COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Effects from the year will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for years to come as every business has to adapt to the “new normal”. There is no business that has escaped unaffected. Therefore, businesses of every size globally have been forced to adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges this year has thrown at them. For many, this has been made possible thanks to the help of PR.

Here is just 4 reasons why PR is invaluable to businesses at the time of a crisis such as COVID19: 

  1. To Produce a Crisis Management Plan

Let’s face it, no one could have ever predicted a global pandemic and international lockdown. Coronavirus has brought new issues no one could have ever imagined having to face. However, a crisis management plan in place may have outlined the ways in which to overcome challenges in the event of the business having to temporarily close or reduce output for whatever reason. 

Now, more than ever, businesses need to put in place a plan or evaluate their current one to reduce crisis impact in future. With lives and livelihoods at stake, a crisis management plan simply cannot be overlooked. 

2. To Establish Trust and Integrity 

Inevitably, the global pandemic has created mass distrust. A good PR strategy can instil a  reputation of trustworthiness and credibility for a brand so that gradually consumers will trust the brand without question. 

One way of doing this is through a macro/micro-influencer. An influencer is a powerful tool to gain credibility. However important it is for the blogger to be admired and trusted, most of all the brand and influencer relationship must be genuine, otherwise it will have the opposite effect if consumers sense a false association or a feeling that the influencer doesn’t even use the businesses products/services. 

3. To Maintain a Positive Online Relationship

During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever before to maintain a relationship with consumers at home. Pre-pandemic business-consumer relationships have diminished especially for businesses that had no online presence or did not fully engage with consumers. 

As society becomes more physically isolated, engaging online with consumers will make them feel more unified in an online community. It provides a safe space where they can maintain a personal relationship to the brand in a time of so much tragedy and negativity. 

Many brands are using their online platform to spread messages of hope and the recurring theme of “stay safe” or “stay at home” which consumers engage well with when brands show they are connected and they care. 

4. To Promote Success

After time it can be extremely beneficial to promote how well you’ve responded to issues caused by COVID19. For example, according to Deloitte (2020), 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.

Brands who highlight their success with steps they have taken on their part to control the virus or simply their role in “doing the right thing” are seen as more genuinely caring by consumers. For example, advertising store closures, social distancing measures, hand sanitising stations and new business practices not only provide information but show they are committed to the protection of the community.

Aveen Moore is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

The Brand Putting Sustainability First

The Brand Putting Sustainability First
The diverse models featured in a Tala campaign

The athleisure wear industry is estimated to be worth £2.5 billion in the UK alone; and is only expected to increase throughout the next five years. This rise could be attributed to the increase in social media influencers who make their living sharing exercise related content; and have generated buzz around exercise, especially for their younger audiences.  

In recent years, well-known high-street brands have reacted to this surge in interest for fitness by releasing their own range of sportswear. With most fast fashion brands, including Missguided and Pretty Little Thing, creating their own range of gym wear. But how could new brands establish themselves in an already saturated market?

Introducing Tala

Pictured is founder Grace Beverley

This challenge has been accepted by Grace Beverley, a 23-year-old social media influencer, turned entrepreneur, who has already sent shockwaves through the industry. Storming straight to the top of Forbes 30 under 30 list, Grace has founded two successful fitness businesses in just a few years; with Tala launching in May 2019 and selling more than 60,000 products within the first few months. But what sets her apart from her competitors?

Sustainability

One of the models featured on the website

Described as “the brand you knew you wanted but could never quite find”, Tala is a fitness brand, creating ethical products with sustainability at the core of the brand. While sustainability within brands is not necessarily a new concept, Tala has promised to deliver ethical products that “wont break the planet, or the bank”, something consumers can smile about. Companies striving for sustainability have notoriously sold clothes with a hefty price point upwards of £100, which is simply impossible for most customers, making it difficult for the everyday consumer to shop sustainably.

Tala has made sure to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the business – from using recyclable materials to create the clothing, to selling Fibre Filer Bags, which cleverly catch the tiny microfibres released every time clothing is washed. The Fibre Filer Bag prevents the microfibres from contributing to pollution of our oceans as they can be disposed of from the Fibre Bags into the bin. The package is also made from 100% recycled material to ensure there is no waste ending up in landfill. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?

The models featured in one of the campaigns

Operating Ethically

While fast fashion allows its consumers to purchase clothing at discounted rates, it has become known that exploitation is a serious issue in this industry. Brands selling their clothing at lesser rates than their competitors, are often known to take advantage of their workers in the factories who may be working extended hours but seeing very little return in the rate they are paid. Tala has made sure to provide clothing at an affordable rate, but customers can rest easy knowing they are wearing clothing that has been ethnically created. Not only do they pride themselves on operating sustainably, but they also ensure the products are created with suppliers who align with their beliefs by ensuring their factories are operating ethnically.

The tag contains seeds, ready to be planted

If you’re looking for a brand who has put thought into every aspect of their business, look no further! The tag on each item of clothing is filled with seasonal seeds. This means you can cut off the tag and grow a different plant with every tag you get. All you need to do is put the tag in some soil, sprinkle it with a drop of water and watch your very own plant grow. Talk about going the extra mile!

Putting diversity first

The models show the diversity of the brand

Within recent years, consumers have not been reserved in calling brands out for not including diversity within their marketing campaigns, as well as holding fashion brands accountable for not featuring models of different sizes on their websites. While we can acknowledge that brands have been showing more diversity within their campaigns, there is still work to be done. In 2020, inclusive marketing is an obvious choice to reflect real people and remove the unrealistic ideals put forward by “perfect” models. This is not an issue for those browsing the Tala website, as women of all shapes and sizes are featured. The diversity is carried through throughout the brands marketing and is sure to attract the attention of a diverse range of women.

While this brand is certainly one of the first paving the way for inclusive, sustainable, and ethical approaches to creating and marketing clothing; hopefully, it won’t be the last!

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin and Twitter

Influencers or Brainwashers

Influencers or Brainwashers

The debate continues if social media influencers can be classified as positive influences on younger generations, or are they brainwashing them? 

The emergence of social media in the last 20 years has drastically changed people’s prospect on what they believe to be true, due to what they read online. A study conducted by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group investigated the motivations for individuals sharing content on social media platforms. They revealed that people desire to share valuable and entertaining content to others as it helps define them, enables them to grow and nourish relationships as well as emphasises the brands and causes they like to support.

The job role of a ‘social media influencer’ involves possessing a sizeable following on public platforms which is retained through regular publication and interaction with their followers. Social media influencers are frequently approached to market companies’ offerings such as a recent product launch or a new service available. I mean who doesn’t love a freebee?

Social media plays a key acquisitions in shaping our lives as it is current in every-day life. The average amount of time spent a day on social media by 16-43-year-olds was proven to be three hours a day. Many of these hours are spent scrolling through and watching their favourite social media influencers promoting what they believe to be the best products and services available.

A local social media influencer well known in Northern Ireland and beyond in countries like Australia and Dubai is Louise McDonnell, better known as ‘LMD’. LMD is a make-up artist by trade but also is a beauty influencer with a giant following of 115K on Instagram and 70K on Facebook. LMD shares all her beauty tips and tricks on a regular basis on her social media platforms, keeping her followers up to date by uploading content to her stories as well as posting pictures and videos to her social media grid.

But is LMD a positive influence on young people you ask? LMD can be seen as a role model as she built her dream job as a youngster into a successful business career and has now opened a salon in Magherafelt, launched her own beauty products range and collaborated with businesses such as BPerfect and Oh My Glam.

However, LMD acting as a public figure may not always be a positive influence on younger generations, some argue that she frames this fantasy world about how we should live, what luxuries we should have, creating false hope and expectations about reality. Young people will desire the things that she claims that are ‘must have items’ and this reflects negatively, brainwashing the younger generation that if LMD has it, they have to as well.

It has been proven that 70% of teens would trust social media influencers more than traditional celebrities. Teens are more likely to follow advice from influencers over conventional TV and sport celebrities, evidently indicating how influential these influencers can be on younger generations.

Joe Wicks better known as ‘The Body Coach’ is another social media influencer, he is renowned for his virtual PE classes that he held during the first lockdown back in March.  Joe is a massive public figure in the UK and has a following of nearly four million on Instagram. That many followers for just recording exercise classes in your living room? Where do I sign up?

Joe has been trying to keep the nation fit and active as well as keep spirits high during lockdown through his fitness videos posted on social media as well as on his Youtube channel. His work has not gone unnoticed as he recently obtained an OBE from the queen. In November 2020, Joe also raised a phenomenal £2 million for Children in Need.

Joe as a social media influencer is impacting young people in a positive way as he is encouraging behaviour that improves their overall mental and physical well-being. Thus, the debate that all social media influencers brainwash younger generations and promote negative messages is not totally correct. Joe Wicks is a prime example of an influencer who is using his social media platforms to promote a healthy and promising lifestyle to the wider public and therefore lessens the idea that all influencers are brainwashing young people with the messages they broadcast on their social media.

Despite what is viewed online by young people cannot always be monitored, influencers can determine what they upload, share, and promote on their social media platforms. Therefore, they must try and establish a balance between what they publicise is realistic to younger generations in comparison to what is ‘brainwashing’ and reflecting negative towards them.

Emily McCann is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

Cancel Culture and PR Scandals

With the ever-growing popularity of social media, anyone with internet access has the ability to grow a following and share their life online. However, as a result of the huge growth in social platforms, a culture in “cancelling” public figures has taken shape. 

What does it mean to be “#Cancelled”? 

Cancel culture or being “#cancelled” is essentially an online punishment given to influencers, creators, celebrities, brands (etc)  after unforgivable mishaps in the form of mass public shaming. Being involved in cancel culture has become hugely popular online to the point that in August 2019 YouTube rounded off all subscriber numbers to stop viewers watching the rise and fall in cancelled creators’ followers. 

Prior to the recent popularity in cancel culture, being “cancelled” was in fact just a colloquial term used by twitterers in relation to something ‘cringeworthy’ done by a public figure. Then cancel culture was almost harmless… but is this still the case?  

The rise of cancel culture. 

In May 2019, one of the biggest influencer feuds occurred. Social media stars James Charles and Tati Westbrook took to YouTube to essentially ‘expose’ and ‘cancel’ each other for an audience of millions. James Charles, a 21-year-old beauty influencer with a now subscriber count of 22.8 million, was quickly ‘#cancelled’ by the internet after Tati’s (GlamLifeGuru) efforts to take down his career amid speculation of predatory behavior. Internet users saw James’ subscriber count fall drastically from 16.5 million to just under 14 million in 72 hours with the hashtags “#JamesCharlesIsCancelled” and “#JamesCharlesIsOverParty trending over all social platforms for days. This may be the biggest example of a cancelled public figure; although it was certainly not the first and most definitely wasn’t the last. 

“So what?” you may ask, “it’s only followers”. Cancel culture results in huge public relations scandals for those involved, it is no longer about the drop in followers and frankly the least of their worries.  

PR Nightmare. 

From a PR and business perspective, being cancelled is your worst nightmare. To you or me it may seem like nonsense, it’s only losing a few million followers and life goes on but to a public figure it is ‘social suicide’. As a result of being ‘#cancelled’ these influencers and figures lose huge contracts with brands as these brands are now skeptical of damaging their own image by supporting these deemed cancelled individuals. For example, another beauty industry creator Laura Lee was previously cancelled by the internet for her past racist comments over twitter. As a result, Laura lost ties with several major sponsors and even had her makeup line revoked from beauty retailer ‘Morphe’ indefinitely.

 

The Debate

One of the biggest mainstream cancels this year was J.K Rowling for her transphobic and misogynistic comments; an unexpected scandal that kick started a wider cancel culture debate. Should we allow cancel culture and is it ethical? The pros of cancel culture can seem obvious to most as the public can seek accountability for inexcusable actions, in particular where the justice system has failed. For example, looking at the #metoo movement, cancel culture allows abusers to be cancelled as we saw with Harvey Weinstein. On the other hand, anti-cancel culture individuals highlight the increase in online bullying that leads to violence and threats often worse than the wrongdoing they’re calling out to begin with. Many cancelled individuals reveal the death threats and violent warnings they receive from internet trolls while being cancelled, and often confess to suicidal thoughts and PTSD as a result, like James Charles did during his scandal. So are we taking cancel culture too far? Is cancel culture even productive or is it just toxic?  

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

The rise of the Momfluencer

The rise of the Momfluencer

A help or a hinder?

influencer

[ˈɪnflʊənsə]

NOUN

a person or thing that influences another.

“he was a champion of the arts and a huge influencer of taste” · 
            marketing

a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.


The universal definition of an ‘influencer’ that comes up when you type the word into google. It is hard to define the term influencer in everyday conversation. Does it depend on your  amount of followers? Amount of likes? How ‘pretty’ you are? Your fashion sense? How many brands want to work with you?. The influencer marketing hub carried out research on influencer marketing in 2020 and found large companies have doubled the amount of creators they activate per campaign in the past two years. The influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately ¢9.7b by the end of 2020. But with the rise of influencers, comes the rise of the momfluencer. 

There are many types of momfluencers, in the same way there are many different mums. The indie, hippie, van travelling mum. The stay at home, cleaning obsessed, bargain hunter mum. The picture perfect, themed snack, full time job mum. All different but in a lot of ways all the same. Mum blogs, parenting websites and online support groups have all been around for a long time, however the momfluncer is a new wave of ’support’. A lot of fellow mums question whether momfluencers really are there for support and advice, or are they just there to make you feel bad about what you’re not achieving. If you follow mums from each of these categories, you’re going to wish you could be just like each of them in different ways, which is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of momfluencers who are honest and open about the realities of motherhood. The sleepless nights, tears and tantrums (and not just from the children), the relationship struggles, financial worries and mental health problems. However, when you look at some momfluencers with their matching pyjamas, full-face of makeup, multiple smiling children and gleaming house you wonder how much of it is real and is it truthful advertising?

Stacey Solomon, a popular ‘Momfluencer’.

It is hard to judge momfluencers as a whole, as there are so many, both macro and micro influencers. Some who aim to spread awareness of important topics such as maternal mental health, baby loss, pregnancy struggles and parenting advice. Others give useful tips on cleaning, cooking, juggling work and relationship advice. Like most things, exposing yourself to momfluencers can be good in small doses. It is really up to the individual to manage their exposure, and take time to learn that not everything online is what it seems. Momfluencers are here to stay, so love them or hate them, choose the ones that are a help and not a hinder.

Brand’s however, love the momfluencer. Momfluence.co is a website that was launched specifically for brand’s to find the right momfluencer: ’Our platform will make it easy for you to find the right momfluencers for your brand, and set up campaigns that actually make you money and grow your business’.  Brand’s such as Pampers, Dove, Johnson and Johnson, Ella’s Kitchen and Tommee Tippee all use brand ambassadors, influencers and paid stories and posts in their marketing. Influencers can paid anywhere between £50 – £500 to advertise a brands product or service. Mum’s buy things more than any other consumer group, and with mum’s always having a fear of judgement or not seeming good enough, most will do (buy) whatever it takes to keep up the image up of a good mum. 

With lockdown babies continuing to be born through the current pandemic and online shopping not showing any signs of slowing down, the Momfleuncer is here to stay.

Aileen Gallagher is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

Social Media influencers are taking over the world!!!

Social Media influencers are taking over the world!!!

Using social media influencers as a marketing tactic is a very popular and effective method to reach a large audience and increase brand awareness. Credibility, attractiveness, and relatability are among the key indicators of an influencer’s ability to influence. The rise in social media has changed media consumption massively as the years have went on. On average people use social media each day for at least 1-4 hours a day and let’s be honest, I even notice myself spending way too long scrolling through Instagram making my average daily screen time keep longer and longer!!

Social media influencers engage their audiences in and in their own unique way entice them to keep reading and come back for more content which they would enjoy. I guess we could say an influencer is simply someone who can influence you with the content they produce and their opinions. If you like a person and enjoy what they post you are much more likely to try and be like them, follow in their steps and we could also say ‘copy’ what they do. For instance, let’s say your favourite influencer is wearing an outfit that you really like, you are much more likely to buy this outfit after having seen in on someone you look up too. This is then when all different types of brands will start to sponsor influencers and their content and pay them to makes posts including their products or wearing a piece of clothing so that people will go and buy it.

Influencers need to gain your TRUST. And so they have by expressing their honest opinions about certain products mostly good which makes you want to buy it but also many will express a bad opinion about a product if they did not like it which then will gain a lot more trust from their followers as they will believe that this influencer will only promote what is good and is not just promoting products for the sake of it. They have an audience who listens to them. Social media Influencers have built their following progressively, one by one, this following may have taken years to build up. They are also extremely aware of the wants and needs of their following, so being cautious about what they promote is very important as it’s their reputation that they need to protect, so they should be trusted with what and how it’s promoted. They know their audience and following the best due to building it with their content produced. So, listening to input given by their audience is very important.

With just the touch of a button, people can share, retweet, repost, like content any of their favourite influencers content which in turn raising more recognition of this influencer. If someone is to look past an advertisement of a product an influencer has the capability of making them notice again as if an influencer someone likes and trust says this products is good then they will believe it and possibly purchase for themselves.

Let’s talk about Kylie Jenner – at the young age of 23 Kylie has an outstanding 201 million followers on Instagram, Kylie Jenner is an extremely looked up to on this social media platform. From modelling her and sister Kendalls clothing brand to sponsoring brands such as PUMA to also having her own makeup brand, Kylie Jenner is certainly making a fortune. By demonstrating and testing out her products on her on face this drags people in to the loop of buying what she uses as let’s be real who wouldn’t want to look like Kylie Jenner?

This is one of Kylie Jenner’s lip kits

Isn’t it crazy how influencers use the internet and social media to earn a living but could you imagine if one day everyone got fed up with the likes of Instagram and other social media platforms? What would happen then? I know it is very unlikely as social media as become a huge part in everyone’s lives but we could always think ‘What if?’. It has happened before… Who remembers BEBO?

Alisha O’Hagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter.

From student life to adult life, my placement experience.

From student life to adult life, my placement experience.

In May 2019 I started my yearlong placement in the Marketing Department of Harry Corry Interiors.  It is fair to say I was very nervous starting this role as I was used to living the student life and only ever working part time. I had never experienced working in an office 40 hours a week and being part of a team who had to do deliver results for an ACTUAL successful company! I felt a lot of pressure joining a business filled with experienced professionals who had already received their degrees and had been working in the industry for a long period of time, and here I was 3 years into my degree.

On my first day I walked in feeling anxious yet excited to gain experience from the Marketing experts. Immediately I was made to feel very welcome and a part of a great team. I jumped right in as I joined during the middle of Harry Corrys summer sale which is the second biggest sale of the year. I helped the team with promotional work and started to learn all about the role marketing plays on these key occasions.

I am very grateful for my experience on placement as I did learn a lot.  For example, I learnt how to use email marketing, social media marketing, and importantly how to market a campaign. During this period, I gained a qualification in Adobe Illustrator and had the opportunity to act as a photographer during their seasonal campaign photo shoots. There is no doubt that by having first-hand access to all these great experiences, I can implement these new skills in future job roles and add them to my CV which is always a bonus!

One of my favourite campaigns was the “Sleep Awareness Week” campaign. During this campaign we got to collaborate with local influencers. We sent them sleep essentials hampers which included duvet covers, bed sheets, lavender diffusers, towels and so on. I really enjoyed this process because as a team I felt it was perfect for us to dive into this collaboration and bring Harry Corry furnishings to a new audience. I found it very satisfying sending all the baskets to each influencer and seeing their positive reaction. I personally loved social influencer “Gerry Lavs” reaction on his Instagram as he thanked us, he expressed how much he appreciated the hard work that went into the campaign and he even said our boss should treat us to a day at the races (Didn’t happen).

Even though I learned so many great skills during my time on placement I am not going to lie and say it was easy. Working 40 hours a week, being the only placement student in the team, not being able to see my family and friends as much as I used to, not being able to join social events gave me serious FOMO. Also driving 2 hours, 5 days a week can be very challenging as it is something I had never done before. I now have a new respect for adults working full time, balancing their personal life and family life because I know for a fact it cannot be easy. I learned a lot about office culture and organisational culture which is a module I am currently studying, and I am very interested in as it is something I now have experienced for myself.

It was certainly challenging for me going from being a student in university 2/3 days for two years and working a couple days a week, to completely making that switch to a full-time working adult life. Overall, I am grateful for my placement experience as I now know what to expect when I make that transition although, more importantly I now know what I want in life, what type of work  environment I thrive in and what industry  I want to work in. In essence, my placement opportunity helped me figure out what I want to pursue in my career and crucially it helped me find my passion.

I would encourage everyone to take part in a placement year as it really does introduce you to adult life, offers you an insight into that work life balance and on a personal level helps determine where you want to be when you graduate from university. I now feel as if I am equipped to working full time in a business setting because of that experience but for now I am happy still being a student! I want to enjoy every moment before I graduate while I can.  

Tara Hamill is a final year student in Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social media can be an excellent tool for outlining what your business stands for, what your over arching values are. It helps identify quickly the ideal client base to start building relationships with. Social media for business is a sustainable way to reach the right demographics, audience and keep in touch with them while increasing brand visibility.

Social Media Marketing is multi-faceted and encompasses many different forms across the relevant platforms, there is something to suit any kind of business. Whether that is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook – all can be essential, when utilised correctly, in building long term brand relationships and reaching key clients. Having someone within your company’s marketing team that understands these platforms is crucial in ensuring that this is well executed.

There is a lot of talk on social media about algorithms and how they affect reach on social media platforms. Most notably Instagram, the platform that changed its chronological algorithm back in 2016 to a more calculated and engagement driven algorithmic feed – like Facebook’s. This was met with an uproar from those who businesses relied on their Instagram posts being received by their followers. The new algorithm meant a serious drop in engagement and at times less than 7% of followers seeing posts from Instagram accounts. For e-commerce businesses and influencers alike, whose income and business model depended heavily in engagement and reach this was a very negative change on the part of Instagram. Ever since this the topic of the algorithm has been one of serious contention.

The rise of social media for business and many people running successful businesses as a result of a well engaged audience and large following has meant the subject of the algorithm is always relevant. Even the biggest of influencers and e-commerce accounts can be found mentioning the algorithm and how it has effected their specific reason for using Instagram. The contention comes with the argument that users are complaining about the technical side of the app and not looking upon what they could be doing wrong.

A quick google search will bring up a plethora of articles that discuss what the current algorithm means and how to utilise it for best engagement. Top tips on why it is perhaps the user’s fault that their engagement is lower and how they can improve their content to tackle this decline. Tip such as, increase photo quality, consistency in posting, engaging with every comment on your posts and making use of al the functions that the app offers. The theory is that Instagram favours those that use the app as a community style hub. Those that go live, use the direct messaging service and engage with relevant content within their niche.

Finding your Instagram niche seems to be a key way of conquering issues with the algorithm, there are excellent examples of account users going ‘viral’ as such due to those in their niche. A recent example here in Northern Ireland is an Instagram account Smyth Sisters, run by local influencer Marianne Smyth. In an attempt to get the much coveted 10K followers, that offers the swipe up link to accounts, she had her account shared by some larger accounts within her niche. Her niche being minimalist fashion and styling high-street clothes. Due to her account connecting with the algorithm at the right time and style her account was reached by many large accounts that then went on to share her also. Within 6 weeks her account reached 150K an increase of over 144K followers, subsequently jumping further to 282K in under 10 months. 

This is a very specific and rare example but nonetheless a true showcase of how the new algorithm when championed can be exceptionally effective. So maybe the answer on how to champion the issue of algorithm is simply be your best digital self?

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

The Rise of TikTok – Influencer Marketing

TikTok calls itself ‘the destination for short-form mobile videos’ – essentially a 2020 ‘Vine’ (in fact, many of TikTok’s biggest creators started on Vine like David Dobrik). TikToks range from five to sixty seconds and trends can be based on just about anything.

The beauty of TikTok is the ability to go viral at anytime. TikToks algorithm is the key to the app’s success, giving every TikTok user a curated ‘For You Page’ (FYP) with content directly tailored to them based on interactions. Users can still follow creators; however the ‘For You Page’ is definitely where users spend their time scrolling.

What is Tiktok?

There is no one way of using TikTok. From dance trends to clothing hauls to lip syncing, the content on TikTok is endless. I would compare it to YouTube, but more convenient and far more addictive.

Videos can be uploaded or created in-app with effects, filters, audio clips and plenty of other fun tools. Aside from videos, live streams are increasingly popular for TikTok creators… and plenty of money can be earned from them.

Trends are the heart of TikTok and creators have literally earned a living off viral trends. Trends typically involve a hashtag or a viral audio clip and that is just about it. Users jump on trends to try and go viral, it is just that simple.

TikTok Marketing

With over 800 million active TikTok users, the platform has quickly become the most popular social media app making it a highly valuable marketing tool for brands.

There are a range of marketing methods on TikTok.

  • In-feed Ads
  • TopView
  • Brand Takeover
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge

Given how much of an impact TikTok has had on music streams, it is no surprise musicians have used TikTok to market their new releases. Creators often get paid just to use a 15 second clip of a new song.

TikTok has been quick to identify the app as a huge marketing platform. TikTok recently launched a Creator Marketplace to connect brands with content creators. It allows brands to find creators based on performance data and analytics and create collaborations together.

In-feed ads typically get the best results from small businesses. Other Ad’s on TikTok are usually only open to large companies with bigger marketing budgets.

Influencer marketing.

Nearly 86% of marketers have used influencer marketing to boost their brand awareness and sales.

Asking a creator with a large following to review your brand or product on TikTok allows for exposure, and can be done very cost effectively. The key to successful influencer marketing on the app is to target influencers whose following resembles your brands target market.

Influencer marketing on TikTok is likely to be the most effective marketing method due to not having to worry about the negatives of ads and you don’t have to think about building an audience yourself – the audience is already there with the influencer promoting you. Influencer ads work the best when the creator is given creative freedom and the partnership is disclosed. Brands can see the success of the collaboration by viewing insights and analytics.

There are several sites to help brands identify and select the right TokTokers for their brand collaboration.

  1. Julius – Julius enables brands to look through a database of over 100,000 creators. With many filters, brands can narrow down the large pool of creators to find some that suit their target market based on a number of criteria.

2. FanBytes – FanBytes is the first dedicated platform for finding TikTok creators and has over half a million influencers listed. FanBytes runs its own TikTok influencer campaigns making the platform a very reliable source for brands to utilise.

Are you ready to market your brand on TikTok?

Now you know the ins and outs of TikTok marketing, you are ready to launch your own TikTok ad campaign.

Will you use TikTok as a way to market your brand? Let me know!

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

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.