Political Pensioners, Power and Social Media

Political Pensioners, Power and Social Media

Social media is often considered to be the domain of the young.  Every student has shared memes mocking inept parents struggling with technology, sharing embarrassing posts on Facebook and doing the unthinkable on TikTok, but what happens when the fight for the most powerful political post on earth is being contested and it’s votes, not laughs, that are being fought for in the social media arena – and both of  the  contenders are pensioners?

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 Firstly, looking at last year’s presidential candidates, we can clearly see they are older than the average candidate. When Donald Trump became president 4 years ago, he also became the oldest president to assume the position for a first term, at 70 years old. Obviously, this year, Joe Biden, as the president elect, beat this, at a shocking 77 years old. The minimum age to take on the role of President of the United States is 35. This begs the question, should there be a maximum age? It seems very hard to imagine that someone of this age bracket, can accurately navigate all forms of social media and advertising, as it is generally believed that the majority of people this age struggle with modern technology and media.

I feel with other presidential candidates, it is very clear that they have been somewhat out of touch with social media, with very political, formal posts across various platforms. It is evident that a team of people in the background are managing their accounts, quite probably with little personal input from the candidates themselves. For example, looking at Barack Obama’s time in office, when he personally wrote a tweet, he signed it off “ -BO ”, but the majority of tweets made from his account were written by his staff. In 2009, a year after assuming the presidency, he actually admitted in an interview that “I have never used Twitter, my thumbs are too clumsy to type things on a phone.” He did not start to personally tweet until 2011 in the run up to his re-election campaign.

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Obama is seen as a pioneer in politics in terms of social media, and it is often said that his use of social media is what won him 2 elections, despite his limited knowledge on the area. This is because he knew he wanted to target a new audience. As all presidents before him did, he didn’t put the majority of his resources into trying to change previously republican voters, to democrats. He instead focused on a whole new window of opportunity. Young people. The people who were over 18 and have the right to vote, but often don’t as they are uninterested or simply feel uneducated on the subject. Obama changed this. 48.4% of 18-29 year olds voted in 2008, which at the time marked the highest percentage since 1984. So even though he openly admits his naivety regarding social media, he realised its potential. He also clearly had a very skilled marketing team behind him who were able to put his ideas into action. He is now the most followed person on Twitter, beating Justin Bieber by 13 million.

Donald Trump really couldn’t be more of a contrast in his use of media. As a candidate in 2016, he didn’t need to spend a whole lot of money trying to win the presidential election because the media (particularly television) treated his campaign initially as a novelty, then as a spectacle – as entertainment instead of politics. So Trump got lots of free airtime on cable news and major networks. The equivalent of $5 billion in free media by the end of the presidential election. Such pervasive coverage, even if much of it was negative, helped to propel Trump to the White House.

Trump has also been front and centre with his use of Twitter for some time, some would say uncontrollably.  In a documentary I watched, “President trump: Tweets From The Whitehouse” on channel 4, it said that White House staff reached a compromise with him following a series of his more controversial tweets that they would be able to vet what he was sending out. However, we can still see that his tweets are often sent around 2 or 3am. This shows the President clearly reflecting on the news of the day and responding in the visceral manner for which he is known and in what must surely be an uncensored state. The non-PC nature of his tweets is remarkable, for example the tweet below, where he insinuates that the Supreme Leader of North Korea is “short and fat”. I feel that Trump’s victory in his first presidential election is a real advocate for “any publicity is good publicity”, it seems that as long as people are talking about him, he doesn’t care what they’re saying. And despite it being so shocking, some people obviously loved this aspect of him. It showed he was a real person, with real feelings and emotions, and he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought. Ironically for a politician, he didn’t feel the need to be ‘politically correct’. Marketing advisors will often deter their clients from ever giving controversial opinions in fear of the repercussions, but Trump ….. well he just sacked the advisors who tried to advise.

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In contrast Biden in many ways has behaved like the inept parents in his use of social media. It is widely believed that he does not manage his own social media, including his Twitter feed, in any direct way and has instead asked a younger team to manage it for him. This has resulted in a completely different style of communication from Trump – far fewer personal reflections and remarks, much more considered responses with more retweets, more politically correct language in fact …. more like Obama. So while the question was what happens when pensioners use social media to fight political battles well, the answer is we don’t actually know. We only know what happens when one pensioner uses social media and the other hands his phone over to a whole team of people the same age as his grandchildren. And what we know is that on this occasion, the phone in the hands of a pensioner did all the things we would expect – he liked things he ought not to have, said what he thought when he should have been quiet and did a whole range of swiping and tapping that anyone of us under the age of 25 knows we FORBID when we show our parents something on our phones. We hold on to the phone at all times, at a distance – no matter the pleas about failing eyesight, because we know they cannot be trusted not to do the wrong thing. And this election has shown us on this occasion, the pensioner who handed the phone over to the kids who know what they’re talking about was right, as it resulted in him becoming the President of the United States, while the other pensioner is left writing childish tweets saying, it’s a fix!! It’s not fair all the votes were counted!!!! I want a do-over!!!

Charlotte Cockcroft is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Pubic Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford- Changing the game both on and off the pitch.

Marcus Rashford, you may know him as footballer who plays for Manchester United and England, however over the last year he has shown us he is so much more than just your average footballer. Time and time again he’s shown everyone he is a man of the people, wanting to push for better, wanting to change young people’s lives.

I’m not the biggest fan of football but I will watch a game here or there, what I am a fan of is celebrities using their influential status for the better. Marcus Rashford has been doing just that and it’s such an amazing thing to see, he is setting an example for young people everywhere and also for his fellow footballers to follow suit. More recently during COVID-19 he has been relentlessly working on helping end child food poverty. In the month of October, he helped businesses who would be providing free meals for those entitled to it during school get the recognition they deserve while also providing publicity for businesses who were willing to help when the Government wasn’t. Following on from this Marcus worked with Food Foundation and created a petition to get the Government to provide a funding package to help alleviate child food poverty. This petition was signed by over 1 million people leading to the Government implementing this and providing those suffering from child food poverty to get the funding they rightly deserve. Due to these outstanding contributions Marcus was awarded an MBE to recognise his work. Marcus has become an ambassador for FareShareUK and since then there has been a huge spike in donations, in 2019 there was £800,000 worth of donations, whereas now in 2020 there are £1.28 Million Donations, since Marcus started fundraising. This includes other celebrities and big brands getting involved to raise money and donate food for the cause, these celebrities and brands include Matt Lucas, who is releasing a Christmas single and donating all proceeds to FareShareUK, Russell Brand who is volunteering in the local food banks delivering food to children in need and McDonalds who have donated over 5 Million meals, continuing to do so until 2021. These are just a few amazing examples that have been influenced by Marcus to make a difference.

Macmillan Children’s Books have recently Tweeted out that they will be publishing a book called “YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the BEST You Can Be”, this book is by Marcus Rashford himself and is all about helping those aged 11-16 “how to develop resilience, navigate adversity and discover the unstoppable power of their own voice”. Another step in the right direction for Marcus, he is encouraging the younger generation to never give up and always strive for excellence in everything you do, the book sounds like it’s going to provide a powerful message. Marcus has also created a book club for those who can’t afford books and to allow kids an escape from reality through reading. I think this is an excellent thing to have set up as I feel because of advanced technology reading has become lost.

I really don’t think there is much more you could ask of Marcus as he is constantly pushing the boat out and trying to make the world a better place, but if there’s anything more he can do, just know he will. Through all the bad press he’s gotten over the years, for simply trying to make a change, or buying himself a new home, he never seems to give up hope and won’t stop until he achieves his goals both on and off the pitch.

My Final thoughts
With Marcus Rashford helping children across the UK and managing to keep his incredible form going with Manchester United, this should inspire fellow athletes and celebrities to help raise awareness and make a change to societal issues that are stopping our younger generations to flourish. If there’s one thing I wish more celebrities would do it would be to let their audience know of charities and foundations they have helped out with or donated to, as it releases the stigma and stereotypes that they don’t use their money for good and it also encourages the general public to donate more as many people are extremely influenced by what their favourite celebrities are doing.

Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

FAKE NEWS OR REAL NEWS? It’s over Mr. Trump.

FAKE NEWS OR REAL NEWS? It’s over Mr. Trump.

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since it was announced that Joe Biden was announced the 46th President of the United States to which he will be inaugurated on January 20th 2021. 3 weeks and roughly around 700 tweets later, current President Trump has STILL NOT fully accepted defeat.

Sleepy Donald – Wake up Mr. Trump.

Trump and Twitter are like Toast and Butter – the 2 go hand in hand like no other combination. On the run up to the presidential election Twitter had to implement hidden warnings that say the claims are disputed and may be misleading on the President’s Twitter account. Facebook also added some fact-check boxes to some of the messages on Trumps profile, clarifying that the final results might take longer than normal. It’s no doubt that some Trump supporters are ridiculously credulous and accept what he has to say without a lot of supporting facts, so it makes sense to have a disclaimer on every one of the posts.

Where did Trump go wrong?

Trump’s handling and preparation of a once-in-a-generation pandemic was the final straw for the people of America. Trumps constant lies, political spin and arrogance to neglect the virus has caused America to have the highest number of deaths worldwide which is currently sitting at 254k according to Statista – A figure to be absolutely ashamed of and which contributes to nearly 20% of the deaths worldwide. I’m no President but I do understand the need to preserve the lives of the people who look to you as a leader and not to just ‘brush it off’ like Mr. Trump did.

Now, I understand at the start of this year information regarding COVID-19 was more limited, but we still knew the detrimental effects surrounding it and so did the President – but this didn’t stop him saying, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle—it will disappear” on Friday, February 7th.

Sorry Donald, 290 days, 11.4 million cases and 254k deaths later and it STILL hasn’t ‘disappeared’ like you said it would. Below is a list of similar lies and statements which I believe contributed to the loss of the election.

  • The pandemic is “fading away. It’s going to fade away.” Wednesday, June 17th
  • The pandemic is “getting under control.” Thursday, July 2nd
  • “We now have the lowest Fatality (Mortality) Rate in the World.” Monday, July 6th
  • “What happens is, you get better” after being sick with COVID-19. “That’s what happens: You get better.” Multiple times.

Trump Tax

If I gave you 50 guesses to guess how much Donald Trump paid in tax in 2017, odds are you’re never going to guess it. It was a measly $750, according to the New York Times. This scandal led to further consequences for Trump such as the Trump Tax Calculator which allowed users to enter how much taxes they paid in 2017 and it will give them the difference in tax in which they paid than the President of the United States. This website was sheer Propaganda for the Biden Campaign – at the bottom there was an option to ‘Join our Campaign to elect Joe Biden and make “billionaires” like Donald Trump pay their fair share”.

Case of Trump defeating Trump?

I remember my six-form business studies teacher telling me that if Trump wins this election, the only way he will be defeated is if he defeats himself – which now seems pretty plausible. Nick Bryant put it best when he said,

“Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been unsayable.

But Donald Trump also lost the presidency in 2020 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been unsayable.”

You either love what he has to say or hate what he has to say but if one thing is for certain, is that you will most definitely hear what he has to say.

Dragon Slayer Biden

The only thing more powerful than a dragon, is a dragon slayer. Trumps relish for power and chaos was the American norm for the past 4 years but in the end, succeeded defeat to Bidens promise of decency, unity and national healing. Biden’s win was once widely anticipated and stubbornly doubted – a lot like Trumps campaign in 2016.

Luke Johnston is a final year BSc in Public Relations & Communication Management student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

“A victory for ‘We The People'” Joe Biden President Elect – a bright new age for the USA.

“A victory for ‘We The People'” Joe Biden President Elect – a bright new age for the USA.
@henrykornaros TikTok – New York City following the announcement of the 46th President of the USA

Flash back to America on Wednesday the 9th of November 2016, after one of the most divisive presidential races in US history, Donald Trump claimed his place as America’s 45th President. While hard core republicans across the country began to celebrate the notion of the return of this ‘Great America’ so irrefutably promised by Trump, many citizens were left in devastation and despair at the prospect of a leader who was in all evidence, on an ego-inflated power-trip fuelled by hubris and empty promises.

However on the 7th of November 2020 after four nail biting days of contention over the definitive winner of the 2020 Presidential election, Joe Biden was announced as the 46th President Elect. Across social media and news channels stories and footage flooded in of celebrations taking place. Crowds of people filled the streets (vast majority of them clad in their masks, as the ‘side’ generally more conscientious of the ongoing pandemic) rejoicing in the hope of a leader who doesn’t fuel a campaign with fear mongering and marginalisation but with the pledge to action and acceptance.

Despite the question mark which some still are saying remain over the winner of the election (cue ‘This claim about election fraud is disputed’ tweet from Donald Trump), the fact remains you can’t argue with the numbers. Not only did Joe Biden win the electoral college vote but also broke the record for most popular votes amassed in a single presidential race. Regardless of the delay in result, it’s an over-whelming victory for Biden, and a hard pill to swallow for Trump.

As Joe Biden took to the stage at the Chase Centre in Wilmington, Delaware running on with the enthusiasm and conviction of a man who truly loves his country and those who reside in it, he opened his speech humbly with “Hello, my fellow Americans.” From this outset a tone has been set; of a president who sees himself as among the citizens rather than above. Within Biden’s speech there are clear elements of what sets him apart from his opponent. He graciously thanks Kamala Harris, his vice president, who so proudly introduced him to the crowd, and highlights her ground breaking participation in his campaign as, “the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country.” His speech continues with the constant reiteration of the inclusive America that lies in the future.

Following months of Black Lives Matter protests, brought to a boiling point by America’s inherent police brutality and a long history of racism in all its ugliest forms, Biden, who served as vice-president and loyal friend to America’s first ever black president, takes a moment to pay particular thanks to this group, “And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” As he bangs his fist in conviction against the stand, there is the chorus of support which accompanies Biden’s campaign, an eruption of car horns and cheers from the crowd.

Mean while in the hours following the announcement of his victory, the celebrations taking place through-out the country exist of people from all races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities and backgrounds and live true to Biden’s wish of  “a campaign that represented America.” Fountains in New York are dancefloors and embellished by pride flags flying next to stars and stripes, young African Americans stand proudly holding flags with faith in a president who won’t cast them as looters and criminals when they stand against the systematic brutality against their people.

Biden then states his first call of order to getting the COVID-19 crisis under control, utilising a “bedrock of science” to carry this out. A stark contrast to Trump who not six months before proposed ingesting disinfectant as a possible solution.

As Biden comes to a close in his speech he talks about looking ahead. In a year such as 2020 there is no better time to look to the future and the promise it holds. Almost as if a commentary on the last four years presidency, ironically punctuated by arguably the greatest crisis of the 21st century, Joe Biden offers hope “You see, I believe in the possibility of this country. We’re always looking ahead.”

Now with the US population looking towards Biden to see his next steps as the inauguration comes into sight, the question remains to be seen whether he will come through with the delivery of “A nation healed.”

Sophie Fox is a final year student studying BSc Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

For added support, just chuck a ‘Rock’ at it.

Years ago, before the introduction of social media, we all relied on the information provided to us by media outlets like television, tabloid, newspapers, radio and the like to help us understand the world and form our opinions. In the present day, the reliance on these regulated forms of media may still be important in the formation of public opinion, particularly with the older generations, however it appears that social media has introduced an immediate two-way conversation between celebrities and their fans that never existed until recently; a type of democratisation of a fan club in real-time.

Celebrities crossing over from their usual world of popularity into the political sphere to use their huge fan-base to help influence the outcome of an upcoming election or even to simply make a political statement, is not uncommon.

Marlon Brando in 1973, was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. In his stead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. In protest against the long-standing failure for the USA to honour the treaties it had made with Native American nations and as a proclamation against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in TV and film, she refused the award on Marlon’s behalf. Before this, politics had been pretty much left out of the Oscars, and worryingly for The Academy, on the night, Sacheen’s words were met with a mixture of booing and applause.

This show of ‘political shenanigans’ prompted the Academy, who were fearing a PR disaster, to ban any future award recipients from sending proxies on their behalf. There have been many other occasions where outside politics have taken centre stage at the Oscars. Who can forget Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in 1993, and the fine performance of Michael Moore in 2003. Yes, not exactly politics as such, but certainly showing how one human can have a strong influence on matters.

Meanwhile in politics

In 1966, an actor who starred in such films as ‘The Bad Man’ called Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California and later became the President of the United States. Moving through the years, in 2008, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney openly and loudly endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; as of yet, neither of them have opted run for President, but who knows? During the same campaign, American musician Hank Williams Jr chose to write a song, endorsing Senator John McCain’s campaign.

Chucking A ‘Rock’ At The Election

Recently, on Sunday, Sept. 27 2020, The Rock, a man who certainly knows how to spin his own PR, decided to post a video on Instagram that was far different from anything he had posted before. In his own words, “it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”. He wanted his followers “to vote blue in the 2020 election”. So with an audience of 190 million, he officially endorsed former VP Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.  

His caption read “As a political independent and centrist for many years, I’ve voted for Democrats in the past and as well as Republican. In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.” At the time of the post, The Rock had 198 million followers on Instagram, and with him rumoured to earn up to $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, he has a lot sway in the world of social media.

“it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”

Prior to this post, when The Rock posted content, his millions of adoring fans would applaud him with nothing but kind words and platitudes, however this post changed everything.

A Rolling Rock Obviously Gathers No Moss

Many Trump fans took to his account to leave their comments of dislike, and to praise their man-child of a President. Did it harm his account?

Actually no. It has grown even more, to well over 200 million. So exactly how can we define that success? In votes? In followers? Just how influential was his message in shaping the political landscape? It is near impossible to measure. It’s not like there are statisticians standing outside each polling station waiting to ask every voter questions like “which celebrity influenced your vote”?

Public attitudes.

A recent study by the YouGov-Cambridge Centre concluded that only 14% of British voters think social media is good for society.

In the same study it shows clearly that many voters actually doubt the internet has been positive for political campaigning.

According to another recent study, the USA public attitudes toward political engagement on social media are equally as eye-opening. 42% get involved online with social or political issues that are important to them, while 37% feel that social media offers a place to express their political opinions.

I am not writing this with the suggestion that celebrities should be left out of all political discourse, however I do feel that in a world where celebrities with huge social media reach are role models and supposed policy experts, there is no limit to just much they can influence the shaping of public opinion; particularly with Generation Z.

What about the older citizens? Could older generations start using social media as an online activism tool?  Professor Jen Shradie suggests “Online activism was supposed to be a utopian dream. Rather than rely on big institutions, everyone’s voices were supposed to be heard,” she says. She goes on to suggest that online activism tends to attract the younger generations to engage, not to mention the better educated; and those with the technology and communication skills do tend to get their point across to win online arguments. After all, older generations obviously hold opinions, but many of these may not be getting captured online.

It’s voting time

So, could politically uneducated, yet powerfully influential PR astute celebrities like The Rock be seen as being a potentially dangerous combination in the overall process of forming social opinion within the political sphere? Perhaps, this is a conversation we should be engaging in more often.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates

WHEN REALITY TV STAR MEETS REALITY

WHEN REALITY TV STAR MEETS REALITY

The golden doors opened and once again the stage was set. Out into the light stepped Donald Trump, he paused to enjoy the adulation while the watching cameras went into overdrive, or maybe that was just the sound of the White House PR machine ratcheting up another notch. A quick fist pump and he was on his way, down the steps, patting the handrail with gusto, as if to say a health strong man like me needs no rail.

His armoured cavalcade was waiting at the bottom of the steps and there was just time for another fist pump and a quick thumbs up before climbing into his chariot to be whisked away on a journey of 50 whole metres to Marine One. Then it was off into the air for a triumphant return to the White House.

Touching down on the South Lawn, we got more fist pumping, thumbs up and waving before Trump, basking in the press attention, ascends the White House steps for another photo op on the balcony, this time whipping of his mask and patriotically standing beside the stars and stripes in a show of strength and defiance.

His return to the White House could have come straight from a TV drama, the returning presidential hero coming to save the nation! Trump is very aware of the power of images in the media and the message they send to the American public. I have no doubt that was why, during his hospital stay, he went on his slow joy ride around the hospital, waving to his supporters when he should have been isolating and not risking the lives of his security team in his hermetically sealed SUV.

The reality TV star, with one eye on the presidential election and scoring points with the American public, clearly, believes that somehow, he is showing strong leadership by putting the office of President above his own health. Downplaying the fact of having COVID-19 with all the risk and serious consequences that can have.

Donald Trump with groundless confidence told us “Don’t be afraid of Covid”.

Did the White House PR team really think this was a good idea?

Political analysts have pointed to Trump’s record on Coronavirus over the last year, and the fact that he is vulnerable in relation to his handling of COVID-19, as evidence suggests that many Americans are now critical of how he is handling the pandemic. Does Trump believe that if he downplays COVID-19, as someone who has had it and made the most amazing, wonderful and beautiful recovery, he can show the American people that the virus is not as bad as everyone is making out, and that his actions over the last year in handling COVID-19 have been correct?  On the other hand, Trump received the best drugs and medical treatment available in the world and sure only very few Americans can avail of these services, this strategy might well backfire on Trump.

Is Donald Trump really stage managing his COVID-19 diagnosis to help get himself re-elected?

Trump has ignored official medical advice on COVID-19, and the White House staff seem to be following suit by not wearing face masks. Joe Biden was even mocked at the first presidential debate by Trump for regularly wearing a face mask.

Maeve Reston from CNN reported in May that the White House has ramped up the PR Campaign to improve America’s perception of Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus.  Was the White House trying to move the focus away from Trump’s poor handling of Coronavirus over the last 10 months and on to the economy? Trump at the press conference used the same old platitudes along with announcing “Operation Warp Speed” to get a vaccine and the Obama administration was once again blamed for most of Trump’s failings.

Chris Cillizza from The Point commented “Donald Trump can’t distract voters from coronavirus now”.

The White House might have to rethink its PR strategy, or maybe it already has as Trump is now embracing Coronavirus, announcing his diagnosis was “a blessing from God”, and his eyes have been opened to the treatments available, and he intends to make sure, that all Americans will be able to have free access to these drugs by the end of the year. Is this just an empty promise to boost the election campaign? Trump’s sudden conversion to free universal health care in respect of COVID-19 for all Americans sits awkwardly with his policy of opposing and dismantling Obamacare – America’s first tentative step towards universal health care provision for all its citizens.

Can you imagine the dilemma the White House team have in trying to manage Trump’s image as a responsible leader against his unfettered ego which knows no bounds medical or otherwise?

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman wrote in August “After all this death, Trump is still treating the pandemic as a PR problem.”

In my opinion, I think that Donald Trump is now using the pandemic and his COVID-19 diagnosis to further his election campaign.

Is this a good PR strategy to get a reality TV star re-elected as the US President?

Will the viewing public of this reality nightmare think he is doing ‘a really great job’?

I think not, it may be a case of “your fired”.

Kerry Bradley is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @kerryweat and Instagram: kerryweat.

How to go from a reality TV star to the President of the United States of America.

MM1

Reality TV. The genre that has overtaken our lives, from watching ordinary people find the “love’ of their lives on a luxury island, to watching important political figures such as Stanley Johnson eating kangaroo…bits. We sit down and indulge ourselves on entertaining content, usually thanking god that it’s not us having to serenade Simon Cowell.

But what if one of these TV “stars” then decides one day, “I think I want to become president” (as most normal people do). What does it take in order for this to happen? Well no, this isn’t some sort of SNL comedy sketch. This is in fact real life, and it came down to one bumbling, blonde haired man by the name of Donald Trump and the help of the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

By this point, if you do not know who Trump is then I do believe you may be in the extremely lucky minority. For those who do, I’m sure you ask yourself on a regular basis, how did this man ever become president of the United States (which, may I add would be a completely valid observation).  Well America, you largely have the work of a data company known as Cambridge Analytica to thank for that.

MM5

Cambridge Analytica were a consulting firm, that was set up to combine data mining, data brokerage and analysis. They were able to offer services to business and political groups who wanted to “change audience behaviour.” They claimed that they where able to use certain algorithms, specifically tailored to your businesses needs, for example the ability to analyse consumer data and buying behaviours. In the case of the Trump campaign, their main objective was to ensure Donald Trump become president, by implementing a few “necessary” (unethical) steps.

MM7

This is my summarised “How to” guide of Cambridge Analytica’s process of transforming Trump from a second rate Alan Sugar to President of the USA. A fool proof system, made to aid the fool!

  1. Exploitation of Facebook users privacy

Exploitation. A common way to gain information on your target market, is it not? Cambridge Analytica developed an algorithm for Facebook, which involved paying participants to partake in a survey about their personalities, and as a result allowing access to all their Facebook data and information. Roughly 270,000 people took part in this survey, which as a result lead to around 30 million  peoples data being accessed, as they were able to access friends of friends, all for the sake of $5! This allowed Cambridge Analytica to have extensive amount of data of the American public, which was what they effectively needed for the next step. 

2. Breakdown of data

They then come up with a system that allowed them to group off people in certain divisions, for example people with a particular personality trait were seen to be more likely to support “the wall” being built, and therefore could be swayed to vote for Trump with a small amount of persuasive targeted marketing. They scored each personality using the Ocean model, which effectively segregated people into different characters based on things like their openness to new experiences and their neuroticism, which was then used to decide those who were sensitive from those who are more secure and confident. Who knew a small amount of information we have posted on Facebook would allow for a mass break down of our personalities, frightening isn’t it?

3. Campaigning

Once they where able to branch the individuals off into large groups and sub groups within that, they were then able to find out which participants they would tailor their marketing for the campaign towards, as these were the people that possessed the necessary characteristics to be swayed to vote for Trump. They used devised communication within their digital marketing campaigns to “promote the story” to their targeted individuals. All the data research and segregation of groups meant that one groups campaign that they saw online would be completely different from another group, as both these individuals need to be attracted to the cause in a different way, and allows people to believe in the candidate and connect with everyone in a different way- and as a result encourage and increase voting numbers. The main (only) way they could persuade people to vote for Trump- ruin the reputation of Hilary Clinton. The perfect marketing plan wouldn’t you say? 

4. Extorting politicians

What is the best way to get politicians on your side during a campaign? Make alliances with them, create a mutual relationship, build friendships through past experiences? No, Cambridge Analytica decided to go for a more hands on method with one of their chief executives appearing to say that they are able to extort other politicians by sending woman to entrap them. A conventional method to win presidency, extort politicians and create fake news regarding them, right? This gave them the endorsement and support that they may have needed to sway voters towards Trump. 

A lot of technical stuff isn’t it? In simplified terms, all you have to do to become President is unethically access large quantities of data from unsuspecting participants of surveys, manipulate their data in a way to suit your intentions and create marketing content to drill propaganda into said person, simple right? Is it ethical and morally correct? No. Will it get you off the TV and saying “you’re fired” everyday? Yes. 

Since then, Cambridge Analytica has been shut down and under investigation for a number of possible offences they may be held liable for. Does that mean our national reality show treasure like Paul Hollywood or Gemma Collins will never become PM?

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I do want to end this on a more positive note, so rather than a detailed dissection on the large global effect Trumps presidency is having on many individuals that belong to minority groups, or his lack of consideration for our rapidly dying planet, I decided to end with a few of my favourite trump memes. Enjoy!

The Digital Election

In the 2008 Presidential Election, we witnessed relatively unknown candidate Barack Obama become front and center of the race. Through an engaging social media campaign and a well oiled public relations team Obama would go on to become the 49th President. Fast forward to 2016 and Donald Trump has become the first “twitter – based” presidency. Trumps use of Twitter has become a significant breakthrough for social media in politics. It allowed Trump to utilise and connect personally with his supporters, slam his opponents and outline his policies all in the one space. Jump to 2017, Corbyn’s unexpected rise in popularity in the UK General Election seemed to be because of a surge in Labour’s youth vote which has been attributed to their social media strategies. Two years later, we are in what could be the most important General Election the United Kingdom has seen and it’s already begun to be dominated by social media.

Below, I have listed some ways in which political parties and their leaders have started to use social media to advance their campaigns.

BLURRING THE TRUTH

We are all very aware of the impact ‘fake news’ can have on elections, no thanks to Donald Trump. However, a more sophisticated form has now emerged where videos of interviews have been edited to make those in question appear in a negative light. The first week of campaigning has been dominated by the Conservative party posting a video of a “Good Morning Britain” Interview with Labour party member Keir Starmer. In the video tweeted on the Conservative parties account, it appears to show the Labour member unable to answer a question on their parties policy towards Brexit. Although when played alongside the full interview, it shows the video has clearly been edited, as Starmer answered the question immediately.

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This clip tweeted by the Conservative party became one of the most watched videos by a political party or party leader since the vote to hold a general election. Despite the high number of viewers, it’s hard to gauge whether or not these viewers approved or disapproved of the tweet. For those who look into it, it can easily sway public opinion against the Conservatives or vice versa. The public may only look at the original tweet and may believe Labour’s members still don’t know their stance on Brexit.

THE TWITTER SCREENSHOT STRATEGY

If you have the usual social media sites, you will definitely have noticed screenshots of tweets by party leaders and political parties making their way on to Instagram and Facebook. The reason being, Twitter has fewer users than other sites but can easily kick-start the conversation on Facebook & Instagram when these are shared. Jeremy Corbyn has now started using the screenshot to reach a wider audience, his main social media platform is Twitter, and evidence suggests that those who talk politics on twitter tend to support Labour. Hence why Corbyn has now began posting screenshots of his tweets on to Facebook.

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Conservatives have also been posting screenshots of tweets and not just their own tweets, but other party members in order to criticise them. They posted a screenshot of a Corbyn tweet regarding Brexit policy labeling it as “dither & delay”. Instagram, which is generally known for its pleasing aesthetic is also seeing a large amount of screenshotted tweet posts. Both Corbyn and Johnson have been posting simple screenshots on their profiles, as it stands however Corbyn has been receiving much more interactions with his posts.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Both Corbyn and Johnson have started to use Snapchat for campaigning posts hinting at their attempts to engage with an even younger audience. The posts mainly combine video with graphics and text, however, don’t seem overly informative.

RELATABILITY & PERSONALITY

Now more than ever, the importance of personality and being relatable to the younger generation is crucial for politicians. What Johnson seems to lack in relatability, Corbyn has definitely taking advantage with this through the use of his videos on his personal Instagram account.

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The six second video clip above garnered over 175,000 views and has been by far the most successful on a politicians personal account. All of the parties seem to have raised their game on Instagram since this and there has been an increase in most political parties followers. There are over 20 million Instagram accounts in the UK with the majority of those users under 45. This is a key demographic that Labour really want to reach and its clear that they are going the right way about it.

A lot has changed since 2017 when Labour outsmarted the other political parties with their digital campaign. They can no longer be certain of dominance across all digital platforms. However, Labour’s strategy of attacking the rich through Twitter & Facebook have been well – received and they continue to garner the most interactions. For how long it will stay that way, we don’t know. I suspect a few more twists in this digital election.

Eoghan Gilmore is a final year Bsc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – eoghangilmore , LinkedIn – https://ie.linkedin.com/in/eoghan-gilmore-106a89164

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/