Suite dreams are made of this

Public relations is a profound interest of mine and there are plentiful reasons why this area of expertise elevates me, particularly the communication aspect, as well as being exposed to so many interesting individuals. I am going to share my story with you, career choices and life experiences that have led me to believe that public relations is the ingredient that brings my ideas to a reality.

Anyway here’s my story (so far)…

The moment I realized that a career in public relations was for me was in 2014 when I took a year out from education; as I was unsure about which degree to pursue. I began working as a receptionist in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. The reason I decided to pursue a job as a hotel receptionist was with the intention of evolving my existing skill set and qualities as well as my interpersonal communication skills. With no prior experience in this field of work; I was dependent on landing the position solely on my interview and given the opportunity of expressing my ‘inner brand’. The interview was very formal and intimidating, however it was my time to shine and showcase what made me an eligible candidate for the position. The interviewers must have seen past my nerves as I was surprisingly successful and got offered a full-time position!

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The job opened me up to the public as I was the primary point of contact with the guests, meaning I was responsible for their first impressions as well as leaving the lasting impression as they departed from the hotel. At first the reception department was extremely daunting, It took me roughly three months to feel confident behind the desk, at this point my passion for public relations began to grow. I had soon become acquainted with the regular guests and catering to their needs became my second nature. I took pride in ensuring their stay was enjoyable and It wasn’t long before I started noticing my name frequently mentioned in trip advisor reviews, highlighting my ‘professionalism’ and being regarded as a ‘fantastic ambassador’ for the hotel. The recognition, gratitude and positive feedback was very fulfilling, and this was when I discovered that this was my major – representing companies whilst working alongside the stakeholders.

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Having proved my charisma, expressed my effective communication skills and established customer rapport in the business I decided it was time to enroll into university. I applied for my degree in ‘communication management and public relations’ whilst continuing to work for the organization. However, as my degree required me to move to Belfast, the company transferred me to their sister hotel – the world-famous Europa.

This environment was completely unknown to me as the hotel is twice the size of the Slieve Donard and I underestimated how demanding the job was and how busy I would be kept. This hotel is in such high demand and attracts numerous celebrities, who always must always be accommodated with VIP treatment. Over the 2 years I worked for the Europa I have checked in numerous celebrities including;  Van Morrison, Conor McGregor, Lee Evans, Jimmy Page and the entire cast of Game of Thrones. The public relations profession operates in a celebrity-driven world, and the very first celebrity I checked in whilst working in the Europa was Conor McGregor, and I can remember it like yesterday. I had only been working on the front desk for 2 weeks and can still remember the overwhelming, starstruck feeling that I got. I cant express it but every single guest that checked into the hotel, I had an overwhelming desire to go out of my way to make their stay great, whether it be a couple checking in for a little getaway for the weekend, simply upgrading their room and seeing the smiles on their faces made it worthwhile. Or having Game of Thrones stars phone down to the desk and request a wake up call at 4am to go filming, and ask to speak to me personally for knowing their room service order like the back of my hand. All these little things are what made my job wonderful.

 

Working in the Europa introduced me to so many amazing people and friends for life and even opened doors to new potential career opportunities. For example: One particular day I was checking out a lady and got chatting to her, she asked me an unexpected and extremely surprising question: “You have an amazing bone structure. Have you ever considered modelling?” I was evidently stunned by her question as I looked eagerly at my colleagues for an appropriate response to this bizarre enquiry. “No?” I replied as she handed me her business card shook my hand and invited me to attend an interview at her business ‘Alison Campbell Academy.’ I unknowingly just checked out the CEO of ‘ACA Models’ and had just been scouted as a model!

I was unsure how to feel about this proposition as the possibility of embarking on a career in modelling had never ever crossed my mind, but my colleagues were adamant that I attend the interview anyway, and I even managed to get signed onto their books. I have been placed onto various modelling jobs in which I have represented a specific brand for a certain advertising/catwalk events. Examples of brands that I have worked for include: Miss Northern Ireland, Danske Bank, Down Royal Race Course, Victoria Square and many more. It was very exciting to work as the spokesperson for established companies and represent their brand. I am frequently commended for my outgoing personality and charismatic nature working these jobs; I personally believe that my communication skills and devoted nature is what enabled my public relations abilities to blossom into a reality in the working front of an organization like this.

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Public relations is an ever-evolving industry that brings so much excitement and possibilities to the world. Public relations is deeply embedded into my personality. It is my lifestyle. Every given day is a new inspiration for me to undertake something new that will improve my professional and personal life. In the technologically advanced world we live in, there is an infinite variety of potential connections at our disposal. The  life experiences I have encountered have steered me to the realization that public relations is my bread and butter.

Thank you for reading,

© eline ®ussell

Celine Russell is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/celine-russell-849ba4171/ ; Twitter –  @celine_russ; Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/celine.russell.7

Whats the Quack with Hastings Ducks?

If you have previously stayed in any of the chain of luxury hotels owned by Hastings Hotels Ltd, then you will undoubtedly be familiar with the little smiling rubber duck that waits patiently to greet you on your arrival to your room.

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The duck phenomena first originated in a warehouse of an organization called Bluestep Solutions. This marketing and design agency located in the english countryside of North Hampshire were the founders of this marketing goldmine.  This is where their creative team hit the drawing board to manufacture a renowned mascot for the company and the world-famous Hastings duck was born and waddled its way into the spotlight!

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Julie Hastings the Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels Ltd and daughter of CEO Sir William Hastings said: “We introduced the ducks to our hotels almost 20 years ago and they soon became a part of the family. The ducks have always been in huge demand and guests from around the world spit feathers with excitement every time we launch a new one.” Hastings Hotels continue to maximise this marketing campaign by releasing seasonal and limited edition ducks for guests and duck enthusiasts! Examples including Paddy the duck for St. Patricks day, Christmas ducks and they have even introduced a homage for local sporting star Rory McIlroy – ‘Rory Quackilroy.’

These collector items were successful in distinguishing the hotel aside from competitors specifically regarding the Irish Open Event in 2016 – this duck was very successful due to its high demand and the quirky play on words is what intrigued many guests, especially overseas guests, that found this to be a huge hit and another duck to add to the collection!

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Julie Hastings Tweet: Happy st Patrick’s day from the lucky Hastings Irish duck! (Image of Famous Irish Actor James Nesbitt) 

People love to take the ducks home with them even when they check-out and they are becoming a consistent feature in numerous home bathrooms of regular guests, who have previously posted images of their duck collections on Trip Advisor whilst recommending the hotel for its excellent services, and novelty ducks of course!

With 3 years experience behind me working as a receptionist in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa as well as the world-famous Europa Hotel, I personally believe the rubber ducks are more than a simple complimentary gesture or memorable souvenir for each individual guest; but more so an innovative Public Relations strategy implemented by the company to set them aside from their opponents giving them a competitive edge; as well as establishing a unique selling point which in turn improves brand awareness. The ducks are a globally recognized symbol and a marketing tool used to promote advocacy within the organization.

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It is evident that the Hastings duck serves the company as their fictional mascot that personifies and represents the brand, as they resonate significantly with the hotel guests from all over the world. Even celebrities go quackers over the ducks and throughout the years they have even met hundreds and hundreds of celebrities including: Roger Moore, Lionel Ritchie, Carl Frampton, Conor McGregor, Van Morrison and many more. They have also attended lots of showbiz events; taking the ducks on tour they have even been spotted in global events such as the Fifa World Cup, Wimbledon, and Glastonbury.

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(Image of Carl Frampton and Barry McGuigan with our Famous Friend)

Mother of Quackers –  Hastings Hotels were very excited to unveil the freshly hatched Duck of Thrones that coincided with their launch of the 2018 Game of Thrones Tour series that took place at The Ballygally Castle Hotel which set along the Antrim Coast. This is another strategy the organization employs to showcase their relationship and acknowledgement of local events. The Game of Thrones duck in particular became a huge collectors item for the world-wide fan base of the show, it is no surprise that this limited edition duck became a near necessity for the dedicated supporters of the show.

Hastings Hotels have now galvanised and cemented their spot in the hotel market in being the leading hotel for overseas guests, as a result of our recognizable rubber friends!

Meet the Duck of Thrones - available to our Game of Thrones tour guests at Ballygally Castle

The ducks not only serve as a collectors item but can be viewed as an efficient  marketing tool which can be exploited in numerous of ways. I personally believe Hastings Hotels could go one step further and generate more brand exposure as well as profit maximization by selling the ducks in the hotel gifts shops, and not to mention the added perks of utilizing the ducks in future ad campaigns and social media competitions.  The duck mascot could be implemented in social media networks, and the online presence used as an effective tool for online engagement with consumers, which is a much softer means of selling the product as opposed to blatant self promotional methods with the added effect of creating a rapport with regular and future guests. Generally speaking, the Hastings duck in turn can be an innovative driving force in the Public Relations department of the organization.

 

Celine Russell is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/celine-russell-849ba4171/ ; Twitter –  https://twitter.com/celine_russ; Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/celine.russell.7