles to self-isolate with his family throwing into disarray all the Governments previous efforts and all self-sacrifice that people had made. This was an action that damaged the reliability of the British government  

It wasn’t just the integrity and morals of our political parties that we learned about during this pandemic, major business owners and worldwide companies also made error of judgements giving us all an insight into their true values.  Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) was branded one of the villains of the Covid-19 pandemic after he laid some of his staff off unpaid.  It was a highly unpopular move and one that was branded an “avoidable PR disaster”.  Richard Fuller, the Tory when describing the Richard Branson sage and when talking about business owners at this time in general stated “Big or small—in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.”  This is a very powerful message that demonstrates that actions taken at this time will go a long way on how a company is seen and something that could build or devalue their reputation.  Although, Bransons actions were largely criticised, many Virgin employees leapt to his defence with Jenny Hall declaring “At least this is better than having to make redundancies. The unpaid leave will be spread out over the yearly salary. I personally would take this option over losing my job. 

Mike Ashley (owner of Sports Direct chain) came under enormous scrutiny and was later forced to apologised after his chain sent an email to the Prime Minister insisting that his shop should be allowed to open on the basis that it is an essential service. An action that Ashley described as “ill-judged and badly timed”, and later he wrote a letter explaining that his communication to his staff and the public was poor and stated “”I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”. This was a disastrous PR stunt for Mr Ashley who was later described as valuing profit over the safety of human life. 

It wasn’t just business owners that came under fire for decisions made through this pandemic, the two finalists from the 2019 European cup final and two of the richest football clubs in the world came under huge scrutiny. The two clubs revealed that they were placing staff on the furlough scheme, taking government money. Both clubs didn’t just come under pressure from immediate public but from their supporters.  Former Liverpool FC player Stan Collymore revealed “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff. Fellow football fans, furlough is for small business staff to keep those small businesses from going bump”. As a Liverpool supporter myself, I was simply embarrassed and disgusted by this action, and action that Liverpool FC later apologised for and backtracked.  A club that has always held itself with such dignity, had now shown itself in a light that previous members of the club ensured that it would be something that they would never be known for.  

On a lighter note, someone that has portrayed himself in the most positive of lights is the 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. The young Manchester United and England player received huge plaudits from all over the country for his tireless work in campaigning for free school meals for kids. The award saw Rashford receive an MBE and the City of Manchester award. Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”. 

These previous examples we have seen just how these trying times have really revealed some people character and tested their character to the core. 

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

From Global Pop Star to Public Relations Practitioner… CAREER GOALS

From Global Pop Star to Public Relations Practitioner… CAREER GOALS

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” A question that has undoubtedly puzzled the minds of all children and indeed some adults. Initially, my career drawing board held a predictable prospect, I was going to be a singer, like Hannah Montana specifically. Reach for the stars they say!

I highly doubt you will find a 10-year-old with a career aspiration in Public Relations (PR), but then again, with the widespread access to social media and internet these days, who knows?

Discovering Public Relations

During my time at school, I recall becoming increasingly concerned that I did not have a career path set in stone. “What do you want to do?” “Where do you see yourself in the future?” “What are your interests?” – all normal questions to ask an adolescent, but when you are that 16-year-old, with no clear answers and little career guidance, it is very daunting.

I am a planner. I thrive on organisation and my lack of career preparation helped shape a very anxious teen. Determined to discover my destined career aspirations, I scoured the internet, listing my qualities, interests and aptitudes, completed an abundance of ‘What career suits you?’ questionnaires and participated in countless career workshop sessions.

Public Relations.

Through online self-evaluation, I discovered that my skills and interests paired me with the world of PR, something brand new to me, yet so very familiar.

Communication and PR – A Match Made in Heaven

With my newfound blossoming interest in mind, I chose to pursue Business Studies at A Level. I was immediately engrossed in the PR element of the subject, however, one element of Business Studies I was not so keen on was the equations and mathematical modules. My dislike for solving equations assisted me in resolving another matter, Business Studies was not the degree for me. This revelation narrowed my subject search, leading me to a course that seemed to roll all my interests into one: Communication Management and Public Relations. I firmly believe that studying Communication alongside PR will be tremendously advantageous throughout my career. Communication is key in the PR industry and being able to put my academic learnings into practice will be invaluable.

Personally, I believe I am an effective communicator and recognise I possess the capability and skills to successfully develop professional relationships with others and promote myself in a confident, friendly and formal manner. Throughout my professional career, I have been granted the opportunity to implement in practice the theoretical learnings I have obtained at university.

During my time on placement at the Irish News, I was privileged to play a predominant role in organising successful PR campaigns, briefing clients/customers and organising large-scale public events. This experience will benefit my future career in PR considerably. According to Petrison and Wang (1993), open-minded organisations are moving away from mass marketing and are placing a heightened importance on building relationships with their customers and potential clients. In this way, organisations reach potential consumers/clients on a more personal, focused level.

PR is an extremely wide-ranging industry. The ever-changing environment provides new challenges, hasty deadlines and fresh experiences each day. I am fortunate that I thrive under pressure, I endeavour to maintain a high level of organisation at all times, while multi-tasking and making effective decisions.

Building a Professional Portfolio

A career in PR provides an abundance of networking opportunities through cross-organisation events and campaigns. These experiences play a pivotal role in the development of one’s professional reputation. A particularly unique and advantageous element of a career in PR is the ability to develop your own professional portfolio. Through sharing my career highpoints on professional social networking sites, I have been able to enhance my position as a PR professional. Sharing content on LinkedIn and creating informative blog posts on the Ulster PR Student Blog have allowed me to connect with significant figures, putting my name out there, no matter how small it may currently be.

Throughout my placement, I was afforded the opportunity to work with many prestigious entrepreneurs throughout Ireland, directly witnessing how fulfilling a career in PR can potentially be. This was a highly motivational experience for me, enhancing my enthusiasm and reinforcing my ambition to strive for success in my final year at Ulster University, strengthening my vision to ultimately achieve employment in this exhilarating field.

Event Management

An area of PR that I particularly enjoy is event management. During my time at the Irish News, I had the pleasure of organising multiple large-scale events, working with countless professional organisations. Successful management of these events involved meticulous planning, working as part of a team as well as independently, in a fast-paced, pressurised environment. The exciting anticipation of devising a project to capture the interest of a target audience, followed by the satisfaction experienced when the project is received, strengthens my belief that PR is the appropriate career path for me, spurring on my passion for the next venture.

Post COVID-19 Public Relations

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the professional world has changed dramatically, with remote work escalating, organisations closing, and public events being cancelled. Luckily, the PR industry is adaptable to change, making it extremely valuable at present as we plan to rectify the damage that COVID-19 has left behind. The ability to adapt to change in a rapidly evolving industry increases the appeal to follow my career aspirations. PR will be a considerable asset to organisations, applying crisis management, assisting in recuperation and supporting the adaption to online implementation, all of which excites me.

As the world familiarises itself with the ‘new normal’, social media relations have become extremely important. Although negative connotations have been associated with social media, I believe having grown up in the new digital era, I am able to identify and harness the positive aspects of social media to enhance my effectiveness in my chosen career path in the PR industry. Indeed, I have a fundamental and comprehensive understanding of the influence a successful social media campaign can provide. Moreover, through professional experience I have developed the skills to implement an effective PR campaign for an organisation with a view to increasing their exposure and making a positive impact on their reputation. 

Social media is saturated with communication. In order to maintain a competitive edge, organisations must create an original, stand-out social campaign, to avoid getting left behind. Through my experience to date, I now see this is where I can excel.

As a consumer, I place huge importance on an organisation’s social media presence when purchasing a product or service. I have always maintained a passion for creativity, and I commend organisations on the originality of their online presence. Therefore, I believe this is an area that I would thrive in, allowing me to showcase my knowledge and opinions, in order to produce an engaging campaign that will influence consumers.

Job Prospects

Finally, job prospects are uncertain at present, with many industries having a lack of job opportunities due to the collapsing economy and impact of COVID-19. Nonetheless, social media is an area of PR that I believe will thrive post-pandemic due to the continuing social consciousness of society. Fortunately, social media is the area of PR that particularly interests me and is the route I intend to pursue as a graduate.

Irrespective of the extent of potential demand in the future, I am certain that my degree and acquired knowledge and expertise will aid me in finding suitable employment locally, nationally or in the international field. I am confident however that the increasing popularity and consistent evolution in the industry will undoubtedly create a variety of future job opportunities. This combination of my degree and my professional experience should enhance my post-university PR career prospects, although the future will be a particularly challenging time for graduates.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Confessions of an Online Shopaholic.

Confessions of an Online Shopaholic.

‘Your order has been shipped’. If I had to choose five words which kept me going during during lockdown it would be these.

 In a world where every social media site or news source was flooded with the latest Covid-19 statistic or isolation horror story the home pages of my shopping apps felt like a safe haven with the only reminder of reality being a patterened face mask. My frequent shopping habit was problem enough as it was before lockdown but the pairing of hours spent scrolling through ASOS and Zara’s ‘New-In’ section along with increased disposable income now there was no outtings and you had yourself a dangerous combination.

What doesn’t help is that we live in a generation where looks and aesthetics are more important than ever before and especially among young women; being seen as fashionable can be viewed as a very valuable currency. A largely followed Instagram page for girls these days can be the goose that lays the golden egg, because along with clout comes opportunity and even more conveted is the seemingly endless stream of free stuff. While ‘OOTDs’ and ‘Look Books’ were previously confined to Instagram and Youtube the spillage onto TikTok was detrimental to my bank account. Every third video seemed to be a different variation of the same types of outfit, flared trousers with chucky trainers and an oversized jumper, a tennis skirt with a sweater vest and collar and then a strappy mini dress with a leather jacket and Doc Martins. Despite everyone seemingly having the same rotation of outfits, this new style seemed to require a lot more items and therefore more shopping. ‘Basic’ style is basically blasphemy in todays world of online fashion, long gone is the reign of the old faithful skinny jean and nice top combo, and the irony of it is, is that standing out has never looked more like fitting in. Unknowningly once again it seems, it is the same outfits just in different fonts.

There is comfort however in knowing that there’s many of us in the same boat, even if it is one that’s sinking. A common trend on twitter during lockdown did seem to be the on-going joke that many people started to get on first name basis with their delivery drivers. It’s hard not to love seeing them coming when it was one of the few things to look forward to during lockdown. While buying something physical instore is a rush, there has to be something said for the process of online shopping and how each stage provides its own release of satisfaction; ‘Your order has been processed’, ‘Your order has been shipped’, ‘Your order is out for delivery’ and then waiting feverishly for the driver to arrive only brings greater enjoyment to finally having the parcel in your hands.

One of the worst parts of online shopping however is how easy they make it to buy things you know you shouldn’t. Buy Now Pay Later is a cruel mistress and one not to be played with. Students are typically well used living beyond their means ‘loans in, wits out’ a phrase used far too often by people living large during freshers week and then scraping by until the next payment comes in, but now with the likes of Klarna this doesn’t apply to online shopping. Klarna is just one of many online financing services which allow you to pay in installments or at a later stage. While it’s well and good to use it once in a while when you’re short on cash and need something for an emergency it should be used with caution. All too often I have had friends become trigger happy with it and then been hit with reality when a hefty bill eventually comes through.

Unfortunately it seems that 2021 will mostly be a case of ‘all dressed up and got no where to go’ so here’s to hoping for the health of our finances that the fashion gurus won’t go changing up styles anytime soon.

Sophie Fox is studying BSc Hons Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. You can contact her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

Oliver, S. (2010) claims “if you asked a hundred people to define public relations you would get a hundred different answers.” To begin, when describing relations, I believe it has numerous definitions and it simply cannot be labelled to one.  Different people in society would have a range of perspectives and opinions on defining “what is public relations?” However, I personally agree with the definition provided by Bernays, E. (1923) in which he states “information given to the public, persuasion directed at the public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and of publics with those of that institution.” Bernays definition explains public relations perfectly for me as he clarifies that based on what we hear and see in the media and on the news, we then proceed to form our attitudes and views on the particular matter in question even if we are not knowledgeable in that field. We then tend to form our opinion on the topic. Bernays emphasises how the media plays a huge role in influencing our opinions and behaviour on different areas in the way it is portrayed via public relations.

The Modern Day Publicist: Traditional Public Relations (PR) Vs. Digital PR

Why public relations really interest me is because it is an industry that is forever changing. There are always new and exciting things happening in the world that you can never predict. For example, let us consider COVID-19. According to the CIPR (2020) “ the impact of Covid-19 and the opportunities it presents for the communications profession finds the pandemic has accelerated changes already underway within practice and concludes it has demonstrated the strategic role of communications.” This emphasizes that with the pandemic happening it has impacted public relations massively. It is so important to be up to date with new rules, covid-19 death rates around the world and in Northern Ireland, reports from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, updates from Boris Johnson along with updates from the public health agency. It is equally important to report about the hospitality sector which has been significantly impacted by covid-19. It is so important that public relations provides this information to the public and allows them to gather important information that is very relevant and essential to know when it comes to something as unprecedented as Covid-19 and allow people to develop their attitudes, behaviours, opinion and plan. From here, they will determine what to do with this information and make vital adjustments to their life.

Grunig, J. (1989) claims “public relations is the management of communications between an organisation and its publics.” A career in public relations interests me because I have a passion for strong communication skills and being able to strategically communicate within the workplace because I know it is integral when working effectively with your colleagues, different companies, brands and media agencies. These key factors are all linked to PR and are therefore essential to develop your communication skills and how to use them effectively. Additionally, another key topic I am very passionate about is having strong organisational skills because by having both communication skills and organisation skills combined it provides you with the underpinning knowledge to nurture a relationship with your co-workers, companies you work with and essentially, it allows you to develop connections in the industry which is very important. Building relationships in public relations is key because it helps manage your reputation which is another important tool to have when working in public relations. Building a strong working relationship with a brand for example, allows you to develop trusted media connections which is vital to have in this industry. By having media connections, you can issue a press release in times of a bad advertising campaign or during a crisis when you may need crisis management support for example therefore, your trusted media connection can help you repair the damage.

Today more than ever your online presence is crucial in a world where everyone is digitally connected. “Much of social media is done in public, by the public, and the dynamics that have shaped public relations in the past media relations, interactions with opinion leaders and influencers, and of course, crisis/reputation management are not only present in social media, but often accentuated and amplified by it.” (Breakenridge, K.D 2012). This is another point to why I am interested in a public relations role because when looking for a job, promoting a product or brand or networking in the world of marketing and advertising, it is vital to establish your online presence. Having a strong online presence allows you to build connections digitally, ultimately opening the window to partnering with other brands, gaining advice from other PR professionals, and obtaining a portfolio of connections, to better identify how to maximise your content and market yourself online.  Public relations are concentrated on public opinion and today social media is a forever expanding market where PR is becoming an integral part of marketing communications. Ultimately, PR effects the performance of marketing. Therefore, to achieve greater success, building connections digitally with a PR agency is an essential path.

I enjoy the strategical and planning process leading up to a campaign, and public relations covers all these components.

The PR strategy consists of:

  • Context
  • Situation /Issue Analysis
  • Objectives
  • Publics
  • Messaging
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

“Having a sense of direction and of what is important is part of well-being at work and indeed being able to mark off progress and milestones is an intrinsic element of job satisfaction.(Gregory, A. 2010) For example, when creating a campaign, I thrive on having a strategy in place and establishing on how to successfully market a campaign and make it successful. A career in PR appeals to me as I enjoy looking at the brand ethos and ensuring that is promoted relevantly and speaks to their vision and mission. When carrying out a piece of work I enjoy looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a brand/campaign, establishing what the brand is trying to achieve, narrowing down target audiences to ensure it is a success, creating a powerful message and ultimately  delivering it to the public, through creativity, planning, delivery and  evaluation. “Public relations play a role in assisting the organisation clarify its purpose and values”. (Moloney, K. and McGrath, C. 2020) Additionally, as I enjoy this process, I believe I would thrive in a PR role and apply the PR strategy to everything that I do to make any future job roles enjoyable and  importantly successful.

Overall, a career in public relations interests me because I enjoy strategical processes, planning, organising, creating ideas and coming up with crisis management tactics because this allows me to learn more about the industry, how to create a successful business plan and make it a huge success , which is any organisations ultimate goal. Social media is a wonderful resource for PR and media communications today as it allows you to not only access an extensive network but also to take advantage of advertising and marketing opportunities in order to build awareness of your business or campaign. I have experience working in the social media and marketing world through my placement year therefore, doing this in PR environment is something I would love to be involved in.

I also enjoy keeping up to date with the latest trends and monitoring other brands and seeing how they are contributing to the “woke” era. I would love to bring this into my PR career and ensure as a brand or company we are relevant with the current times, where the outcome would be establishing a solid reputation and a great online presence in a world which is ever changing. I am interested in organisational communication as this is very relevant to a PR career where you must be able to strategically communicate and have effective interaction. Personally, a career in public relations grabs me because I enjoy industries that are evolving, and public relations offers just that. It is never the same and that is what makes it exciting, innovative and current. This ultimately, retains that enjoyment in a career where public relations keeps creativity levels high and engaging.

The Art of Selling in Public Relations | "What's HAppening" Blog

Tara Hamill is a final year student in Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

Fashion is a market that thrives on evolution. Every season, we explore a new trend, influenced by ever-changing pop culture, runway design and brand marketing. The fashion industry is equipped to deal with fast paced universal change.

Although, I am not so sure they had anticipated a global pandemic that would overturn the world. 

COVID-19 was completely unprecedented (a word we hear all too much, I know, I know), hijacking the fashion industry in a matter of weeks. Many retailers struggled to sustain their business, resulting in a decline in revenue, staff layoffs and company closures.

We often hear the term ‘we are worlds apart’ being used to describe the differences between cultures and countries. Depending on where you are in the world, fashion is different. This is due to diverse trends, lifestyles and inspirations. It could be argued that this is no longer the case and for the first time ever, the world has never been so comparable.

Thanks to mandatory lockdown which strained to all corners of the world, our new daily routines are surprisingly similar. We are all staying at home, working remotely and finding ways and means to entertain ourselves in our free time (which there is noticeably a lot more of… so long social life). 

Although this situation is far from ideal, I think it is extremely important that we realise how lucky we are to have social media, allowing us to remain together, in a time when it is so important to remain apart. Not only does social media help us to keep in touch with our families and friends, it allows us to connect and share our experience worldwide. The pandemic has evolved consumer behaviour considerably, leading to unique global trends that suit our new ‘at home’ lifestyles.

Have you baked banana bread, learned Tik-Tok dances or completed a Chloe Ting workout?

No? Why lie? Of course you have.

The fashion industry has particularly benefited from this ‘global connection’ and has found itself amongst some of the most popular lockdown trends. In order to maintain sales, it is important that fashion companies place a high focus on monitoring these trends, evolving their brand to suit the demand.

Quick-thinking companies jumped at the opportunity to transform their brand into COVID-19 Chic. With the world now working from home, gone were the days of office dress codes, smart shoes and warm coats. The trend of 2020 quickly became driven by comfort dictated consumer spending, with loungewear coming out on top, with the slight exception of a smart shirt for a zoom meeting.

MODELS AT HOME

An area that was hugely impacted for the fashion industry was modelling opportunities. E-commerce fashion brands rely on models and clothing shoots to advertise their pieces online. Regrettably, like everything else, this could not happen, as these shoots involve a huge entourage of professionals in a studio to get the perfect shot.

Fashion brands have had to once again get creative, asking their models to style their new-in looks at home. This strategy proved very effective for brands, especially ASOS who have launched their ‘Models at Home’ campaign. Seeing clothes being styled at home by models of all different shapes and sizes, allows consumers an insight never seen before.

This ‘Models at Home’ strategy has created a refreshing change, removing the robotic, studio environment, allowing consumers to see how ‘normal’ people style outfits in their own environment.

FACE COVERINGS

Face coverings have quickly become an essential accessory during this crisis and in some cases have been a lifeline for fashion companies. The demand for face coverings was immediately colossal, becoming a wardrobe staple overnight.

Brands have been quick to avail of this demand, creating fashionable masks to allow consumers to replace their disposable, unflattering versions with trendy and exciting creations.

This trend was valuable for fashion brands in several ways. It has created a new design path to go down, generating product sales to make up for those that they will have lost. It has also created a demand for work within companies, saving jobs and creating new trends.

Face coverings have created a new way for fashion brands to increase their sustainability, allowing them to use their material offcuts, reducing waste. This is beneficial for their environmental reputation, something that often has negative connotations for fashion companies.

These companies can create positive media exposure for their brand by utilising the sustainable approach and showcasing this on social media. This will benefit them in several ways, promoting their desire to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and creating an effective sustainability PR campaign, presenting their drive to increase sustainability within the fashion industry.

Social media influencers have embraced the fashionable face coverings. With lockdown restrictions easing slightly, there is a desire to dress up when we are finally getting out and about again. To keep up with this evolving trend, it is important that fashion brands not only create pretty face coverings but also create co-ordinating versions, to allow consumers to match with their clothing. This links with the sustainable approach, using patterned offcuts as well as generating further sales.

Matching your mask to your dress? That’s so fetch.

LOUNGEWEAR

A ground-breaking trend during lockdown has been loungewear. Wardrobes once overcrowded with uncomfortable jeans and stiff blazers are now significantly softer, showcasing comfortable, yet respectable transitional pieces. Although we were all advised to ‘stick to our work routine’ when at home, I think we can all agree that the work uniform was the first thing to go.

The demand for loungewear had already increased pre-lockdown, with social media influencers showing off their casual outfits of the day (#OOTD) for their workout routines and online meetings. It could be argued that many influencers already lived that ‘Working from Home’ lifestyle due to their workload being predominantly online.

However, this could not have prepared the fashion industry for the immense appeal for matching gym sets and velour tracksuit bottoms. Like all of us, fashion companies were unsure how long this pandemic would last and therefore did not know the longevity of demand for loungewear. It was important for brands to create something that would be comfortable yet functional and versatile, ensuring the pieces could be used both lounging at home but also could be dressed up for a socially distanced lunch date in town. 

Brands such as ASOS, Pretty Little Thing and Topshop utilised the ‘comfortable yet functional’ ideology when creating their loungewear pieces, ensuring they looked stylish, steering clear of the dreaded ‘is that loungewear or pyjamas?’ question.

With most of the world working from home, it can be agreed that the office dress code has been long forgotten. This begs the question, ‘will it ever return?’ After spending months curled up on the sofa with our laptop, in our cosy, yet oh so stylish loungewear, will we be itching to get back into our blazers for a sense of normality, or have our priorities permanently shifted?

The fashion industry has so far excelled throughout the pandemic, adapting to a huge change in trends, assisting in the making of personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining a presence on social media, without the help of fashion shows/runways and using their imagination in order to fulfil tasks.

At this stage, we cannot be sure when this will all come to an end but one thing, we can be sure of is… WE HAVE CHANGED.

Will we ever return to our office uniform?

Will we ever put ourselves through the torture of high heels in a nightclub again?

Will face coverings ever go away?

Who knows?

But one thing is certain, COVID-19 has changed the fashion industry forever and companies have evolved their brand to suit demand.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

How a job in PR could look in 10 years time.

How a job in PR could look in 10 years time.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that you never truly know what is around the corner. Imagine this time last year, your friend sat you down and said that we will live the majority of the year in some sort of lockdown, masks were mandatory in public, and we might not be able to spend Christmas with our family or friends. You’d think they were mad! Unfortunately this is the case however it has given me time to reflect on different aspects on my life, and put a real emphasis on getting my degree and hopefully a good graduate job.

It would be foolish of me to believe that PR will be the same in 10 years time as what it is now. There are so many factors that could see great change in the PR world, some for the better and some that could be worse.

PR practitioners, can technology ever replace them?

Technology is advancing by the day, with more and more jobs which used to be occupied by humans, being taken over by AI and computers. In fact, (BBC 2019) stated that by the year 2030, up to 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide could see humans replaced with robots, 20 MILLION JOBS! There are many benefits of replacing humans with robots, costs are lower, jobs will be done quicker and they will no doubt have less sick days than the average human. However PR is a field where I feel the human beats the AI. As highly functional as these new pieces of technology are, they lack the human feelings needed to really understand PR and its core principals and intentions. A good PR practitioner must be aware of a number of things, like what the client wants to achieve and how they want to achieve it. I feel that many clients look to their PR companies/clients for advise frequently and so the lack of human contact would see less people trust the PR industry, therefore proving that (at least for now) the human race is still more powerful than the AI.

Humans over computers every day of the week!

How might the PR industry evolve?

In 10 years time, some of the methods used today in PR might be outdated or have no benefit to a client and so the PR industry must constantly be analysing their posts, seeing which methods are most effective and which methods are no longer beneficial. A prime example of this is how in the past, press releases in newspapers would have been a great way of conveying a message to the public, but with predictions that printed newspapers may become extinct before 2030, practitioners will have to look for alternatives to press releases. A good replacement would be social media posts, or digital news channels being used. I for one find myself very rarely reading newspapers but still staying in the loop of current events and consume most of this news through my various social media accounts as well as news apps on my phone.

The year 2030 in PR, how might it look?

Its 2030, COVID is a thing of the past and the last printed newspaper was purchased in 2026. All of our news is consumed online and PR practitioners have adapted wonderfully to the new online environment of PR. The PR industry have mastered many fields such as native advertising and content marketing. I hope to be in New York, running my own PR company, applying all the skills I gained from my studies as well as applying new methods constantly to ensure that the company can keep up with the competitors and offer twice as many services as it did 10 years ago.

In conclusion, I feel that the next 10 years could see a whirlwind of change to every aspect of our lives, but one thing that wont change is the need for PR. In fact, I feel many companies will begin to greater appreciate the work of PR practitioners and i hope that the industry continues to grow and by 2030, is one of the most important in the business world.

Daniel Hastings is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter.

Guinness, King of Marketing

Guinness, King of Marketing

Creating marketing activity that has global synergies

In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to take a trip down to Dublin’s fair city. I visited some tourist attractions including Trinity College and St Stephens Green, but for me the highlight was the infamous Guinness Storehouse.

Since its opening in the year 2000, the Guinness Storehouse has had over 20 million visitors walk through its doors. Now that’s a lot of fuss over one beer. What an experience it was. I was educated in the origins of the beer, its history and the lengthy process of creation. One thing that stuck out to me on that visit was the marketing. As PR student, I was fascinated at the impressive collection and history of advertisements that one brand had to offer.  A whole floor. Solely dedicated to the history of their advertisements. The space was filled with interactive materials of both their printed and video advertisements. Including campaigns and merchandise. It was highly enjoyable and definitely a must see.

Getting to experience the vast and historic display of advertisements really got me thinking of the organisation’s success. Guinness has a huge global footprint. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 150. How did a beer become so globalised to the extent that it is arguably an Irish icon? The very key to its success is that Guinness are creating marketing activity that has global synergies.

Guinness advertisements have been shown on television, radio, posters, billboards, newspapers and various social media platforms. Over the years, they have had many different advertising campaigns that include different themes, genres, mascots and several taglines. Guinness has several taglines to its credit which have helped to increase its brand visibility like ‘Guinness is good for you’ and ‘Made of More’ to name a few. Their advertisement material completely different from year to year. A noticeable difference in their more recent campaigns from the last 10 years, is the change from persuasive, to emotive language.  In the past, advertisements would have focused on persuasion and information about the beer. However, they modern ads are based on pure emotion and focus on selling feeling. For example, Guinness are the official sponsor of the six nations rugby. One of there ads focus on Shane Williams, who plays rugby professionally for Wales. He was told all his life that he would never play rugby due to his height as he was only 5 foot 7 inches. The advert focuses on the strength of his determination and character and that is why he is such a successful rugby player, and despite the odds, he plays professionally for Wales. Other adverts from the ruby campaign include Gareth Thomas, captain of the Welsh rugby team, and his strong of his struggles with mental health. He was afraid to come out as gay to his teammates and the rest of the world. But despite his fears he was met with an extremely positive response from his team. The campaign promotes the morals of being “Never alone” and “Always a part of a team”. These adverts create an emotive response for the audience. The stories are relatable and inspiring to large audiences of all age groups. The stories are heart warming and create a beautiful picture of the morals that Guinness brand has and the ability it has to bring people together.

Guinness take a diverse approach. Their marketing strategies work hard to create and provide a great customer experience across cultures. Guinness often make their beer a symbol of unity. Something that can bring everyone together despite their differences. As they are a global brand, they successfully recognise and show empathy towards a diverse customer base. There advertisements have varied themes and another modern campaign called “The Sapeurs” shows just that.

A group of humble and refined gentlemen, called the Sapeurs, use their flair, creativity and sense of style to express their own unique identity and code of honour. The advert focuses on the sense of community created by the beverage as it brings people together. The ad displays a weird and wonderful range of people and personalities, but they are all gathered together to enjoy one and others company with a Guinness. This campaign takes place in Africa but was aired globally. A further demonstration of their marketing diversity, fitting for their global audience.

Guinness focus on bring people together however during this global pandemic that is not an appropriate message to spread. Guinness still continue to promote positive messages such as their infamous illusion posters, this time the pint of Guinness creating a sofa to encourage the public to practise social distancing. Guinness also donated Guinness Easter Eggs on World Health Day to the doctors and nurses in Dublin who are treating patients with Coronavirus. This kind gesture was a creative way of demonstrating appreciation and gratitude for the essential workers on the front line, while receiving positive publicity for the Guinness brand.

Even at a time when customers can’t access their products in bars, Guinness still finds a way to stay relevant and in the minds of the public. Now that’s what I call effective marketing.

Ciara Hughes is a final year student at Ulster University studying BSc Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on: Twitter, LinkedIn, and on her website: ciarahughespr.wordpress.com

Placement: what if I don’t get one

Placement: what if I don’t get one

Hopes of earning ‘big bucks’, gaining experience and living the adult life for a year, it all landed like a lead balloon. Thanks, Covid-19, just one of the many things we can blame you for.

How it begins

We all have great aspirations for placement year. The beginning of second year starts with a reality check. Everyone leaves the first lecture with three main messages; get a move on with searching, creating a CV and a dreaded LinkedIn profile. This usually goes one of two ways, leaving feeling highly motivated or highly stressed. For many it seems like ages away, nothing to be concerned about now. Speaking from experience, start searching for placement opportunities or internships as soon as possible. It’s amazing how early adverts for placements are released and you are definitely at an advantage if you are organised and apply early, this will half your competition as many have not yet contemplated applying.

Spoiler alert, second year is a huge step up from first year. Assignments become so much more difficult but you also must spend a long time preparing for interviews and even more time planning what outfit you’re going to wear to said interviews. Despite the huge weight on your shoulders that you will feel, you always assume that you will be successful in finding a placement in the end. We’ve been led to believe that yes, it’s a difficult process but it will work itself out. Don’t be fooled, it is solely down to the effort you put in.

Going through the motions

Applying to your first placement can be nerve wracking but soon it becomes a regular occurrence. You quickly learn the tricks of the trade, especially altering your drafted cover letter to suit each job opportunity. Reading and having evidence to support each one of the applicant requirements is a necessity and almost always the questions you will be asked in the interview are based on them. The excitement and relief you feel when you receive your first email to invite you to interview is great. In my case, it was the first proper interview I had ever done, I was so nervous. Usually I thrive on nerves and a bit of stress, not this time. Oops. It didn’t go well but it was so important that I learnt from my mistakes and moved on. I knew I wasn’t expecting an email back from that organisation. As the interview process continued, I improved greatly. One thing I don’t think anyone prepares you for are the tasks that some company’s set for you. Treat it like a uni assignment, give it your best shot and act like you’ve got the job and this is your first project. Don’t be disheartened if you put your all into a task and you don’t get the job. I should also add, don’t be afraid to ask the careers services in university for some help. This is one thing I wish I had done more of. That said, I started to get the hang of things and was confident that after a few more interviews I would be successful. Until panic set in, but in this case, it was both students and businesses panicking.

Then Covid-19 changes your plans

In March, you still feel as if you have a bit of time left to find a placement for September. But this time, March wasn’t just an ordinary month. Instead, the world went belly up. A virus that can sweep through the globe and impact us all so immensely? Surely not in this day and age. Reality soon sets in; businesses are making their staff redundant or putting them on furlough. The chances of getting a placement now seem very slim. I still had high hopes for myself and my friends, some of whom had secured placement opportunities already. However, even those who had secured theirs, a few of them were hit with soul destroying emails to inform them that their placement could no longer go ahead. The purpose of this post is not to dwell on it or think “what if”. Instead I wanted to suggest how best to move on. If we consider the Change Curve model, I definitely went through the first five stages in turn. The day eventually arrives when you finally accept what’s happened. The best way to problem solve in this instance is firstly decide which route you’re going to take for the following academic year. Once you’ve done that, decide how you’re going to go about it and how to make the most out of your decision. My decision was to go straight into final year and after I had made that decision, my main aim was to secure a new part time job as well. I wanted a new challenge and don’t get me wrong, walking into that interview was really difficult. However, I proved to myself that I had gained so much experience by going through all the previous placement interviews and this time it was a breeze. Now I am gaining so many new experiences in my work place that I never would have imagined and all of these I will be able to talk about in my graduate interviews. Ah, the joys.

No matter what life throws at you, step up to the challenge. There is not just one direct route to your goal. Figure out a solution and make the most of it. Despite not initially wishing to move straight into final year, I am really enjoying it. Although I do miss the social side, but that’s a topic for another day.

Lydia Killen is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter

TOP TEN TIPS FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING

TOP TEN TIPS FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING

What would we do without video conferencing in the Covid-19 pandemic. I have been using a mixture of Zoom, Teams, Skype and Houseparty to keep connected for Pilates classes, catch ups with family and friends and the obligatory quiz night.

With so much choice of video communication platforms there is no excuse for not getting online and keeping in contact with friend and family.

Ofcom states that adults spend more than 4 hours a day online because coronavirus has changed the way we communicate with each other and the number of adults making video calls has doubled during lockdown. Between January and April this year according to Ofcom, Zoom grew from having 659,000 adult users from the UK to 13 million, an increase of nearly 2,000%.

Ofcom 2020

I personally do not think it matters as much how you present yourself when you are connected with friends and family, but, what about if it is a work call, does that matter how you present yourself, and what if you are having a bad hair day?

These are my top ten tips for video conferencing.

1. Be on time, just because it is an online meeting does not mean you can be late.

2. Turn your camera on even if you feel you are not looking your best. Look at the camera not the screen to make eye contact with the other participants to assess their reaction and so they can see your non-verbal’s. It also helps make a connection and build trust with the other attendees of the meeting and helps them feel you are speaking to them. Overall, having your camera on makes for a more interesting meeting as no one wants to be at a meeting talking to people they cannot see..

3. Make sure your camera is at eye level, not looking at the bottom of your chin or the top of your head and don’t have the camera too close as you do not want your whole face filling the screen.

4. Think about your background. If you in your kitchen is there a pile of dirty dishes behind you or in you are in your bedroom is the room untidy and the bed unmade? You should be lit from the front not the back so If the light of a window is behind you close the blinds. If you cannot find a suitable place you can, for example, with Zoom use a background, but be careful what you choose, as a beach in Hawaii might not be the best option for a work meeting.

5. To engage with others effectively at the meeting  remember to use the ‘raise your hand’ function so that everyone is not talking over each other or use the chat function if you want to make a quick comment, or ask a speaker a question.

6. Do not eat your breakfast or any meal for that matter during on-line meetings. It is not a good idea to be munching on your cornflakes when your boss asks you a question. It gives the impression you are concentrating on your food and not the meeting, you cannot be heard properly and this in not a good look.

7. Do not be on your phone or emails when you should be paying attention, there is nothing as bad as realising everyone has stopped talking and are waiting for you to speak and you have no idea what they were talking about.

8. If you do have to deal with something remember to mute your microphone. No one needs to hear your conversation with the postman or your dog barking to be let out into the garden.

9. Do not wear your pyjamas, make sure you have time to get dress before the meeting. It is not unheard of for people to accidentally turn on their web cam when trying to mute themselves and to be seen in their dressing gown.

10. Do not yawn or look bored as it can appear rude and is very distracting for the other participants.

Joseph Liu from Forbes said that how we present ourselves online is part of our personal brand, so it is important that we get it right and look as professional as possible.

Kerry Bradley is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter