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.

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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,

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Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a

 

 

 

 

 

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 www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0/.

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?

smoothie-bowl

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.

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“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 https://uk.linkedin.com/in/beth-mcclements-69811b94.