Persuasion at the heart of Christmas

As it is Christmas, I have been brought back to this time last year.

Firstly, a bit of background to what I was actually doing this time last year would help.

Whilst studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing there is a year free to complete work placement. I chose this route within my four years at Ulster University. To cut a long story short, I completed a placement year with Randox Laboratories. This was one of the biggest learning curves I have probably ever experienced. Coupled with worries, stress and a feeling of thinking I wasn’t capable enough, it ended up I was.

(Worrying doesn’t get you anywhere, I promise)

By Christmas time, I eventually came out of my shell and began contributing a lot more than I had been before, merely due to my lack of confidence when starting. To be honest, if I were to give any advice, speak up – sitting worrying what your about to say being wrong is useless, it doesn’t matter. It is much more beneficial to be yourself and act confident, even if your not… (Rich coming from me)

Just before Christmas time in Randox is always very busy with the close of business looming. For most of us we just can’t wait to get everything finished up and enjoy festivities. However, around this time it is essential to make most of the festive fun and incorporate something a little more exciting into your work. Why not!

As many of you may know, Randox is a global market leader in the in vitro diagnostics industry. Within the organisation there are many divisions and I happened to be placed in the RX series. The RX series is a range of clinical chemistry analysers for high quality semi-automated and fully automated testing…what a mouthful I know!

Before starting with Randox I was very unfamiliar with this field but by the end I was dreaming about these analysers in my sleep.

If you would like to know more about Randox, click here.

With this in mind I wanted to try and give the RX series an emotional and persuasive appeal, after all it was Christmas.

Especially around this time of year the public are easily persuaded when purchasing gifts, whether we like it or not! May it be for family, friends or even yourself a little bit of persuasion makes it slightly more justifiable. In this case, I tried to persuade a lab into buying an analyser. I’m sure you are asking how might this work. (I was at this stage too)


giphy (2)


What is persuasion?

Some may argue that PR itself is based on persuasion.

Persuasion is associated with influencing behaviours, raising awareness and educating the public. (Messina, 2007)

Adapting this definition to the campaign I completed at Christmas last year, I tried to accomplish just that. See below.

Day 1


Day 2


Day 3


Day 4


This campaign was aimed at lab staff being ‘persuaded’ to gift their laboratory this Christmas with an RX altona. To be fair, if I were a scientist, it would be pretty great!

A growing number of studies highlight the necessitous demand for visual imagery when persuading. This can therefore trigger emotion. Whilst basing this campaign on persuasion, incorporating a ‘humorous’ aspect was critical when ‘luring’ the customer in. Simply, analysers are not a fun, tangible piece of equipment (unless you are a scientist and reading this). Therefore practicing theoretical elements of public relations to any type of work can instantaneously result in a more effective outcome.

As Aristotle notes, there are three modes of persuasion; Ethos, Logos and Pathos were at the heart of this Christmas campaign.



In summary, persuasion is a very effective way of communicating to the public. Especially at Christmas time, I don’t know about you, but I tend to blame all my buying habits on the use of great persuasion. (This doesn’t stop at Christmas unfortunately!)

Lets just hope some laboratories did too.


Katy McGuigan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @KatyMcGuigan2.

What makes a Great Christmas Advert?

What makes a Great Christmas Advert?

For most, the first sign of Christmas is when the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night and all advertisers know this means the deluge of Christmas adverts will begin, and with that the competition of who has the best advert of the Christmas season? Over the years there have been many ones that have resonated and stayed with you long after the Christmas decorations are taken down. All of the best have different qualities that make you pick it as your favourite.


Some play on the heart for example the famous John Lewis, ‘Man on the Moon’ where many tears were shed over the poor lonely man who lived on the moon and the little girl on earth who desperately wanted to say hello. This advert which was a partnership with AGE UK was used to highlight the loneliness of elderly at Christmas, as well as year round, and tugged at the heartstrings of the general public who helped to generate £1 billion of sales for John Lewis in the Christmas period of 2015. John Lewis have long held the title of being the best at Christmas advertisements, usually accompanied with a song that reaches high in the top 40 of the U.K charts, for example the now infamous Ellie Goulding version of ‘Your Song’ which was then rumoured to be the first dance song of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at their 2011 wedding. However, many others have attempted to take this coveted crown from the department store.

In 2014 the undisputed champion of the Christmas adverts appeared to be Supermarket Sainsbury’s who used history to make the perfect advert. Their depiction of Christmas Day 1914 along the trenches when German and British Troops ceased fighting and played a football match was praised across the U.K as one of the greatest Christmas adverts and a moving tribute on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1. The pairing of what happened along with the moving use of ‘Silent Night’ both in English and German saw The Independent brand the marketing strategy ‘Epic’. The advertisement went viral, within 24 hours had had 1.8 million views on YouTube. It was believed to be a risky advert as if the tone want right it would have caused outrage by the British public. The tag line of #ChristmasisMadeforSharing resonated and with the advert being partnered with the Royal British Legion the advert is highly recognised as one the most brilliant television adverts of the 21st Century. Some did object to the advert calling it disrespectful but this was far outweighed by the outpouring of love for the advert.



Then there are the classics such as the Coca-Cola advert of the lit up truck driving through cities and towns with the ‘Holiday’s are Coming’ playing the background which for many really signifies the beginning of the festive period.

So what make a great Christmas advert? Is it one that makes you cry happy or sad tears, one with a well constructed message behind it or one that just starts to bring the seasonal joy to people? Everyone has there own special advert they will always back up when the best Christmas advert comes around every year, and it nearly always changes when the next batch of advertising excellence shows the following year.

Rosa O’Farrell is a final year in BSc Public Relations. She can be found on LinkedIn at or on Twitter @rosaofarrell

Holiday Heartstrings

Admit it, there’s always one that gets you… 

We all know that come October time the Christmas TV advertisements begin to make their way onto our screens, perhaps a pleasant reminder that the festive season is upon us? or perhaps not in some cases.

Each year, large companies, department stores, food and drink brands, retailers, and many more launch their Christmas campaigns. But my question is; is the secret to a successful PR campaign really tapping into the emotional side of things and pulling on the heartstrings of the public? I honestly don’t think there is one answer to this question, however, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little chat about it here, eh?

From M&S to Guinness, John Lewis to Iceland, and Aldi to Boots; we’ve seen it all. I guess it’s a good time to insert a little disclaimer here that I, personally, love emotional Christmas advertisements, especially the tear-jerkers! Does anyone remember the Edeka 2015 ad? Of course you do (if not please see below for reminder) it was the Christmas ad that hit home with, well, just about everyone.

Related image

Are these campaigns more effective than, say, feel-good Christmas ads? they may be more memorable that’s for sure. Of course the same factors still apply when producing a Christmas campaign; reaching the target audience, credibility, creativity, persuasion, and so on. This is where advertising and public relations become one, with the shared goal of convincing the public that they are in need of something or interested in a particular product which they would otherwise pay no attention to. It’s all about the appeal, emotional appeals automatically grab the attention of the public, as a way of ‘hooking’ them in, a very strategic way of advertising. In a way, this is a brief dissection of the makings of our favourite festive TV ads, but know it is not my intention here to ruin the magic that is Christmas advertisements, so please don’t stop scrolling. Please.

The idea behind the emotional appeal is knowing how the public will react, and what better time of the year than Christmas to do so? Each year, new advertisements are released; all with the intention of topping the last and competing with each other. For example, John Lewis are renowned for their Christmas TV ads, every year there is such anticipation circulating around what will feature in the advertisement and will it be a happy or sad one? Whatever they may be, they certainly always have us feeling warm and festive inside. Yes, they do! Just agree with me.

Image result for john lewis christmas ads

We all know the ‘happier’ Christmas ads, i.e.; Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Guinness (personal favourite). But are these really the ones that stick with us? The ones that we remember? It’s the Christmas ads that have meaning behind them, the ones that make us stop what we are doing and look at the TV, even if we are not watching it, the ads that make us look around and appreciate our homes and our loved ones, essentially, the ads that proclaim the true meaning of Christmas. Taking the emotional approach is a smart way of sending out a message, to ensure it will be received and listened to, however, with the more light-hearted advertisements; it is the rational appeal that is implemented, this addresses the more practical side of things, for example; Iceland advertising their Christmas offers and deals on party food, or Argos promoting certain products, and even in some cases; both appeals may be used.

In my opinion, nothing is as effective and powerful as a sad advertisement let alone a Christmas one. I think it all centres on the music, adding an emotional song to an advertisement can really resonate with some people and therefore makes music a very significant feature for these types of campaigns. A great example of this is the John Lewis Christmas ad back in 2012 when the song ‘Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was featured, there was something very haunting and moving about it, enough to bring a tear to one’s eye (yes ok, my eye). Please watch the clip below to find out for yourself, you may well remember this ad, it’s for sure one I haven’t forgotten.

So is the secret to a successful PR campaign using emotion? all in all I guess there is no right answer here, but what we have discovered is that the emotional appeal to the public has certainly been beneficial, it has proven to be extremely effective, I mean, you can see for yourself on YouTube just how many views each of these advertisements has, whether this is down to how touching they were, the music featured, how powerful they were; we will never really know. So take the time and watch the next Christmas ad that appears on your TV, can you relate it to this post? I’ll leave you with that thought.

*A sad Christmas song now plays as you’ve finished reading*

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



With great power comes great responsibility…

With great power comes great responsibility…

We all want to see ourselves as somewhat ‘superheroes’ in whatever profession we find ourselves in. Something which we can be proud of when some asks the question, what is it you do for a living? Some are doctors, some are nurses, firemen and women, others, well others are PR practitioners.

What is a PR practitioner’s super power I hear you ask? The power of persuasionpow-1601674_960_720

Every day we are being exposed to thousands of messages, all persuading us to act or do something a certain way! It can be done through a restaurant’s drool-worthy Instagram of the food or the day or a popular influencer showing off an upcoming collection from a brand – this doesn’t seem too frightening, right? Right!

So why does this word leave such a foul taste in a PR practitioner’s mouth? Why do some feel it veers a little too close to propaganda? PR is all about persuasion! It’s not a dirty word, it’s not a word that should be whispered in the dead of night in a dark lit alley. Instead of wearing the art of persuasion like a badge of honour, we shy away from it, we purposely leave it out of definitions of the industry.

All PR practitioners don’t use their powers for evil, this is a common myth amongst publics and journalist who sometimes forget about the positive effect we can have in society through the power of persuasion.


Take a look at these next examples to highlight how life changing working in the PR industry can be!

Turning ‘left over women to power women’

The social expectation of China, is to marry young. Anyone over the age of 25 and who isn’t yet married is referred to as ‘Sheng Nu’ which translates to, ‘left over woman.’  In Shanghai, parents will pay to post ads and find matches for their children at the Marriage Market. The ads will list weight, height, income and a description of either their son or daughter’s personality. The children being advertised may not even know their ad is being listed.

Marriage Market in Shanghi
The Marriage Market in Shanghai.

A beauty brand in China, SK-II released a video in 2016 which promoted a woman’s right to exercise her freedom and to choose when she gets married and more importantly, who she gets married to. As part of this campaign, women who chose to defy their parents’ wishes and social pressure, printed images of themselves throughout the Marriage Market and with the tag lines delivering messages to their parents. One was, “I don’t want to get married for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.”

The campaign was designed to persuade and change the Chinese traditional way of thinking, not to marry for the sake of being married before becoming a ‘leftover woman,’ but to be proud of their daughters maybe unconventional, yet passionate views on marriage. See the campaign in action:



Like my addiction

This health campaign captured the world’s attention and inspired PR practitioners alike. Although a tad deceitful, it was all in good faith.

The Instagram account of Louise Delage documented a young girl’s flashy, jet set lifestyle causing her to gain 18,000 followers and an average of 50,000 likes per post in a short space of time. Although having an Instagram account is completely the norm for young adults these days, there was one problem.

Louise Delage didn’t exist.

The account was set up by a French PR agency on behalf of their health care client, Addict Aide. The campaign drew young adult’s attention to how easy it is to ignore the signs of addiction, but by liking the picture or video, you are also enabling it. It persuaded people to keep a watchful eye over people who may be suffering from addiction and notice silent cries for help.

Watch this eye opening campaign here:



Astonishingly, when the plot was revealed, the story was published in over 140 articles, it became a trending topic on Twitter and there was massive traffic to the Addict Aide website, bear in mind little money was given to promote the campaign. It was all through social media.

These amazing campaigns were only a few examples of the amazing things PR can do and the positivity it can spread.

Proving PR practitioners are not your stereotypical manipulative masterminds you see on movies or TV shows, they aim not just to highlight tough issues, but also provide solutions to tackle it, to change outdated suppressive social conventions and present a more forward thinking world.

From your friendly neighbourhood practising PR practitioner,


Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn






The Power of Protest

As a final year student, I am currently writing my dissertation. The topic I chose to explore was Public Relations and Lobbying within the agriculture industry, as the recent news topics sparked my interest as a farmer’s daughter.


2015 saw the farming income for Northern Ireland fall from £311.8m to £182.5m, which was largely due to supermarkets and processors driving down farm produce prices. This was not an issue just within Northern Ireland, but throughout the whole of the UK.


So to understand why this campaign matters so much to farmers, I will explain the complex system (for myself if nothing else). Dairy farmers milk their cows twice or three times a day 365 days a year, which is collected by a milk tanker (nearly every day) to be taken to the processors where it will be pasteurised for human consumption. The majority of dairy farmers are locked into a contract with these processors and unable to leave. Combining the facts that supermarkets and processors are cutting the prices of milk and the inflation of the prices of fuel, feed and production, farmers are struggling to keep their farms afloat. They can’t stop feeding their cows or harvesting crops as (1) it is cruelty to animals and (2) a farmer’s actions will have a long term effect in how they can run their farm in the future.

Power of protests

Discouraged by this, farmers took to protesting, which sparked the biggest grassroots campaign the farming industry had seen in recent years; partly funded by the Scottish Government who contributed £100,000. This campaign achieved national media coverage and saw the issue fought through social media, peaceful protests and farming coalitions who communicated on behalf of the farmers.


SOS Dairy harnessed the full power of the Internet through using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to bring the farmers together and to share the issue with the general public. More than 800 individuals added the SOS Dairy ribbon to their profile photos on Twitter, with hundreds more showing the same support on Facebook and using the #SOSDairy hashtag. During this campaign a video called ‘The #SOSdairy song,’ made up of protest footage, became an Internet hit, gaining over 38,000 hits on YouTube. Through the videos’ popularity, the BBC approached the creator to request he preform it on the radio- enabling them to promote the cause further.

To demonstrate a united industry, the issue saw farm groups set aside their differences to form a coalition between NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, Tenant Farmers Association and the Women’s Food and Farming Union. It also brought together those who relied on the farming community such as farming suppliers, vets and lawyers all over the country. Whilst leaders of the coalitions held talks with the processors and supermarkets to achieve fair prices, the farmers named and shamed the milk processors and supermarkets while carrying out protests throughout the country by obstructing processing plants night after night, to show their strength.


Through this campaign major supermarkets backed down by announcing fairer prices for farmers who directly supplied the supermarkets, and processors eventually backed down and in result abandoned their second price cut. A poll carried out by YouGov and The Grocer found that 83% of the public were aware of the protests and 67% stated they think farmers should be paid more, even if it increases the price of milk.


Although this campaign achieved what it set out to do, capturing the public interest and winning the support of the consumer, there is still a long way to go for the industry in order to create a sustainable industry where farmers will profit.


Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at

Travel blogs: a marketing minefield or a golden opportunity?

“Have you seen those smoothie bowls on Instagram that Natasha Oakley ate in Seminyak?”

It’s December 2016, and I’ve been exposed to 11 travel blogs today. Yes, I’ll admit that this is probably because I spend far too much time on social media, but it’s an undeniable reality that travel bloggers are being put on a pedestal as “online celebrities.” Therefore, I ask: Are fickle, trend obsessed teenagers falling into the trap of endorsement naiveté? Or do these bloggers offer real value in terms of competitive advantage in such a noisy market?


The last five years have seen rapid development in the use of blog content in travel marketing. In an industry that offers so much choice and increasing opportunities for creativity, it’s appropriately assumed that recommendations and “consumer to consumer” feedback are influential.

Research suggests that, in particular, user-generated content (UGC) is on the rise due to its consumer perception as a conversational and trusted information source. This recognition of its power and impact on purchasing decisions creates a significant competitive advantage in terms of online marketing. Allowing consumers to “see” how the experience looks from a real life perspective (whether it’s an Instagram post or a YouTube video) creates a more comfortable and confident decision making model.

However, in contrast, technological advancements have also made market research and information regarding choice more readily available to consumers. As a result, people are not only more informed, but they are requiring a greater need for “corporate transparency” and therefore in an industry where paid-for bloggers and vloggers are on the rise, consumers are developing scepticism. In the past, I have (rightly) been accused as being at the mercy of online endorsement. However, I am now guilty of being overly conscious and always suspicious of paid for blogging.


“It just so happens that someone snapped me with my new Nikon DSLR, when I’m travelling totally alone and I probably would’ve taken this exact picture WITH the Nikon DSLR that I’m currently holding oh so naturally” – Really?

The internet has become an essential tool in the travel industry, as it allows consumers to search for information on products and services, make comparisons, and evaluate alternatives. As a result, the internet promotes consumer centricity, and therefore provides consumers with the option to select and customise their experiences.

UGC is a rapidly growing vehicle for interaction with brands and insights into the consumers’ needs and wants. The developmental trends in online brand communities, including social media, has strongly supported the growth of UGC. Consumers often depend on these opinions and suggestions from other consumers in order to evaluate purchases in order to reduce risk and uncertainty in buying. However, bloggers that endorse multiple products or those that appear to be endorsing as a paid-for service, lose a degree of credibility and likeability, and therefore negatively influence the consumers’ attitudes towards the piece of content, product or service.

It is clear that travel blogs offer an emotional pull and a “real life” perspective, but only when the blogger is a reputable source. It is therefore up to the consumer to decide the degree of trust that they can put into the content and if their word is enough to alleviate all doubt.

It’s December 2016, and I’ve been exposed to 11 travel blogs today. But I am only influenced by 3.


Beth McClements is a fourth year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @bethmcclements and on LinkedIn at