#CancelCulture: Should brands be able to bounce back from a PR scandal?

Cancel culture is a term that was virtually unheard of just years ago but now is a prominent feature of the digital age. So what exactly is cancel culture? It can be described as an environment that facilitates a form of public shaming, usually occurring on the Internet, where a person or an organisation is denounced for perceived misconduct. Every week, seemingly a new person or organisation is ‘cancelled’, from celebrities whose transgressions have come to light (think Kevin Spacey) to brands who have alienated or offended their customers (remember that controversial Pepsi ad?).

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The rise of social media has changed how brands interact with their publics forever, consumers can now share their positive and negative experiences in real-time at the click of a button. It is now common practice for companies to engage with influencer marketing in order to build up an increased presence online or to increase sales. Conversely, it can be difficult territory to navigate as a negative review or comment from one of these influencers can cause shockwaves for a brand. The crisis communications and reputation management aspects of public relations are therefore of increasing importance and brands need to have a firm strategy in place to rebuild trust with their customers. When a crisis hits and a brand is unwilling to acknowledge or apologise for their fault, it raises the question if brands can or should be able to resurge after a PR disaster.

When influencer marketing goes wrong: DOTE and their representation crisis

One brand that tried to utilise the power of influencer marketing had a huge PR scandal during the Summer. DOTE is a shopping app that primarily focuses on the Generation Z audience. To target this section of the demographic, DOTE created a community of influencers from Youtube and Instagram that were referred to as ‘dote girls’. These dote girls were sent on sponsored brand trips to promote their clothing and the lifestyle that DOTE was trying to sell. Two of these trips, one to Fiji and the other to Coachella, had huge fall-out and resulted in a PR disaster. It emerged that during these trips that the influencers of colour were treated differently from the other dote girls. Specifically, on the Coachella trip, DOTE segregated the group and placed the white Youtubers in the more luxurious section of the house whereas the people of colour had to sleep on couches at the opposite end of the accommodation. They were also not photographed as much as the other girls and didn’t feature as heavily on DOTE’s social media pages.

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What ensued from this was dozens of videos where the girls outlined their negative experience which resulted in thousands upon thousands of comments condemning the brand for their possible racism. How did DOTE rectify the situation and try to rebuild their credibility as a brand? They began to delete photographs on their social media that featured predominately white people and began to feature more people of colour in their posts with the statement ‘this is what dote looks like.’ Many people picked up on this and it further alienated their audiences with YouTubers like Tiffany Ferg commenting on how fabricated the brand now appeared. DOTE  released a statement apologising for their mistake and continue to be more representative of all girls, however, they have lost invaluable partnerships and will be hard-pressed to find an influencer who would now promote them on their channel. Could DOTE as a brand have done anything differently?

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Steps to take in a social media crisis

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Social media is now arguably the most important factor in crisis communications. In this smart-phone era, it is highly likely that a PR disaster will appear as a result of a blunder on social media or at the very least will be discussed in-depth online.  As the above infographic outlines, it is vital for brands to continually monitor the tone of discussion online. Only in this way can they be prepared when a social media storm hits. It is also important for companies not to be overly defensive and instead take criticism on board so that consumers can genuinely feel that their feedback may be able to make a difference.

As the DOTE scandal illustrates, one badly handled PR crisis can tarnish a brand’s reputation exponentially. What once was a thriving social-media focused company with a plethora of followers has greatly plummeted, this may be as a result of ignoring comments focusing on their representation issues in the past.  However, DOTE’s efforts to improve their representation along with their apology, although appearing fake right now,  may genuinely produce positive results as they move forward from this crisis.

Sarah Sweeney is a final year student BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-sweeney-ab6635143/  and Instagram @sarahsween3y

The ‘Rise and Shine’ of Kylie Jenner

It is without a doubt that everyone under the age of 30 knows the infamous Kylie Jenner who has made her mark on the beauty industry. She was recently proclaimed as the youngest ‘self-made’ billionaire at just 20 years old but given her family background this term is debatable and sparked major controversy in the online community.

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As the youngest member of the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty, it is clear that she had a lucky start to wealth and fame that many cosmetic brands and people can only dream of. Before Kylie Cosmetics there was the hit reality show ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, 12 years and 17 seasons later we have seen her life and personal growth projected on our screens. But Kylie became her own person aside from her family and built an enviable social media platform, with 151 Million followers on Instagram she is the 7thmost followed person in the world, alongside sister Kim placing 6th. So, on the marketing aspect of things she had already created her own brand and status even before Kylie Cosmetics, but the financial aid from her family and amazing looks made it easy for her to create her own business and become the woman she is today.

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There is no question that she is the ‘ultimate influencer’ and unlike a lot of beauty companies she only needs to rely on herself to promote and model her products due to her porcelain features and infamous lips, therefore saving money and creating demand as consumers will see every product on her and influence their decision.  This was unsurprisingly the starting point for kylie cosmetics as the ‘Kylie Jenner lip’ trend peaked in 2015 and is still the standard look for many wanting to get lip filler. Whether it is a new holiday/birthday collection, skincare or Collab with her family, Kylie Cosmetics has come a long way from the ‘OG’ lip kit trio, Candy K, Dolce K and True Brown K.

Although there is a major comparison between Kylies’ personal account (151M) and Kylie’s Cosmetics (22.4M), she is still ahead of her game with beauty giants such as Anastasia Beverly Hills (20M), Jeffree Star Cosmetics (6.9M) and ColourPop (8.6M). All of which specialise in their own products, but have expanded due to the pace of the beauty community, and its demand for new and out of the box products.

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Kylie Cosmetics is able to survive because of successful marketing tactics, and with her being such a relatable and influential figure to a demographic of 18-24-year olds they have developed FOMO. The ‘fear of missing out’ happens to so many of the beauty communities’ consumers as products are marketed on a ‘need to have’ and ‘limited quantity’ bases. An example of this is the very first sale of the original Kylie Lip Kits, the lipstick and liner set came in 3 shades and due to the hype it caused ripples on social media, and those ripples caused waves. The kits were sold out in 30 seconds and crashed the website due to extreme online traffic. With every purchase of a lip kit, girls were being sucked into this fantasy of getting the perfect ‘Kylie lip’. This set the bar for the company and over the years they have expanded into eyeshadows, highlighters, blushes, brows and skincare and became more versatile in such a competitive industry.

In terms of driving demand her brand was based in the US and created urgency from those in other countries to buy her products, meaning people were waiting in different time zones at launches and willing to pay more for shipping. She also used the tactic of pop up shops for the first 2 years of running Kylie Cosmetics. Since her products were only sold online it created a want in customers as it was a one-time opportunity to get her products and potentially meet Kylie, so they were inclined to go. Although she was known for her amazing swatching videos, the pop-up shops gave customers a real-life experience to try the products and not be stuck into the commitment of making a purchase solely based on images and reviews. This is an appealing aspect for her target audience of young women who most likely do not have the income and need to ‘try before you buy’ as her brand was not portrayed as being cheap or drug store.

Whether you gravitate to Kylie or her family, it is undeniable that her marketing strategies are simple but effective, and regardless of her pretty face she is able to connect with her fans and create such a strong brand image that drives demand. But on top of being a makeup mogul she has recently become a ‘meme queen’ with her hilarious line ‘rise and shine’ as she woke up her daughter in one of her YouTube segments, to which she trade-marked and merchandise was on her website within a few days. Further showing she is business savvy by capitalising on viral trends. It will be interesting to see how her empire develops as she recently sold 51% of the company to COTY, who deal with the likes of Rimmel and Covergirl, as well as other major self-care brands. They see potential in expanding Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin into more in-store retailers around the US and internationally.

Chloe Light is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University.  She can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-light-358421172/ and Instagram @Chloe_lightbulb

 

BREAKING NEWS: Instagram Likes MIA

It’s probably hard for most of us to imagine a world where Likes don’t matter. I remember when I was 14 and a selfie I got before Clubland got 24 likes on Facebook. I’ve never felt as famous. But finally, finally, someone has caught themselves on and realised the damage social media pressure is doing to us. Instagram. Is. Getting. Rid. Of. Likes. Supposedly.

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The new feature has been in the works for a few months now, being tested on small groups of users since July in over 7 countries including Canada, Australia and Japan. It’s just about to be trailed in US, meaning it most likely will be active worldwide in the pretty near future. And it’s giving Instagram users a lot of mix feelings.

So what will the change mean? Rather than seeing the number of people who Likes a post, Instagram will show “Liked by [who you fancy If you’re lucky] and others“. Meaning your followers will never know the number of Likes your post got. I mean they technically could count all the users, but who’s really gonna be so bothered to do that? I hope no one. Please spend your time on something more beneficial. If you want too you can see the number of Likes your post got if you click onto it, but only if you chose to do so. It’s easy to avoid the number if you want too. Good bye Instagram Anxiety.

Why are Instagram doing this? Isn’t liking pictures the whole point?

Basically Instagram wants to become the safest place on the internet, with the happiest users. It’s no shock that Instagram has been heavily criticised about its effect on mental health, especially to Generation Z. A 2017 survey carried out by The Royal Society for Public Health & Young Health Movement proved Instagram to be the most likely platform to have a negative effect on young people’s health and well-being. So, when announcing the change Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said,

“the idea is to de-pressurise Instagram and make it a space that’s more focused on connections, conversations and community, especially for young people.”

He wants the app to be a fun place for people to share and connect, not a place where you value your worth over a number.

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So, on a personal level, what do I think of this? I think it’s great and something that should have been done long ago. My personal attitude towards Instagram has changed a lot over the past few years. I’ve grown up (believe it or not) and I do not value my worth through who Likes my Instagram. I post what I want, when I want, as much as I want. Yet, when I was 16, a lot less confident and a lot more vulnerable, my attitude was completely different. A night out was a waste if I didn’t get a photo for the gram, and even If I did get a photo, was it really Insta worthy? Would it get good Likes? What if no one Likes it? What if it gets less Likes that my last photo? How come she got loads of Likes and I didn’t? I’d turn off my Instagram notifications after I uploaded so I’d never know if my post was getting Likes or not. And the most ridiculous of all, but I know you all did it too, I would have waited until “prime time” to post to make sure I’d get the best chance of Likes. Why was there RULES for posting a photograph on Instagram.

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So many unnecessary worries for a young teenage girl, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that, wouldn’t we be lucky if that was all we had to worry about nowadays. So yeah, the removal of the Likes feature will be a definite step in the right direction, but it’s only the first step in making the platform a safe and happy place for users. Have Instagram forgot about the comments? If Instagram are really looking out for the safety and happiness of their users, this is the real danger. Even Cardi B and Kim Kardashian have called Instagram out on this saying much more needs to be done to protect its users, starting with the removal of the comment feature.

All this aside, we must think of the people who aren’t using Instagram for personal use. Canadian Influencer Kate Weiland is not one bit pleased about the new change as Likes are what tells her what her audience enjoy, and what they want to see from her. She looks at Likes as though it’s the audience clapping at the end of a performance. Without Likes, it’ll be an awkward silence.

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Influencers, artists and celebrities relay a lot on their Instagram performance for income. Influencers are freaking out about how the change will impact their income, if not their entire career. Thinking if brands can’t see the number of likes their racking up for a sponsored post, how will they know the impact they have on consumer behaviour? How will they impress brands and make them want to approach them for sponsorship? But brands have spoken out about the issue and have explained how to them, likes are only “surface” level and what they care most about is other metrics such as engagement, URL clickthroughs, swipe ups and all that influencery stuff, which is a lot more important than a Like on a photo that most people probably forget about after they scroll past it, or Like on reflex without even realising it.

The change will mean people will be more experimental with their content, something I’d love to see. Influencers and celebrities will engage more with their followers about real stuff,  not what they think will get the most likes. And us nobodies, we’ll post what we want to, without thinking what our followers will think of it. I give Instagram a round of applause for the first step in taking away with social media pressures we all face today.

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Catherine Maguire is a Final Year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

How ITV’s Love Island led ‘I Saw It First’ to become an e-commerce success

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As cliché as it sounds, watching Love Island is everyone’s guilty pleasure. It was only in the series past that I decided to give in and watch the show and I could now understand why my friends were all so engrossed and didn’t want our evening plans to surpass 9pm. For 8 weeks it was the hottest discussions in social outings, work, the gym and even my mummy tried keeping up to date with the latest goss about the islanders so she could be in the know. Whilst watching these rising celebrities to be and their relationship drama unfold did you ever wonder how and where they got the look? Last year, it was reported that the shows fashion sponsor Missguided achieved an increase in sales of 40% when the show aired. Was it possible for I Saw It First to match or exceed this achievement as they signed an exclusive partnership for series 5 of the show?

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I Saw It First, who were relatively unknown before sponsoring ITV’s Love Island are a fast-fashion brand who provide for the glamorous, fashion obsessed female. Keeping up with the latest trends they never fail to end the ‘I’ve got nothing to wear!’ dilemma and all at an affordable price. Only having been on the market since 2017, I Saw It First have been on one hell of a journey. From obtaining an innovative sponsorship with the lavish Ocean Beach Ibiza to collaborations with Cindy Kimberly, Lolo Wood and Stassie (yeah, just google them) they have managed to put themselves on the fashion map.

The majority of Love Island viewers come from millennials and Gen Z; two of the biggest generations who are the true digital natives. It comes with no shock that social media was going to manifest the experience of the show as viewer’s more than likely sit with their smartphone in hand refreshing Twitter for the latest on what others had to say, like really do we ever put them down anyway? The clothing company used this as part of their strategy to help with the increase of sales. Before the show, islanders were given a nice little allowance to choose any clothes from the summer collection to wear on-screen. Not only did this create a closer relationship between the brand and islanders, perhaps allowing for them to work together in the long run but it also provided organic content to be uploaded rather than the traditional sponsored posts, conveying good old brand personality.

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Wanting to avoid anything Love Island related? Then it was best to avoid Twitter itself if you could. Swamped with memes, spoilers and outfit highlights it was the number one app to keep updated on the goss from the villa. When the first episode of series 5 aired, reports show there were over 400,000 tweets mentioning Love Island. This was I Saw It First’s time to shine as they cleverly included the Love Island hashtag in their tweets to take advantage of the incredible reach. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

The e-tailer also created a hashtag on Twitter; #ISawIsland so users could easily search for those savvy neon dresses and funky bikinis, providing a link straight to the item so it could be purchased there and then. In addition to this, they created a Love Island hub on their website with profiles of each female islander and individual story highlights of each female on Instagram with a swipe-up link so you didn’t have to go through endless pages of clothes, very convenient. They also integrated their product placement onto the show’s click-to-buy app. When using the app to vote, users were surrounded with advertisements that provided a direct link to any of the items featured, giving viewers an easy way to find and shop the outfits seen on screen whilst allowing them to build an association of the two brands. Talk about dedication! Or just really wanting to up those sales.

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I Saw It First really do have their finger on the pulse of the fashion industry. Landing this opportunity with a show that has 6 million viewers tells us that the traditional methods of marketing makes for powerful advertising formula, using reality TV as a vehicle for influencer marketing. As a result of collaborating with the show it led them to an increase of 67% in sales month on month. They continue to be consistent with their methods throughout all their social channels and ensure their content is fresh and engaging, having gained 905k followers which comes with a fantastic opportunity to access their target market even more. The partnership focuses on an audience that have the talent of scrolling miles on their phone and watching the show at the same time.

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With social commerce on the rise, rather than consumers making direct purchases through retailer websites, they’re discovering products on social platforms and perusing their purchases there, a drive to be the new online marketplace. I Saw It First’s Love Island hub, their Instagram profile and the Love Island app provide endless opportunities to do so, a marketing masterpiece.

Fionnuala Hegarty is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @fionnualaheg,  LinkedIn – Fionnuala Hegarty, and Instagram – fionnualahegarty

 

Pop – Up – Depop!

Save Money, and Our Planet In Aid of The NI Hospice

‘Out with the old and in with the new’… or the nearly new. Selling our second hand clothes is nothing new, in fact, car boot sales date back to the 1970’s. However, something that is new is the Pop-Up-Depop initiative by Rachel Jones.

How many of you have clothes hanging in your wardrobe that you will never wear, or never wear again? I know for my friends and I that is something we are all guilty of.

 

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In today’s social-media-age image is everything, and apps such as Instagram and Facebook provide us with the platform to interact and share images with friends and followers. However, social media platforms also open us up to scrutiny and pressure to look our best all of the time. For a lot of us fashion plays a key role in this. Current social media pressures see wearing the same outfit multiple times as a major fashion faux pas, which has led to the rise of fast fashion trends. God forbid we wear the same outfit twice… we are all #Queens after all! This greed for fashion in excess is aided by the rise of social media ‘influencers’. The lines between celebrity and general public have been blurred to the extent that anybody can gain social celebrity status as ‘influencers’ and as such, the expectations, previously reserved for a small group of ‘elites’ have seeped into every day culture, and now weighs upon general social media users. Therefore this begs the question… what is an ‘influencer’?

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When ‘outfit of the day’ (… or should I say #OOTD?) means a new outfit every single day, what happens to yesterday’s outfit? Why was that outfit perfect for yesterday, but not for tomorrow? Because you got that fab pouty, espresso-cocktail-in-hand, perched-on-a-bar-stool ‘candid’, and hit a whopping 250 ‘likes’ with 12 fire-emoji and ‘omg can I pls be you??’ comments?

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According to wrap.org the UK value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. It is also estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. Coupled with the excessive use of packaging, fossil fuels and energy used in the production and transportation of clothing across the world, the effect on the environment is catastrophic.

The Pop-Up-Depop enterprise has been created by Rachel Jones to target this issue, upon recognising a common problem among many of her peers… so many clothes but nothing to wear! Inspired by the popular app ‘Depop’ – used to buy and sell second hand clothing and accessories – the Pop-Up-Depop will bring us back to the market stall and trading face-to-face, promoting a sense of community rather than a solely transactional interaction. Taking place in the beautiful Millbrook Lodge,Ballynahinch on 3rd November, Pop-Up-Depop will be used to benefit those less fortunate, as a donation to the NI Hospice will be made by each seller and buyers will also be invited to donate on the day. Furthermore, the event will lend itself to a ‘swap-shop’ among sellers, for those admiring others’ garments. Pop-Up-Depop has the potential to become a regular affair, in venues across Northern Ireland, changing attitudes, reducing waste, and helping local charities.

We may not be be able to stop big companies – and we do not necessarily want to entirely, as we like many of their products – but we as a society can do what we can about the issue, and work to change our wasteful attitude towards fashion, whilst also benefiting those less fortunate!

Sasha Boyle is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sasha-boyle-8a5431167 and Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sashaboyle22/

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

Time to unfollow the influencers?

Time to unfollow the influencers?

With 66% of the UK online population using some form of social media, there’s no denying that social media plays a significant role in our daily lives. It has changed how we keep in touch with friends, read the latest headlines, and how we shop for the latest fashion trends.

With most Millenniums and Generation Z’ spending countless hours scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – Brands are always looking for new ways to target their audience.

Call in the Influencers…

The latest marketing trend brands are using to target their audience is through the use of social media influencers or influencer marketing.

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After a quick Google search, a ‘social media influencer’, can be a described as, “a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by their authenticity and reach”.

An influencer can either be an everyday person like you or me (with a lot larger Instagram following), the latest Love Island contents, or the ‘official’ celebrity.

Essentially, brands will send free PR Packages to these ‘influencers’, who will then post a sponsored ad about the product on their social media accounts. Or an Influencer will be paid an agreed amount on each time they post about the brands product. Brands utilize influencers in the hope that their influence will result in more people buying their products.

Influencers are promoting everything from cars, to hotels, to beauty products, to shoes, to diets, and a whole lot more.

This is why you may have seen a lot of your fav’ celebs’ or the so-called ‘insta famous’ with #ad #sp on some of their posts.

Big business…

An influencer with an Instagram following of around a million can command £10,000 for a one-off post. An influencer with between 3,000 and 10,000 followers can expect to earn £50-£100 per post. Keeping these figures in mind, influencer marketing is fast becoming one of the most effective online marketing strategies for brands. Recently, brands have raised their budgets for influence marketing between 3 – 6%, with $2 billion in the last year being spent on influencer marketing overall.

Owner of Cocoa Brown Tan, Marissa Carter seen the full effect of influencer marketing, when one sponsored post by Kylie Jenner seen her product sell out in 24 hours.

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And it’s not just celebrities making money out of influencer marketing. In December 2018, a mother revealed to the Daily Mail that her baby boy, aged one, who is an Instagram influencer has already gotten £10k in freebies (including a different pram for every day of the week). Ralphie Waplington, aged one, from Essex, has an Instagram following of 14,000. The boy’s mother, Stacey Woodhams, runs the account, with Ralphie’s wardrobe and bedroom furniture all provided free by brands and the family enjoys days out in exchange for posts on Ralphie’s account. However, this has been received with backlash, as some seeing this as child exploitation.

On the way out…

Content creation is now in the hands of influencers and who are providing a key role in the story that brands communicate. In order for influencer marketing to be successful, influencers content must be authentic and original.

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With brands and influencers both having a very successful 2018, it’s hard in seeing the influencer marketing trend going anywhere. However, some experts predict there will be a decline in social media influencers is on the horizon in 2019.

Today alone, it’s hard not to scroll through Instagram and not spot at least one sponsored post. Influencer marketing has become too mainstream, too commercialised, and too common. Content is becoming less organic and genuine, you get a sense that influencers are only doing it to gain a few more followers, and gain a lot more money.

I may be wrong, but I feel as if influencers are on the way out for 2019.

Ruth Leonard is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – @ruthleonard_ / Twitter – @RuthLeonard_ / LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-leonard-057860129/