Is sustainability merely a PR stunt? Or are business running against the clock?

I don’t know how many times per day that I look on twitter and ask myself the same question: Is the world really going to end? And yes I am dramatic but it scares the beejeezus out of me. By experiencing all four seasons in one day; hearing that 150 species are becoming extinct daily and seeing the gruesome images of plastic taking over the world, who can blame me.

I think by now everyone recognises the name Greta Thunberg (if not: she is a 16 year old Swedish girl that has became the face of the climate change movement). Now I’m no Greta, but the current movement has made me make a few small changes: buying a recyclable water bottle; reusing plastic bags etc…. the kind of things we should be doing anyways.

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My small changes may not make a difference but there are a lot of global companies out there that have the power to do so.

A few companies have began to take the movement seriously. However we have to ask ourselves: are these companies smart getting out in front early? OR do they know that it will someday become law to reduce carbon emissions?

Well if you have to do it, you may as well do it first and create a positive PR campaign – right?

 

1.Louis Vuitton

My favourite example is the owner of luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton. He has come out and called Greta Thunberg “demoralising” whilst at the same time announcing company plans to become more green – “I prefer positive solutions that allow us to get towards a more optimistic position” he stated.

In other words: people’s eyes have now been opened by Greta Thunberg, but let’s just call the little girl names and act like we (the grown-ups) are doing this on our own initiative. (eyes rolling)

*If like me you are not a super fan, we cannot deny the fact that the (mostly negative) publicity around Greta has drew our attention to these issues.

New sustainable Louis Vuittons anyone? (Well…what they look like in my head)

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2. McDonald’s & Burger King

Another classic example is Burger King & McDonald’s plan to ban plastic toys in their kid’s meals (say what?)

In this case Thunberg has spoken for every child in the world when she states:

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Chill kids… you may not have a plastic toy but you will have a beautiful planet and we will all live another day.

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Jokes I’m not done yet. The fast food giants could save 1,325 tonnes per year between them thanks to new green initiatives in the UK. And false alarm: kids can still get recyclable toys, books and board games in their Happy Meals.

This is a huge step for the fast food giants and one that didn’t come overnight. This change was a result of two (8 & 10 year old) girls learning about the environment in school and starting a petition. As you can see below over half a million people have signed the petition already – You gotta give the people what they want!

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In this case once Burger King committed to becoming more sustainable McDonald’s followed to avoid negative PR… again emphasising my question: is sustainability merely a PR stunt?

 

3. Carlsberg 

I think it’s fair to say that this one has blown our minds. Drinking beer out of a paper bottle!

I for one see this as a dream come true and if you own a car and park it in Belfast’s Holylands you will too… no more flat tyres or broken windows… (Carlsberg – thank you).

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The bottle forms part of Carlsberg’s Together Towards Zero initiative, which includes a commitment to reach zero carbon emissions and a 30% reduction in its “full-value-chain carbon footprint” by 2030. Although Carlberg are using their new bottle as a PR stunt, they, unlike Mr. Vuitton can admit that they are running against the 2030 clock 

(tick…tock… tick… tock)

 

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So there you have it – the sustainability craze has hit the corporate market and according to (Burger King’s) Mr. Murdoch the craze is set to have a domino effect.

“If it makes other competitors move their practices forward, that can only be a good thing,”  

Who knows what extraordinary, sustainable inventions will form as a result.

But please listen to me when I say that if its anything like the paper straw…. go back to the drawing board!

 

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Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

What would we do without PR?

Public Relations (PR) has a valid role in today’s democratic society. Moloney and Colmer (2001; pp.89) suggest “The thesis is that PR is on a journey from being the property of the UK elite to the possession of many, if not most of its citizens.” Liberalisation led to economic growth which created a sustained customer boom, therefore creating an incessant need for PR services in society and this has grown to become a necessity in many parts of today’s society.

The 20th century gave birth to a new type of media relations (Zerfass, et.al. 2016) and this has created a dynamic shift in PR to correspond with the digital age (Toledano and Avidar, 2016).

According to Moloney (2004; pp.163) “The shift to online and social media communication has impacted the practice of PR.” PR practitioners can now create online content to influence public opinion and create awareness of a company/brand but it’s down to the individual if they decide to consume the information online. This epitomises Habermas’ (1989) “The Public Sphere”, reiterating the idea that all citizens in society now have access to transparent information and whether we consume this information, is completely up to us.

PR and Mass Media

PR is now prevalent on social media in many different forms. Businesses are now promoting their brand on their Facebook pages, influencers are now endorsing products on their Instagram and celebrities are expressing their views on their twitter feeds. Therefore, social media is now a powerful way to support PR (LaMarre and Suzuki-Lambrecht, 2013). It is now possible to promote a PR campaign fully online.  Social media is free, easy to use and consumed by much of our society today.  Therefore, PR through social media is very important when carrying out any PR strategy today.

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One could also argue that PR professionals are still seeking coverage from journalists but also bloggers in today’s society. According to Walden (2015; pp.526) “Bloggers play an influential role in society by breaking news, discussing news and being cited in the traditional media, which makes this a critical stakeholder group for PR professionals to work with.” The blogger phenomenon has really grown in the past few years and now PR professionals are working with bloggers to promote brands and endorse products on their Instagram and YouTube channels. Therefore, the practice of PR is changing to meet with the current trends in society.

It is now so easy to have a direct means to publics through online PR. Social media allows PR practitioners to maintain relationships with their publics in a more coherent and sustainable way (Komodromos, 2014). PR through social media can reach a lot more people and better communicate a message around the world (Toledano and Avidar, 2016). Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) claim we are living in a creative industry and PR is prominent in popular culture, clearly showing that PR’s role in the media is very important.

Social media is only one aspect of PR in the media. Engagement with newspapers and print media is just as important. Today, PR practitioners work to try and influence public opinion through the media. Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.14) emphasise this idea noting “Public Relations is at the heart of things” through being at the centre of mass media. Van den Heijkant and Vliegenthart (2018) argue “PR materials are an important and easy accessible resource for the news media and might seriously impact the actual content of media coverage.” Therefore, PR has a distinctive role in controlling content in news media today.

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PR and Business

PR also has an important role to play within business today. Organisations require coherent PR strategies to promote a new product or service to their consumers. To connect with consumers, maintain relationships with consumers and attract new consumers, organisations need to have a strategic PR plan in place.

PR practitioners can support businesses in many different ways. PR practitioners can manage any crisis that may occur within a business. A crisis can occur at any time in any place and if businesses are not prepared, they face huge repercussions in terms of their reputation and credibility. Companies can hire PR professionals to create coherent crisis management plans that will look at the possible crises and provide steps to ensure the crisis is managed effectively. PR practitioners can also speak on behalf of a company to ensure they respond to a crisis in the right way that is legally sound and will protect the company image. Therefore, PR can have a very important role in managing crises.

Another aspect of PR in business is Sponsorship. Sponsorship is used by PR practitioners to increase public awareness of a company, reinforce public awareness of a brand and enhance its reputation. According to Ronald, (2004; pp.42) “PR can help management to get more benefit from sponsorship by guiding management to projects that will produce massive national or worldwide media coverage and the most heartfelt public gratitude.” PR practitioners can use their means to promote the good that a company does and overall enhance a company’s public image. For example, a company can use PR to promote their corporate social responsibility. (CSR) If a company is involved in charitable work or has programs that support the community, PR practitioners can use this to increase brand awareness and improve the company’s image.  Ronald (2004; pp.43) goes as far to suggest that PR can “be like bread cast upon the waters that returns to thee many fold and repeatedly”. Therefore, using PR in sponsorship can have huge advantages for businesses today.

PR and Politics

PR and Politics are hugely intertwined in today’s society. PR has been used in Politics since the 1860’s but Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) argued the Thatcher and Regan years created enormous needs for PR services. Since then, there has been a huge reliance on PR in political communication. Hobbs (2016; pp.372) supports this view claiming ‘spin’ is central to processes that constitute representative democracy.  Nowadays, politicians rely on their PR advisors or “spin doctors” to influence public opinion and control the agendas of the media. Moloney (2004; pp. 967) goes as far to suggest that PR “is an integral part of political presentation in the intermediated mass democracy which is modern UK politics.”

According to Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.12) “PR has become an important role in the battle to secure people’s votes.” Therefore, PR is very important in effectively communicating political messages to the public to gain support and influence public opinion. Especially today and for the past 2 years our newspapers, television screens and social media pages have been infiltrated with the word “Brexit” making it hard to avoid politics in society. Political parties and advisors have been using PR throughout the last few years to try and influence public opinion and sway voters to leave or stay in the European Union. Therefore, PR has a very important role in politics today.

To secure votes and support, political communication is about conveying the right message and PR practitioners today stand right behind politicians advising them the best route to take to gain support (Moloney, 2004). This idea of ‘Spin’ can cause some debate in the literature, some would argue that PR is the voice of people’s values and opinions as Moloney and Colmer, (2001; pp. 89) note, “We can be publicly gay, or single parents; start businesses; go on strike; campaign for consumer rights; speak for war or peace and take up nay faith or hobby which suits.” Showing that PR allows people to have their own views and express these views explicitly.

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On the other hand, Hobbs (2016) argues that spin can allow Political advisors to twist the truth and cause some ethical issues in government. An example of this is the Conservative party’s Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson in an effort to secure public support for the Leave campaign, toured around the UK in a bus with a very distinctive message on it….

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This claim that £350 million pound will be spent on the NHS could have swayed many voters to vote leave in the Brexit referendum on this promise alone, but it was then revealed that this was in fact, not the truth. After the vote it was abandoned by the Conservative party along with many other promises (The Independent, 2016). Therefore, it can be argued that PR in today’s society can be associated with manipulation just to get votes (Moloney, 2004).

Another way Political parties influence opinion through PR is through controlling the agendas of independent media organisations through information management (Moloney, 2004).  In the context of Northern Ireland some newspapers support unionist views and some newspapers support nationalist views and content of each will be targeted at audiences that support these ideals. In the wider UK according to YouGov (2017) The Daily Mail is seen as right wing, The Guardian as left wing and The Independent as centrist. Therefore, one could argue that newspapers are trying to persuade opinion rather than provide information that allows individuals to form their own opinions.

All in all, PR has a very distinctive role within politics today. Moloney (2004) suggests that it is hard to distinguish between PR and Politics and the two go hand in hand. This shows that PR has become an essential part of political presentation to communicate a message and defend this message, PR practitioners are essential to a governing body clearly indicating PR has a very important role in a mass democracy.

So, what would we do without PR?

PR is all around us and with the changing trends and creation of the digital age PR’s role has changed and adapted to these concepts. PR is not just about press releases, it’s about using social media to enhance brand image, a political image or even a blogger’s image. It is hard to ignore PR today, we see it everywhere, in our newspapers, on our televisions and twitter feeds. We are constantly being influenced through PR and PR allows us to express our own opinions and values. Therefore, it’s hard to deny the importance of PR and its roles in today’s society.

Orlaith Strong is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @orlaith_strong and Linkedin: @orlaithstrong

Ronald to the Rescue

Ronald to the Rescue

When you think of the name “Ronald McDonald”, what springs to mind? A clown who is just as creepy looking as he is infamous? The “Joe Camel” of fast food? I wouldn’t say that glorious imagery sprung to mind when I used to hear the name myself, but maybe after reading this post you will have a new-found respect for it.

We’ve all been to a McDonald’s at some point in our lives, and I’m guessing that most of us would recognise this logo which is found on the charity boxes placed at every till point.

Duchess of Cambridge to visit Ronald McDonald House

This logo represents the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RHMC), which are based right here in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK, Ireland, and all over the world.

I tend to throw change into charity boxes on tills when I buy things, but as much as I do that I never really think about the charity I’ve just donated to after I walk out the door. I also always tend to think of big global and dominant brands as being somewhat selfish. For example, after finding out that Starbucks Ireland only payed 45 euros in tax last year, I tend to think twice before I invest in one of their seasonal lattes.

I’ve recently learnt that not only do McDonald’s and their franchisees allow the placement of RHMC collection boxes at each till point, the company also donates money from its own sales. In 2016, they added an extra one million pounds donation from sales to the existing three million that had been collected in the UK that year.

RHMC pride McDonald’s as an “essential, valuable and sustaining partner” and McDonald’s even provide office space to the charity in their Head Quarters around the world, along with general and administrative support, HR, payroll, organisation support and ICT and computer systems.

RHMC globally has been McDonald’s charity of choice since its founding in 1989 and provides hope and respite to families during challenging times of life. The thing that inspired me to read more into McDonald’s corporate philanthropy and the RHMC, was a tweet by an individual who was personally affected by the works of the charity and was highly praising them.

So, there you go, Ronald McDonald will continue to look creepy but hey! He’s a good guy. And McDonald’s may be swimming in profits and sitting comfortably on the Forbes’ list of “Most Valuable Global Brands”, but their philanthropic measures should not go un-noticed.

McDonald’s says its mascot Ronald McDonald is keeping a low profile as reports of creepy clown sightings sweep communities across the globe.

 

Rachel Reilly is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelreilly98

The Fearless Girl

“Everything we want is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair.

 

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Thanks to Instagram’s savvy (but creepy) technology, posts we genuinely are interested in often appear on our ‘explore’ pages. This is usually pretty useful for me for four reasons;

  1. To look at healthy food I’ll probably never make
  2. To look at unhealthy food I definitely will make
  3. To watch fitness videos whilst lying horizontal on the sofa
  4. To stalk my best-friend’s ex-housemate’s sister’s friend’s brother (see relevant Kardashian meme below)

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Last night however, a picture caught my eye.

The image depicted what looked like a young girl, squaring up to a bull with the caption #TheFearlessGirl.  Pretty random? So I dug a little deeper.

One Google search later and any hope of getting a decent night’s sleep became a distant memory. Instagram had lead me to one of the most inspiring yet controversial campaigns of 2017. (THANKS Kevin Systrom!)

Here’s what I found out…

On 7th March 2017, the day before International Women’s Day, The Fearless Girl was erected on Wall Street. She arrived overnight, seemingly out of thin air and stood roughly 50 inches tall. With her hands triumphantly placed upon her hips and facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, she took New York’s heart of finance (and the world) by storm.

But why?

Fearless Girl was created for financial advising company State Street Global Advisors by creative agency McCann New York.

Their research identified one key issue;

“The problem is this – women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world.” – Sheryl Sandberg, 2017.

They found that companies with women in leadership perform better than those without  (MSCI, November 2015) and aimed to challenge 3,500 companies (a quarter of which had no female board representatives) to add more women to their boards (NBC News, 2017).

They wanted to create a symbol of leadership for the women of today and tomorrow and brilliantly illustrated this with Fearless Girl. She represents courage, strength and ambition but with child-like innocence. When we look at Fearless Girl we see determination, not yet tainted by corruption. We see bravery, not yet tarnished by the unjust. We see heart, not yet disappointed or betrayed by deceit.  

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When I look at her, I see myself. I see 8 year old me playing games of British bulldogs against the boys, determined to win, never for a second doubting that I could.  I see myself studying hard for GCSE’s and am reminded of  the tears of joy I cried as I opened my results to see that (despite all odds) I had achieved a B in maths. I see myself at University. I see my hockey team victorious at Inter-provincial championships. I see myself working long hours far away from home on placement. Fearless Girl reminds me that there is nothing more rewarding than working hard for something and the feeling you get when you achieve it. America’s king of Monday night television, Stephen Colbert, dubbed Fearless Girl as a symbol, “representing women’s daily experience of having to face a tonne of bull.” She reminds us that as women, we’re inevitably going to face an abundance of daily hardships, but who’s to say we’ll let it stand in our way?

Did the campaign work?

Initially for State Street, yes.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fearless Girl spawned almost one million tweets and an array of free publicity for State Street, including thousands of mentions on TV programs and hundreds of articles in papers around America. State Street estimates the traditional and social-media exposure generated by Fearless Girl is valued between $27 million and $38 million. Not bad for a rumoured budget of $250,000 (Wall Street Journal 2017). The statue’s resonance in social media highlighted the fact that digital campaign success can often stem from a purely offline idea.

And that’s not all.. Fearless Girl is now one of the most highly honoured campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity and one of two campaigns ever to have won four Grand Prix at Cannes (Adweek 2017).

However

State Street came under fire in March, when documents by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program stated that, “since at least December 1, 2010, and continuing thereafter, State Street discriminated against Females employed in the Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director (MD), and Vice President (VP) positions by paying them less, in base salary, bonus pay and total compensation, than similarly situated Males employed in the same position.” (Quartz Media 2017). The company initially rejected the claims but has since agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million in back pay and over $507,000 in interest to settle the dispute.

So my question is this; A cleverly insincere marketing ploy or a heartfelt do-good campaign?

I’ve always tried to see the good in people. A somewhat naive personality trait, but one that allows me to sleep at night with less worries and angst that leave me tossing and turning in the sheets. When I see pictures of the grown women and the little girls standing next to Fearless Girl, I can relate to the emotions the 50 inch statue provokes. She inspires us all to be the best and forces us to believe that we can be, no matter who or what is standing in our way. To create and implement such a heartwarming campaign, I really do believe State Street were trying to promote real positive change. That being said, I can hardly ignore the initial benefits it brought about for their business, and the unfortunate tsunami of negativity that followed.

Ernest Gaines tells us to, “ Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word spoken. Everything.”

Well… Are campaigns fooling us and merely created for the benefit of organisations?

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Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

If we’re not obsessing over Zara’s new season, we’re talking about its ongoing controversies!

A message, or you could say, a cry for help has been secretly spread about seeking support for a campaign for better labour standards from third-party factory workers for the high street fashion brand Zara. They work for Bravo Tekstil in Istanbul, who work for one of the largest fashion retailers, Inditex who is Zara’s parent company along with Next and Mango.

Bravo Tekstil reportedly shut down overnight, leaving employees with no work and three months owed wages. According to the workers, the idea is to pressure Zara to pay them the wages they are owed.

How on earth have they been able to reach so many customers in Istanbul and now globally without anyone knowing!?

Believe it or not… through notes that have been slipped into the pockets of garments and that have even been stitched onto the clothes themselves as a label!

One of the messages said:  “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”  

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Now, can you think of a note that makes you feel any guiltier?

The way in which the employees have grabbed attention, I think, is extremely clever, (although ‘clever’ may not have been on their agenda and it was done out of pure desperation) to beg consumers directly, pulling on their heart strings rather than fight with the company itself was an ingenious way to get their voices heard.

What is really disgraceful is that Zara has previously been accused of using slave labour to make their clothes. Zara’s founder, Amancio Ortega, recently overtook Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world! The least he could do is pay his workers the fair amount or as some employees have protested ‘give us our basic rights!’

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Being a lover of fashion, I follow various social media fashion accounts. This recent fast fashion disaster has been all over my newsfeed in the last few days, the likes of Harper’s Bazaar fashion magazine Facebook page has shared the article and wrote ‘This is shocking!’ Individuals have shed light on the situation with comments ‘this is exactly why I detest fast fashion, these unethical practices continue to plague Inditex, the leader in fast fashion.’

Labour Rights Forum also hopped on the bandwagon and pleaded their twitter followers to sign the petition that currently has 20,336 signatures.

A spokesperson for Inditex stated that a hardship fund for the workers affected by the unexpected disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner.

“This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. 

“We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted. “

I have tried to put myself into the shoes of those customers who found a note, my heart would have sunk, I would have genuinely put the item down and walked out of the store. If the item was already bought I would have returned it without a doubt.

However, considering 50% of my wardrobe comes from Zara, I feel awful that these items could have possibly been made from unpaid and ill-treated employees.

A public relations and ethical disaster, Zara have a huge mess to clean up.

Yet, they are not the only ones guilty of this, public relations and business code of conduct is a global matter for major businesses now and disasters like this could potentially lead to the exposure of other companies exploiting workers.

I have signed the petition, why don’t you?

https://www.change.org/p/justiceforbravoworkers

 

Laura Duffy is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can find her on Instagram @laura_duffyy and LinkedIn @lauraduffy

 

 

 

 

#DontBottleItUp: Bizzare or Brilliant?

L’eau de Chris

When Chris Hughes (one of this year’s Love Island stars, for those who managed to stay away) took to social media to announce he would be launching his first ever product with Topman last week it initially generated a lot of mixed reactions.

Chris Hughes

The product called L’eau de Chris is described by Topman as “mineral water infused with a Chris Hughes tear”. Some followers found the announcement hilarious whereas many took to Twitter to ask whether this was an April Fool or just banter. Naturally the announcement gained a lot of attention, not just from Topman and Hughes’ followers but also from the media declaring that the Love Island star was being “slammed across social media” for his latest bizarre career move. Just to reassure their readers Metro even said: “Just confirm: Yes, this is real life.”

The product was officially launched the following day via a Facebook Live at Topman HQ to reveal the true story behind L’eau de Chris.

The Launch: Mental Health Day

The Facebook live began at 8:15am where the meaning behind the product as well as the full title was revealed: L’eau de Chris? No, Ludacris; turns out the ridiculous product was a publicity stunt to symbolise the ludacris fact that 84% of UK men bottle up their feelings on a daily basis (YouGov). Along with partnering up with Topman, Hughes also became a brand ambassador for the UK mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), an award-winning UK mental health charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. The limited edition bottles were auctioned at the calmzone.net/dontbottleitup and sold for £2 online at Topman (now sold out) with all proceeds going to support the charity.  Topman are also donating £2 from every pack of Topman boxers sold from October 10th-31st to CALM.

Facebook Live

So, What Didn’t Work?

When the announcement first came out that Chris Hughes was selling bottled water infused with his tears I thought it was hilarious, not to mention I appreciated the slo-mo black and white video, however when I read that there was an official launch the following day I had no interest in learning more about why or how Chris Hughes was shedding a tear into a plastic bottle – the same goes for the media. While the announcement of the product gained lots of media attention, the launch and the meaning behind the product didn’t come close. Was it almost too ridiculous that people lost interest in hearing more?

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Additionally, whilst Mental Health Day was a perfect launch date for the product it also meant that it didn’t get as much visibility as it probably would have hoped for. Every celebrity, influencer and blogger took to every social media platform to discuss their experiences of mental health by sharing inspirational quotes and stories. This meant that news stories became the generic: “55 celebrities talking about their depression, anxiety and mental health”.

Or Did Topman have any idea that Mental Health Day would also be the day that A- List Hollywood celebrities would announce that they had been sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein? Absolutely not. Of course this also an extremely important issue but again meant that the media’s focus was elsewhere.

But What Did?

The humour of the campaign as a whole, from the word play on Ludacris to Chris Hughes bottling his tears there’s no denying it provided a good laugh. Whilst humour isn’t on everyone’s mind when they think of mental health, maybe this is exactly the kind of campaign that engages young men and gets them interested and makes them aware of the help that is available.

People also questioned the appropriateness of Chris Hughes as an ambassador for mental health, some thought “little bit leave it” however Hughes bravely discussed his past struggles with anxiety during the Facebook Live. It also helps that he has an astonishing social media following that includes the campaign’s core target market and as the saying goes: go hard or go home.

My Thoughts

Whilst the campaign wasn’t perfect it was definitely a step in the right direction. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, with 76% of all suicides in 2014 being men (ONS, NISRA, GRO 2014) but how many people know this? I know I didn’t until I followed the link to CALM’s twitter page, a charity that deals with everything from anxiety to self-harm.

Whilst mental health is affecting families on a smaller scale, until the media, brands and influencers get involved on a national and global scale this is an issue that won’t get the necessary attention that it needs. I applaud Topman for being one of the first leading men’s brands in the UK to try and communicate with young men about mental health and hope that this blazes the trail for a wider discussion.


Roisin Watters is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

“Who are you wearing?” (Hilton. P, 2017)

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Just over 3 years ago, my 18-year-old self, boarded a one-way Aer Lingus flight to London. As I sat in my overpriced seat I was confident, more confident than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had just left my Mum, pretending to cry into the sleeve of her jumper, outside WHSmith in Belfast International Airport to pursue my dream of working in Television. Fast forward 3 years, I return, to the same sight of my crying mother, with my tail between my legs and my bank account £1000 overdrawn, having failed to secure Holly Willoughby’s daytime slot.

Living in London introduced me to a great concept, I previously had not heard of, called ‘growing up’. I would have voted myself, the least likely out of my undergraduate course, to pursue a Master’s Degree, however, somehow, I have found myself back in Belfast, learning about this concept of “public relations”. Image may contain: night and outdoor
As interesting as I find myself, I have learned to find PR even more interesting, since starting my MSc. My only real experience in the field of PR stemmed from my part-time job in a restaurant, dealing with the public all day, every day. I learned more about ‘people’ waiting on tables in that small restaurant that I had in the previous 18 years of my life. If I could take one thing away from the customer service industry, it would be the idea of “giving the people what they want”.

Like Jade, in the iconic “Bratz” movie, I have a “passion for fashion”. Growing up, when most boys my age were idolizing Gary from Geordie Shore, my only interests were the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model. The fashion industry is ever evolving, and this week, the biggest piece of news in the industry was Gucci’s decision to stop using real fur in their designs.
Fur in the fashion world has always been a controversial topic, however, it is an issue I have always remained relatively neutral on. Recently I have begun to think, is fur really necessary in the fashion industry? For years, organizations such as PETA have campaigned against the use of fur in the industry, but why now in 2017 has such an iconic brand such as Gucci decided not to carry on using real fur?

I recently was reminded in my Strategic Marketing module, of this idea that you should “give the people what they want, not what you think they want”. Which perhaps is what Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzari is now beginning to do. In PR, we learn about the idea of ‘publics’, does this mean that Bizzari has decided that his customers do not need real fur anymore?

Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA said “The writing was on the wall: Today’s shoppers don’t want to wear the skins of animals who were caged, then electrocuted or bludgeoned to death. Until all animal skins and coats are finally off the racks of clothing stores worldwide, PETA will keep up the pressure on the clothing and fashion industry.” (Holt, 2017)

Gucci, along with other brands such as Ralph Lauren or Stella McCartney has been able to adapt to ‘give the people what they want’ which is becoming refreshing, seeing as other brands such as Versace, stick to the conservative idea of ‘tradition’. I said previously, that I have always remained neutral on the issue of fur within the fashion industry, however, after Gucci’s decision of taking fur off the catwalk, my opinions have swayed. The fashion industry and current trends change season by season but the issue of fur has been a long-lasting battle. Should other brands now follow in Gucci’s footsteps?


Before enrolling on this course, I would have never thought about issues like these in this way, however, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the world around me. In the PR industry, likewise with marketing, I have learned that we cannot sit on the fence. Opinions are a great thing, and questioning others’ opinions, is also great.

This time next year, I hope to sit again on a flight to London. Although this time, I am not after a seat on the “This Morning” sofa.

Jordan Spry is studying for an MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @jordanspry_