Can Public Relations survive without Social Media in 2019?

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

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

 

AN2

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


The world of blogging

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

 

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

 

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

Influencers Worthy of a Follow

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influencer Insights 2017-19 Studies

 

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

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

Influencer Insights

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

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

@Uhnonee- 131K followers

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

@SammiMaria- 571K followers

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

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

@HealthyLittleLifter- 71K followers

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

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

@NellyLondon- 46K followers

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

@DrJoshuaWolrich- 137K followers

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

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

@JBone89- 141K followers

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

@JameelaJamil- 1M followers

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

@GraceFitUK- 1M followers

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

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

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

 Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, influencermarketinghub.com

 

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

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

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

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

AF1AF3

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

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

AF4

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

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

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

AF5

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

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

AF6

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

AF7

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

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

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

 

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

 

How PR is Changing In Today’s Society

The big world of marketing is ever changing and for me it is changing in one-way… everything is digital.

When we would traditionally look at marketing we would think naturally of newspapers, radio, TV ads, posters around the town. However that just simply is no more, everything is digital, on your phone instant, right away. This is partly because with the advancement of technology and internet we have also adapted and changed to the point that we also want everything instant, such as SKY where we don’t even have to watch the ads now, Netflix where we can watch a whole TV show in one sitting instead of waiting weekly.

SD1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, we have watched a 13 episode series, 45 minute long episodes in one night; it happens the best of us. However this goes deeper than just wanting to watch Netflix all night and watch your favourite TV show, its more than that, its Instagram and the perfect life we al want, with our favourite TV stars advertising these products that will make us look like them and the outfits that they are wearing, its all a made up persona filtered through a filtered app which filters reality into something that it isn’t. But regardless of that fact that is the way that marketing is changing.

 

Brands are now looking at influencers instead of posters and flyers which can be backed up by this graph below that shows that there is a massive increase every year from 2015 and this is because of the way that the market is going, with TV shows such as Love Island becoming ever popular, brands are aware that this is the way to market their products.

SD3

In the last twelve months there has been a 325% increase in searches for Influencer Marketing searches on Google, this statistic has came from the InfluencerMarketingHub.

 

Again this shows that no one really is watching TV or posters, as there is a profound increase in digital marketing. This also applies to Facebook and targeted ads as they are also leading the way in that brands are targeting people in order to get them interested in their products. This will in the future result in their being no such thing as big TV ads and newspaper ads as people wont be watching them and this is a change that I feel is definitely coming and I don’t think that there is anything that will prevent this from happening.

Personally I feel that this is a far more engaging form of advertising and a far more customer orientated experience as the business is able to build a personal relationship with the brand and therefore this increases customer’s loyalty, as customers love the idea of having that personal touch with a brand.

 

The massive release of the internet and how its changed has affected everything we used to be so familiar with when it comes to the way that companies advertise and to the way that we as people communicate and there are good and bad effects of this change. There still will always be a place in some parts of society where your local grandma will read the paper and get her local news but I feel that in years to come that will be a nostalgic practice rather than how that person generally gets their news. This shift has made a lot of people and job roles borderline useless however if news agencies and brands adapt to the new times there are massive gains to be made, however if they are trailing their feet they will no doubt go out of business and that is just the harsh reality.

SD2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally at the end of the day I feel that this is only a plus the change that the Internet and social media have made in PR today, it makes us more connected and more up to date with the world, but like with anything there is a cost and that cost may be that all of your personal information may not be locked up really secure so that no one can know your DOB, but I feel that you will either accept the changes that is occurring in the world, learn to accept it and grow with society or you will be left behind.

SD4

 

Under the Influence

When it comes to modern day businesses, Digital marketing is leaps and bounds ahead of all other forms of advertising. It’s expensive – companies are spending up to 1.5bn on Instagram alone – but its effectiveness means that big businesses have no hesitation in investing time, money and effort into it.

So where’s all that money going? The answer is that a lot of it is going straight into the pockets of influencers*. Influencers who are affecting our buying decisions everyday, without us evening realizing it.

*In case you’ve been living under a rock influencers can be described as “a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.”

CM5

Basically, influencers are everyday people like you and me. They don’t have to be celebrities (although they’re often classed as one) and they don’t need to have a discernable talent or passion. Most of them just need a good iPhone camera and a cool looking selfie backdrop.

Do I sound bitter? Let’s move on.

Brands will send free PR packages to these ‘instagramers’ with as little as 5k followers in exchange for a ad post & a promo code to share with their friends, in the hope that their influence will result in more people buying their products. Gaining immense internet popularity allows an influencer to shape and impact their audience’s opinions on matters through blog posts, videos, pictures, tweets, and so on.

CM6

And it works. In a recent report, 72% of millennials admitted to buying their fashion and beauty products based on the instagram posts of their favourite influencers. I mean, Jeffrey Star said this lipstick is amazing. So it has to be… right?

This is perhaps surprising, given that millennials often display a mistrust of those around them, be it previous generations, politicians, or people higher up in society. So why does a generation who claim to have so many trust issues have so much trust in the people they view on social media?

Well…because Millennials LOVE validation.

71% of people are more likely to make a purchase if they get a recommendation or validation from their peers or their favorite blogger. No matter how good a product may appear or claim to be, how can we be so sure? For me personally, buying a product is never simply a “add to basket” task anymore. When I spot that new eyeshadow palette I really want (but really don’t need) you can bet I’ll be looking up reviews on YouTube before buying it. Like yeah, I really want this – but what did Jordan Lipscombe think of it?

CM8

Validation from our peers is just the same. Think of all the time’s you’ll do a catwalk for your besties of the 13 different outfits you’ve tried on and hated before having a breakdown and claiming to have NOTHING TO WEAR and are no longer going out. Despite your bed and bedroom floor being covered in more than enough clothes. But that’s part of the Scratch Monday routine really.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising”.

– Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and possible extraterrestrial who ironically talks about trusting people –

CM9

Style envy

“Industry influencers in niches such as fashion and beauty hold a lot of sway over this consumer group,” Molz said. “They start trends, determine what’s cool and desirable, and curate the must-have items as fashion magazines used to do.”

In the noughties the public would have determined what they would have worn at the weekend by what the celebrities were wearing in the ‘style steal’ section of Closer, or copied that dress Angelina Jolie was wearing in the red carpet photo they seen in OK. This is no longer the case as instead of reading a magazine on the bus or whilst waiting on the kettle to boil, we’re scrolling through instagram. Companies must recognize and adapt to this and ask themselves ‘who has the hold over their their target audience?’ This is easy – bloggers and vloggers, publishers, YouTubers, etc.

“Getting their seal of approval could be key in pushing millennials further into the sales funnel.” According to the Collective Bias study, while shopping at a store, “60% consumers have been influenced by a social media post or a blog review.”

It’s all science

Despite the fact of having often millions of followers, more clothes than they could wear in a lifetime & earn 5 digits for a single instagram post (Zoella srsly gets £12k per instagram post) – influencers are still perceived as mostly ‘normal people’, therefore relatable for millennials. When it comes down to it, they don’t do much more than we do on a daily basis (still sorta bitter over this) except it’s shared with millions of people.

Our desire to be like our favourite influencer can be explained by the psychological concept ‘social proof’ which was popularized by psychologist Robert Ciadlini. Basically, whenever we don’t know what to do or how to act we look to others and imitate them, especially in times of crisis. Who knew that copying a makeup tutorial from your favourite youtuber and failing miserably is psychological.

Another psychological example of why influencers work is the halo effect. The halo effect is cognivite bias where we judge someone’s opinion based on our overall impression of them. Basically, if we start to enjoy someones content and have positive thoughts about them, anything they’re involved in becomes more positive to us. This is why influencer testimonial works. SCIENCE.

CM7

Anyway, enough of that technical stuff. Back to the real world.

So yeah, innocently following a good looking instagrammer that you spotted on the explore page (wearing an outfit you can only dream being able to pull off) seems all fun and games, but who knew it’s contributing to our everyday life & companies are making MILLIONS FROM US. Is anything NOT strategic these days?

At the end of the day, social media is pretty toxic… so let’s just remember that the girl with 122k followers who we claim we’d DIE to look like (bit dramatic) gets her hair done every week for free in an exchange for a instagram post, is sent all her clothes in PR packages AND has access to any beauty treatment she wants – WHENEVER SHE WANTS IT, as long as she puts up a pic on the gram of her new lashes.

So for the sake of our own self worth – let’s stop comparing ourselves to them & stop being constantly under the influence.

Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

 

 

Nothing is perfect

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” ― Stephen Hawking

If I asked you to look at this photograph of my friends and I (I’m on the right) and tell me what you thought… what would you say? I look happy, right? Content, confident and carefree?

HM6

What if I told you that the same week that this photo was taken, I lied to my friends, telling them I couldn’t go out because I had family plans. Meanwhile, I lied to my parents, “I have a migraine. I can’t leave the house.” In reality, I just wanted to hide from the world under my duvet and watch yet another episode of How to Get Away with Murder.What if I told you that on the night of my 21st birthday celebrations pictured below I cried hysterically to my mum and dad before any guests arrived. I didn’t want anyone to see me and I certainly didn’t want to go into town for a night out. A tsunami of tears later, I began my usual routine; Slap on as much makeup as possible, take a few (who am I kidding…A LOT of) deep breaths and top it all off with one gigantic fake smile. I’m fine…

HM4

 

Very few people know that for almost six years I have struggled with acne.

“What! YOU? No way! Your skin is fine! It isn’t that bad!”

Maybe I did a great job of covering it up (THANK GOD for Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation) and maybe my clever charade of confidence fooled a lot of people. Sadly however, I have really really struggled…  A lot.

Like a lot.

For years I was treated with antibiotics, topical creams and the contraceptive pill. They would work initially, metamorphosing my never-ending sense of despair into short-term optimism. Gradually however, the effects of each medication would wear off and I would come crashing back to square one; hating my skin and resenting the way I looked.

In August 2016, mum collected me from placement in Dublin to drive me home for my friend’s 21st birthday party in Belfast. What should have been a pleasant two hour mother-daughter catch up developed into me weeping as I took my makeup off and revealed what was underneath. In the tiny sunshield car mirror, I stared at my angry, red, scarred, sore and UGLY face. I hated it. As always, Mum tried her best to calm me down. “You’re working too hard. You’re tired. You need to get out of the office and into fresh air. You’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Will we take you to get a facial?” She was frustrated. Seeing me so upset but knowing that there was nothing even a mother could do to help. It was out of her control and she despised the fact she couldn’t cure me herself.

HM2

August, 2016 – That car journey.

After years of endless doctors appointments and medication I was left feeling totally helpless. I had exhausted all treatment avenues and there was nothing more my GP could do.

There was only one solution. Roaccutane.

Roaccutane, or Isotretinoin is a last resort skincare medication used to treat moderate to severe acne and its use must be supervised by a dermatologist. The drug has a fairly negative reputation and has been linked to some nasty side effects such as extreme dryness of the skin, depression and severe birth defects in unborn babies. During treatment, regular hospital visits are required for blood tests to monitor liver function, pregnancy tests to fulfil my obligations to the pregnancy prevention program and close monitoring of my mental health. Anyone reading this who knows me understands that my biggest fear in the ENTIRE world is blood. Even typing the word makes me light-headed and a bit uneasy and the thought of regular blood tests almost put me off starting the medication entirely.

I was worried about the treatment but I was also desperate and as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

In a bid to prepare myself, I started carrying out my own research and came across the beauty vlogger, Katie Snooks. This brave young woman posted her entire ‘Roaccutane Daily Skin Vlog’ on Youtube and I watched every single video.

HM7

Katie Snooks, Roaccutane Month 1.

I found myself relating to the pain in her voice and the tears in her eyes when she explained how she didn’t feel confident or beautiful. As I watched her progress videos I was amazed at the difference the drug was making to her skin. It was visibly improving week by week but something else was becoming apparent. Her self-esteem and confidence were also transforming. It seemed as if she had been injected with a new lust for life… I wanted that feeling too.

HM8

Katie’s first and last days of treatment.

I’m pretty sure my confidence was at rock bottom. I have never felt so low and I was willing to try anything to pick myself back up again. I had to be pinned down by a few nurses and (poorly) distracted by my parents or friends to get through the dreaded ‘B tests’ (I invented this term to avoid uttering the ‘b word’), endured six months of a severe addiction to Carmex and six cringe worthy pregnancy tests in front of my mum.  But I did it.

HM1

Yay! The end of treatment in May, 2017.

In recent weeks, Queen of The Jungle and Made in Chelsea’s Georgia Toffollo has decided to publically document her Roaccutane journey. She bared all on ITV’s This Morning when she exposed her makeup-free and acne prone skin to roughly 600,000 viewers across the UK; a decision that I thought was very, very brave and one that inspired me to write this post.

Explaining why she wanted to speak out about this issue, she said: “I think for so long I’ve hidden. I think actually now I’m in the limelight, I don’t want everyone who follows me to think I’m perfect.”
“I am very jolly by nature, but I get very upset when my skin is bad, I dread leaving the house.”

HM3

Now… I am by no means a beauty blogger, influencer, role model or Queen of the Jungle, but I wanted to share my story. I want people to know that if you are struggling, there is help available and there are always solutions to your problems. Your world may appear to be falling apart at the seams at times but someone will always be there to pick you back up. You can and you will get through it.

During my treatment, I completed a year’s placement in FleishmanHillard, one of Ireland’s leading communication agencies, working on big brands such as Cadbury and Proctor and Gamble. Despite sometimes not feeling like the best version of myself I still managed to get out of bed every morning, travel 1 hour 30 minutes to work and give everything I had to a job that I loved.

I still struggle with my skin. I’m not 100% cured from acne and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be. I endured one of the hardest periods of my life, yet I still managed to challenge myself and achieve success.

My mum bought me a plaque that read;

You are braver than you believe,

Stonger than you seem,

And smarter than you think.”

 

She was right.

 

HM5

Me in August 2017 – Happier than ever.

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

 

Part Two: The Social Influencer: Back Stage

Part Two: The Social Influencer: Back Stage

Part One: The Social Influencer: Front Stage discusses Erving Goffman’s notion of dramaturgy and the construction of identity from a front stage perspective… join me for Part Two as I analyse the back stages of identity portrayal. 

In 2013 social influencer Tammy Hembrow uploaded a bathroom selfie to Instagram, unaware that it would receive any likes let alone thousands.

From that moment on she continued to share likeable content and photographs of her incredibly fit and flawless figure and insane body transformations throughout pregnancies.

Little did she know that this would accrue a social following of 7.5 million and lead her to becoming an ambassador for fitness clothing brand Gym Shark as well as a Good Squad model for Khloe Kardashian’s ‘Good American’ clothing line.

CC34

It may appear to be the dream job…I mean how hard could it be getting paid to take selfies?

The model addresses the back stage pressures however of trying to maintain and live up to the idealised digital version of the self: “I think a big misconception is that my Instagram is a direct reflection of who I am. I don’t always look my best, I have nights where I’m up all night with the kids, and I’m working, or just having downtime. People can be quick to label me based on my looks, but that is just one part of me”.

CC53

Social media platforms enable us to stage an online identity that shape how others perceive us and although behind the scenes, receiving positive feedback, likes and shares can be extremely satisfying, the two way flow of engagement that these platforms facilitate also open the gateway for trolls and internet bullies.

Last year Hembrow posted transformation pictures of her body before and after giving birth…and what a transformation in just two months.

CC37

In fact such a transformation that her followers or for want of a better word…trolls, accused the social star of using Photoshop to exaggerate her progress, with people claiming that it’s not possible to lose baby weight that quickly.

“God does no one understand that the body doesn’t do that in two months, she’s clearly Photoshopped this pic” and “I’m crying – look at her arm” were just some of the negative comments left under the post.


Humans are either born with XY or XX chromosomes which make them either male or female…

gender roles however are also considered a construction of identity.

Society has set ideologies and social expectations of how women should be feminine and men should be masculine.

Jordan Stephens, from hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks spoke out recently about the incredibly flawed idea of what a man is and the traditional norms of behaviour. The ideologies that society associate with men such as dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions is referred to as Toxic Masculinity.

See this video:

The artist expresses how society perceive men as weak when they appear vulnerable and how men are reluctant to disclose how they may be feeling behind the scenes.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, the pressure for men to uphold the traditional idea of masculinity has also been linked with mental health issues such as depression. 

TV personality and influencer RuPaul doesn’t conform to social norms or ideologies, as one of the top drag queens in the industry of drag.

Ru is known for challenging preconceptions about gender and believes gender identity should be fluid and changing therefore mixes his own identities between her in drag and him in traditional men’s suits.

CC50

With such a huge social media following Ru regularly remediates his beliefs and rebellion to the societal preconceived idea of how men should look or behave with expressive quotes such as “reject the ideology that has enslaved you”.

He also expresses the shame in the gay game and the difficulty homosexual artists face with support from other gay men. Even men who are open about their sexuality are made to feel shammed for supporting other gay artists. George Michael once quoted, “I used to have a lot of gay fans until I came out of the closet”.

CC52

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Whatever you proclaim as your identity here in the material realm is also your drag. You are not your religion. You are not your skin colour. You are not your gender, your politics, your career, or your marital status. You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!” RuPaul

Cara Cowan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caracowan/