How PR is Changing our Perspective on Mental Health

Opening up about our mental health has always been considered a difficult topic. Up until recently, people were unaware of the meaning behind the term ‘Mental Health’ and what it involved. Understanding mental health and the issues that many people face is a relatively new concept. Thankfully, now in the 21st Century, people are becoming more accepting of mental health struggles; they are not as ignored as what they once were. According to public affairs expert and mental health advocate Katrina Gay, the stigma surrounding mental health is continuing to breakdown and the public relations sector has had a huge impact on this breakthrough.

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The public relations industry and the progression of mental health understanding work extremely well together. This is the case more so now than ever due to the digital advancements and the growing use of the Internet within the public relations sector. People do not want to be defined by their mental health issues; they want to be accepted for who they are as a person and valued for their personal qualities and skills. The Internet and particularly social media platforms, have provided people with a voice to express themselves with.

Creating campaigns to remove the stigma attached to mental health has become an increasingly popular method to achieve this goal. However, the way in which these campaigns are approached needs careful thought and attention. Mental health is a sensitive topic for many people to discuss, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and distress if approached in the wrong way. A fantastic campaign currently run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry known as Heads Together, has made tremendous improvements to how mental health is viewed by society. These Royals used their statuses to their advantage to promote mental health awareness. The campaign reaches out to a range of audiences such as young people and people who have lost loved ones. A fantastic way in which they promoted their campaign was to get involved in the 2017 London Marathon. Each runner that took part in the London Marathon received a ‘Heads Together’ headband and a letter from the three Royals wishing them luck on their marathon, and to also show support for Heads Together. This went viral, journalists, bloggers and mental health advocates instantly began to talk about this and what the Heads Together campaign was all about.

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Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are great tools to use for reaching out to people about mental health. This can be through campaign promotion, setting up a Facebook page where people can talk about their mental health struggles and how to seek help, or posting a Twitter blog on understanding mental health. A great Facebook page currently run by ‘The Mighty’  has a range of tips and advice on coping with mental health difficulties.

The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) makes a huge effort to promote mental health care, particularly around certain times of the year such as Mental Health Awareness Week. They work alongside the mental health charity ‘AWARE’ and aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The CIPR also provides information for people working within the PR industry on how to manage stress and the struggles involved within this career. 59% of people working within the PR industry have experienced mental ill health. It can be a challenging career and the CIPR aim to make public relations professionals more aware of mental health. Also, how organisations within this sector can support employees who may be struggling.

People within the public relations profession have a knowledge on how to effectively communicate. By using their skills, they can help to continue to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health. This can be through an effective campaign, working alongside mental health charities and advocates, sponsoring events such as Mental Health Awareness week, or simply by publishing reports on current speeches or events that have taken place regarding mental well-being.

It is vital that we continue to work on how we can change the way in which mental health is viewed and what can be done to create a positive energy surrounding discussion on this topic.

References:

https://www.headstogether.org.uk/prince-harry-opened-the-2017-virgin-money-london-marathon-expo-excel-centre-london/

https://ciprni.co.uk/be-more-aware-of-your-mental-health/

http://releasd.com/d5de

Anna Haughian is a final year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter  @anna_haughian and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-haughian-667834131/

 

 

Are you afraid of the dark… or afraid of Moz?

Like many people, I do await the Christmas TV ‘adverts’ around this time of year.

It’s that time of the year where high street stores compete in the sphere of PR, Advertising, and Marketing, (and in most cases all three), for the most original Christmas idea – trying to encourage consumers to ultimately go to their stores and spend a lot of well, money.

But in our modern digital age, these are no longer ‘just an advert’ between X Factor and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here these days.

In particular, anticipation for the ‘new John Lewis Christmas Ad’ has become public fascination with a multi-mix media communication operations behind it to generate as much publicity as possible; promoting with the biggest companies and brands such as Google, Spotify, Whatsapp, Sky and teaming up with the children’s charity Barnardos, with 10% of proceeds from merchandise of cuddly toys and mugs, going to young child carers.

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A spinning wheel of publicity, to reach as many people as possible, to get as many people talking abut you as possible, and to build excitement in as many people as possible, at the busiest time of the year.

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Previous John Lewis campaigns have included the compelling stories of the Man on the Moon, Monty the Penguin and Buster the trampoline bouncing Boxer; a recurring theme to center on emotional stories, and remove branding to ensure attention from a captivated audience.

Their latest campaign introduces us to the lovable Moz the Monster, which focuses on the tale of a little boy and his friendship with an imaginary monster living under his bed.

I have to admit, on first watching the advert, I felt underwhelmed from the lack of “Christmassy feelings” I got, and had to watch it a few times to understand what the message of the campaign was.

But as always, with major publicity, these campaigns don’t always please everyone.

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And as it turns out, not everyone is entirely happy with poor Moz.

Since the ad has aired, many parents have aired their concerns, with tweets joking “John Lewis putting the fear in every child thinking there is a monster under their bed! 10/10 guys.”

One annoyed parent also tweeted: “If your child is struggling with sleep related psychological trauma… John Lewis suggests you need to make them wait til Christmas for a bloomin’ night light.”

However, the glorious world of PR allows many to take on your own perceptions to the messages we receive from the media on a daily basis.

John Lewis’ tale is all about imagination.

My own interpretation is that to beat his fear of the dark, Joe creates an imaginary friend to overcome this fear… (albeit losing his recommended 8 hours sleep in the process).

But still, I believe the clever folk behind the John Lewis spinning machine aimed for the ad to be a very heart-warming, compelling story once again.

As always, parodies have made their way onto YouTube with millions of views, a nightlight featured in the ad was sold out online the next morning and #MozTheMonster and #JohnLewisChristmasAd was the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter, whilst many good-humored people also jumped on the bandwagon….

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Asking my fellow peers how much they thought cost to make the ad, the general answer was £500,000 to £1 million.

Add another £6 million… and the advert is reported to have cost a whopping £7 million to make!

Many are outraged to hear of such an expense, with public opinion being that instead of spending so much money on ‘one ad’ (that is ‘lackluster’ in general) this money could actually have been put to good use and given to charity – that the 10% ‘proceeds of merch’ to Barnardo’s just doesn’t cover it.

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However, brands are expected to spend a record £6 BILLION on Christmas advertising this year. This according to the Advertising Association, who state it is being driven by intense market competition, especially within the retail sector, and the rise of big-budget campaigns.

It believes spending on ads has jumped nearly 40% in just 7 years!

But with the likes of the delightful Ed Sheeran jumping on the Moz bandwagon – (and who doesn’t like Ed Sheeran these days?) is easy and cheap publicity in itself.

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So, was £7 million worth it on good ol’ Moz? Not Christmassy enough? Too scary for children?

I think my overall call to action is to start a petition to get the wee Man OFF the Moon for 2018.

Yup. (I will be posting the link for you all to sign it).

 

Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/chloe-campbell-337b26152 / Facebook: Chloe Campbell.

Today I Messed Up

In my first blog I stated I would cover the ‘state of the profession’ but we’re all meant to learn from each other, right? One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes, right? We all make mistakes, right? Right. Well, I made a big one.

Take yourself back, Thursday 7th December at 3:53pm – what were you doing? I was working for VO, an independent online heating oil company, a fairly large one with a mailing list in the tens of thousands in Northern Ireland alone. Doing weekly mailshots to NI & UK is part of my remit. So, twice a week I’ll send out an email to hundreds of thousands of people. Best emails you’ll never want to read. Apart from the one I sent on Thursday to our entire NI database.

I’ll give a bit of information, first, into my process when writing these emails, it goes like this:

  • Think of a play on words/horrible pun – Black Ice Friday was a personal favourite
  • Write the email trying my upmost to get people to get onto our website and order some home heating oil
  • Proofread
  • Send it to colleagues & one outsider to make sure my grammar is absolutely on point – people love a grammar error.
  • Wait for feedback from all parties
  • Press send and pray.

Well on this occasion, with snow being forecast, I wrote ‘the snow is falling throughout the country’. Apparently, removing the ‘the’ before the word ‘snow’ was more applicable. You may be able to see where this is going. In jest, I put F-ing, in front of the word ‘snow’, screenshotted it and sent it back asking if I’d fixed it. We use Mailchimp, I dare say there is no person dumb enough to hit send with a curse word still remaining, cause a normal human deletes it immediately after, right? Nope. In my defence, we were busy, the phone rang and I took an order so it slipped to the back of my mind. If you’ve heard a worse excuse than that, let me know. My boss asked if I had hit send on the email because it had gotten busy, I said no and hurriedly sent it.

Yup.

The word?

Still there.

The phones?

Went mental.

Here, see for yourself:

See that feeling you have right now, that one where you’re thinking ‘wow, what an idiot’. Multiply it by 10, then square it, put it in a cannon and shoot it into the sky. That was about half of my stress level. Understandably, I’d just ruined my career, the company and my life. Donald Trump was about to start Tweeting about me in 5 minutes and I had just become the reason for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I remembered from a lecture on crisis management that it is vital to get out in front, quickly. So, once I stated my mistake an apology email was sent, it was suggested that we go with ‘hacked’ and blamed it on a prankster. This was probably our only mistake. Cue a few emails and phone calls asking if personal information was stolen but alas, it was not. Just little ol’ me, being a very silly boy. But, if in doubt blame the Russians eh?

Disaster.

Or, was it?

It turned out that the response to the email was ridiculously positive, especially on social media. I monitored social media long into the night and I still am as I write this, responding to whoever mentions our name. Decided that the best way to deal with this, was with humour. And it worked, for the second time in my life people found me funny! The first being my birth.

We got 3 rt’s on Twitter for our apology, we’re an oil company, that probably matches our grand total. But I tried to use GIFs so I could use a bit of humour and not type because I no longer trusted my hands. Luckily, everyone loved it. If you go and look on social media you’ll see that I blamed a student on his second last day being a menace, a statement that I wasn’t sure was entirely false.

In terms of followers, the people who retweeted our/my error had a collective 14-15 thousand followers collectively, which is people we wouldn’t have reached. The email itself had a much higher open rate due to the apology email piquing interest. And we got a host of orders in the immediate aftermath. Although the snow may have played a role, but it was a lot more than we had gotten all day.

But I had work the next morning. I usually start at 12, but I aimed to be in for 9 as it wouldn’t be fair for anyone else to take the flak, but due to heavy snowfall and working in Mallusk, I made it in by 10:30. I spent most of the day dealing with complaints via email and phone call, those who were understandably offended by the profanity were largely receptive and accept-ive of the genuine apology after they’d given me a stern talking to, if any of you are somehow reading this, I’m still sorry!!

A lot of people found it hilarious and thought that it was a deliberate marketing ploy, fake it till you make it! It somehow worked an absolute treat and my one take away is that stepping away from the norm and taking risks can pay off. If this was deliberate I’d probably have the biggest head right now and be telling you how great I am. But, no, I still feel like an idiot. A lucky one. Hi potential future employers, I’ve learned, promise!

So here’s my takeaways from this:

  • PROOFREAD BEFORE YOU SEND AND NEVER, EVER SWEAR EVEN IF YOU DON’T INTEND TO SEND IT.
  • Taking risks sometimes works
  • Don’t bury your head in the sand and always tackle the issue head on, especially if it was your fault.

I hope you enjoyed reading this story more than I did living it. Even though this is a mistake that I would much prefer to bury and pretend didn’t happen, I like to own up to my own mistakes no matter the consequences, so go on, call me an idiot, I deserve it!

F**king snow, eh?

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/

PR Under The Influence

How many posts have you read in the past week featuring the latest product which your favourite blogger just ‘cannot live without’? Or the number Instagram posts with someone promoting their newfound favourite brand of sunglasses that are a ‘must’ yet which you hadn’t even heard of until now?

The advertising industry is in the middle of a major shift.

Social media is radically reinventing the aging business of PR and nowadays, we only have to scroll before coming across an advertisement on social media and whether you realize it or not, you are being influenced.

With a focus on putting the public back in Public Relations, the advertising industry is championing the new, growing business of ‘influencer marketing’. Capitalizing on social media’s reach, influencer marketing focuses on the strategy of paying an ‘internet celebrity’ to promote products in their accounts to their followers.

So, you’re maybe asking what exactly is an influencer? To put it simply: an influencer is someone who has accumulated a substantial number of followers on social media. Therefore, an influencer’s established and reputable personal brand is the perfect platform for brands to promote their message in exchange for financial reward or exposure.

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Think of it like this, how often have you ever visited a restaurant, booked a holiday or bought that latest lippy because somewhere on your feed someone has filtered a picture nicely and added a discount link beneath? Well, if that’s the case then you have indeed been influenced.

With 49% of consumers seeking purchase guidance from social media influencers and a further 40% media users making a purchase as a direct result of a promotional post, digital PR presents a conspicuous opportunity for brands to utilise the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. Why is this? Because as followers we trust recommendations from and identify with who we choose to follow.

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Adrien Koskas, general manager for the U.K. for L’Oréal Paris, stated influencers are a hugely important part of their creative process. Using a team to track them and annual contracts, L’Oréal Paris has 23 influencers for its’ True Match product.

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There are four key reasons this shift in PR is shaking up the industry – it is cost effective with marketers who implemented an influencer marketing campaign earning an average of six times what they spent on paid media; high ROI – 81% of marketers’ state that influencer marketing is extremely effective; gaining customers trust – 92% of consumers trust recommendations from personal connections; has mass popularity – 74% of all marketers’ plan to use digital PR this year.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising”.

– Mark Zuckerberg –

 

Amy Greer is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr

Make the most of your mobile by making a movie…

As one of the @CIPR_NI student ambassadors I have the pleasure of attending their events. This week I attended the Mobile Movie Making workshop hosted by the lovely Niamh MacCauley, Video Marketing Officer at Purple Dot Videos (@DgnEnterprise). Before attending this event I always thought of myself as a wiz at making movies, mostly for family events or to make a university presentation that bit more interesting. Little did I know how impactful a video could be to promote a product or make a company’s website stand out from their competitors. Niamh summed up just how important video marketing can be for her clients by pointing out that ‘it only takes two minutes to watch a video that would take ten minutes to read.’ In today’s digital age, everything can be done on our phones. Need to book a taxi? Use your phone. Want to pay for a coffee? Use your phone. Want to make a promotional video for a client? Use your phone!
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Many people would assume that videos made for a company are filmed using the most high tech equipment to make sure everything looks professional, think again! Niamh showed an example of a video she had made for a client, asking the audience to pick out which frames had been filmed using a phone and which were captured on a drone. It was impossible to tell! The whole video was smooth and high quality, I would never have guessed any of it was filmed on an iPhone. Whether you need a video for Facebook or for the foyer of a waiting room, a mobile can be used to capture and edit the piece. Niamh’s first golden rule of making a video for any occasion is to keep it short and sweet, especially for social media, no longer than sixty seconds. The workshop was graced with workers from Q Radio (@goQRadio) and Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) to name but a few, many of whom use mobile journalism (mojo) on a daily basis. Niamh relayed her mojo tool kit; the first item may surprise you… a selfie stick. Yes, the holiday maker’s favourite selfie stick can be used to film mobile videos and create weird and wonderful angles. The only downside is you need an incredibly steady hand or you may end up with a rather shaky video. If you are not blessed with a steady hand a trusty tripod can also be used for mobile videos.
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The next piece of equipment Niamh recommended was the Mobile gimbal, which can cleverly transform a mobile into a smart motion camera. Although it may set you back around £200, a mobile gimbal is a must have if you want to create smooth and slick videos. A slightly cheaper must have to keep in your mojo toolkit is a power bank. As many of you may realise taking videos can drain your battery, so if you are taking footage at an event don’t be caught out by that red flashing low battery light.
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I don’t want to give away too many of Niamh’s top tips, so I’ll give you an insight into the practical elements of the workshop. Create your own coffee advert… In a group of tea drinkers, I was assigned to be the coffee drinker, not that I was complaining on a Friday morning. Our brief, to show the coffee being enjoyed and stirred. Once Niamh had rounded up all groups videos she was able to quickly edit it all together using the video editing programme Magisto, to show us the finished product. Magisto converted our mobile videos into a captivating story in a matter of minutes.
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Not only can your mobile be used to record videos it can also be used to edit your work. Niamh’s favourite editing app being Splice. Niamh finished by highlighting that a ‘website is fifty times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engine results page if it includes a video.’ So, get your mobiles out and start videoing!

Olivia x

Olivia McAleenan is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @OliviaMcAleenan / LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mcaleenan-88774413b /Facebook – Olivia McAleenan / Instagram @oliviamcaleenan

#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.

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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

This Little Piggy Made A Blunder

As many of the posts on this blog have explored, social media can be an excellent tool for communicating with customers and promoting your brand. This, however, is dependent on how the brand utilises it. On Tuesday, October 17th, a Twitter user by the name of Heather Peacock (@heatherpea) posted an image of a sign outside of a school, stating “Skinnypigs will make you look better naked”.

Heather questioned how a school might not be the most appropriate place for this content; and another user by the name of Sarah (@sarahdavywrites) echoed her sentiment, going on to suggest how these types of statements can translate into body shaming.

The company in question responded. It got messy.

Continue reading “This Little Piggy Made A Blunder”