GE2017 For Dummies

An Election Guide for Dummies: Take 2

This time around it is the recent General Election I will be breaking down, which sees the electorate take to the polls to vote for one candidate from a political party to see them through to one of the 650 seats up for grabs across the UK (18 of which are in Northern Ireland).

My thoughts on this election are summed up in these 5 words.

As you might have already heard, the Conservatives suffered crippling losses at the hands of Theresa May’s ‘gamble’ to call this premature election in the first place. In order for the Tories to take sole leadership in the UK, they must hold a majority of 326 seats. Although, they only managed to gain 318 seats, meaning they lost their reigning majority in the House of Commons and ultimately the sole power to run this country.

 

But lets be honest, it was probably the farmers revolt against Theresa for ruining their crops.

 

Although they still hold the most seats of any party in the UK, they need the help of a smaller party to form a government  – this is when the DUP come in to play.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn triumphed in this election, turning around their less than satisfactory polling in the 2015 election to gain 29 brand new seats, upping their total number of seats to 261. I am pinning this unbelievable result on the students who registered to make their voice heard in an election campaign where Corbyn capitalised on student debt worries and promised a free ride to higher education if he was voted PM. It was the mass student outcry in key Uni areas such as Kent and Leeds that helped Labour win over the Conservatives in historic proportions.

 

Image result for jeremy corbyn fur coat
This is the way I’m currently imagining Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction

 

What Labour did in this election, is similar to how the Sinn Fein removed the DUP majority in Stormont elections just months ago. This is a tremendous achievement for both liberalism and socialism.

 

What does this mean for NI?

In NI, a vote holds a completely different political agenda as to if you were voting Labour or Conservative in the rest of the UK. Instead of voting Left or Right, you most likely voted Republican or Loyalist. The reason I use the two more extreme versions of the NI division (instead of Nationalist and Unionist), is because Northern Ireland has seen a surge in radicalisation, as the NI voters decided to mostly go DUP or Sinn Fein.

As predicted in my last blog, we have seen a total annihilation of the UUP and SDLP, two ‘softer’ parties with less hard-line policies (despite the UUP and DUP being as backward as each other). The Foyle constituency, described as a ‘Citadel of the SDLP’, was a historic win for Sinn Fein as it has been for decades the political stronghold of the SDLP. Another huge success for SF is South Down where Chris Hazzard won the seat from SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie. DUP also stole the seats of South Antrim and South Belfast.

  • Sinn Fein will continue their policy of abstention where they do not take their seats at Westminster.

 

Where do the DUP come into all of this?

Since announced by Theresa May that the Tories will be entering into an official partnership with the DUP to be able to form a minority government, the DUP have been the most searched political party on Google in the UK. Voters will be wondering who Arlene Foster is and what her political agenda is. They will come across articles on the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal, her bigoted stance on gay marriage and abortion and her pro-Brexit policy. Of course, English news websites have highlighted Foster’s troubled past with the IRA, likely to resonate with those in England still fearful of the terrorist group since the 1990’s. I should not need to go into the ancient, obnoxious policies of the DUP, but it is imperative that you know that their stance on some key humanitarian issues have no place in modern day society in NI.

 

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, text
As a line dancer myself, I find the first one most upsetting…..

 

The DUP’s aim with working with Theresa May is to help achieve their Brexit goals, like pushing for a soft border due to the special circumstances which surround NI and the ROI. In a way, it is good that Northern Ireland finally have a significant impact on the going-ons in Westminster, but on the other hand I am frightened that it is the DUP who have the say.

So there we have it. Despite the British people showing a clear want for a political reform, we have against all odds seen the most shocking election in decades, with a Conservative government upheld only by the Democratic Unionist Party.

In 2 and a half years, I have voted in 4 elections. Each time I made my voice heard, despite belonging to one of the most secure nationalist constituencies in the North. I still need to utilise that vote to make sure the party I believe in are getting popular support. If you didn’t vote, I have no doubt you will get the chance to very soon.

 

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

Don’t tweet lies – strategise

Is your company using digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to reel in more interest in your product or service?

They are? Ok. Now ask yourself, is your company using digital platforms effectively?

‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Seven words can also be – “Did you see that video on Facebook?” or “Just found the cutest bedsheets on pinterest!” – So A LOT can happen in seven words.

You may be applying these ‘digital technologies’ and clicking send on an aimless Facebook status, but what you want to be doing is ‘achieving marketing objectives’ by doing so. And to achieve marketing objectives, you need to create them through a well thought out strategic plan! This blog will help show you the benefits of developing your own digital strategic plan for your business – big or small.

What does ‘Digital’ include?

Since the creation of the first website in 1989, the digital world has been expanding to include more than just websites. Today you can advertise your business through SEO, email marketing, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest etc.), online video content (YouTube), pay-per-click advertising and mobile marketing.

You might have a sound marketing strategy for your physical business, but when it comes to connecting to your target audience on a digital level, you need to know which of these platforms are applicable and which you can utilise in order to build your brand and boost your revenue on a digital scale.

The benefits of going digital are endless….

It is now easier to satisfy customers with an easy to use website, promotional messages that work and are coherent with the rest of your social media and a quicker response time for customer service via messaging.  This can be an amazing way to boost your brand image, creating personal and intriguing content that will entice customers to purchase and repurchase from your business – for example video content has the power to go viral with the click of the ‘share’ button, all you have to do is be creative.

Tip:  With Instagram now introducing a ‘shop now’ feature without the user actually having to leave the app, it is those online retail companies with formidable strategic digital plans who will respond first to this opportunity and increase their online presence further whilst also up-selling their products.

With the help of tools such as Google Analytics, it is now easier to track and monitor your website statistics. This is an easy to use tool that can help you interpret data, transform it into tangible information and increase your awareness of your target audience.

Tip:  Ask your customers to subscribe to promotional emails when they purchase an item from you. This can further your revenue through repurchase whilst gently increasing awareness of your brand.

BUT you need to be careful too!

In the modern age, not just the basic needs of the customer need to be satisfied, but there are numerous extras that are expected from a company’s online website. The ease of use, performance and presentation are all considered when a website is launched, and these are inadvertently judged by those using it.

Be creative, but be coherent. Your website can’t have any broken links, as no one wants to go to the effort of clicking something (exhausting, I know!) to be disappointed with a webpage that doesn’t work. Even worse, for a webpage that doesn’t include the information they clicked on.

Lastly, the reputation of your brand is dependent on the reviews customers give the company – whether by word of mouth or online. Both have the potential to be damaging if they are stories of poor quality, customer service or of a bad experience. A good recommendation by an individual with a strong following on Facebook or Twitter could make or break your business – use this as an opportunity for celebrity endorsement of your product in order to boost your reputation, but make sure they like your product/service first!

Let’s look at Missguided for example

Innovation is at the heart of Missguided’s solid digital strategic plan. They realise that their targeted value market sector – “the determined dreamer, stylish professional and cautious creative” all have strong online presences. They took advantage of this. The aim of their 2015 Executive Summary was to ‘elevate the brands positioning, increase sales and endorse the brands core values and messages’. Instead of their marketing team posting aimless status’ and tweets, they filled the consumer with meaningful content which helped improved the image of Missguided.

Their marketing primarily focuses on competitions, celebrity endorsements, guerrilla marketing, web advertising and a cohesive social media campaign. Building the brand’s personality through informal and fun interactions on social media has been a key part of Missguided’s strategy creating a fun, quirky, youthful and above all – affordable – alternative to the online retail experience.

Most importantly, Missguided realise the need for an integrated strategy for both their digital and physical markets, resulting in both components complimenting each other. For example, their Facebook offered a competition to win two VIP tickets to their store opening in Manchester, they showed sneak peeks on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr of their new store’s interior which emulates the brand values projected on their website, and their website also featured a live countdown of the opening of the store.

Within the store itself, digital screens were used to display social media engagement, such as when someone hash tagged a photo of a new purchase, and signs which encouraged customers to follow the brand on Snapchat. Even the writing around the store – “99% unicorn” and “eat, sleep, slay” – mirrors the brand’s playful tone of voice that can be seen across its social platforms.

 

Image result for missguided whats snapperin

 

So what can you do to develop your strategy?

PR Smith’s SOSTAC is an excellent framework for developing aims and goals stemming from a detailed situational analysis which looks at your outside and inside environment. This scan helps you get an advantage over your competitors, whilst keeping your own business focused and efficient. Alongside some of the tools mentioned above, SOSTAC will also help you monitor and control your strategy so that you know what to do if something goes wrong.

Image result for sostac

 

In conclusion, don’t tweet lies – strategise!

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

Queen of Crohns

It has been a while since I have put fingers to keyboard to blog about things close to my heart, but as May marks ‘Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month’, it is only natural I write a feature blog on one of my best friends, Rachel Nugent, who battles this disease fearlessly every day of her life.

I have known Rachel since I was around 14 when we went to hip-hop classes together (hilarious, I know), but I have always known her as a happy, positive and care-free girl. If something was ever wrong, all she had to do was stick on her earphones and play ‘Cascada-Everytime We Touch’ until she was feeling better. Or was it Tiesto?

Image may contain: text
Like how could I forget December 2011….

But despite being obsessed with terrible EDM and hip hop dancing, she always seemed have these bouts of sickness which had never been explained. Her back would give her problems, damaging her thriving hip-hop career (if you can’t already tell, this is a joke), her mouth would be full of ulcers making it difficult for her to speak and her foot would randomly swell making it look like a ballooned animal. Her symptoms were so random, that it took until Rachel went to A&E with excruciating stomach pains for them to discover she suffered from Crohn’s disease. In 2014, after being put on steroids, she suffered depression which she eventually overcome, until she was discovered to have an abscess in her bowel. After this Rachel then underwent a ileostomy, or for the every day person – “The bag”.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor
Doesn’t stop her topping up the vitamin D.

So what is Crohn’s?

I don’t want to go online and get some faceless definition from a health website. So in Rachel’s own words, Crohn’s is “the devil lol”. But in all seriousness, she sent me this as the best definition of the disease.

Crohn’s is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut. As well as affecting the lining of the bowel, Crohn’s may also go deeper into the bowel wall.  Crohn’s is a chronic condition. This means that it is on-going and life long.

How it has affected her

So far you have only heard a very brief overview of Rachel’s story, and it does not show the fear, anxiety or the pain that Rachel had to feel throughout the last few years. Before people knew Rachel suffered from Crohn’s, and due to the severe swelling of her lips, she went under intense scrutiny from the local area over an alleged ‘lip job’. I spent the majority of my energy explaining to these people that Rachel suffered from a disease that even I didn’t understand and that she hadn’t had her lips done. There were times when Rachel couldn’t even produce words from her mouth because her lips were giving her that much pain. It broke my heart, I couldn’t even imagine how she felt.

 

A lot of people didn’t know Rachel was going through the post-traumatic stress of one day having full control of your body, and the next having to rely on a bag. This played on Rachel’s mind for months, severe anxiety haunted her behind closed doors, depression came as a side-effect of the steroids – despite partying with her friends almost every weekend – it took her a while to come to terms with the disease.

Where is she now?

After her disease meant that she had to quit her education in Belfast, Rachel then trained with numerous MUA’s and is now one herself. She has set up her own Make-Up Salon from her house where she performs literal miracles on people like myself. Currently, her ileostomy is temporary and there is always hope that she will be able to get the bag off, but right now she is focused on raising awareness for this invisible disease.

Image may contain: 2 people, close-up
Rachel in action

But she still gets her bad days, despite being the most incredibly positive person I have ever come across! She has expressed her fears over not financially being able to cope as you never know when the next bout of sickness is going to come, not meeting someone who understands fully how to handle this disease, never being able to move away as she relies so heavily on the NHS and her mum and dad. She has helped my own family with advice and tips on the bag, always offering herself up as someone for them to talk to about it.

She is one of my biggest inspirations, and she should be yours too. x

How can you help?

Share this blog, let your Facebook followers see how Crohn’s can affect someone.

Or you can attend Rachel’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Casino Night in Sense Nightclub on the 26th May. Event details @ https://www.facebook.com/events/125075944713760/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

– Bill Clinton.

Image result for martin mcguinness funeral

 

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

 

You are formally invited to…

You are formally invited to…

My event organising only goes so far as school formals and after-parties, but everyone has to start somewhere, correct? It’s like Barack Obama running for class president in High School, you have to start off small and make your way to the top.

My latest project was the School of Communication 2017 Winter Formal. The one night where us students get the opportunity to get out of our athleisure wear and slip into floor-length gowns and act classy. I myself am still only learning when it comes to events-planning and management, but I thought I would share the tips and tricks I learned during this opportunity.

You can’t do it all by yourself

Get yourself a dedicated team. Ask your course director/lecturer to send an email calling for a formal committee. Once you’ve found yourself your army, you can start on your mission. This time around I created a Facebook closed group – perfect for sharing ideas, opinions and updates on what is happening.

Take inspo from all angles

Inspiration is hiding in every corner, you just have to think what would be appropriate to your event and your budget. I wasn’t going to order a mechanical bull for a school formal, but a photo-booth would capture the perfect shot of all your party guests – and they get a free keepsake!

Bloggers, Pinterest and previous events you have attended can all feed you ideas of what type of entertainment you can have. Keeping in mind my budget, we opted for goody bags (filled with sweet treats), ‘Selfie Face-mats’, a photo-booth and a candy floss machine.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, drink, table and indoor
‘Selfie Face-mats’ bought off Amazon made us look Amazing

I had originally seen the Face-mats at a 21st birthday I attended, and with the whole ‘selfie’ phenomenon currently happening, the guests had the best craic trying on the different faces. This was a sure way to keep my guests busy and energised whilst they waited for their food in the dining room.

Keep note

My laptop was my best friend for the guts of a month, as I was constantly updating my database filled with names of people that have paid, people promising to pay and entertainment companies I have handed money to. Keep these all in separate lists!

The key to running a successful event is definitely organisation. I found satisfaction out of always having the answer to questions before they were asked. Make a list of everything you need to know from your venue, from your entertainment companies and from your committee and have the answers written out in a Word document.

Invest in a whiteboard in Tesco for £5 (fulfil your secondary school guilty pleasure of scribbling on a whiteboard) and have everything you need to do in the days preceding the event written down. The satisfaction I got from wiping the marker off the board was unprecedented. Yes, I am also the person who gets excited when mopping a dirty floor.

Promoting still applies to University events!

It’s a School formal, surely everyone wants to go enjoy a night with their university mates, right?

Wrong.

Right up until 2 days before the event, I was still encouraging other students to come to the formal. You have to create the buzz around your event. If you’re not excited about it, what gives anyone else the right to be excited?

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting
Promotion overload – Free Red Bull, Formal Tickets and Snapchat filters

The School of Communication hasn’t held a formal in quite a few years due to lack of interest and no one willing to take control of the event. So to tackle this and help make this an annual thing, you needed to share the fun with as many people as possible to make them want to go next year – AKA make EVERY moment a photo opportunity, so that social media knows how good of a night it was.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
The candy floss machine ensured every snap was insta-worthy

Of course at the event you need a Snapchat filter. A filter is a given at any event nowadays, but you would be surprised how easy it is to create and how much of a reaction it gets from the crowd. I found it was these simple details that tied the whole event together and shaped the amazing atmosphere the formal had.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and text
The filter was used 121 times during the night, and viewed a total of 19,242 times!!!!!

and RELAX…

So you’re at the event, you have spent time and money making yourself feel glamorous. Do not waste all of your hard work being stressed! Everything has obviously turned out fine since you have made it to that point. Take some of the prosecco they are offering you (because every event needs a prosecco reception) and enjoy your night!

 

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

AE2017 for Dummies

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

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

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

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

The basics – what you need to know

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

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

Final results in 2017 NI Assembly

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

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

 

So what does it all mean?

The biggest turn out of electorate since The Troubles

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

Petition of Concern – Yay Gay!

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

No ‘Perpetual’ Unionist Majority

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

The UUP were Nes-troyed at the polls

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

Are we heading towards a United Ireland?

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

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

So where does this leave Northern Ireland?

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

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

 

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