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/

How to stay organised and manage your time effectively – as an influencer, student and full time employee 

One of the things I do well is managing my time. I work 40 hours a week, in full-time education, I have a 16 hours a week internship and I am an influencer – which means I have to produce content daily! I also sew, go to the gym, cook, look after my cats and all the normal day to day stuff that comes in between. So, how do I manage my time and stay organised? This is a good question! Well, forget about all those booooring time management courses you had to watch or thought about watching because I am going to quickly outline for you, the 5 things you need to do to stay on top of things and manage your time effectively.

  1. Write a to-do list

I know this one might seem a bit obvious but honestly it can help so much! Try to be as specific as possible, so for example, if you have a meeting don’t just write “meeting” write “meeting today at 3pm with x”. This will give you and your head good clarity. If you’re meeting with a photographer for example (I know us influencers love to dab into photographer meetings) then you write a more in-depth list (see picture for example). In terms of time management, if you have to prepare some outfits for this meeting then its  probably best to prepare the night before. If you know you are meeting at 3 and you have to prepare some outfits and you know it takes you 2 hours to get ready but you also need to have breakfast, feed the cats, send some emails then this is what your list might look like…

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As you can see I’ve used an online program to make my lists, it’s called Trello. You can get the app version as well so if you are out and about and need a quick peek at your list it’s only a finger swipe away.  As you can see preparing stuff the night before can really help in saving you some time the next day, also writing down the times will help measure how long you have to do each activity which will help you stay on track. Always prepare your lists the night before or the day before, this will give you clarity of what needs to be done and give you some headspace.

2. Don’t be lazy when it comes to creating

Easier said then done I know but being able to manage all of these means action, action, action. There is no time to sit down and binge on your favourite Netflix series. Think of it this way. While you’re sitting watching the next episode of YOU there is someone else out there doing! Doing and getting ahead of the game.  Influencing is becoming a very competitive market and every day a new influencer is raising the bar. If you want to become successful you need to produce content. With that said always ensure your content is authentic and you are actually enjoying what you are producing as this is meant to be a fun industry that provides you with freedom by being your own boss.

3. Split your week with set times – set a routine

Always have set times for each activity you have to do, that way you get into a routine/habit of doing things and you don’t fall off track. For example, every Tuesday, I focus on university for the first few hours of the morning, in the afternoon allow some time for my internship (I normally work from the office) and later that evening go to work. Because I work a late shift on Tuesday it means on Wednesday I’m either off or on a late again which means Wednesdays are my days of creating content because I have the full day with no interruptions to do so. As you can see this gives structure and routine. To me this is the best form of organisation and a great way to manage my time this is because I know what to expect which means I am always one step ahead.

4. Make use of the night before

I touched on this earlier but let me go into more detail. Okay, so, giving yourself 1 to 2 hours every evening to prepare for the next day will help you with managing your time, it also will give you clarity and some headspace. Sometimes if I have a lot to do – or I think I have a lot to do – I write my list, prepare everything the night before and I realise that whilst in my head there’s a lot going on, in reality there isn’t much to do. This allows me and my brain to rest which means I can have a good night sleep – if the anxiety doesn’t kick in – and the next day I feel more prepared to attack the day.  Here’s a list of things you can prepare the night before to save you some time in the morning …

  • Breakfast (I like overnight oats)
  • Lunch (Make this the night before to avoid worrying about it the next day and saves you money)
  • Prepare you’re outfit/what you’re going to wear
  • Prepare a bag (I do this when I’m going to uni or the gym)
  • Write a list for the next day
  • If you’re going for a shoot – prepare everything the day before
  • Iron your clothes etc…

 

5. Give yourself study weeks

As I mentioned previously I am also in full time education. Right now I am in my second semester of my MSc degree in Communication and PR at Ulster Uni. Guys, this is a FULL ON COURSE, it’s hard! But by managing my time and keeping organised I am able to do it. Other than putting time aside each week for reading, researching and planning etc… I create ‘study weeks’. In these weeks I will focus on nothing but university. I will ensure I have some stock content for Insta so all I need to do is upload but wouldn’t do it as often as in my normal weeks. I will ensure I am not overloaded in work or stressed and I will focus all my time and energy towards uni. I do these sporadically across the semester but intensify nearer to deadlines. I will do nothing but assignments, I will be at one with my assignments and I will be, the assignment. Basically I will put everything that I do on normal days as 0 priority and focus everything on planning and completing assignments to get the best results. This worked really well for me in the first semester which means I will definitely be doing this again.

6.  Lastly, don’t forget to take a break!

I highly recommend holidays! Rest is very important especially if you are juggling so many things at once. You can either schedule time in the day or take a week off. For me, I go to the gym. It helps me clear my mind by focusing on my body and soul. Yoga would be great too. For others, maybe reading a few pages out of a book, going for a drink with a friend, watching an episode of YOU. Whatever it may be, make sure you get some ‘me time’. However, linking back to point two don’t forget doing ‘too much resting’ can turn into a routine and eventually become your habit.

Do you have any tips? something I missed? I would love to hear from you as well… drop me a comment below.

India Reed is an MSc in Communication and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – indialee_reed ; YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCujm8EoQQuxyAjf2Z1wJYQ ; and Twitter – @indialee_reed. India is also on WordPress at https://indialeereed.blog/ – check out her most recent post A Guide to Belfast Charity Shops

 

Have influencers felt the burn of Fyre?

I’m obsessed with Netflix at the moment – between removing everything from my life that doesn’t offer joy (thanks Marie Kondo) and being on the edge of my seat watching Fyre Festival, Netflix are killing it at the moment.

For those of you who haven’t seen the documentary, Fyre Festival (where have you been?!) Fyre Festival began with a story-style advertisement, which now has over 4 million views.

The Instagram page, website and overall aesthetic was a marketers dream – sunset, beaches, the most famous influencers, celebrities and models. All of this packaged in a stunning online presence, a beautifully choreographed Instagram profile, an all signing, all dancing website and sponsored posts by the rich and famous.

In reality, the five star accommodation transpired into disaster relief tents, luxury meals consisted of two slices of dry/brown bread (brown bread, of all choices) and cheese. Dogs roamed the luxury space, the attendees 5* service included soggy mattresses, no water, no air conditioning, no electricity. Sounds like a dream, I know.

But, within the PR and marketing world, influencers and models took the heat and were blamed for the failure of the event, not the organisers.

An article from Wired stated that ‘the influencer model is now in jeopardy. And maybe that’s not a bad thing’. Many articles offered similar opinions, following the disaster of the event.

Now, during a two hour lecture, my attention can sway, but surely the overarching aim of a marketer/influencer is to sell to people and increase sales via different mediums?

I believe the organisers should be held accountable, who were obviously out of their depth. When looking at online articles, Tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, it was clickbait, dramatised and heightened (shout-out to A-Level journalism for that analysis). Many stating that influencers where on their last legs, YouTube is on the final countdown and Instagram business-users should be having a mental breakdown as we speak.

But, public relations is defined as a ‘strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics’. And the more research one does, the more you begin to realise that influencer relations, within PR and marketing, can be dated to the mid-1900’s.

In 1931, Santa was introduced as the Face of Coca-Cola – a well know, respected character was used as the face of a product to increase sales. This, in no way, differs when a YouTuber claims they are obsessed with a product in their latest video. Granted Zoella might not have a white beard and red suit, but the same message is passed over the consumer.

So, in my opinion, the influencers shouldn’t be taking the heat for the disaster what is Fyre Festival. Nevertheless, I do believe that marketers and businesses can take essential learnings from the flop.

Brand Loyalty // It’s all well and good getting the elite of the celebrity world to endorse your product, it’ll bring a huge amount of exposure to your product. However, such celebrities are only doing so because of the large pay cheque waiting for them. In order for businesses to effectively grow their brands, they should look towards those, who may have a smaller following, but are more loyal to the brand. Viewers are going to identify authenticity within the sponsored posts and in turn will generate more sales.

Content // It’s important, yes, but why spend hours pouring over a professional editing suite when the video is only going to be posted on Instagram and YouTube? The organisers of Fyre Festival poured hours into their promo video, but they were on a remote island with limited WIFI and electric. Instead of increasing budget for content product, brands should turn to a core content team, where the overall output might not be as stunning, but places the product/service in a genuine and honest setting.

Honesty // Frye festival organisers messed up and instead of taking the heat. They tired to cover up the disaster with lies, false hope and deception. Which, obviously, didn’t work. If a business makes a mistake, it’s better to own up and face the music. Communicate honesty to your customers, post an official statement – it will be hard to do so, but there is a greater chance that the trust consumers once had, can be rebuilt again.

Alex Slaine is a Third Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He is currently working as Media and Education Intern at Intel Ireland on his placement year. He can be found on Twitter – @alexslainee; and LinkedIn – Alex Slaine

 

Can Public Relations survive without Social Media in 2019?

Public relations has of course been around for a very long time and has been used in many different types of situations but in 2019 PR is very different from before. Social media, as we all know, has taken over basically everything in our lives? and PR is no different.

Every business nowadays has at least one social media account where they post about AN3their product or events happening etc and this is pretty standard but the use of social media is growing and with this the demand for companies to have more of a social media presence. Bloggers and micro influencers are becoming more and more popular and the only thing businesses can do is take advantage of the new age of PR.

 

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Are Micro influencers the new way of doing PR?
They say micro influencers are the influencers of the future and I would agree with this. Micro influencers are those people we see on Instagram who are local bloggers just writing about what their passion is and they have a significant amount of followers. They will promote some products for either a small fee or for free and eventually it will lead to them getting sent free items to try out and show their followers what these products do. At least that is how they start off…
Once these bloggers start to get a good following companies will tend to take full advantage of this, it seems that the public trust ‘peer’ recommendation over company advertising. If you look at the likes of Topshop, huge brand in the UK and the rest of the world they have worked out the best ways to do their PR. Topshop in Belfast have staff that are also bloggers or ‘micro influencers’ and if you look at any of their Instagrams you will see how they incorporate the Topshop brand into their social media posts = PR for Topshop and well dressed bloggers for their Instagram.


The world of blogging

Blogging has always been around but it used to be that only certain people read blogs and those people usually had blogs themselves but now blogs are everywhere! Now blogs and PR have in a way rolled into one and we can’t get away from them. In Northern Ireland alone there are so many bloggers that are working or aspire to work AN4with companies. Tiffany Brien is a brilliant example of a local girl turned local celebrity, if you look at Tiffany’s Instagram or her ‘personal blog’ as it is known you will see how affective PR can be in the world of blogging and social media. She has 56.11k followers on Instagram alone and nearly every post she put up has some type of organisation tagged in it, ‘Tantastic’, ‘Boux Avenue’ and ‘Daniel Wellington Watches’ are just a few of the businesses who have caught on to her influence in Northern Ireland and beyond.

 

So, back to the question at the beginning, ‘Can PR survive without social media in 2019?’ I’m leaning towards no… Social media is one of the biggest platforms used to connect everyone all over the world so why wouldn’t companies use this to their advantage? It creates local celebrities, it is the first place I look if I am trying to gather information on a company. I think it is actually strange if I look for an organisation on Facebook or Instagram etc and they aren’t there and I am sure I am not the only one. I hope I have give a bit of an insight into how PR and social media are becoming intertwined and who knows maybe one of you could be the next big social media influencer.

 

Aoife Ni Cheallaigh Bairr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @aoifencb

Influencers Worthy of a Follow

It’s no secret that social media and PR has become inundated with influencer marketing. With YouTubers and bloggers making more money than most upcoming musicians, artists and actors, this is a sector not to be ignored. In a recent study Influencer Marketing Hub found that the market size of ‘influencer marketing’ in 2018 was said to be worth $4.6 billion and set to rise to $6.5 billion in 2019. Figures more than doubled from 2017, suggesting that this market is likely to keep growing and growing.

In a world full of “famous” people who were made rich through selling charcoal teeth whitening strips or selling their soul on Love Island it’s hard to tell who’s actually genuine and worthy of that follow. Believe me, I watch Love Island as much as the next person but do I think they are the most authentic salespeople? No, probably not. Maybe we should look at some of those influential content creators who’ve spent years of their life building their brand on YouTube, blogging or creating products and deserve a little bit more of our respect?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influencer Insights 2017-19 Studies

 

While it’s very easy to critique these so-called ‘influencers’, they are beginning to have a direct impact on our lives and if you work in this industry you’re more than likely going to be dealing with them at some point in your career. In 2017, Influencer Insights conducted a survey that found 47% of people turned to social media to research a brand. This is a huge element to consider when deciding what influencers to work with.

In Influencer Insights’ first study in 2017 they likened influencer marketing to word-of-mouth marketing with an updated twist. This is a very interesting outlook which forces us to ask if the novelty of influencers is their ability to relate to their consumer? And will we see this change as the years go on and honest opinions perhaps become less authentic? Only time will tell.

Influencer Insights

So, we should follow those people who drive important conversations, influencers and brands that are transparent with their sponsorships, people who create original content and ultimately those who are morally ethical with their posts (maybe not those promoting detox ‘skinny teas’). As when an influencer aligns their marketing methods with their own key values the brands they’re working with are introduced to a huge, yet targeted, segment of the market. Not only should we, as PR practitioners, choose carefully the people we work with, those people should too choose their brands appropriately and selectively.

Below is a list I’ve compiled of people that have stood out in a saturated but ever-growing industry, as well as their current Insta stats;

@Uhnonee- 131K followers

Oenone is a British personal trainer, influencer, activist, podcaster and blogger. With ‘The Tiny Tank’ as her original Insta handle, she is a ‘tiny’ girl with lots to say. She openly admits being brainwashed by social media in her earlier days and continuously calls out myths being marketed online. Upon listening to her podcast ‘Adulting’ I have learned so much about feminism, socialism and it’s really opened my eyes to the privileges I have in society. Oenone is unique, well-spoken and comes across really genuine, making her channels a must-listen. Glancing quickly at her Instagram page you would think she’s just a normal fitness influencer but if you click onto the posts and read the captions she actually juxtaposes standard bikini posts with lengthy, motivational and often significant captions. She opens conversations and initiates discussions, something hugely important in today’s society.

@SammiMaria- 571K followers

Sustainable fashion is a huge, important topic at the moment and many influencers are starting to raise awareness where they can. Check out Sammi’s video explaining how she is trying to cut down her fashion footprint and also naming brands that do their best to reduce their environmental impact.

I started following Sammi (formerly ‘The Beauty Crush’) about 7 years ago now. Influencers weren’t a ‘thing’ when I first started watching YouTube and from following Sammi’s channel alone I have seen just how much this market has grown. Unlike Tanya Burr, Zoella and Fleur deForce I never really grew out of Sammi’s content. She has been transitional over the years and despite her own worries of not being ‘up-to-date’ with the algorithms, I really think she has done well. Speaking out about her own battles with anxiety, domestic abuse and bulimia she has shared a lot with her millions of followers. Her energy is radiating, she seems truly authentic and her child Indie is one of the cutest on YouTube (If you needed any more reasons to follow!)

@HealthyLittleLifter- 71K followers

For the fitness fanatics out there Aisling is a must-follow.

For some people following tons of fitness influencers may not be beneficial to their mental health, and we should be wary of that. But for people who are looking for that motivation to improve their diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle- follow Dr Aisling Gough. She’s from Belfast and is also a registered doctor with a wide range of knowledge to support her ideas, so I think we can trust her opinion. She posts infograms with truly useful tips, shows you how you can track a Boojum on a ‘diet’ and continuously links new medical studies to better inform her audience. Despite competing in WBFF she hasn’t let this alter her food mentality. This is certainly refreshing and Aisling is a great role model for people who have an interest in health and fitness.

@NellyLondon- 46K followers

Nelly is by no means a ‘larger model’ but she has curves and comes across more ‘real’ than many people on Insta. She was part of Missguided’s #MakeYourMark campaign and regularly speaks out about body confidence, her struggles with eating disorders and her radiating confidence is motivational.

@DrJoshuaWolrich- 137K followers

Joshua recently changed his Insta handle from @Unfattening to his real name. Contrary to the ‘Unfattening’ brand he actually posted nothing about weight loss. He used this trap to get people to his page, conversely trying to encourage an anti-weight loss mindset and bettering people’s attitudes towards foods.

Already a registered NHS doctor and a following that’s growing massively, Joshua is one to watch out for. After being introduced to him on Oenone’s podcast I started following and found his content really refreshing. I’ve already learned so much from his posts and he makes you think about why you call certain foods ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Not only does he correct popular misbeliefs, he also makes you aware of the fake news that circulates the internet in terms of fat loss. In terms of health these myths can be extremely detrimental to young people’s mental health and sometimes even dangerous. This is why accounts like Joshua’s are so important in 2019.

@JBone89- 141K followers

Jordan (or Jordan’s Beautiful Life for blog followers) is a blogger, YouTuber and author who suffered a car accident in 2005, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. She writes about the usual beauty, lifestyle and fashion topics while proving that influencers don’t always have to fit a certain mould. She’s inspiring to read and follow, check out Jordan’s Instagram page here.

@JameelaJamil- 1M followers

I’m sure you’ve already seen the radio presenter and actress’ #IWeigh campaign which already has over 342,000 followers on Instagram in itself. The campaign aims to encourage people to not base their self-worth on the number on a scale, instead weighing up other attributes of your life. Jameela is using her celebrity status coupled with her own overcoming of an eating disorder to call out celebrities and brands which aren’t doing enough. She’s even recently started a change.org campaign to ban celebrities promoting detox teas which you can view here. Definitely worthy of a follow.

@GraceFitUK- 1M followers

If you haven’t heard of Grace you must have been hiding under a rock for the past year as her brand has completely blown up with an Instagram that has just crept over 1 million followers. She’s a seemingly ‘normal’ girl from London who goes to university at Oxford, maintains friendships and has created a hugely successful but also sustainable fitness brand. At only 21 Grace really is one to watch.

From a career perspective Grace produces some really informative content. In a recent YouTube video talking about the ‘influencer’ job role I learned so much information about the career and how brands can work with these people. Not only did she speak about her own methods of gaining sponsorships and commission, she also videoed an hour-long discussion with other female fitness and beauty influencers speaking openly about how much they get paid, how brands can reach out to them and interesting secrets about the industry. From both a consumer and marketing perspective I found these videos really informative, open, honest and definitely worthy of a watch.

So, to conclude, as the number of influencers out there continues to rise make sure that if anyone you follow on Instagram is making you feel a certain way about yourself, is producing incorrect information or even making you feel like you need to buy something… delete them. It’s not worth it. There is a world of content out there on the internet and we should be using this upsurge in social media use to our advantage- challenging our minds, speaking out about things that need to be spoken about and ensuring we lead a path for generations below us. In an industry overcome with successful females we should be supporting those influencers who are making a difference instead of criticising the career as a whole. We can use this career shift to our advantage. As marketers, advertisers and PR professionals we are in charge of who our brands work with so let’s make sure each influencer we work with is a truly worthy role model.

 Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, influencermarketinghub.com

 

Lauren Wilson is a third-year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently undertaking a year’s placement at Belfast City Council. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurennxwilsonn/

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

Like many young girls, growing up I was a typical ‘Barbie Girl’ (it’s almost impossible not to sing the famous line by Aqua in my head when writing that!). I loved everything pink and I proudly owned an army of Barbies, as well as all necessary accompanying accessories such as: the Barbie Dream House, the Barbie horse and carriage, the Barbie Beach Hut – the list is endless.

To my surprise, I discovered that this year on 9th March, Barbie will be turning 60 years old, with a not a wrinkle in sight. She really does live up to the saying: “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!”. 

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Ruth and Elliot Handler co-founded Mattel Creations in 1945 and 14 years later in 1959, Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll. However, it’s no surprise that more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on 9th March 1959. The Economic Times commented that despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbie’s are sold each year in more than 150 countries. In a growing generation of children’s obsession with iPads and tablets, Barbie has cemented herself as a staple toy for children and come a long way since her first model, pictured above.

Despite her years of success, Barbie has found herself under scrutiny for negatively influencing girls and portraying negative body expectations. Since her creation, it has been debated that Barbie is an unrealistic image of what the ‘average’ girl should look like, as well as failing to represent differences in race and colour. There is no need to question whether Barbie’s body shape is unrealistic. Researchers have reminded us that her proportions would occur in less than 1 in 100,000 adult women and that her waist is 20cm smaller than a reference group of anorexic patients. Most shocking of all, research also argues that if Barbie’s measurements resembled an actual woman, she would not be able to menstruate or even hold up her head.

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Mattel claims that the proportions were created for ease of dressing and undressing the doll, not replicating an adult figure. However, there is no such rationale for the very thin representation of Barbie in her TV show, movies, books, and range of online games. In all forms, Barbie represents a completely unattainable figure for adult women; leading parent’s to debate Barbie’s credibility as a role model. Negative connotations of ‘blonde’, ‘bimbo’ and ‘air-head’ also are associated with Barbie. Teen Talk Barbie in 1992 said phrases such as “Math class is tough”, with many arguing that Barbie discouraging young girls from academic ventures.

Now ask yourself this: how can Barbie represent and be relatable to the twenty-first century girl? Since 2000, Mattel have worked to keep the Barbie brand as relevant as ever to represent woman and remain on-trend. Although the typical ‘Barbie’ style consisted of blonde hair, blue eyed dolls, the first black Barbie called Christie was created in 1969, with Mattel showing exclusivity and diversity. The Barbie franchise today represents more than 40 different nationalities.

One campaign in particular that stood out for me in the evolution of Barbie occurred back in 2010 with American PR agency Ketchum West and Mattel. Mattel, along with Ketchum West, harnessed Barbie’s brand power by having the public choose her 126th career, with her past occupations including president and princess. However, over a million people voted for Computer Engineer Barbie in a campaign mixing the public’s love for Barbie with the movement to empower girls. In an inspired touch, the Society of Women Engineers and National Academy of Engineering helped create the doll’s look.

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Michelle Chidoni, VP of global brand communications at Mattel, said the company knew giving consumers a voice and delivering a doll they requested would drive earned media and create a conversation around the lack of women in STEM. “The conversation was extremely positive and underscored the brand’s purpose,” she noted. “When a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything she can become.”

This campaign broke down the negative stereotypes associated with Barbie, emphasising that Barbie was more than just a fashion doll, but more so a positive role model for young girls. Blonde or brunette, slender or curvy, black or white, princess or president, Barbie is a forever favourite for young girls, and this campaign has helped influence future PR campaigns for Barbie. This includes the most recent campaign, Dream Gap, in 2018 which taught young girls to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes. It also helped to influence the unique range of dolls made for Barbie during International Woman’s Day in 2018, with the release of  15 new dolls which are “role model” dolls crafted in the likeness of real iconic women across the globe, for example Nicola Adams OBE Box Champion from the UK.

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With careers spanning from president to astronaut, Barbie can also add ‘Social Influencer’ to her long list of attributes. In the new era of social media, Barbie has remained on trend by having her voice established across a number of social platforms, allowing her to connect with her new digital fan base. The @BarbieStyle Instagram account has 1.5 million followers and looks more like an Instagram account for a celebrity than a doll. Through the success of this account, back in 2016 Barbie was photographed at an event for Dyson’s new supersonic hairdryer, and posted the picture to Instagram. This was the first sponsored post for Barbie, but with over 51,000 likes, it won’t be her last. This emphasises the dynamic nature of the Barbie brand, which refuses to be limited to the category of simply a toy.

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Barbie also stays connected with fans through her own YouTube channel, with an impressive 5.5. million followers. Her channel includes a ‘vlog’ style series, which is designed to mimic some of our favourite YouTube stars, yet tailored to provide Ted Talk style videos to young girls regarding a number of issues such as: ‘Feeling blue? You’re not alone’ to the importance of having your voice heard.

Barbie has exceeded her previous stereotype, and has paved the way for a generation of new Barbie lovers; it really is no surprise that she’s remained a universal brand for the past six decades. With talks of a live-action Barbie film starring Margot Robbie, there really is no stopping the Barbie brand.

All that’s left to say is: Come on Barbie let’s go party – here’s to the next 60 years!

 

Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/