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