Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

2020 will always be a year that will be etched in every single one of our minds forever. A year that has tested every single individual and as the saying goes “it’s in time of adversity that we meet the real person”. That is a saying that we can truly relate to this year, in the extreme challenges that Covid-19 has brought us. We have seen in the actions of our supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ the real person and morals of the person and in terms of politics, the parties and people that are supposed to be leading our country. 

We have seen this in our own country, that a deadly virus that put the health and future of our constituents in danger, the political leaders could still not abolish the infamous tags of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This came in the most direct way of Sinn Fein following the actions of our Counterparts in Dublin, whilst the DUP following the actions of just across the water.  Either way many could argue that they have failed to lead with any sense of logic or integrity, coming with the latest inability to reach a decisive decision over the recent ‘circuit breaker’. 

The PR of the political parties in this country has taken a dent, as would have been an invaluable opportunity to portray a level of togetherness and solidarity and to show how much we have moved on. Instead, the pandemic has shown the same old attitudes of old with Jim Allister’s “Dungannon park” comments, Edwin Poots comments about “Covid-19 being prominent in Nationalist areas” and Sinn Fein accusing the DUP of “wasting time”. 

Although, the actions of our own political leaders have been detrimental to the PR to political parties, we have not been on our own which may of some comfort.  Just over the water, Boris Johnsons chief advisor Dominic Cummings travelled 260 miles to self-isolate with his family throwing into disarray all the Governments previous efforts and all self-sacrifice that people had made. This was an action that damaged the reliability of the British government  

It wasn’t just the integrity and morals of our political parties that we learned about during this pandemic, major business owners and worldwide companies also made error of judgements giving us all an insight into their true values.  Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) was branded one of the villains of the Covid-19 pandemic after he laid some of his staff off unpaid.  It was a highly unpopular move and one that was branded an “avoidable PR disaster”.  Richard Fuller, the Tory when describing the Richard Branson sage and when talking about business owners at this time in general stated “Big or small—in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.”  This is a very powerful message that demonstrates that actions taken at this time will go a long way on how a company is seen and something that could build or devalue their reputation.  Although, Bransons actions were largely criticised, many Virgin employees leapt to his defence with Jenny Hall declaring “At least this is better than having to make redundancies. The unpaid leave will be spread out over the yearly salary. I personally would take this option over losing my job. 

Mike Ashley (owner of Sports Direct chain) came under enormous scrutiny and was later forced to apologised after his chain sent an email to the Prime Minister insisting that his shop should be allowed to open on the basis that it is an essential service. An action that Ashley described as “ill-judged and badly timed”, and later he wrote a letter explaining that his communication to his staff and the public was poor and stated “”I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”. This was a disastrous PR stunt for Mr Ashley who was later described as valuing profit over the safety of human life. 

It wasn’t just business owners that came under fire for decisions made through this pandemic, the two finalists from the 2019 European cup final and two of the richest football clubs in the world came under huge scrutiny. The two clubs revealed that they were placing staff on the furlough scheme, taking government money. Both clubs didn’t just come under pressure from immediate public but from their supporters.  Former Liverpool FC player Stan Collymore revealed “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff. Fellow football fans, furlough is for small business staff to keep those small businesses from going bump”. As a Liverpool supporter myself, I was simply embarrassed and disgusted by this action, and action that Liverpool FC later apologised for and backtracked.  A club that has always held itself with such dignity, had now shown itself in a light that previous members of the club ensured that it would be something that they would never be known for.  

On a lighter note, someone that has portrayed himself in the most positive of lights is the 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. The young Manchester United and England player received huge plaudits from all over the country for his tireless work in campaigning for free school meals for kids. The award saw Rashford receive an MBE and the City of Manchester award. Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”. 

These previous examples we have seen just how these trying times have really revealed some people character and tested their character to the core. 

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

To answer the question why does a career in Public Relations interest me? As well as why did I chose a Public Relations degree to study? The answer isn’t as straight forward as the questions, there are a number of different reasons and answers, for how I ended up on this career path. In this blog I’ll be (roughly) explaining my story as to how I ended up studying and enjoying the field of Public Relations. I will start by explaining what interested and attracted me to the industry in the first place as well as, how I chose my degree and what I have learned over the course of my studies.

For another who doesn’t know what public relations is, it can often be confused with advertising and mis-defined as being just about promotion. Grunig and Hunt define Public Relations as “Management of communication between an organisation and its publics”. Charted Institute of Public Relations defines it as “the discipline which looks after reputation, “It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” It can be argued that there is no distinct definition of  what Public Relations is, and in many ways it is so broadly scoped it is undefinable. Personally I believe it is about the management of multiple different relationships within an organisation/person of interest and how they use this to communicate, promote and attract attention in their interest across a range of multimedia platforms.

When leaving high school I initially accepted an offer to study Law and marketing, as in the past I had always been torn between what I wanted to study. Soon after beginning my Law degree I quickly became bored. The copious amount of reading, referencing and interpreting became boring to me. The only aspect of law I was interested in was the real life cases and how they were resolved. I was still curious about marketing and business but I had realised I was also very interested in social psychology. I decided to change courses and I began looking for something that would interest me more, within a number of universities. When I came across the course Communication Management and Public Relations I was initially struck by the many different areas of study that it involved. I wanted to learn more about communication and I also wanted to know more about how to use communication in a professional context. I also researched into the career opportunities and found them interesting. I have always been a very confident person and that is why I thought that public relations would suit my personality better.  

Originally what attracted me to Public Relations was its communication aspect, how fast-paced and current the industry is.  Another aspect of public relations I liked was that unlike marketing, they don’t push promotions in an informal fashion towards consumers rather convince consumers by creating connections and relationships that are mutually beneficial.  Take Edward Bernays as an example. Bernays is often described as the father of Public Relations and his work and campaigns were not only successful, but they changed the world that we live in today. For example Bernays was employed by American Tobacco Companies and in 1928 he created the revolutionary  “Torches of Freedom.” Campaign. Smoking at the time was a Taboo in America for women and “smoking by women in North America and Europe had long been associated with loose morals and dubious sexual behaviour.” Bernays thought he could change this idea and he believed “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” Bernays organised multiple demonstrations of women smoking these women included debutants as well as prominent figures from the Women’s Movement and Churches. The demonstrations obviously attracted huge media attention and as a result newspapers across the country published stories on it. It’s crazy to me that through this occupation it was quite literally possible to change the world! 

During the course of my studies into to Public Relations, I have learned a lot about its uses in politics. I fascinated by the work of spin doctors and I was intrigued at how these people were able to take something that felt like bad news and turn it into something they could use for their benefit. While people often have mixed opinions over whether or not the use of spin particularly in politics is ethically correct Ludlam and Smith define it as “new strategic thinking”. I agree and, I think that there is an art to spin and it requires a great deal of knowledge as well as the ability to work on your own initiative. The labour party in England has often been accused of spinning facts to their own advantage, For example back in 2015 when Ed Miliband was the leader of the labour party, he took part in an interview which was held in the kitchen of his supposed £2 million house. These images then surfaced in an article published by the Daily Mail. The kitchen was in a modest state considering the price of the house, and the Daily Mail article compared it to a “utility room”. The article also went on to suggest that this might be the work of spin doctors as at the time Ed Miliband was running in the general election and he had just promised to introduce a mansion tax if he won. It was thought that by placing him in a less expensive looking kitchen it would favour the idea that he is a man of the people. Another example is throughout the course of Jeremy Corbyn’s time in office he was accused of spin multiple times. Back in 2016 when Owen Smith became the main leadership challenger for Corbyn. Smith gave a speech at the time condemning Conservative spending towards the NHS as well as accusing them of having plans to privatise the NHS. This was in order to present Smith as a socialist and an advocate for free health care, the only problem with this is that Owen Smith had spent five years working in big pharmaceutical companies as well as spending some of that time working as a corporate lobbyist. He also previously had the role of  head of policy and government relations for Pfizer. As this information was being brought to light in the press Corbyn timed a policy announcement well, which was to remove tax relief for pharmaceutical innovation. The idea was to frame Corbyn as someone who was anti/against big pharmaceutical companies compared with Smith the “lobbyist”.

From the examples I have given I can understand as to why someone would question the ethics of the use of spin. However, I believe that spin is a strategic thought process that involves a lot of planning, timing and driving of the news agenda. This skill requires a good judgment and knowledge about the industry you are working in.

Another aspect of Public relations that I find interesting is crisis communication. When an organisation gets into a crisis situation it usually contributes to public distrust. It is the PR practitioners job to ensure as little damage as possible is done to the firm. For example Pret a Manager dealt with a severe crisis in 2016. A 15-year-old girl died after having an allergic reaction to one of Pret a Manger’s baguettes. She collapsed on a British Airways flight and went into anaphylactic shock which caused her to go into cardiac arrest. Pret a Manager became the centre of the scandal as the baguette did not have any allergen advice on its wrapper. At the time food allergen advice was produced on site, and there was no legal requirement to provide it on the label. It was expected that staff deliver allergen information orally when asked. Pret a Manger received heavy criticism from both the press and the public. In this case Pret had to take some of the blame, in the beginning they tried to blame the British airways staff but in order to save company reputation the company CEO realised a statement saying that the firm was “deeply sorry” and that they were making “meaningful changes” to prevent something like this happening again. As a result Pret called for changes on the food labelling laws, gave the family compensation and encouraged other businesses to create change in their food allergens labelling. This is a successful example of the skill involved in crisis communication and how they were able to create a positive out of the terrible situation by getting the law changed.

A career in public relations interests me deeply. Although, I’m not entirely sure as to what direction or aspect of PR that I will end up working in. I feel safe in the knowledge that it always interests me, sometimes this is a quality I think people over look when planning a career. I think if you’re interested in what you do not only will you do well but you will enjoy your work as well.

Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin and Twitter.

Marcus Rashford’s Persuasive Campaign forced Governmental Change

Marcus Rashford’s Persuasive Campaign forced Governmental Change
Marcus Rashford MBE

In my experience Public Relations is all about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you and the prime minister recently found this out when he battled with Marcus Rashford over child poverty in the UK.

Rashford’s campaign was extremely successful and can be called one of the best advertising campaigns of the year as even though it was not marketed as such, it still has all the key aspects of one. This campaign was extremely successful through their ability to persuade the public to take more interest in child poverty in the UK and their public shaming off the government’s inaction on this issue. The campaign was able to change public expectations on what the government should be doing to help and created enough public pressure on the government that they gave into the campaign’s objectives – which was not a cheap ask.

After the government stated they would not be carrying on the free food voucher program over the summer Holidays, Rashford crafted an open letter and sent it to all 650 MP’s, posted it on his social medias and sent it to News outlets, and through this he forced the government to make a quick U – Turn within 36 hours and keep the scheme open for the 6 weeks of Summer holidays. One of the reasons I believe he was able to create such a quick change in government policy was by posting the letter for his 2.7 million followers to see, Rashford forced a public response from the government, and drove up public interest in it.

Rashford continued the momentum of the campaign and began to push for free school meals up until Easter 2021 over the holiday period. The Prime Minister rejected this and insisted that there would not a repeat of the U-Turn as they were now in a different position – however he did not expect he would be shown wrong just a month later. The campaign grew and became a wide-reaching movement which mobilized the Public, the media, businesses and opposition politicians to pressure the government. Rashford’s twitter followers went up from 2.7 million to 3.9 million over the course of this campaign and he gained an MBE for his previous work in reducing child hunger which further increased his status and effectiveness as an ambassador. Marcus Rashford was essential for the campaigns success as he was a credible persuader as an extremely popular footballer who grew up on free school meals and who understands the necessity of them for some families allowing him to become a relatable spokesperson for these children. He was also the first one to put a massive ‘game – changing donation’ into the campaign. These factors show us that the campaign was effective in fulfilling the ethos mode of persuasion as Rashford shows himself as trustworthy and honourable, and that he knows what he is talking about.

Following Rashford’s example, Massive brands such as Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, the Co-opt and McDonalds began to fund millions into the campaign with their original donations goal of another £100,000 towards it being completely blown away with over £20 million raised through financial and food donations. The Campaign was so effective as it has aspects of logos and pathos methods of persuasion also involved throughout, with a clear and rational message ‘no child should have to go hungry’ which it is difficult to disagree with no matter the circumstances of their parents. The campaign use of pathos was especially effective  as they showed videos of some of the children affected by poverty and these examples were so strong that they immediately caused anger and pulled on the heartstring of the public as they were disgusted that children in their own country lived like that.

As well as the significant social presence of the campaign, and the donations of big corporations and the public, 100s of small businesses all over the country also offered free meals to children over the Halloween break after MPs voted to not provide them, and this caused significant anger and support within the public also as businesses who were struggling due to the Pandemic were having to step up in the place of the government. Rashford also used his twitter account to post everywhere that was providing these meals and media outlets also provided lists and locations where people could go to make use of this, which was essential in getting the word out to those who were eligible and also to persuade other businesses to join in with the campaign.

These tactics along with a petition demanding extra funding which gained 1 million signatures and even backlash from his own party MP’s and councillors placed an overwhelming amount of pressure on the Prime Minister and so he announced a new package in early November which provides nearly £400 million into different areas such as free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021, more money pumped into food banks and funding to lessen the burden for disadvantaged families over the coming winter.

Headlines such as Boris Johnson Gets a Kicking From Rashford’s Meals Campaign, UK Pulls A U-turn, Backs Soccer Star Marcus Rashford’s Child Hunger Campaign, Marcus Rashford forces Boris Johnson into second U-turn on child food poverty, Marcus Rashford: PM climbdown over free meals in school holidays, Johnson’s handling of Rashford free school meals campaign ‘a disaster’ also show the effectiveness of Rashford’s persuasive campaign and the damage it has done to the Prime Minister over his presumed weakness and ‘flip-flopping’.

However, even if the U-Turns give the impression of a weak Prime Minister, the potential impact of the extensive and Country wide campaign would have been disastrous and it is it my opinion that the Prime Minister had no choice but to give into anger generated by the persuasive campaign or face the consequences of his inaction in the next election.

Aoife McCreesh is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn.

Social Media, the modern-day propaganda tool for the Far-right

Social Media, the modern-day propaganda tool for the Far-right

Social media has always been hailed as a tool for those with little to no voice or representation within society and it can definitely aid pro-democracy movements on occasion, unfortunately overall it gives the far-right parties and authoritarians an advantage. These platforms, once seen as an ally to democracy, have progressively become its enemy.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

It is easier for misinformation to be spread on social media than it is to correct it, it is also easier to ignite social divisions than it is to repair them. The very nature of how we engage in social media helps the far-right, authoritarian factions to wear away at the foundations of our democratic systems and even give themselves a straightforward route to gaining authority. This can be seen recently in the 2018 Presidential elections in Brazil where far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was part of a well-funded campaign that spread false information about his political opponents, this proved extremely effective as it was difficult for his opponents or the press to discredit or disprove these false allegations. This spreading of false information could be seen throughout the numerous WhatsApp messages that were sent throughout the election campaign, The Guardian conducted a survey of viral WhatsApp messages spread throughout 296 group chats and found that “approximately 42% of right-wing items contained information found to be false by factcheckers. Less than 3% of the left-wing messages analysed in the study contained externally verified falsehoods.” This again shows how instrumental the spreading of political misinformation is tactically for far-right political candidates.

Democratic Recession was a term created by political scientist Larry Diamond and can be described as “the decline of liberal democracy or the strength of democratic institutions in countries that formerly had a higher level of freedom and democracy.” This is a result of right-wing candidates who manipulate information on social media to get elected and then force their views on others. None have done this in a more prolific manner than current US President Donald Trump. Trump, has made over 20,000 false claims since he was elected and again the same problem arises. Despite the mainstream media debunking his claims right-wing outlets spread these lies or manufactured supporting evidence on social media, where it is seen as fact in the eyes of the president’s core supporters. Researchers from Princeton University and New York University found that conservatives were more than four times as likely to share fake news on Facebook as liberals. As a result of misinformation being spread and acknowledged as fact by a portion of the population Trump was able to convince certain voters that Hillary Clinton was involved in the alleged “pizzagate” incident, which helped him to win his Presidential bid over a far more experienced opponent. Furthermore, since his recent loss in the Presidential election he has continued this trend by making baseless claims of voter fraud. However at the time of writing 35 of his 36 legal cases claiming voter fraud have been dismissed in court.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playing Among Us on Twitch

Despite the far-right utilising social media far more efficiently than the left wing, there is still hope. As we have seen social media can be used as a powerful tool for the left-wing and pro-democracy groups. A recent example is the use of streaming platform Twitch by progressive politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who streamed herself playing the popular game Among Us with several high-profile Twitch streamers, with at one point over 430,000 people watching her stream. She streamed with these social media stars in order to encourage voter turnout in the upcoming Presidential election as she knows young people often feel disenfranchised by politics and this was a good way to connect with many first time voters. So far, this tactic seems to have worked as in almost every state the turnout for the youth vote has increased dramatically. Another great example of a liberal politician effectively using social media is Bernie Sanders, Sanders already has a large following on social media and has held collaborations with celebrities like Cardi B. These are important as many Millennials and those in Gen Z preferred Sanders as a Presidential candidate over Biden so naturally one of the questions asked by Cardi B was why the youth should still vote for Biden and the Democrats. Furthermore, platforms like TikTok have been of great importance since the beginning of civil unrest and protests within the US to help showcase support for several causes such as Black Lives Matter Rallies. More recently TikTok has again proven to be an extremely effective social media tool for younger generations to showcase their support for causes as seen in the recent protests in Poland over the Government’s reversal on abortion rights. There have been plenty of videos showing the protests in Warsaw and other cities throughout the country.

Former Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders with Pop Star Cardi B

Overall, we can see that social media has an ever-growing role to play within politics and this will only increase due to the continued distrust in traditional media. While currently far right politicians are more able to use their social media platforms to spread misinformation to be divisive and polarising which in turn helps them to get elected, this is mainly due to what I would call “traditional social media” such as Facebook which is populated with older generations who are typically more conservative politically. However, as time goes on I believe this will change as younger generations are better informed than their predecessors and with the help of more modern social media such as TikTok are able to communicate from a more liberal perspective.

Joel Currie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

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?

See the source image

 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.

See the source image

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.

See the source image

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.