What would we do without PR?

Public Relations (PR) has a valid role in today’s democratic society. Moloney and Colmer (2001; pp.89) suggest “The thesis is that PR is on a journey from being the property of the UK elite to the possession of many, if not most of its citizens.” Liberalisation led to economic growth which created a sustained customer boom, therefore creating an incessant need for PR services in society and this has grown to become a necessity in many parts of today’s society.

The 20th century gave birth to a new type of media relations (Zerfass, et.al. 2016) and this has created a dynamic shift in PR to correspond with the digital age (Toledano and Avidar, 2016).

According to Moloney (2004; pp.163) “The shift to online and social media communication has impacted the practice of PR.” PR practitioners can now create online content to influence public opinion and create awareness of a company/brand but it’s down to the individual if they decide to consume the information online. This epitomises Habermas’ (1989) “The Public Sphere”, reiterating the idea that all citizens in society now have access to transparent information and whether we consume this information, is completely up to us.

PR and Mass Media

PR is now prevalent on social media in many different forms. Businesses are now promoting their brand on their Facebook pages, influencers are now endorsing products on their Instagram and celebrities are expressing their views on their twitter feeds. Therefore, social media is now a powerful way to support PR (LaMarre and Suzuki-Lambrecht, 2013). It is now possible to promote a PR campaign fully online.  Social media is free, easy to use and consumed by much of our society today.  Therefore, PR through social media is very important when carrying out any PR strategy today.

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One could also argue that PR professionals are still seeking coverage from journalists but also bloggers in today’s society. According to Walden (2015; pp.526) “Bloggers play an influential role in society by breaking news, discussing news and being cited in the traditional media, which makes this a critical stakeholder group for PR professionals to work with.” The blogger phenomenon has really grown in the past few years and now PR professionals are working with bloggers to promote brands and endorse products on their Instagram and YouTube channels. Therefore, the practice of PR is changing to meet with the current trends in society.

It is now so easy to have a direct means to publics through online PR. Social media allows PR practitioners to maintain relationships with their publics in a more coherent and sustainable way (Komodromos, 2014). PR through social media can reach a lot more people and better communicate a message around the world (Toledano and Avidar, 2016). Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) claim we are living in a creative industry and PR is prominent in popular culture, clearly showing that PR’s role in the media is very important.

Social media is only one aspect of PR in the media. Engagement with newspapers and print media is just as important. Today, PR practitioners work to try and influence public opinion through the media. Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.14) emphasise this idea noting “Public Relations is at the heart of things” through being at the centre of mass media. Van den Heijkant and Vliegenthart (2018) argue “PR materials are an important and easy accessible resource for the news media and might seriously impact the actual content of media coverage.” Therefore, PR has a distinctive role in controlling content in news media today.

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PR and Business

PR also has an important role to play within business today. Organisations require coherent PR strategies to promote a new product or service to their consumers. To connect with consumers, maintain relationships with consumers and attract new consumers, organisations need to have a strategic PR plan in place.

PR practitioners can support businesses in many different ways. PR practitioners can manage any crisis that may occur within a business. A crisis can occur at any time in any place and if businesses are not prepared, they face huge repercussions in terms of their reputation and credibility. Companies can hire PR professionals to create coherent crisis management plans that will look at the possible crises and provide steps to ensure the crisis is managed effectively. PR practitioners can also speak on behalf of a company to ensure they respond to a crisis in the right way that is legally sound and will protect the company image. Therefore, PR can have a very important role in managing crises.

Another aspect of PR in business is Sponsorship. Sponsorship is used by PR practitioners to increase public awareness of a company, reinforce public awareness of a brand and enhance its reputation. According to Ronald, (2004; pp.42) “PR can help management to get more benefit from sponsorship by guiding management to projects that will produce massive national or worldwide media coverage and the most heartfelt public gratitude.” PR practitioners can use their means to promote the good that a company does and overall enhance a company’s public image. For example, a company can use PR to promote their corporate social responsibility. (CSR) If a company is involved in charitable work or has programs that support the community, PR practitioners can use this to increase brand awareness and improve the company’s image.  Ronald (2004; pp.43) goes as far to suggest that PR can “be like bread cast upon the waters that returns to thee many fold and repeatedly”. Therefore, using PR in sponsorship can have huge advantages for businesses today.

PR and Politics

PR and Politics are hugely intertwined in today’s society. PR has been used in Politics since the 1860’s but Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) argued the Thatcher and Regan years created enormous needs for PR services. Since then, there has been a huge reliance on PR in political communication. Hobbs (2016; pp.372) supports this view claiming ‘spin’ is central to processes that constitute representative democracy.  Nowadays, politicians rely on their PR advisors or “spin doctors” to influence public opinion and control the agendas of the media. Moloney (2004; pp. 967) goes as far to suggest that PR “is an integral part of political presentation in the intermediated mass democracy which is modern UK politics.”

According to Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.12) “PR has become an important role in the battle to secure people’s votes.” Therefore, PR is very important in effectively communicating political messages to the public to gain support and influence public opinion. Especially today and for the past 2 years our newspapers, television screens and social media pages have been infiltrated with the word “Brexit” making it hard to avoid politics in society. Political parties and advisors have been using PR throughout the last few years to try and influence public opinion and sway voters to leave or stay in the European Union. Therefore, PR has a very important role in politics today.

To secure votes and support, political communication is about conveying the right message and PR practitioners today stand right behind politicians advising them the best route to take to gain support (Moloney, 2004). This idea of ‘Spin’ can cause some debate in the literature, some would argue that PR is the voice of people’s values and opinions as Moloney and Colmer, (2001; pp. 89) note, “We can be publicly gay, or single parents; start businesses; go on strike; campaign for consumer rights; speak for war or peace and take up nay faith or hobby which suits.” Showing that PR allows people to have their own views and express these views explicitly.

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On the other hand, Hobbs (2016) argues that spin can allow Political advisors to twist the truth and cause some ethical issues in government. An example of this is the Conservative party’s Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson in an effort to secure public support for the Leave campaign, toured around the UK in a bus with a very distinctive message on it….

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This claim that £350 million pound will be spent on the NHS could have swayed many voters to vote leave in the Brexit referendum on this promise alone, but it was then revealed that this was in fact, not the truth. After the vote it was abandoned by the Conservative party along with many other promises (The Independent, 2016). Therefore, it can be argued that PR in today’s society can be associated with manipulation just to get votes (Moloney, 2004).

Another way Political parties influence opinion through PR is through controlling the agendas of independent media organisations through information management (Moloney, 2004).  In the context of Northern Ireland some newspapers support unionist views and some newspapers support nationalist views and content of each will be targeted at audiences that support these ideals. In the wider UK according to YouGov (2017) The Daily Mail is seen as right wing, The Guardian as left wing and The Independent as centrist. Therefore, one could argue that newspapers are trying to persuade opinion rather than provide information that allows individuals to form their own opinions.

All in all, PR has a very distinctive role within politics today. Moloney (2004) suggests that it is hard to distinguish between PR and Politics and the two go hand in hand. This shows that PR has become an essential part of political presentation to communicate a message and defend this message, PR practitioners are essential to a governing body clearly indicating PR has a very important role in a mass democracy.

So, what would we do without PR?

PR is all around us and with the changing trends and creation of the digital age PR’s role has changed and adapted to these concepts. PR is not just about press releases, it’s about using social media to enhance brand image, a political image or even a blogger’s image. It is hard to ignore PR today, we see it everywhere, in our newspapers, on our televisions and twitter feeds. We are constantly being influenced through PR and PR allows us to express our own opinions and values. Therefore, it’s hard to deny the importance of PR and its roles in today’s society.

Orlaith Strong is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @orlaith_strong and Linkedin: @orlaithstrong

The Accidental Digital Strategy that Won a Celebrity Business Personnel the US Presidency

In todays modern day era, we are bombarded with marketing messages that we the public receive on a daily basis. It would be important for any person or business to have some sort of effective digital strategy set in place, to ensure they are reaching the correct consumers without barriers, but is it important to have a digital strategy?

“Digital strategy formulation typically involves making adjustments to marketing strategy to take advantage of the benefits of online channels rather than wholesale changes.” Porter (2001) 

In recent times technology and media have advanced exceedingly fast, and this allows for the public to use it as they wish. The Internet has birthed numerous means, that benefit the public, but one particular descendant of the Internet that stands out and is used regularly by all smart digital strategist is social media. Social media gives people access to voice opinions happening in society and in day-to-day politics.

The Digital Age of Communication & Technology

We live in the age of technology, and when technology advances, so does communication. Any person with access to a smartphone or android, living in the age of technology will have unlimited access to an array of sources, outlets and information that they can reach in seconds. One individual in particular that stands out in their ability to use social media and market their brand, which effectively left the world scratching their heads. An accidental, but yet extremely effective digital strategy that made a business celebrity the 45th president of the United States. I personally would call him “The Social Media President” but this business man goes by name of Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s ability to market himself through 140 characters was utilised in a way that allowed him to spend less and reach a far more aggressive audience than is opponent. An article by (digit.hbs.org) stated that during the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s digital team created thousands of adverts and content that brought in more than $275 million in donations through Facebook and Twitter, (Cameron, I 2017). And an article by (Digitaldoughnut.com) headlined, calling Trump the King of Digital Strategy Adema K. (2017). Did Trump have a digital strategy or did he smartly sway the American public “the buyers” by avoiding the fact that “He’s not actually a politician” he is a salesman by trade.

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The Empire

Trump built up his campaign empire, and tweeted out excellent adversaries about his opponent that give him his seat as president (Personal Opinion). Although his digital strategy was unconventional comparing to Clintons approach, it seems in the end if there had of been a defeat for Trump, it would have still rendered him a win, his name after all was mentioned in every news article/website and papers nationwide, and as the old saying goes, any coverage is neither bad or good, especially when your in business. According to (Businessinsider.com) “Trump’s tweets provide an insight into the mind-set of a president. Trump stating, “My use of social media is not Presidential, it’s modern day presidential” kiersz, A. (2017). Trump’s large number of supporting followers allowed the celebrity personnel the ability to use the platform as the base of his campaign, which hypnotised the world. When Trump tweeted, there was uproar around the world, because his erratic, but yet effective tweets where enough to make people stick around to see what happened next, almost like soap opera. Trump detoured the conventional mechanism of mass media, which it allowed him to speak directly to the American public which garnered more support through sharing and liking by his followers, even his haters sharing his content. According to (TheVerge.com) Trumps influence was of the quantity of his following, which aided his success of the 2016 USA election (McCormick, R 2016).

 

social-media-crisis%20image%2011Sensitive Spin Doctoring & The Buyers

What did we learn from Trump’s campaign rallying? Well, we can see from his speech giving, that they weren’t as forthcoming as Clintons, although his marketing capability through his platform expelled him to the front of the race. Faking it till he made it? He tweeted on delicate matters that the American people would have been sensitive to, especially American Democracy’s. According to an article by SocialMediatoday.com, Trump tweeted more than 3000 times during the elections, tweets such as “Make America Great Again”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Immigration” and “Jobs”, pushing delicate issues into the lime-light, ultimately triggering peoples sensitivities (Richard B 2017).

This political neophyte/businessman/reality TV star and his campaign developed a strategy based on what they knew, a keen understanding of how content is consumed today, what engages consumers to tune in, pay attention and be loyal” (Johnson, D, W. Brown, L M. 2016)

 Trump’s digital strategy was garnered in his “buzzwords” and how he adapted to what the American public wanted “his buyers” which the American public bought as concrete evidence that he’d be the opponent that will change America to fit the needs of what they want. The American public bought into the salesman plight, one who doesn’t know how to execute the procedures of a politician nor a president, and of course what did “the buyers” lose? Their receipt for a return!

The Expense

All of these favorable methods gave the American public “the buyers” a sampling taste of what’s to come if Trump won the election. By doing these unethical approaches had a crippling affect upon his opponent. This kind of digital strategy had a massive ripple effect that ultimately cost Clinton the election (Or perhaps she solely thought this was in the bag?). Not only did Clinton lose the election but also the difference in expense was astounding. According to the Washingtonpost.com Hillary Clinton spent a massive $1.4 Billion, whereas Trump spent $957.6 million (Narayanswamy A, & Cameron, D (2017). We could say this is because Hilary Clinton is a politician and Donald Trump is a businessman and was simply good at adapting to selling himself in the digital world.

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What’s to be learnt & what will change?

What lessons can we learn from this? Well, that future campaigning will perhaps be a massive part of the digital world, specifically the American Presidency? This would also go for all businesspersons alike in learning about the power of the digital world, especially social media. It seems as though anyone with a platform, now have the ability to compete with the big brands and competitors out there. What’s also important is how brands utilize these communication channels to engage with audiences and customers. Everywhere we look we see spin doctoring from all business and politicians alike, one would suggest creating a digital strategy.

The 2016 USA presidential election is a perfect example of how social media channels are important factors to consider when you want to connect with your audiences. We can see this, in how Trump used the digital world to market himself to win an election, and most importantly the cost effectiveness of his digital campaigning. This will perhaps see the change in how politicians market themselves to their publics. Using social media channels to extend to a singularly specific group of people that can be swayed into buying your brand or campaigns with the simplicity of 140 characters. Think about it!!!

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Kevin Doonan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/irishcuchulainn/ ; Twitter – @KevinODunain ; Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/irish_cuchulainn/ ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-patrick-doonan-54749056/

Spinning a yarn

The world of politics is something we shouldn’t shy away from, especially from a communication angle, it’s important we all have a vague understanding of it.  It really does affect our everyday lives, from policy to taxation, so it’s important to incorporate keeping up with current affairs into our daily routines – it’s all too easy to fall down YouTube rabbit holes for hours. The U.K have a particular communicative style, from the bustling and shouting in The House of Commons, to the tabloid media and everything in between, communication in politics is rife with interesting techniques and strategies. But first, let’s strip it back to the core.

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Public opinion, Political communication and the media go somewhat hand-in-hand.  “Somewhat” because essentially, public opinion is formed in the public domain, outside of any authority. It concerns matters that are discussed and debated about. Simply put, this is our sense of “nation” (Goodin, Pettit, 1997). So, those 2am discussions at your friend’s table can be important- Talking about our thoughts on political matters with those around us, in a democratic society, gives us the ability to act together when it comes to voting. The media, in turn, is how we receive most political communication.

Media relations

It’s been widely discussed that Media relations can be used to craft specific, “tailored” communication for the public, in what’s called “spin” (McNair, 2007). Often, “tailoring” is achieved through marketing strategies, like opinion polling, focus groups or surveys to better understand the electorate. Gaber (2000) divides spins into “above” and “below” the line spin – above concerning the usual press releases, interviews and articles, and “below” usually being associated with spin doctors.

While there are many tactics and techniques used in Political communication, there’s just too much we could go into. Here’s a brief, condensed outline of some of the main devices used in the dark arts of below the line spin.

  1. Staying on the message

This is when a consistent line is kept across political figures so that information isn’t miscommunicated to the public. A great example of this, Labour’s 2003 “FivImage result for five a day campaigne-a-day” campaign, wherein all political members stayed on the message about the benefits of eating your fruit and veg. This allowed political figures to speak as one on the matter, leading to effective communication to the public (One of your Five a Day is still plastered on foods 15 years later).

  1. Spin.

“Spinning a yarn” is a term most of us have heard at one point or another. We’d associate this with telling a story, which gives us some meaning for this tactic. Spin provides context to a story, or a certain interpretation. We can think back to the Brexit Campaigns, with leavers claiming economic gains for the UK severing relationships with the E.U. Spin offers a perspective to the public, usually, to shed a “favourable” light on matters and make one thing sound more appealing than the other or protect reputation and to “sway” public opinion (Wilcox et al, 2015) .

Image result for Brexit headline nhs(Source: http://www.themediablog.co.uk/the-media-blog/2016/02/ukip-candidate-dislikes-the-eu-shocker.html)

  1. Agenda Setting

Ever tried to steer the conversation a certain way? Maybe you’ve a point you want to get to, news to share or hide. I think we’ve all been guilty of trying to avoid talking about certain topics at one point or another. What we didn’t realise, that on a much smaller scale, we were implementing “agenda setting”. This is the act of controlling what is discussed, the scope of discussion and how it is discussed. This can take forum in giving journalists exclusives, deciding the time frame of when news is exposed.

  1. Fire Breaking

You could think of this is pointing far away and shouting “Fire!” in hopes that it’ll distract people enough so you can throw your rubbish out the back door. Basically, setting up a diversion, or “planting” stories to take the medias attention away from a scandal (Gaber, 2000). A successful enough case of this was the Cook affair (1999), it was exposed that the then Foreign Secretary was having an affair, so to avoid a sex scandal (there’s been a fair few), Peter Mandleson, former Director of Labour’s Communications, suggested saving Britannia to media outlets- a hot topic at the time. This in turn, set the news agenda, as it stole the headlines, leaving the Cook affair in the dust.

Image result for throwing out rubbish

  1. “A good day to bury bad news”

This one is a bit “next level” House of Cards. Burying bad news refers to releasing somewhat unfavourable information while the media’s attention is redirected on to another issue. Probably the most famous example of this was right after 9/11 when former press officer, Jo Moore, told her team “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?”. Essentially, living in the hope that something happens at the time of a scandal so the media is too concerned with other matters to focus on your dirty laundry.

In conclusion…

You can see how these tactics can be useful to keep in mind, because it allows others (and us) to set the scope, frame and as a whole, improve our media relations skills. Being aware of these techniques, whether you agree with them or not, can help us better understand the wider world around us. They could prove useful across many kinds of campaigns, not just political ones. Keeping a consistent line between staff, for example, can help in communicating a message a lot more clearly, than if everyone was running around telling us something different.

The thought of actually going and watching Prime Ministers Question Time 4 years ago would have sent shivers down my back, but once you start to familiarise yourself with it, a massive interesting world opens up, and in turn, it helps us better our communication skills, and be aware of how we communicate and the best ways to carry it out.  Make grabbing the newspaper in the morning, tuning in to PMQ on Wednesdays or even just following a few political figures on Twitter part of your routine, with these tactics in mind we’ll learn a lot about press management, as a P.R practitioner this is a very valuable skill.

References:

Gaber, I. (2000) ‘Government by spin: an analysis of the process’, Media, Culture & Society 22, p508-p532

Goodin and P. Pettit (1997), Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, p73-p124

McNair, B (2007) PR must die: spin, anti‐spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997– 2004 Published online: 17 Feb 2007, p03-p47

Negrine, R. Stanyer, J. (2007) The Political Communication Reader. London: Routledg, p254

John Wiley & Sons. Wilcox, DL, Reber, B.H. and Cameron, GT. (2015) Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. 11th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education. p248-p295

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1997/aug/09/labour.mandelson

Griana Fox is a final year CMPR student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.

The Dancing Queen Theresa May

The new queen of the dance floor Theresa May – Can’t help but wonder why?

PR is your answer. It’s all PR!

Mamma Mia! The prime ministers dancing AGAIN! When I saw the video of Theresa May dancing her way onto the stage at a Tory conference to Abba’s popular hit Dancing Queen I cringed for my life. It was incredibly awkward to watch and all I could think was…WHY is she doing that? I’m sure I wasn’t the only one stuck for words, but I knew she wasn’t dancing (if we can even call it that) because she felt like it.

On numerous occasions people have asked me what I’m studying at University and when I tell them PR, they always ask, ‘What is PR?’ and ‘Is that them people standing on the streets on holidays handin’ out leaflets?’ For those of you that don’t know, PR is short for Public Relations. The Chartered Institute of Public relations (CIPR) define PR as creating or managing the reputation of a company or a person and their publics (like their audience and employees etc). PR is not only powerful in the world of businesses and entrepreneurs, but it can also be extremely effective for groups and public figures when it’s done right.

An example of an effective and very successful PR campaign is Lacoste’s ‘Save our species’ campaign, where they partnered with UCN (Union for Conservation of Nature) to raise awareness on the condition of endangered animals. Lacoste changed their logo from the popular crocodile to 10 endangered species on limited-edition polo shirts with proceeds going directly to the preservation of the chosen species. This campaign was a simple, yet effective idea that helped raise awareness and money for a great cause but also increase brand engagement.

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PR is all about reputation and in this case Theresa May’s reputation. It’s about what you do and what you say and Mrs May went all out and tried to ‘bust a move’ (and that she did). This wasn’t the first time Mrs May was seen dancing. During her trip to Africa she enjoyed a little ‘boogie’ as she was greeted by kids singing and dancing. Theresa May’s performance was not accidental on any occasion, each performance was strategically planned to suit the visit, her actions and her words.  It certainly wasn’t a spur of the moment, it was done for Theresa May’s reputation and with the intent to make her ‘seem’ more fun, approachable, down to earth and let’s not forget to help people remember the event! It may seem as though the ‘dancing’ was to make her look silly (which it did), however her appearances became more memorable because of the dancing and as a result of this they received a lot of media attention. It’s a win win for Theresa May and her PR team.

Throughout Theresa May’s public appearances and negotiations for a Brexit deal the public are feeling insecure, confused and increasingly worried about the decisions being made for them. The future of borders, trading for businesses and heading off on your holidays without any trouble lies in the hands of the Prime Minister, so no one can blame us for being worried.

Why did Theresa May’s PR team make her dance? – Perhaps we can assume it was to impress the public or maybe she wanted to express her love for ABBA? Who knows? Although, we can be sure it wasn’t because she’s a talented dancer. We can only wonder where some of the PR ideas come out of, but whether the decision is a good move or a bad move it’s still publicity and the public will always have something to say. Perhaps the dancing wasn’t such a great idea, especially with Brexit being such a sensitive issue and the public could think she’s making a joke out of it all. Or maybe the fact that she can’t dance makes her relatable and flawed just like everyone else. Regardless of the public reactions, we all know the saying – ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity!’

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Whether Theresa May’s PR team got the reaction they had hoped for or not, it’s working! It’s going viral, and yes people are making memes out of the video. Yes, it seems as though people are mocking her, but becoming a meme is basically giving her a celebrity status for our generation. Her actions are receiving a lot media attention and getting people talking which means they’re engaged and waiting for the next big thing. I can only assume that something big is coming once this fizzles out because Theresa May and her PR team have the public right where they want them!

PR can be a well thought out, long winded process but it can also be something that happens in the moment and might I remind you a very powerful one! Therefore, suffering through Theresa May’s awful dance moves has taught me two things. Firstly, I am not as bad of a dancer (thank God). Secondly, PR is a wonderful tool used by even the Prime Minister to try and get the publics attention, so if the Prime Minister can utilise it, why can’t we?

 

Kerrieann Curran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @KerrieannCurran ; Linkedin – http://linkedin.com/in/kerrieann-curran-765420137

Donald Trump’s PR spin war

 

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The 20th of January 2017 is a date which will forever stick out in my mind as it is the date that Donald Trump was officially elected as the 45th president of the United states of America and the political sphere of the world changed forever. The strangest fact of the entire election was that Trump didn’t win the popular vote he actually lost it to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes, this is the highest margin that a candidate has ever lost by in the popular vote and still won the election. However, a story at the time which stated that Trump had won the popular vote had over 450,000 shares on Facebook, this is increasingly ironic as in the Trump era of “fake news” one of the first articles of his presidency was indeed fake news.

This increasingly shows us how in this technological age how there is now a new form of propaganda which gives the user a voice and an opinion and it doesn’t have to be factual or accurate and with the American first amendment for the freedom of speech it is almost impossible to halt. Propaganda in the modern age of public relations was defined by Edward Bernays in post-World War One society, however at this time the media sphere was limited with only a few broadcasters. The narrative that they put forward was easily manipulated. Now in the modern media sphere with the limitless web that is the internet there are many broadcasters and now for the first-time individuals are the greatest creators of content not organisations and this cannot be manipulated or censored to the degree that it was.

The president’s public image has been something that has stood out throughout his term and campaign. In late 2015 Donald Trump openly mocked a disabled reporter Serge Koraleski he stated “you’ve got to see this guy” before jerking his arm in which I can only describe as a condemnable act. Trump later denied that had not intended to mock the reporter and was not aware of his disability, however the reporter in question later said that he had known Trump and they were on first name basis and that he was aware of his disability. I now ask the question how could the American public vote for such a man, the simple answer is Trump is somewhat of a public relations master.

Whatever we personally think about Donald Trump what he has accomplished is something incredible. How could a businessman with many successes and failures and with no prior political experience become the president of the United States. The secret to his success you could say is down partly to the fact Trump had an excellent public relations team.  A good public relations team will soften past incidents and will enhance the positives. During his campaign Trump used very well-placed campaign tactics to win over the public, his campaign focused on stimulating the silent masses who had felt that they were under-represented by the previous more liberal Obama administration and he also tuned into their lack of understanding on the improvement of the economy by stating he was bringing American jobs back to America in places such as Detroit in the efforts to “make America great again”.

The fact that Trump was already a well-known celebrity also certainly aided in his campaign, Trump had appeared in over twelve movies and was also the star of the America version of The Apprentice.  In a society that knows more about the Kardashians’ children than of their own government Trump’s recognized celebrity status meant that he had to spend very little on advertising and publicity. In another smart move Trump ensured he spoke directly to the people and avoided confusing political jargon that would distance him from his target audience. Trump made clear cut straight to the point language and did not sugar coat the problems he faced and made fun of political opponents and this connected with his audience as he aimed to be a man of the people not just another academic politician.

With over 5.5 million Twitter followers and 5.5 million Facebook likes Donald Trump has become the mastermind of social media politics. He actually referred to himself as the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters which is ironic if you have actually read his tweets and they are not what you can describe as a masterpiece. Through the use of Instagram and YouTube Trump has given himself free publicity as they are regularly picked up by news channels. As I asked early how could Americans vote for this man? The simple answer is Donald Trump like any good business man knew his audience and the brand he was selling, and he sold it with 100% conviction, he knew what the American public wanted, and he gave it to them in abundance. I believe with all the certainly in have in my mind that Donald Trump will be re-elected as he has given the majority the political freedom and in the land of the free what more can a person want.

Jordan Arthur is a 2nd year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/jordan-arthur-864694173 and Facebook – facebook.com/jordanarthur.71 

Zuck Goes to Washington

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, testified before Congress on the 10th and 11th of April, amid the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, where it was found that more than 87 million Americans’ personal data were sold and misused for advertising purposes.

The five-hour-long sessions, where the members of the Senates’ and the Houses’ Committee grilled Zuckerberg, however, seemed to serve as an excellent opportunity for Senators, Congresswomen and Congressmen for some good ole political PR.

Each Senator had five minutes, Congresswoman and Congressman four minutes, to question Zuckerberg in the widely-broadcasted hearing. Due to the time constraints, no real probing and questioning could take place, so several members used the time available to them to appeal to their constituents and stakeholders instead. And frankly, time wasn’t the only limitation, as many of the questions also revealed the unfortunate fact, that a large number of the politicians don’t quite know how digital platforms work.

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The ‘invest in my constituency

Some members of the Committee brought up a strangely timed request for Zuckerberg and Facebook to support broadband coverage for rural areas in their constituencies – and by some, I mean at least four members.

Senator Capito of West Virginia: “My state, I’m from West Virginia, and thank you for visiting and next time you visit, if you would please bring some fiber because we don’t have connectivity in — in our rural areas like we really need, and Facebook could really help us with that.

Congressman Cramer of North Dakota directly asked Zuckerberg to consider investing in his district “Let me suggest that you look someplace perhaps in the middle of the North American continent for some people, maybe even your next big investment of — of capital could be in — in some place like, say, Bismarck, North Dakota.

The ‘I’m doing all the work

Others took a different approach and spoke about pieces of legislation they have worked on in the past or are working on at the moment to highlight their personal achievements and push their own agenda into the spotlight.

Here’s an example from Congressman Pallone of New Jersey: “Now, Congresswoman Schakowsky from Illinois and I introduced a bill last year that would require companies to implement baseline data security standards. And I plan to work with my colleagues to draft additional legislation.

Another example from Congresswoman Blackburn of Tennessee: “And you’re hearing there’ll be more bills brought out in the next few weeks. But we have had a bill. The BROWSER Act, and I’m certain that you’re familiar with this, is bipartisan.

Followed up by Congressman Lance of New Jersey: “Congresswoman Blackburn has mentioned her legislation. I’m a co-sponsor of the BROWSER legislation. I commend it to your attention, to the attention of your company. It is for the entire ecosystem. It is for ISPs and edge providers. It is not just for one or the other.

Clearly, Zuckerberg did not provide a straight answer to whether he would support any legislation, he avoided the question by answering along these lines: “in general, I think that that principle is exactly right. And I think we should have a — a discussion around how to best apply that”. At times, the viewer might have been confused whether it was a hearing or whether the members of Congress were competing for Zuckerberg’s attention and approval of their piece of legislation.

The ‘publicity stunt

Others took a completely different approach again and went for something that would grant them coverage.

Like Senator Durbin of Illinois, who seemed to be the first person to take Zuckerberg by surprise as he asked “Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night? You could just see Zuckerberg’s mind trying so hard to work out what he was getting at before responding with a “No”. And it worked – this became one of the most picked up parts of the hearing.

But Senator Cruz’ (Texas) questioning was, without a doubt, the most memorable of all, as Cruz came hard for Zuckerberg, accusing Facebook of engaging in “a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship”, suggesting that right-leaning users’ content gets censored because of the political bias of Facebook’s staff. Needless to say, Cruz became the Republicans’ hero of the day.

Props also seemed to be a popular tool in attracting some attention. Large printed images (yep, Diamond and Silk), infographics, Congressman Duncan of South Carolina even brought a copy of the Constitution that he gave to Zuckerberg at the end of the hearing – an excellent photo op.

Zuck’s pre-packaged image

Now let’s have a quick look at Facebook’s CEO’s performance. Zuckerberg kept repeating a few obviously rehearsed and carefully drafted statements, which were aimed to reframe Facebook’s image from an international corporation to a dorm room start-up that somehow got too big.SB2

What he said:

“The average American, I think, uses about eight different communication and social network apps to stay connected to people.

What he really said:

We’re not a monopoly.

What he said:

“So, from the beginning of the company in 2004 — I started in my dorm room; it was me and my roommate.

“I believe, to start a company in your dorm room and then grow it to be at the scale that we’re at now without making some mistakes.

“The history of how we got here is we started off in my dorm room with not a lot of resources.

What he really said:

We don’t want to be perceived as a large corporation, even though we are. We want you to think we don’t really know what we’re doing so you can’t blame us for making mistakes.

What he said:

I don’t come to Washington, D.C., too often. I’m going to direct my team to focus on this.

What he really said:

I’m only here because you made me, but that’s all you can expect from me.

What he said:

“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together.

What he really said:

We want you to think that we don’t even care about money – it’s all about the people.

What he said:

I’m not the type of person who thinks that there should be no regulation, especially because the Internet is getting to be so important in people’s lives around the world. But I think the details on this really matter.

What he really said:

We want regulation that won’t really limit us, but will keep up the perception that we are being socially responsible.

Will the Cambridge Analytica scandal really hurt Facebook? We’re yet to see. Everyone expected Zuckerberg to be sweating in the hot seat, but he got away fairly easily. He apologized for making a mistake, played the victim card well, but made no concrete promises or commitments. Zuckerberg vs. Washington, 2:0.

Silvia Bajlova is an MSc Communications and Public Relations student at Ulster University. You can follow her on Twitter and contact her on LinkedIn.

Donald Trump- PR mess or PR genius

It’s been over a year since Donald Trump became the most powerful man in the world and the 45th president of the United States. Do you remember what you were doing that very day and hour he won? I remember I sat up that whole night watching the results come in flicking between CNN and Fox news. I along with all the Hollywood stars though America would vote in Hilary Clinton but gosh weren’t Katy Perry and I wrong. In a year where Brexit won the vote it was silly looking back to think Donald Trump wouldn’t become president.

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Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign and even now not an hour goes by without a headline or some sort of uproar about something President Donald Trump has said or tweeted. No time in history has public opinion or the media been as widespread and ongoing since ‘the Donald’ announced he was running for president all those years ago. Half a decade ago Donald Trump wasn’t really a name which people mentioned here in Northern Ireland and I’m sure it wasn’t mentioned much in any other part of the world. Back then all Donald trump was known for was the U.S apprentice (he was no Sir Alan Sugar) and for owning most of New York and Manhattan. Back then I didn’t even follow him on twitter or ever even consider following him on twitter. Nowadays, he is usually one of the most trending hashtags or something related to what he has said or done is trending. Not going to lie, but one of the best decisions I made in 2015 was following Donald Trump on twitter. L5
Donald Trump has definitely rewritten the rules on messaging and communication. From a PR perspective (or well a final year PR students perspective), some would say Trump’s approach or lack of has been a horror show (possibly similar to the shinning) from his incorrect messaging to his attacks on people (remember when he was team Robert Pattinson after his breakup with Kristen Stewart) to now his attacks against the media and their ‘fake news’. It’s fair to say Donald trump has made himself a poster boy for how not to communicate to the public… or has he?

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It’s very easy to see Donald Trump’s tweets or on television and think he doesn’t know anything about communicating or Public relations but maybe just maybe he has rewritten public relations? Stay with me here…

Public relations is the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organisation’s or individuals. Donald Trump doesn’t get much positive interactions, usually people’s public relations strategies is to gain positive interactions and dismiss backlash. However, Donald Trump’s public relations strategy is the exact opposite even now a year later after he has won the white house. Trump’s immediate off the cuff responses to the Middle East, china, the latest SNL skits, fake news or repealing Obamacare is his main strategies.

Some people believe he has thrown away the traditional pillars of talking points, messaging, communicating and replacing them with no-holds-barred dialogue. Donald trump choosing to do this means no matter if you are a democrat or republican or a member of the green party you are giving him visibility.
Trump’s approach is to raise any issue no matter what time of the day it is even if tis 3am in the morning on twitter.

Even though many hate to admit it, this strategy of Donald Trump’s is working and it is working very very well. Throughout his presidency and probably long after he will continue to have control of the topics and issues he wants on the agenda for that day.

This approach to taking over the white house has been to keep the audience tuned in and on the edge of their seats, keeping us all guessing what next will Donald Trump say.

Who would have thought Donald Trump could possibly change Public Relations? But then again suppose we never believed he would actually become president? Who’s ready for Kanye west or Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) presidency race for 2020…. L1

Lena Coyle is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @Lena_coyle