Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

After completing a placement year in my third year of University in which I worked with a Boutique Wedding Fair company, Quirky Weddings as their lead Social Media Marketer, I secured a job as a Personal Stylist for Topshop. I decided to apply to differ from the last year of my degree as this role was multifaceted and encompassed many elements of my ideal career. The role was a sales-driven role that involved fashion promotion, events management and an opportunity to work with a leading UK fashion brand in their marketing. Unfortunately, after a somewhat successful first 8 months within in this position, the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak happened. Due to this, my new job role was unable to be fulfilled as all retail had to close for the nationwide lockdown, leaving me on furlough from March 2020 until the present.

While furlough meant that I had financial security, I didn’t want the pandemic to interrupt the progress I  had made in my career nor, did I want to waste my time off from work. So I sat down and mapped out what I could do to put the time to best use, how I could transfer my skills from both my work experience and university studies into something fruitful. I decided to take my digital and social media marketing knowledge and reach out to work with small businesses on promotion and sales while restricted by the lockdown. Primarily, I reached out to several businesses that had to pivot their whole business model due to the restrictions. I worked with hospitality and e-commerce businesses to utilise the likes of Instagram stories, newsletters and visual branding to define their brand message and increase sales. For example, restaurants that had to close but were now doing deliveries, new e-commerce brands that had recently launched online and many businesses in general that had realised that they wanted to expand into the marketing world of social media. 

Working with a variety of local and small businesses was a chance to expand my knowledge of marketing different content subjects and help these businesses flourish in the face of adversity. Digital and social media marketing can be such an intimidating whirlpool of information and requires an ever-shifting well of knowledge that some business owners do not have initially and often don’t have the time to learn once launched. Especially when it comes to influencer marketing, I had seen so many new and established businesses investing in influencers with no return. With the lockdown restrictions, this was a great time to explore this form of marketing with businesses as it was an excellent online tool to spread the word of new products and services. 

One example was when I worked with a well-known cafe based in Ards that are famous for their ice-cream and due to the restrictions were now offering deliveries of the ice-cream to your front door. As it was excellent weather for this product this was an ample time to get creative with the offer of this service. I helped the cafe select the most relevant influencer’s suited to their products and services, organising with them a PR package to send that incorporated the cafe’s value’s, key message’s and what they wanted to promote. This package was received and promoted on the influencer’s Instagram page resulting in an influx of sales and follower’s for the café. It prompted many customers in the local area to order similar package’s as they were not aware that the café was offering such services. This was an instance that really highlighted the fact that word of mouth and traditional marketing had not necessarily been enough in that circumstance. Which was an amazing result to achieve a through a simple shift in marketing strategy. 

Similarly, I had this experience with a few other of the small businesses that I worked with to enhance their digital presence. Simply looking at how brands could improve their visibility through engaging social media posts, engaging with their customers on a more personal level and building stronger relationships with these customers. As the lockdown restrictions were so hard on so many local businesses, it was great to use my skill set to help them in such unprecedented times. I found this experience encouraging and that the pandemic may have been a time for me to reevaluate what it was that I wanted to do within the PR and Marketing industry. 

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

How many influencers have used the Covid 19 pandemic as a way to manipulate the media?

How many influencers have used the Covid 19 pandemic as a way to manipulate the media?

During this pandemic many thoughts wander through the mind and is hard to see what is going on around us with the mainstream media blasting content down our throats at every angle. After some thought went into to it, I wondered how many massive media representatives have been using this pandemic and its difficulties to their advantage.

This became apparent after watching some fellow students on a panel talking about Stephen Nolan from the Nolan’s show recent visit to the holy lands to showcase and portray how bad things were getting in terms of Covid 19 restrictions and guideline violations.

The well-known presenter made an effort to walk through the streets during peak times to exaggerate the gatherings and to make the students living there look bad. This had a massive knock on affect after this showcase as the media started blaming any spike in the covid 19 virus as a result of the students living in the holy lands.

This presenter seen an opportunity to approach drunken students who in their defence were only trying to make the best of these current times and enjoy student life. But the presenter knew when he challenged the drunk students that they would react accordingly and when provoked they did so which was exactly what the producers wanted to support their media efforts.

This brought a dark cloud over all students heads in my eyes as being a student myself in the holy lands I couldn’t help feel that anywhere I went people would assume I am part of the rise in Covid spike and therefore I and others who live in these areas are to blame.

Many other media influencers such as local members of parliament took to the high horse when the Covid pandemic hit as they used this as any way to gain media spotlight. In my opinion you don’t see these representatives do much unless it’s in the spotlight of the media to gain votes come election time. So, when the pandemic struck, they kicked into action doing anything at all to gain media spotlight to showcase their efforts in assisting the global pandemic.

Since it’s a global pandemic I will also have to talk about the biggest media representative in America of course! Donald trump tested positive for covid despite all the presidential efforts and strict guidelines. His son Eric trump spoke to CNN news when his father was not well. He stated that one day his father was that sick he thought he would lose him. Yet days later after this new vaccine “the cure” he was a different man and that no one could have done what his father has done for the covid vaccine front and how far they have come in terms of a cure. This in my opnion is a massive political stunt to gain the American vote again and I would dare say the president didn’t even have covid.

I’m not saying that I’m against all of these media representatives and influencers as I will still vote for whoever during election time and I will continue to watch the Stephen Nolan show but I’m highlighting the fact that all of these people only used the media spotlight to showcase something in order to gain support or to create a media campaign to create content. I believe this is not the type of thing that these people should be doing during this time rather than use their access to such a great media following to promote positivity and forward-thinking suggestions to making life easier during these scary times.

Dion Stewart is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

Who runs the world? Influencers.

It is undeniable that social media has become an obligatory part of our everyday lives. According to wearesocial.com, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in 2020. *MIND-BLOWN*

A major element of modern social media is influencers. Influencers are individuals who build a following on social media, based on their opinions and expertise on a specific topic, most commonly fashion, fitness or beauty related. Influencers post regularly, generating huge exposure from their loyal followers.

Molly-Mae Hague, you either know everything about her, or nothing at all. That is the beauty of influencers; megastars to their interested audience but not quite A-Lister household names. Molly-Mae is a 21-year-old, Social Media Influencer from Hertfordshire, who rose to fame in 2019 as a contestant on the UK hit series, Love Island.

Love Island has been known as a ‘gateway’ for Social Media Influencers to gain a higher following, overpowering the shows initial goal of finding ‘love’. Molly-Mae did not shy away from this and has since openly admitted that initially Love Island was simply a “business venture” to further her career in Influencer Marketing.

Molly-Mae’s career has gone from strength to strength, making her the most successful contestant to leave the show. This however is no accident, it is a result of meticulous planning, content creating and professional endeavours.

Upon leaving the villa, Molly-Mae’s business venture had already proven extremely successful, with all of the UK top clothing brands aiming to secure a deal with her. After considering her options, Molly-Mae signed an incredible £500,000 deal with Manchester based fashion company, Pretty Little Thing. This was the highest brand deal a 2019 Love Island contestant generated.

As Molly-Mae’s Pretty Little Thing collaboration rolled out, the brand found their sales increase dramatically, with the range selling out immediately. This therefore resulted in Molly Mae receiving another six-figure deal to extend the collaboration for an extra six months.

Molly-Mae donated all profits from one of her Pretty Little Thing collections to the mental health charity MIND following the death of friend and Love Island host, Caroline Flack. MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems. The charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding surrounding mental health.

The decision to donate all profits to MIND was a personal decision for Molly-Mae, due to the death her close friend. Doing this allowed Molly-Mae to use her huge platform to promote the importance of mental health awareness and understanding. Molly-Mae engages with a lot of young people through her social media following, maintaining a positive reputation and a high level of influence. It is important to target her following with important issues, encouraging them to speak out about their mental health.

On the back of her partnership with Pretty Little Thing, it was clear that Molly-Mae was a big hit. To ensure she captured her success at a high point, Molly-Mae decided to embark on her very own business venture. With a target audience in mind, through commitment and dedication, she successfully launched her very own tanning brand, Filter by Molly-Mae.

Filter is a collection of tanning products. However, some eager eyed fans have noticed the brand is listed on Endole as a ‘wholesale of perfume and cosmetics’, which gives them the rights to expand the range into a cosmetic and beauty brand. This expansion has been successfully carried out by many brands. Local brand bPerfect Cosmetics did exactly this, expanding their tanning brand into a makeup cosmetics line and most recently, opening a Mega Store in Belfast City Centre. *No pressure Molly-Mae*

In September 2020, Molly-Mae hit the significant milestone of one million subscribers on her ever-growing Youtube channel, where she documents her life through daily vlogs, behind the scenes on business ventures as well as hair, makeup and fashion tutorials.

It could be argued that Youtube is an extremely vital part in Molly-Mae’s success. Her loyal followers were introduced to her through Love Island, a TV show that followed her daily life, every day, for over two months. Therefore, people may feel that they know Molly-Mae on a more personal level and her Youtube ensures this relationship is continued.

To celebrate this milestone, Molly-Mae launched a huge giveaway on her Instagram account. This giveaway boasted £8,000 worth of prizes, with Louis Vuitton bags, Apple gadgets, as well as her tanning products from Filter by Molly-Mae.

Giveaways are an immediate way to create engagement on social media, with many influencers participating in brand collaboration giveaways. Collaborations benefit both the brand and the influencer, with brand specific prizes and entry requirements that increase following and engagement for both.

Molly-Mae decided to cut out the ‘middle-man’ and set up the giveaway on her own. This allowed her to include authentic prizes that were directly related to her personality, her brand and her followers’ interests. Doing this also allowed Molly-Mae to stay clear of the typical, robotic perception that comes with giveaways. She ensured her caption was sincere, including a message of gratitude to existing followers.

Molly-Mae posing with her £8,000 giveaway prize on Instagram.

The entry requirements on the giveaway were as follows:

  • Like this post & tag a friend
  • Subscribe to my Youtube channel
  • Make sure you’re following @mollymaehague and @filterbymollymae
  • Share this post to your story for a bonus entry

These entry requirements ensured multi-networking which generated a high level of engagement, increasing social media following, as well as building brand awareness for Filter by Molly-Mae.

The giveaway also created headlines for the tabloids, keeping Molly-Mae in the public eye. It is very important that influencers show commitment and dedication to content creation in order to maintain their public image. This is especially important in 2020, with events, launches and media appearances being minimal due to COVID-19.

Molly-Mae’s vision for the future was impeccable and the aim of this giveaway was certainty achieved, with the total entry level reaching almost THREE MILLION, her personal Instagram gaining over 200,000 new followers and 300,000 new Youtube subscribers.

Both her personal Instagram and Youtube account will benefit greatly from this surge in followers through an increase of sponsored posts as well as an increase in earnings through social media insights and engagements.

The biggest success to come out of the giveaway has been the increase in Instagram followers for her tanning brand. Filter by Molly-Mae gained a mind-blowing 500,000 followers and counting. Yes, that is correct – 500,000!

Social media giveaways are an effective way to generate engagement with a loyal, existing audience, as well as a way to reach out to new people. Molly-Mae utilised people’s desire to participate in competitions to increase engagement for her new brand, Filter by Molly-Mae. She done this at a time where her fame and engagement were high, gaining public exposure at a time where this is limited.

To be sure she obtains the benefits of her giveaway and retains the increase in engagement, it is essential that Molly-Mae develops strategic communication tactics to build a relationship with new followers, as they are not required to continue following her once the competition has ended. It is important that she remains consistent, sharing user generated content, as well as asking for feedback and recommendations.

As soon as the winner of the giveaway was announced, Molly-Mae was already forward-planning, building excitement for the next one on social media. This is the perfect way to keep followers, old and new interested. However, if the next prize is anything like the first… who wouldn’t be interested?

I have a good feeling about the next one… if you see me out and about in the near future with a 4-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set or Apple gadget bundle… thanks Molly-Mae!

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

The Belfast born brand BPerfect Cosmetics owned by Brendan McDowell launched their first “Megastore” in CastleCourt Belfast on October 1st. This event was heavily promoted on social media across each of BPerfects online social media platforms, with former EastEnders star Jac Jossa attending to launch her first ever tan, tanning mit and facial tanner called the “Jac Jossa Collection”. Many famous beauty influencers such as “MMMitchell”, “Stacey Marie MUA” attended the store launch acting as the staff for the 4-hour opening. Combined each influencer equalled over 7 million followers.  The advertising and marketing carried out prior to the launch date was well executed with the BPerfect team launching their very own “BPerfect Megastore” Instagram page in which they provided every exciting detail about the store launch along with promoting the event on their existing Instagram, Facebook and website platforms . To compliment BPerfects Megastores launch, Jac Jossa and other successful beauty influencers all promoted the store opening night on their very own personal Instagram page, to ultimately bring more people to the not to be missed event.

The BPerfect team knew the megastore would attract many fans as they are a well-established brand, celebrities were attending and of course it was the launch day of the Jac Jossa collection. CastleCourt offered free parking to everyone, and all the BPerfect team arrived in a party bus to create an air of excitement and you guessed it, it certainly attracted a massive crowd. During these unprecedented times, Brendan McDowell and his team knew they had to be responsible and obey the COVID guidelines ensuring the opening was carried out safely and did not breach public safety guidelines.

As a further measure, McDowell posted on his personal Instagram, the megastores Instagram and on the BPerfects Instagram explaining that he had consulted with both the Public Health Agency and CastleCourt to put safety measures in place such as following the one way system while entering the store, wearing a mask in-store, or they would provide one for you, providing hand sanitising stations and a security team to ensure social distancing.

With all safety measures in place, what could go wrong?

On the night of the store opening, as anticipated hundreds of fans gathered from all over Belfast. Queues of people lined up for the must have beauty products and to meet the celebrity influencers, Jac Jossa, and of course get the all-important selfie of themselves instore.

However, the next morning BPerfect were slammed as a “disgrace” by other beauty bloggers. IRadio presenter Louise Clarke tweeted “How is this acceptable? As if it was ever going to be a controlled environment. Shame on the influencers who attended and promoted the event and massive shame on BPerfect for holding it. What’s with certain ‘influencers’ thinking they’re above Covid guidelines?” Ultimately, something that was meant to be a great achievement in the history of the brand backfired and ended up being slammed in the media as a “Total Disgrace” and “A joke”.

How could BPerfect come back from something so brand damaging?

Once Brendan and the BPerfect team heard about the backlash they received, a spokesperson for the brand issued this statement to the media “Before, during and after the opening of our new BPerfect Megastore, we made numerous public pleas to anyone shopping with us on our opening night to ensure they adhered to all social distancing guidelines at all times. This included asking everyone to be personally responsible for social distancing in the outdoor queue, wearing a mask when indoors, sanitising their hands and following all instructions from security.” Brendan posted on his Instagram stating that he was extremely sorry for any offense caused and him and his team really tried to make the store launch as safe as possible for everyone involved. A spokesperson for CastleCourt shopping centre said: “We thoroughly examined BPerfects event management plans and were satisfied with the measures outlined and the focused approach taken to address public health guidelines and to promote safety advice at all times”.

The BPerfect brand had to apologise to their fans. You could argue that it is not their fault as fans chose to attend the event having received the appropriate advice and knowing the safety measures in place. On the other hand, you could argue that their timing was off. Should a successful brand like BPerfect with hundreds of thousands of followers launch their first store knowing it will attract a large crowd in the middle of a pandemic?

The BPerfect launch is the perfect example of how something so exciting and ground-breaking for a brand can very quickly be torn to shreds by the media in the space of 24 hours.  I feel this was a PR nightmare because it happened during a global pandemic when the emphasis is on personal safety and social distancing. The brand cannot undo the damage but can demonstrate how they have learnt from it. I personally feel that despite the publicity drive for this launch and  given the unprecedented times we are living in, they  could not possibly predict the outcome, that hundreds would attend or even be interested in all things beauty related when social events  everywhere have been cancelled. While I’m confident the brand will recover, there is no doubt that their next move will have to be an outstanding PR success.

Tara Hamill is a final year student at Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Linkedin: @TaraHamill and Instagram: @TaraHamill.

#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.

 Ultimate Influencer

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