The PR Diaries: Part I

Fast Fashion & the ‘Material World.’

 

I cannot believe that it has been eight months since my last blog post, time really does fly!  As I embark upon my final year of studying Communication and PR an aspect of life has my creative mind ticking. Not much has changed over the last eight months, in fact I am pretty sure that I still adore Cacti as I outlined in my last blog and I am 100% certain that my love for food, coffee shops and fashion has not changed either (throwing that out there).  I will also just add that my love for Instagram and taking aesthetic photographs still consumes me- shocker.  What has changed the most over the past few months is my outlook in life.  My outlook on how we are guilty of trying to constantly pursue the latest trends, desperately wanting to live a life full of hope and false fantasies.  Now, you may be giving me major eye rolls right now and as cliché as it sounds I genuinely believe that most things happen for good reason. We do openly follow our passions and there is nothing wrong with that. We are all a little guilty of wanting more than what we already have and if you are reading this thinking, hold up.  I do enjoy following trends, then you are not alone.  However, what happens when we place all our focus on only the most attractive and aesthetic aspects? Are you that material girl, living in a material world?

KB2

 

Fashioning the self

A recent trip to London Fashion Week inspired me to think about the pressures to conform to the latest trends- let’s not forget that both leopard and snake print are dominating the population of Belfast.  So much so we could to create a second Zoo (90% of my wardrobe).  We are each guilty of religiously following others who inspire us or those who we believe to be ‘role models.’  I believe that there is a negative stigma around the material items in life and rightly so.  When we think of material items our minds wonder to Gucci, Prada and investing in luxury fashion brands.  We may even think of our favourite online influencers and how they fashion the latest trends- not to mention the ‘social influencers take on cycling shorts’ wave which left us feeling a little Tour de France/ Bradley Wiggins (Sorry, I had to).

 

Behind the seams of reality

Our Instagram platforms have become a playground for flashing material items.  It almost feels like an online shop, yet we are sucked in by aesthetic travel photographs that surround these gorgeous clothing posts.  For me, this all feels a little wrong.  I am growing tired of the volume of ‘fast fashion’ brands that are so cleverly luring us in.  Only to try on the dress to discover that it works better as a boob tube/ crop top and the material is as thin and see through as clingfilm.  On another side note, I can openly admit that I am a keen consumer of fast fashion. As much as I try to avoid it the student life really does force us to swap luxury for affordable, with little thought about the materials used- here lies the problem.

In this digital era, I believe that there is a greater pressure to showcase our lives on Instagram.  We almost use it as a mirror, reflecting an articulated image of how we wish to be viewed by our followers.  This is not healthy.  When I buy a new item of clothing I appreciate how it looks and feels, not only on the hanger but how it fits my body.  This is the beauty of fashion as it enables us to appreciate colours, prints and textures as a form of visual communication.  Taking Fashion Week as an example, I was in awe of the array of designers showcasing garments that communicated their brand story- this is the value that is important.  Designers invest time and creative effort in developing a brand, which is why following ‘fast fashion’ can defeat the purpose of buying clothing to keep in the long run.  If your closet is anything like mine, I can put my hands up and admit that I am awful for hoarding clothes.   Regardless of how many times I have tried to flog my clothes on Depop- it is a vicious cycle!

 

‘Keep the snakes away, unless they’re Gucci

The truth is that nothing should be ‘fast’ about fashion.  Investing in luxury does not consist of spending all of your pay on expensive designer gear either, nor does it mean flashing these items online.  From a student’s viewpoint, I do not believe that it is realistic for us to splash out on luxury brands, or to try to prove to others that we can afford this kind of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ lifestyle- we are only kidding ourselves really.  The purpose of this blog post is to prove that life is far too short to worship designer brands and materialistic items (Ok, life is also too short not buy shoes, keep it on the down low).  Think about the long run.  These items will never truly matter to us, they may only influence how we feel at the time of purchase- that feeling is short-lived.  Think about the real bodies in our lives, the ones who invest in us and bring us joy.  People that are relentlessly by your side and will be a lot longer that a bottle of Gucci Perfume.

KB6
Gucci Gang

 

It has become extremely difficult in society to identify the true value in people, especially with online platforms concealing our true selves.  In reality we are crying out for authenticity. All too often we are told to ‘get out there, follow your dreams and afford that fancy car alongside that high-powered job.’  Is it any wonder why students and young adults in their 20s feel obliged to conform to such ideas? The pressure is all too much to afford life’s ‘little luxuries.’  To live in a society that tells us how to ‘work fast and live fast’ is becoming a challenge and I can admit to feeling overwhelmed by how I should live my life. The bottom line is to work hard enough that success becomes your noise but equally to have the time of your life.  How does that saying go? Work hard, play harder.

 

Does my environmental impact look big in this?

Delving deeper into this topic I discovered that ‘fast fashion’ has received a lot of negative media coverage recently.  Our love for fashion is taking its toll on the environment as in the UK alone we are consuming 26.7kg of new clothing per head each year.  It is not only fast fashion brands that are to blame as it is also expected that 3,781 litres of water is used in a full lifetime of a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.  This is just a  snapshot of how our fashion consumption is spiralling out of control.  I guess we could say that having something at our disposal only devalues that item, it is all too easy to make an online purchase without adding any genuine value- a theory that applies to a lot of aspects of life.  When something is readily available, we take it for granted.  Investing in statement items that are durable, high quality and affordable is the best method.

KB5

 

As I draw my fashion ramblings to a close, I want to stress how easy it is for us to feel pressured by clothing brands.  Being lured in by marketing and influencers online has a  negative effect on our mental health.  This concludes why materialistic items will never maintain true value.  Yes, clothes are beautiful, they are powerful but they will always be around for us to purchase.  Ask yourself this, if everything you possessed was striped back, what would we be left with? We may be cold and a little naked, but we would be guaranteed to be surrounded by those we love.  So, sorry Madonna, living in the material world is not all that it would appear to be!

 

KB1

K x

 

Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.

A Content Creators Perspective

During my time on placement I had the opportunity to work with PR managers across Europe and one thing I learnt was that YouTubers and social media influencers are increasingly becoming one of the most important ways to communicate with your target audience.

I was so intrigued that I have even decided to base my dissertation on their influence on consumer decision making – I will let you know come May if this was a wise decision!!

But why this growing interest?

The exchange of information between influencers and their followers is very powerful as those people who create their own content are becoming the third party endorsement that many brands need.

I will admit that on many occasions I have purchased products based on the fact that someone on Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube has recommended them or use the products regularly.

Content Creators

With interest in people who create their own content and who have built up their own loyal following coming to the forefront I thought it would be exciting to interview an up and coming beauty and lifestyle content creator. On my time in placement I became friendly with one of the outgoing interns Uche.

Uche has her own YouTube and Instagram sites and the content is beauty and lifestyle based, with 25,200 Instagram followers

CF10

and 101,973 YouTube subscribers

CF11

Uche is also an official ASOS Face + Body Insider.

Six quick questions with a lifestyle and beauty content creator

1How did you first begin creating make up and lifestyle content?

 I started watching university videos during sixth form which really sparked my interest in YouTube, I later went on to create content as I was bored during my first year at university.

2. How was this received by your family and friends? Did they understand what you were trying to achieve? 

 I didn’t tell anyone for years, honestly unless people are interested in it it’s not something people tend to understand or is easy to explain to people that ‘don’t get it’. 

3. Can you explain the process of creating your own content from the creative idea to finally sharing it on YouTube and Instagram.

 It’s a rather lengthy process, having a large following helps now as people are always suggesting the type of content they want to see which obviously makes everything much easier. Before then I would go with trends or what I loved myself. Once you have an idea it’s then about filming and bringing the idea to life, editing and finally posting it for everyone to see. 

4. What social media influencers do you follow?

 I tend to gear towards people with great personalities so Jackie Aina, Imogen (Imogenation) etc or really talented individuals who teach me something every time so Claire Marshall, Samantha Ravndahl or people with both like Jamie Geniveve!

5. What brands would you like to work with in the future? 

 A brand I haven’t worked with yet that I would love to is Nars for sure!

6. Have you any advice for anyone who is considering creating their own content on YouTube and/or Instagram? 

 It’s not as easy as it looks to post great content that’s high quality and also engaging so be prepared to put in time and money, if you stay committed, patient and consistent you will flourish. 

From chatting with Uche it is clear that it is much more than just posting a video on YouTube or picture on Instagram you have to ensure that your content is authentic, you have a passion for what you are doing and that you are committed to put the time and work in.

CF12

Uche can be found here on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uchjn/  and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/uccch1

 

Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caoimhe-fitzpatrick-0b8682110/

 

Freedom ’90 or ‘Insta’-Made?

“Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford” – Cindy Crawford. 

Iconic, right? 

The 90’s was an era of double denim, sheer dresses, and defined cheekbones. Who could forget those famous faces of the catwalk back when supermodels had to actually work to achieve that desired ‘heroin chic’ look? (ohh how controversial). As Kate Moss once said; “it’s a sin to be tired”!

So is it fair to say that our ‘supermodels’ of today are really, well, supermodels at all? The ubiquitous rise of Instagram has introduced us to these perfect ideas of how we should look and how we should live our lives. We are constantly scrolling and observing, following celebrities and monitoring every little thing they do. Don’t get me wrong; I, myself have become a victim of social media scrolling – I mean, have you seen Kylie Jenner’s 20ft rose gold and blush pink Christmas Tree? Wow.

The argument of ‘insta’-made models vs supermodels has been brought to light in the past and is something that has always grabbed my attention because of the admiration I have for the originals. Whether you are also in awe of these women or simply couldn’t care less, you will without a doubt know their names. I now introduce the OGs of the modelling world; Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, and Stephanie Seymour. Each one as iconic as the other.

Image result for 90s supermodels

Can we really compare these huge names to the supermodels of 2017; Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Cara Delevigne, and Jourdan Dunn? It was just last year that Vanity Fair published an article stating that Stephanie Seymour (the bride from Guns ‘n’ Roses’ November Rain video), would rather call Kendall Jenner and the likes “bitches of the moment” than supermodels. There is no denying that our modern-day models have all the help they need when it comes to ‘nipping & tucking’ and putting themselves out there without having to actually lift a finger. Instagram was non-existent in the 1990’s and so success didn’t come knocking just quite as easily. You can read the full article here at: Vanity Fair

So, is it fair to say that without Instagram our little darlings would be nowhere near as popular? As the great Bob Dylan once sang; the times they are a-changin’. We’re now in a different era, one where social media has completely taken over and everything one does must be documented for the world to see. Kendall Jenner then hit back at the supermodel’s comment by simply saying “if you’re going to tell us not to be in “your moment”, then don’t be in mine”, ok which is fair enough, right?

You have to admit that the models of today would not have the same following without Instagram, so much so that it has become an app associated with perfection and this idealistic view of the world. Below you will find a picture that Kendall Jenner posted on her Instagram page which received a massive 2.7 million likes.

Image result for kendall jenner instagram most liked

In a way, this kind of publicity cannot be compared to supermodels having to create a name for themselves from scratch, working tirelessly for fashion shows for major names such as: Versace, Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs; being recognised from television advertisements, fashion campaigns, and celebrity endorsements; without the assistance of Instagram. At just the touch of a screen, hundreds of perfectly polished photos will appear of our modern-day models. Long gone are the days of being discovered at an airport at the age of fourteen, or in a nightclub at age seventeen. (Kate Moss & Claudia Schiffer).

For me this has always been an interesting topic of conversation, and one which really does not have a right answer. The rise of social media is something I have been studying as part of my dissertation and so I understand pressures and expectations in the online world. Of course we can’t blame these models for taking advantage of this kind of publicity, although, the question here really should be; is the ‘supermodel’ now a thing of the past?

One thing for sure is that they will never be forgotten. Well, not if Donatella Versace has anything to do with it. The fashion designer gathered five of the big names together for a catwalk tribute to her late brother Gianni Versace on the 20th anniversary of his death, the models walked down the runway to George Michael’s Freedom! 90′, the same music video they starred in all those years ago. If you’re someone like me who is just amazed by these models, even today, then I would strongly advise you to watch the clip and then agree with me that it was truly something special.

Clip:

Jayne Mullan is a 3rd year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @JayneMullan_

Part One: The Social Influencer: Front Stage

Part One: The Social Influencer: Front Stage

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Identity’ as “The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is”

But is it something that we are born with or is it something that we create?

Sociologist Erving Goffman describes identity as an interactive construction rather than something ‘given’ and suggests that all social interaction is like a dramatic performance.

Likewise, I believe that we can be whoever the hell we want to be … understandably, we cannot control how we are born, our sex or the genes we inherit; however I feel we have the power to manipulate our identity and portray ourselves as whoever or whatever we desire to be.

People behave differently in different settings. Take a working environment in which you would perform professionally against a social setting were you would behave in a more relaxed manor. In both settings we would conduct ourselves differently however both still require performance.  This theory applies across the communication board, whether that be in person, over the phone, email and varies depending on the receiver / audience.

Goffman’s theory was, pardon the pun… identified in the late 50’s, a long time before the internet and the rise of social media but I feel it largely applies to this day and age.

The internet and social media platforms enable us to go to extremes and be absolutely anyone we want and to the point where we can hide behind the identity of an existing or fictitious person…commonly known as ‘catfishing’.

CC1

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these social media Influencers have fake profiles but I do think they can paint their identity to appear absolutely perfect and flawless. That combined with consistent activity of interesting content, generates followers and subscribers and enables them to position themselves on a social pedestal for us “real people” to view them as superior.

It’s obviously not as simple as that, if it were we all would be doing it but you do have to have that something extra and special to stand out; whether that be a beautiful face, body or character…it’s knowing how to utilise it and essentially brand / market yourself.

International social influencer and all-rounder 23 year old fitness guru, entrepreneur and mother of 3, Tammy Hembrow is a prime example and she is very much in demand.

CC8

CC5

Her social identity has become a 24/7 job, inspiring thousands of people and consumers worldwide. The success has even landed her brand sponsorships and endorsements such as fitness clothing line ‘Gym Shark’, which generate revenue and a lot of revenue at that… since 2017 her net worth is approximately $1.6 million!

CC7

But is it possible to be absolutely flawless 100% of the time? Of course not but this platform is one of Tammy’s ‘front stages’ and when she’s not working, she probably behaves like a normal full-time mother and fiancé and in a more relaxed environment, as her ‘back stage’ self.

Technology is so advanced these days that you don’t need to be a professional photo editor to edit images. We can instantaneously alter and enhance a basic photograph with the use of filters and editing tools…we can even access editing apps for free or pay next to nothing to smooth out blemishes, whiten teeth and even bring in our waistlines.

CC2

But how far is too far? Are these embellished photographs not showing an unrealistic representation that you couldn’t possibly compete with in person…

Vicky Pattison was initially and famously known for being on MTV TV series Geordie Shore which let’s be honest… probably didn’t paint her in the best light.

CC10

However with the help of the social media, she has managed to change public opinion and landed respected roles such as presenting on ITV’s Loose Women as well as starting her own online clothing boutique ‘Honeyz’.

Vicky is also no stranger to editing apps and isn’t shy about it either!

CC9

She admitted during a discussion on Loose Women that she enhances pictures of herself; airbrushing and smoothing out wrinkles etc. something that various social media fans have slated her for.

Vicky might regularly share airbrushed selfies and edited snaps but occasionally she will post a natural and unedited picture, say at the gym for example.

When it comes to male social influencers, their natural snaps are more than likely untouched but enhanced with a basic filter however the same measures apply; the content is attractive to consumers, brands and is consistent.

Take Instagram success Nick Bateman for example…

CC4

Aside from the obvious…he’s a very handsome guy but his social content is appealing to a wide audience and probably a large majority of that being Yorkshire terrier fans and followers.

I’m a big fan of Nick and how he portrays himself online. In the words of Derek Zoolander, it’s not all about being really, really, ridiculously good looking… Nick doesn’t take himself too seriously and offers an element of humour on his social feed.

CC3

Haters are also not likely to hate with content like this…

CC11

I mean how could you???

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Social Influencer: Back Stage

 

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