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/.

Since my last political post faired out so well, I have decided to continue to include my own opinion on the going-on’s in Northern Ireland’s ever-changing political landscape.

If Facebook was invented during the Troubles, I can only imagine that the war would have been fought with a keyboard instead of with guns. As social media has grew in popularity, a steady decline of humility and feeling has occurred. This negative correlation showed itself to me firstly when Margaret Thatcher died, as thousands flooded my timeline to show their courtesy – yet simultaneous disrespect – to her death.

However, on 21/03/2017, I was genuinely shocked to come on to Facebook and Twitter, and see so many disgusting comments at the death of Martin McGuinness. A man without whom Northern Ireland would still be very much stuck in the 1980’s.

As Margaret Thatcher is the only person who comes to mind when trying to compare the two political giants’ deaths, I must remind you of the background of each character.

Baroness Thatcher came from a well-to-do family and grew up in a quiet market town in Lincolnshire. Martin McGuinness was raised in the Bogside of Derry City, which to those who haven’t studied an ounce of NI history (half of my Facebook timeline), was a highly deprived area where Catholics were discriminated against at the electoral polls and at the housing executive. He left school at the age of 15 and without the right education behind him to express his anger at the British Government through speech, he delved into the violence that was rife at that time throughout NI.

I found this tweet sums up a great deal of Martin McGuinness’ early years.

 

This is not a post to make excuses for McGuinness’ early years, when he was obviously under the influence of the romanticised Irish patriots of the 20th century, but instead a post to commemorate his final 20 years where he pushed for change for Northern Ireland.

The progress he made throughout his political career is unparalleled – being the chief negotiator for Sinn Fein and Irish republicans through the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and staying with the power sharing Executive throughout its 19 year period. He too had to make compromises when dealing with the opposition who he fought with violence so vehemently just years previously. His warm and witty personality caught the attention of US President Bill Clinton, who spoke at his funeral.

The most poignant part of Clinton’s speech was when he mentioned Nelson Mandela. The South-African freedom fighter has come to epitomise peace and revolution – despite being involved in similar militant tactics as a young man. Clinton said that in a conversation with Mandela, Mandela told his people “if I can get over ‘it’ you can too, we have got to build a future”, which is exactly the attitude Martin McGuinness had when realising that until republicans and loyalist sides learned to move forward together, they wouldn’t move at all.

 

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinnesswatched by First minister Peter Robinson (centre) at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Photograph: PA
McGuinness shaking Queen Elizabeth II’s hand. “If I can get over it, you can too. We have got to build a future.” – Nelson Mandela

 

If the Queen can shake Martin McGuinness’ hand although he was head of the IRA when her cousin Mountbatten was murdered by them – then surely everyone can pay respect to him (or perhaps not react at all), because after all he is a human being.

It is easy to judge someone when you only see them in black and white. But when I think of Martin McGuinness, his past reflects a rainbow of triumphs and turbulence.

Martin McGuinness “expanded the definition of ‘us’, and shrunk the definition of ‘them”

– Bill Clinton.

Image result for martin mcguinness funeral

 

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

 

AE2017 for Dummies

As this is my first blog on the Ulster PR Student site, I want to introduce myself as Shannon – a lover of tea (strictly Punjana), Yankee Candles (Lovely Kiku obviously) and American Country music. Although these are the things that keep me sane, I also dabble in some PR, Events and Marketing activities as a student of Communications, Advertising and Marketing.

Swiftly moving on to the election that will shape generations to come..

I have spent the last few days spending my time explaining the basics of the election to co-workers (some in their 40’s, some not yet legal to vote), family members and class-mates.

This is by no means a comprehensive analysis of the Assembly Election, however if you are like the majority of people and have enough interest in politics to know that Sinn Fein are nationalist, this quick guide will help you make sense of the political jargon that is plastered on your newsfeed.

The basics – what you need to know

There were 90 seats up for grabs in comparison to 2016’s election where there were 108 seats to be won. That means there are 90 people across Northern Ireland that will be voted to represent you and your constituency in the NI Assembly. It is written in NI’s constitution that there must be a unionist and nationalist coalition of parties in power – power sharing. The leader of the party with the most seats takes ‘first minister’ position, traditionally this is the leader of the DUP – in this case Arlene Foster – and the ‘deputy first minister’ position taken by the leader of the second biggest party – traditionally Sinn Fein (Michelle O’Neill).

OK. Now that we have the basics out of the way, this is how the results went.

Final results in 2017 NI Assembly

AKA DUP got served, Sinn Fein triumphed, SDLP winged it, UUP are in tatters and Alliance keep getting the vote of those who think their party is about ‘friendship’.

Image result for arlene foster
“Sorry.. My party lost HOW many seats?”

 

So what does it all mean?

The biggest turn out of electorate since The Troubles

812,783 of you got out of the house and utilised your vote. That’s more than 80,000 more votes than just 10 months ago at the last election. Think of it as Croke Park stadium being packed out, and everyone there is really angry at Arlene Foster and they show up to vote against her.

Petition of Concern – Yay Gay!

As you may or may not have seen in recent times, the DUP have consecutively blocked the motion of ‘Gay Marriage’ passing through to legislation (FIVE times) – despite a clear want from the people of the modern world. Now, because the DUP failed to attain 30 seats, they have lost that petition of concern, and are now unable to SOLELY block this. This does not guarantee us that gay marriage will be legalised, but it’s one hell of a way to show those in NI still stuck in the 1900’s that discrimination won’t be tolerated any more in a new, modern Northern Ireland.

No ‘Perpetual’ Unionist Majority

For the first time since the Good Friday Agreement.. or ever for that matter, there is no Unionist majority voted in to the Assembly. Currently as it stands, 40 of those candidates voted in are unionist, and 39 are nationalist. The rest deem themselves as ‘other’ and can fall on either side of the divide. Michelle O’Neill has hailed this as the biggest victory of the election, claiming AE17 has ‘demolished any notion of a perpetual unionist majority in the North’.

The UUP were Nes-troyed at the polls

The party leader – Mike Nesbitt – has left the party leaderless after an abysmal polling result, which is only to be expected as a lot of unionist voters would have shifted their vote to the DUP to back the party with more chance to withstand a nationalist majority. This probably means nothing to the standard voter, as the smaller opposition parties are now starting to dwindle and come the next election – they might not be here at all unless there is a big shake up in party organisation!

Are we heading towards a United Ireland?

Probably not. Although those who have always voted Sinn Fein will use this result as a way to express a public ‘need’ for a new referendum on a united Ireland (a public vote), it is more likely that the increase in SF and reduction in DUP votes was a reaction to decades of arrogance from the DUP and a retaliation to the RHI scandal (a whole other blog is needed for that one, sorry guys).

Image result for michelle o'neill sinn fein
You mean to say you didn’t vote Sinn Fein because you want a united Ireland?

So where does this leave Northern Ireland?

Well, with Arlene Foster in trouble, the DUP could be left leaderless alongside their unionist counterpart UUP party. This means a totally new legion of Stormont leaders could emerge since just 4 months ago, when Foster and Martin McGuinness shared power.          As for Brexit, Michelle will use her party’s newly regenerated popularity to fight against Theresa May’s exit from the EU… or Stormont may turn vacant once again.

Basically, you can wake up in the morning knowing that things are changing. And for the better.

 

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @SQbabes.

The Super Bowl: The Golden Opportunity

American football, the Halftime Show, and legendary advertisements, a.k.a. the PR dream. Over time the Super Bowl has come to stand as a global attraction, with millions tuning in to watch the game, and more prevalently, to see the elusive adverts and the Halftime Show. Following Super Bowl 51, it is worth examining this annual sporting event as the golden PR opportunity that it is.

It’s that time of year when the big brands battle it out and pump huge amounts of money into the world’s most expensive advertising slots to create content that will grab the US’, and the globe’s, attention. Often cinematic in nature, these adverts become as big a talking point as the game itself, and so the execution needs to be perfect. This year, the adverts were notably rooted in current affairs, with political undertones across all of the brand messages, either to speak out against the current political situation, or to portray themselves as a bipartisan brand. Here’s Budweiser’s offering, which tells the tale of the company’s German co-founder, Adolphus Busch, arriving in America, facing and defeating adversity to set up his brewing company:

And here’s Coca-Cola’s ad, which first aired in 2014, but has the pertinent message, “America Is Beautiful” – perhaps a deliberate contrast to the Trump administration’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan:

Additionally, the Halftime Show in itself has become a platform for PR stunts, with performers trying to out-do the show from the year before with large scale displays of dance routines, flames, fireworks, drones: the works! And it’s no coincidence that they announce a new album or world tour simultaneously. Indeed Beyoncé twice used the Super Bowl stage to launch her  most recent albums and world tours. It’s a formula that works, and it only gets bigger and better every year.

beyonce-superbowl
Beyonce performs during the Super Bowl Halftime show.

With a saturated and noisy marketplace, the Super Bowl is still a surefire hit for reaching the largest amount of people almost instantaneously. With the dominance of social media, and the sporting event being broadcast live around the globe, the Super Bowl is the perfect platform to attract, engage and retain consumers, to generate virality, and to rocket brands, be they companies, products or celebrity performers, into the forefront of global consumers’ minds overnight.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

In recent days, US President-elect Donald Trump has had to battle unverified allegations which have derived from a leaked dossier created by a Washington-based opposition research firm, branding them “fake news”. Yet despite the document’s claims being wholly unverified, the story remained at the top of Facebook’s algorithm, and has led to a growing amount of media coverage clouding the public sphere.

trump-tweet

Fake news is a collection of fabricated stories and strategic narratives which are increasingly influencing public and political discourse. With 62% of US citizens saying they get their news from Facebook, fake news poses a threat to politicians trying to influence public opinion. For example, during the 2016 US election, fake news overtook mainstream news in terms of social media engagement.

facebook-election

(Source: Buzzfeed (2016) Total Facebook engagements for to 20 election stories. Available from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V )

So what does this mean for modern political PR practice?

With fake news taking centre stage, it shows how social media has facilitated “Chinese whispers” of sorts, allowing people to share stories like “Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President”, and showing just how little “fact checking” comes in to play. Despite the impact of fake news on public action still being undetermined, it has the potential to fuel some dangerous rumours, and lead to a misinformed public and an upheaval of the current media system. If people lose their trust in all news stories and outlets as a result of constantly being bombarded with fake news, this will render earned and paid media placements pointless and valueless, as they will no longer resonate with a growingly suspicious public.

As the ever-expanding and ever-complex media system creates an obscuring trellis around key issues and demands, more and more of the public are relying on social media for news stories, and are not differentiating real news from fake news. It is therefore increasingly necessary for politicians, public figures, and organisations alike to utilise public relations in order to disseminate and distinguish the “real story”, and to protect their image.

social-media-culture

When politicians and other public figures are being derailed constantly the rise of fake news, and an invasive and powerful media agenda trying to verify the stories, PR and spin tactics may become a necessary evil. In a media environment of accelerated information flow, political figures have less control than with older media forms. This intensification of media attention puts pressure on politicians to communicate a variety of messages quickly, and thus an increased reliance on spin is a reaction to the need to maximise electoral support, engage a wide range of publics, and connect them through an alternative media filter, allowing politicians and public figures to communicate particular messages and to break through the media monolith.

 

References:

http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Khaldarova, I. and Pantti, M. (2016) Fake News: The narrative battle over the Ukrainian conflict. Journalism Practice, 10 (7), 891-901.

McNair, B. (2004) PR must die: spin, anti-spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997-2004. Journalism Studies, 5 (3), 325-338.

http://www.mediabullseye.com/2016/12/fake-news-poses-a-real-problem-for-pr/

Moloney, K. and Colmer, R. (2001) Does Political PR Enhance or Trivialise Democracy? The UK General Election 2001 as Contest between Presentation and Substance. Journal of Marketing Management, 17 (9-10), 957-968.

Moloney, K. (2006) Rethinking Public Relations. Second Edition. London: Routledge.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V

 

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94