Tweeting Ophelia, putting the T in SWOT.

It’s one of the most basic tenets of the whole PR game, and one that’s shared with much of the corporate world, the principle of SWOT.

For those of you who haven’t had it implanted in your head by a succession of lectures, meetings and briefings, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, which are all pretty much self explanatory. We must address each of these in turn for any campaign, event or undertaking, but some of us, myself included, are guilty of ignoring the last, and arguably most vital, section.

 

Threats and run the gamut from a member of staff being delayed by traffic, all the way up to, and including, the declaration of war. We can edit out the SH3extremes, with one end being somewhat inconsequential, with the other so improbable we can rule it out. But accidents do happen, acts of God occur and the threat of terrorism hasn’t gone away, you know.

Work anywhere with the public and you are presented with these doomsday scenarios, of evacuation and escape routes, warnings never to shout ‘fire’ at a theatre (though if you hear an announcement asking if Mr Smith or some such can report to the lobby, it might be wise to gather yourself up). I once worked at an event where Bill Clinton himself was due to speak, which included the mandatory snipers and the welding shut of manhole covers. Just in case.

And as I write this the sound of storm Eleanor rattles off my window, reminding me of Ophelia. Storm Ophelia was due to hit Belfast at around 3pm, and projected to last until late that night. Galway had already taken a hiding and the venue I work for had a band booked that night, due to travel up from Dublin.

 

While the preparations were made to shore up the homestead (which, for some reason, included filling every available vessel with tap water) the band were messaged. Fortunately the Dears, an indie-outfit from the wilds of Canada, (who are really rather good, by the way. Would put you in the mind of Morrissey without the unpleasantness) are one of those bands who keep up to date with the twitter.

At 9.58 a message was sent, asking if all was going to plan. They responded within three minutes, saying they were on the way, having left early to beat the storm. “We are road warriors” they added.

At this stage the storm was lashing the west coast of Ireland, and the pubs and shops of Belfast shut down

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The messages lit up. Was the gig going ahead? Yes! Was it still at the same time? Yes! We’re we still open? Yes!

 

We lost the support group, but Canadians are made of sterner stuff, and turned up before lunchtime, ahead of schedule and loaded in. Reassurance was the order of the day, the Empire Bar has a cosy Basement and Ophelia blew itself out before it hit us. And then they posted this picture, which is when we knew everything would be all right.

 

Shane Horan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

Carrickfergus JD Wetherspoon- A storm ahead of the rest

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Huge waves strike the harbour wall and lighthouse on October 16, 2017 as Storm Ophelia hits the UK and Ireland

So as I’m sure you’re aware, on Monday 16th October, 2017, a hurricane named Ophelia paid a visit to our beautiful little island. Now for most of us the weather didn’t really affect our day-to-day lives and if you are anything like me, who got sent home from work early and was given a day of university, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get the fire lit, stick on my favourite Hepburn movie, get the cosy pyjamas on and sip on a vino or five. It was wonderful!!

However, as I was vegetating on the sofa and scrolling Facebook, the most brilliant post appeared on my Timeline written by JD Wetherspoon’s Bar in Carrickfergus.  The post (which I later noticed was extensively shared) read: “Morning all, so no one knows how bad this storm is gonna be, and it kicks off on my shift. If you live alone and are a little apprehensive come down to the bar and we will sit it out together, if your electric goes out and you need hot water for babies or the kids, come down and I will supply tea and coffee for free. If you are homeless in the area at this time our doors are open for shelter and heat no questions asked. If you get caught in it and can’t get home, use us as a safe point we will try and get you home. I will stay all night if need be, but above all be safe, it may amount to nothing but better being prepared. Please share and let people know. Robert”.

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A screenshot of the post by J.D Wetherspoon, Carrickfergus

After reading this post, I will admit, I was a little teary eyed. It really struck me how wonderful and caring this duty manager, Mr. Robert McCleneghan was, to open the doors of his business to absolutely anyone who needed help.

However, it then also occurred to me how bloody clever it was for a business to place a post like this on a public facing platform. Now don’t get me wrong, in no way am I taking away from Mr. McCleneghan’s desire to genuinely want to help vulnerable and isolated people within the community. But, this post, in my opinion, was an excellent example of effective Public Relations through the use of a social media platform, in this case Facebook.

By proving that the business valued and cared about the safety of the people of Carrickfergus and those travelling through the area (who most likely are their regular clientele), JD Wetherspoon gained the respect of their desired publics and Facebook followers, who in turn will hopefully return the favour by bringing their business to an establishment who clearly value their custom but most importantly their safety.

They say that out of crisis comes opportunity and this post was undoubtedly a huge success. To date it has had approximately 17k likes, 1600 comments and 13k shares. Posting such a heartfelt message will really work in favour for this little bar in Carrickfergus. Creating a Facebook post that had such a large reach is something that most businesses only dream of! People all over Northern Ireland, so overwhelmed by this thoughtful gesture, made it their business to share this post, placing JD Wetherspoon in Carrick on the map.

One comment that really caught my eye read as follows: “I don’t live near Carrick but next time I’m passing I’ll make a point of calling in. Good service deserves to be rewarded with good custom”. This quote sums up exactly what most people were thinking when they read this post. Intentionally or unintentionally, JD Wetherspoon, in posting such a caring message, have well and truly got people talking about their bar in positive way that can only benefit their business.

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A screenshot of the positive feedback flooding the comments section on Facebook

Moreover, this post didn’t go unnoticed by the local media. An online story was published by the Belfast News Letter and Belfast Live, who both praised the bar for their generosity during a time that potentially could have been difficult for certain groups of people within the community. Unsurprisingly, the bar gained even more positive feedback as a result, making JD Wetherspoon a much more attractive business to consider visiting when in the Carrickfergus area.

I believe that JD Wetherspoon really has stormed ahead of the rest of their competitors within the Carrickfergus area and most of them should take a leaf out of their book!

Their post really has shown that social media can be a powerful tool in putting your business on the map, gaining new customers, building relationships and increasing repeat custom whilst most importantly showing that the wellbeing of your customers and community are of the upmost importance to yourself and to the business that you run.

Hannah O’Connor is a final year Bsc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @hannarose94 and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-o-connor-0140b3150/