Final Semester. Final Year. Final Stresses

The first semester of final year was a frantic, challenging yet worthwhile semester. For me it was a bumpy, bendy road fraught with many surprises and many late nights in the library with pressure levels heightened due to the fact that this really is our last chance at achieving the status quo in society “A degree”. Now in final semester, we can see university life ending and working life beginning. I’m starting to understand that stress is customary in final year; they go hand in hand like strawberries and chocolate. However, stress is necessary, if you weren’t stressing then you really should be asking yourself do I even really care? I decided for this blog to write about how I can plan to manage my stress over the next 3 months that involves just the simple things.

Here are three steps that I plan to implement in 2019 , in the hope that this will help my fellow final year student’s in putting an end their toxic relationship with Mr/Mrs Stress.

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Numero Uno:

Laugh.

So laugh, laugh, and laugh – no not in the library like some crazy lunatic if that’s what some of you are thinking and secondly no not in the lecturers face.  I mean laugh with friends, laugh on your own or laugh at some random funny videos on your phone. For me personally my go to app to really get me laughing is YouTube, from epic fails to the funniest news bloopers.  Laughing is by far the quickest and best stress reliever. It really is a workout, one study I found particularly interesting when I was scouring the internet found that laughing hard for one minute is the equivalent to the cardiovascular workout of running a mile- yes it does actually burn calories, unfortunately it won’t do anything for that beer belly! So next time you’re stressed out and someone tries to make you laugh don’t say “don’t make me laugh” just laugh and crack a smile.

Image result for laugh and stressNumero Dos:

Coffee.

Rarely will you see the words “drink more coffee” on a list of techniques for reducing stress. I know you’re wondering coffee why would I drink coffee if I want to relax?  I’m not saying drink loads of it. I’m saying drink it in moderation, like anything in our diet and lifestyle it’s all about moderation. I myself never believed in coffee, I was an anti-coffee evangelist, but it wasn’t long until I was converted and seen the light. Having one cup before or during studying, I found that it kept me alert and drastically reduced my feelings of stress, reading up on how coffee affected stress levels I found that studies show it can also affect neurotransmitters in the brain to help you fight of symptoms of stress.

Numero Tres:

Exercise.

Think about the last time you were stressed after a long day studying or working on coursework – did you exercise that day? If you haven’t, then you’re missing out. From my experience after spending the majority of my day in the library or in university completing work, I try to always go to the gym or fit in some form of exercise even if it is just 30 minutes. Fortunately for me I have housemates who motivate me to go and they too see the benefits of this. We learn and see about the physical benefits of exercise, but we rarely are told about the mental benefits of it. It is one of the best things you can do to develop a healthier brain and reduce stress levels. If you feel regularly stressed like most final year students (Unless your Einstein) and aren’t frequently exercising, a bit of physical activity might be just what you need. So in this final semester when coursework deadlines, exams and final dissertation drafts are approaching take one or two hours of your day to do a physical activity which you enjoy, because I know I will.

Don’t skip a chance to exercise; you’ll be doing yourself a favour.

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Travis Kelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/travis-kelly-509007150/

University: The Third Edition

With the aim of forging a path to a future filled with success and happiness, settling on a university degree was possibly one of the most daunting and difficult decisions we, at the tender age of 17, were forced to make. However, the recurring questions of: “what is Communication Management and Public Relations?”, “what can you do with that when you graduate?”, and most common of them all: “whaaaaatttt the **** is that?” have echoed in my ear from the day and hour I accepted the offer on UCAS. There are times I feel like I can’t even walk down the Jordanstown mall without folks knowing I study that course that nobody can describe or explain.

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Before embarking on my undergraduate degree in Public Relations, I had spent the two previous years chancing my arm at two different courses: English and Journalism. However, anybody that has spent more than 42 seconds with me will know that I am almost incapable of making life-impacting decisions, and I was unsure whether I wanted to devote the next three years of my life studying either of these degrees. So, I threw the towel in, packed the bags, and I decided to pursue a new path. Again.

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I have always been an avid believer that good things happen to people who communicate eloquently, confidently and fluently, and the opportunities they have are boundless. Therefore, I have continuously been heavily reliant and focused on the way I communicate in order maximise the potential possibilities there are for myself, too. Brian Tracy describes communication as: “a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life”, which perfectly underscores the importance of it. The reason communication is so significant to me can be encapsulated in a quote by Shannon L. Adler (2018), which is: “When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” Removing negative energy equates to a happy life, my friends.

As a very charismatic and vocal person, I haven’t been classified as “shy” too many times in the last decade or so. I took this with me all throughout school, and still utilise my boisterous personality to benefit my day-to-day life. My ability to communicate has always been something I took pride in, and I have used it to, as Adler phrased it, receive peace and deter from negative energy of fear and regret. Following this, communication has broadened and enhanced my social, personal and professional life. In my personal life, and especially in the last year, I have been surrounded by good, likeminded people who motivate me to keep making good choices and changes. Whereas, in my professional life, I have climbed the career ladder and now hold a supervisory position within an ostentatious restaurant, where I oversee more than 20 staff members; and no surprise, confidence and a high-quality level of effective communication gave me both of those positive outcomes.

 

So, why a career in Public Relations?

I was feeling similar emotions to Ross Gellar who feared being known for getting divorced, but instead, I was Dalez, and instead of divorcing, I was trialling and swiftly exiting undergraduate degrees like I wasn’t clocking up £20k debt.

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I became interested in Public Relations during my stint at studying Journalism, and it was here that I flourished in the written aspect of it. Throughout my school years my interests centralised on communication; verbal and written and it was in this that I thrived. Fortunately, this was an intricate component in Public Relations, which perhaps meant to me that this would be the one, and I wouldn’t be waving Jordanstown goodbye.

Before making the decision to study it, I did some research into what jobs were associated with Public Relations, (meanwhile, my Mum insisted it was offering cheaper entry into nightclubs and five Jägerbomb’s for a tenner), and then I investigated what other interpersonal skills I would need, coupled with a degree, to become successful. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations describes Public Relations as: “the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public”, and as someone happy enough to “wet the ear” of anybody willing (or unwilling) to listen to what I have to say, PR is well-suited to my personality. This would also mean I would be able to strategically practise my expertise with oral and written communication to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with clients, suppliers, and partner organisations.

During my research, I uncovered that it is essential to be organised, with particular importance placed on the ability to multitask; and as somebody who has a generally busy social life, works full-time while also studying full-time, organisation is a skill I can assure you I have (even if I do rock up 10 minutes late from time to time). It is imperative for me to have a weekly to-do list and have my days mapped out beforehand, to help ensure that I complete each task I have set for myself; otherwise I’d become overwhelmed, quit my job, drop out of university, and continue my life on a different continent somewhere because of a meltdown which stemmed from a week of disorganisation. And it could happen yet, folks. Other sets of skills listed included strong teamwork and problem-solving skills; which are qualities I utilise on a day-to-day basis, leaving me confident enough to exude them professionally.

As well as this, Public Relations provides an extremely broad line of work, which was a crucial requirement for me while I was deciding whether to apply to my undergraduate degree and attaining a qualification which only benefited one specific field of work is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I did some research and found that the possibilities of work were plentiful within Public Relations; I was largely unaware of how extensive the prospects really were. “PR practitioners work across a range of industries and may work in any of the following settings: consumer, corporate, financial, local government, public affairs or trade and technical”. I had always feared that I would qualify and feel trapped within a job, but as Public Relations is so extensive, it would be possible to move within these interrelated industries and fields of work.

 

The Plans For The Future

Regardless whether I follow the path and end up in the Public Relations industry, I think the qualification will be beneficial for me within any job I pursue throughout my life. The knowledge gained in my undergraduate degree can, and has been, transferred to enhance my personal and professional life, as aforementioned. Ideally, I would like to become an entrepreneur and leader; and this coupled with an established blog, and knowledge in Public Relations would prove to be very valuable to a start-up business, where success can be tough – with 50% of new businesses failing “during the first five years”.

Currently employed as a social media manager for a renowned business, I already use and expand my skills I have attained from university to help aid the businesses marketing strategies online. The language, photographs and posts are all pre-empted in order to portray the business in a particular manner, which helps to maintain the respect and good relationship the company has already established with the clientele. This experience, with the background knowledge of Public Relations, marketing and advertising would all be useful in helping me solidify future decisions on how I would like to advertise and appear online, as social media presence is currently incredibly crucial.

With a passion and interest in writing; and more specifically, the conversational style of writing, a Public Relations degree would give me the professional information on effective communication that I would need to ensure that I could have a balance of expressing my own personality, while still appearing eloquent and well-versed. The possibilities for the future are endless, my pals, and maybe even the oul blogging will sky-rocket and take off now shortly due to the growing popularity and demand there is. If you have never had a story relayed to you by Dalez, have you really heard a story?

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Mark Daly is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markdaly123/

I’m Back.

What to write about? It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, writing about my deepest darkest secrets. And my ideas for my first blog post are lacking. But hopefully the more I write, the more creative juices will just flow from my fingertips to my keyboard.

So ~building suspense~ as my first blog post back, I am going to write about placement. You’ve probably just been knocked off from your seat. Shocked by the creativity of a third year CAM student. Writing about placement.

I was going to be one of those students that gives you monthly updates placement, but I didn’t feel I had the expertise or experience to give you monthly updates. But, I’m 8 months in now and boy, have I gained experience. So here’s my take from placement, with only a few months left.

Don’t Stress // Now, those of you know me are thinking ‘how can Alex tell me not to stress?’ And yes, this is true, I stress when I am running low on milk, so you can imagine the stress a hunt for a placement position brought. This time last year, I received another decline, with the hope of an interview (never mind a job offer) quickly seeming further from my grasp.

I’m sure there are many of you in the same position and don’t stress about it – apply for jobs you are genuinely excited about and in the meantime perfect your CV, write a killer cover letter and gain experience wherever you can to bulk up that LinkedIn Bio.

It’s all about your attitude // ‘What’s for you, won’t pass you’. I remember I was first told this by my Mum and it’s a saying that has really stuck with me. Now 5 weeks into Semester 2, receiving your 900th placement email and with 3 assignment deadlines approaching, this attitude is hard to maintain. I understand that struggle.

But do stay positive, rejections are hard to get over, but you should see them as a learning curve – how can you improve your CV? What techniques can you use in your next interview? Was your cover letter as well-researched and unique as you once thought? Remember, that interview, call back or job offer will come at a time you will least expect it.

Be in the know // Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, we are spoilt on how we can stay connected with industry updates, leaders and campaigns. Whilst I received an email about my position, I first saw it on LinkedIn and without seeing the post, I don’t know if I ever would have applied. I was able to see what the company was up to, who worked there and the company’s culture.

Acting like an MI5 agent and doing a background check on the company that has invited you in for an interview will put you in a strong position. It will show initiative by researching the company and communicate a passion for their activities. So, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile by now, get one, you might sign up and stumble upon a job advert that interests you.

I feel like three hints for the placement process is enough, so I’ll give some advice on what I have learnt on placement so far. And I think the best way to start this, is share what I do, I work at Intel Ireland, holding the position of Media and Education Intern. I could write a whole blog post on what I’ll do, but I’ll leave that for my placement report and upload that to Turnitin rather than here. But in the short, I love it and with final year getting closer and closer, time can slow down.

Don’t take uni for granted // For those studying CAM like me, we have been blessed with a course that is max 12hrs a week, with Monday’s and Friday’s off, enjoy this time. It can seem like a lot with the various assignments, placement emails and simply functioning, but enjoy it. When placement hits, you’ll be working 40hrs a week, with only your evenings to do as you please, rather than finishing at 1pm and feeling like you still have the whole day. 

Placement should be enjoyable // Placement is hard, I’ve learnt that from first hand experience, you’re thrown in the deep-end and suddenly you have responsibilities that matter and have an affect on other people. But this is all a learning curve and you should (hopefully) be enjoying it. You will be working on projects related to your course, working with people who may have your dream job and working for a company you would love to return to. Appreciate your placement opportunity, enjoy it and see it as a chance to learn and develop your skill-set.

So, there you have it – a very small portion of advice relating to placement, take it or leave, these are just my learnings.

And if you’ve learnt nothing, you now know I stress when I’m low on milk.

Alex Slaine is a Third Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He is currently working as Media and Education Intern at Intel Ireland on his placement year. He can be found on Twitter – @alexslainee; and LinkedIn – Alex Slaine

Are we a “lazy” generation?

In today’s society, we have technology that allows us to answer questions in a matter of seconds, just by lifting out our smartphones and typing it into google. If you really think about it, if you didn’t have your smartphone to tell you about everything and anything, would you go to the library to search for a book to read up about it? I mean, the effort! We literally have everything at the tip of our fingers. But does that make us fortunate, or is it just making us lazy?

Obviously, baby boomers and some of generation X will tell you differently. Have your aunts or uncles ever gone on a rampage when you took your phone out at a family event? Ranting on about how in their day technology didn’t exist and how it’s ruining our generation and blah, blah, blah, blah.

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Despite of what the older generations think, the technology we have today is amazing, we are able to achieve so much with the facilities we have, I know I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the internet itself. Because of this technology, doors and opportunities have opened for so many of us. As generation Z are entering the world of work, we are bringing our technology skills with us improving their communication systems, learning systems, sales systems and management systems.

We can gain new experiences, relationships and even a degree purely through the internet. Older generations seem to think that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen for our generation. They believe it is making us weaker, lazier, spoilt, impatient. Are they right? Is this affecting us academically, physically and socially?

Academically

Now, I’m not saying our parents were writing essays with a goose quill, under a candle light with a tonne of dusted books stacked beside them, but I mean they did spend lot more hours in the library doing research while it takes us 10 minutes to do research with the amazing tools we have today. Although… with my concentration skills and wondering imagination, I still wouldn’t be far behind my parents. It can be concerning that rather than doing our own research by going out and physically getting it, we might rely on the internet to much. Not only that, but they didn’t have Microsoft word or spell check to make sure their sentences still make sense at 3am and 1000 words in to an essay. We can literally achieve a degree today from our sofa, using only a laptop, smartphone and maybe a few physical books. Is this teaching us the skills we are going to need when entering our field of work?

Phsyically

Have you ever scrolled down your Instagram feed for hours and came across gorgeous girls with beautiful figures and thought “awch i want that!”, but then continue to lie there for a further few hours scrolling through your feed, maybe switch over to Twitter, then Facebook then maybe watch and entire Netflix series all in the one night? Same. I often wonder if I didn’t have my phone would I go outside and be more active.

I can even book a car to come pick me up right at my door through an app! Sometimes the taxi driver himself is disgusted at me for booking a taxi when the destination is only a 5-minute walk away.

Also, for a girl who loves clothes, makeup and spending money, I despise shopping. I despise the stress of trying clothes on in a small cubicle, I despise the pushing about in busy stores, I despise carrying bags and bumping into people with them and most of all I despise going home and realising I forgot to get the one thing I actually went to the shops for. But luckily enough for me, I can also do this at a touch of button from my smartphone and get it delivered directly to my door. It’s just too easy!

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Socially

If you have Instagram, especially if you are a female, you will understand the awkwardness of walking by another girl whose photos you’ve been liking for months but have never actually spoke to them in person. Not knowing whether to say hello or not because it might be weird because you’ve never physically met them before, but you know that you both know each other. How weird is that? We literally have made friendships through the internet but are to socially awkward to go up and strike a conversation with them in person.

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Dating websites such a Tinder have also made it weird for someone to go up and ask for your number in a normal place like a coffee shop. It’s like “eh, omg no of course you can’t have my number I haven’t even stalked your Facebook profile yet”. Have you ever gone on a date with someone without stalking their social media pages? I didn’t think so.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and as I mentioned above, it opens so many new doors and job opportunities for us. However, I have made a vow to make a point of being less lazy by doing simple things like deleting my FonaCab app, going to the library and doing more physically research with actual books and I might even go as far as deleting my PayPal account to make me go out and physically do my shopping (I said maybe!).

Aoibheann McKinley is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/aoibheann-mckinley 870316112 ; Twitter – @aoibheannmckinl ; Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/aoibhymcmua/?hl=en                                                                                                   

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

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As the cliché goes, “university will be the best days of your life.” Now don’t get me wrong. Being a student is great. Most of us go to class a mere nine hours a week compared to 6 hours a day when we were in school. We get to live with our best friends (there for being able to borrow their clothes everyday), we have  independence for the first time, meeting new people is inevitable and getting to try new things is a must. It’s great. However, like everything else in the world it has its downsides.

When talking about university with friends or family what most people will never mention is the amount of stress and anxiety we as students face every day. Behind all the socialising and freedom we will encounter large amounts of university work, social anxiety, money problems and feeling like we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. Don’t worry if you’re feeling over whelmed, you are not alone! A new report showed that a massive 82% of students at a university in the UK claimed to have suffered from stress and anxiety when starting their course. Out of these only 25% said they would ask for help as the others said they wouldn’t know where to find it or else they’re too embarrassed to ask for it.

I have came up with tips from my university experience that will help you unwind, relax and enjoy this experience as much as you can (and no they don’t all involve socialising and drinking.)

  1. Partying

I may as well start with most student’s favourite topic. Partying. Who doesn’t love having a night out with your friends, wearing your new favourite jeans, all for the night to end with you all in the pizza shops struggling to get a taxi home. Nights out can create some of our best university memories, however you don’t need to feel under pressure to go out every night, no one enjoys this.

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Alongside it being expensive, waking up with a hangover before going to class is one of the worst feelings ever. Rather than always picking a bar to socialise in invite friends down to watch a movie or go for food. It’s cheaper and saves you having a killer hangover the next day. If you want to get out of the house most cities have cinemas and crazy golf as well , both are social and will give you a chance to catch up with friends without having to shout over loud club music into each other’s ears.

  1. People

Our parents have always told us it’s important to always surround yourself with the right people, and guess what? They’ve been right all these years. When we’re in university, most of us have some type of idea of the person we are, and want to become. Surround yourself by like minded people. Focus on the good people in your life, the ones that motivate you and want you to achieve the best you can. Surround yourself with friends that will be happy for your success and are willing to spend countless hours in the library with you rather than people who will miss two classes a week so they can stay at home and catch upon their latest Netflix binge.

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3. Money

As soon as our student loans come into our accounts it feels like we are rich (if only for a few hours). We convince ourselves we deserve those new shoes after all the hard work we’ve been doing all year and now ordering dinner seems like the much more attractive option over pasta and a jar of Dolimo sauce. However, don’t be fooled! Yes it’s nice to treat yourself once in a while but this money will primarily be needed for university essentials- rent, textbooks and your cost of traveling to and from university.

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Over the past three years I’ve figured out what I spend the majority of my loan on and figured out how to minimise it. Firstly there’s rent, expensive and unfortunately unavoidable, so let’s move on. The second biggest cause of my painfully small bank balance is of course… drink and food. The best and easiest ways I deal with this is having a balance. You don’t need to eat less to save money on food, you just need to eat smart. If you’re feeling lazy and want a take away for dinner go onto google and search food places with discount codes for students. If it’s a Tuesday and you and your flat mate are big pizza lovers, Domion’s does “Two for two Tuesdays” where you get two pizzas for the price of one.

Similar to this, pick clubs and bars that do student offers such as “90p drinks.” It will save you a fortune. Give yourself a budget that you can afford to spend on a night out. Then take this money out, put it in your purse and leave the bank card at home. Your head and bank balance will be thankful for this tip in the morning, trust me.

So there we have it, my top three tips to help you survive university. Even though it sounds like I have a lot of bad things to say about university, I wouldn’t chance my experience for the world. Endless laughs everyday with your friends, being able to stay in your pj’s until 2pm and no one in your house will judge you if it’s 2am and you want to order a Chinese.

If you’re feeling over whelmed it’s okay to miss a night out and hop on the bus home. At the end of the day nothing will beat a home cooked meal and getting cosy up on the sofa catching up with your family and watching your favourite TV show.

Anna Grant is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram- @annagrantx.

 

Online shopping vs IRL (In real life) shopping

If you’re like me and you love to shop you will know the struggle of finding the time to look properly while trying to do everything else that is going on like Uni, work and socialising, of course. There are two different types of shoppers, there are those who only shop online and people who actually love going in to shops.

There are pros and cons to both these ways of shopping…

Online shopping pros;

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There are so many apps now on our smart phones for shopping the latest trends and even our groceries can be bought online and brought to our houses. We don’t even have to leave the house or if we are in work we can do it on our break, basically we can shop anywhere and everywhere, I think that is the appeal for most consumers. I have shopped online a few times because compared to normal stores there is an endless amount of clothes and styles on those apps, I mean endless you could spend hours just looking at tops alone. These sites also give you suggestions so you barely even need to look that far because they’ve already picked a look for you. With online shopping you also don’t have the stress of having to fight your way through people especially when it comes to Christmas time and Belfast City Centre is completely packed with everyone trying to get what they need. A perk I also enjoy from online shopping is getting it delivered to work because it’s like getting presents while I’m there, this defiantly helps with the 8 hour shift I don’t want to do.

Online shopping cons;

When we order online we have to wait usually 3-5 working days for our parcel to arrive and if there is a weekend in between then that’s two extra days added which is just unfair in my opinion, yes there is next day delivery but for most online shops that doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland… defiantly unfair. Then we have the charge of postage, although postage usually isn’t that dear it’s still charge on top of your items but if you’re like me and you see ‘free postage on orders over…’ and your order is just under that priceAB1 then I will buy something else, now this makes no sense because you are most likely now spending more money but it’s all about the principle of it, well that’s what I tell myself anyway. Sizing can be a problem, I like to try things on before I buy them because sizing in some shops can be completely different than sizing in another so if I order online half the time I usually send the stuff back or have to get another size which means I have to wait another 3-5 working days and that is just way to much waiting about for my gifts from me to me.

I prefer IRL shopping one reason for this is because I am a student and I can go into the city centre on a Monday at 10am when no one is there which makes it a lot easier.

IRL shopping pros;

When you go into a clothing shop and you can actually see what you are buying, you sometimes find that it looks nothing like what you saw online(which has happened to me quite a lot) so you know exactly what you are getting. You can try on the clothes before you buy them like I pointed out earlier, this is defiantly a good thing for me because I don’t have to send half of my order back. Customer service as annoying as it can be at times I still prefer to talk to a person rather than do everything through technology, having someone tell you they love what you’re buying at the till makes you feel good (even if it is a lie). We get what we want straight away. This is a big pro for me because I can be very last minute so being able to get and outfit and go works well for me and my at times unorganised lifestyle.

IRL shopping cons;

We all know how busy Castlecourt and Victoria Square can be at the best of times and it AB3is even worse around Christmas so if you aren’t a student or you can’t work from home you have to shop at the busiest and worst day to go into the city centre… A Saturday. It really is a horrible day to be anywhere near shops because everyone is off and then trying to get home after you’ve fought your way through the crowds is another nightmare, you could sit in traffic for hours. Being told they don’t have your size… this is to say the least, heartbreaking news, I hate, hate, hate when I have found the perfect outfit then the sales assistant tells me they don’t have my size then I have to start the process all over again or worse they tell me to look online, and you now know how shopping online makes me feel so you can imagine how I feel when that line is thrown in my face.

So, those are my thoughts on online vs IRL I’m sure some of you will share the same thoughts as myself in this department and if not you now know my views on two methods of shopping xo

 

Aoife Ni Cheallaigh Bairr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/aoife-ni-cheallaigh-bairr-a42534164/

“Would you like a bag with that?” What retail taught me about PR!

Retail is a mad environment, a mad environment that I’ve had the dubious pleasure of working in for nearly 5 years! Don’t get me wrong it’s fun but it’s also fast-paced and tough, standing on your feet for 8 hours hurts, running back and forward like a mad eejit to get items for customers will increase your fitbit steps considerably, as will dealing with difficult situations and moving fixtures to name but a few! If you have worked (or currently work) in retail you’ll be able to relate to this blog in some way, shape or form! If you don’t work in retail – no worries, I am hoping you’ll get a glimpse of life from behind the counter and what retail workers deal with daily!

Before starting university, I didn’t realise how much I’d learned in the world of retail nor how much it had prepared me for my future career in Public Relations. Who would have thought that retail makes you quite the PR professional…OK, maybe not a professional but you’ll definitely develop a bit of a flair for it. As I am a student, I will include some academic writing just to prove my point (and to sound highly intellectual).

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Trust me, it will all make sense!

Public relations is all about building, maintaining and managing good relationships though communication, according to the two academic legends Grunig and Hunt, who wrote this in 1984. Apply their analysis to a retail setting, or any setting where a customer/client relationship is involved, and you must deal with them appropriately, right? In retail you encounter a wide range of customers with some extremely unique characteristics. The ones who’ll quip “well I’m hardly going to carry that around now am I *insert laugh*” after you’ve offered them a bag; or my all-time favourite “if there’s no price on it that must mean its free!” I have heard that 6 times today… Bet you’re reading this, and you’ve said that yourself more than once! Haven’t you?

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Regardless of who or what you encounter, having good public relations skills will ensure you make their retail experience a pleasurable one which they will hopefully repeat regularly. Imagine you are a customer purchasing goods and the sales adviser is rude, arrogant and totally unpleasant – you would be outraged and leave feeling annoyed at the situation. You would have little or no inclination to shop there again and at worst, you would give the shop a poor social media review.  If you’re of a “certain age” you might prefer to phone and ask to speak to a member of staff. Imagine poor customer service in a PR agency?  You’d be out of business in no time.

In retail the customer is your priority and in a competitive market they expect the 5* treatment.  Ever heard the expression “kill them with kindness?” I’m pretty sure that was written for retail workers. To be successful you must always be polite and attentive, listening to their needs, communicating with them effectively and showing a genuine interest in them. Remember us Irish love retail therapy!  But BALANCE is key🔑 in all of this as an over-zealous approach can also be off-putting and have customers behind the mannequins in lingerie like an episode out of “Fr Ted”.

Similarly, in PR, when working closely with a client, it’s vital that you listen to their needs, concerns and ideas – showing that you care about them. By remembering customers’ names, their likes and dislikes, whether they want the receipt in the bag or in their hand your customer will hopefully feel they are appreciated. They must feel that your world revolves around them.

In retail you need to be able to multi-task to the best of your ability, including doing 10 different jobs at once!   Merchandising, deliveries, not to mention manning the tills whilst also bending over backward for your customer while a queue begins to form with impatient coughs beginning to resonate towards you.  Yes my friends, if you can do all this under tight deadlines and still keep that smile on your face, then you should be able to work in PR……

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Sometimes you might wonder “why do I bother?” but in the PR world you need to be highly motivated all the time – adapting to every situation that is thrown your way.  There really is no such thing as a typical day!

Often in retail you can find yourself in a situation you’d never have dreamt of, smiling as you deliver a suitable response to an unhappy customer in order to survive.  Time to shine a light on your problem-solving skills – this might be rhyming off your companies return policy to Susan who clearly bought the item in a different country and wore it 100 times, or how the bags cost 5p and it’s not your fault.  Let’s not forget the customer who will not believe that you genuinely have none of that item left!

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You guessed it! Us PR Wizz kids need to work with other managers to solve communication problems. Being able to act quickly during a difficult situation calls for a crisis communication plan. Now, in the PR world this will be most likely be on a mass scale, it might involve writing a press release, releasing a statement to the organisation’s publics on social media and taking calls from members of the press to ensure the same message is communicated to all.

I am thankful for all that I have learned during my time working in retail, I feel it’s a rite of passage for us millennials.  Now to graduate, get a job and enjoy some retail therapy of my own.

Alannah Stephens is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. Alannah can be found on Twitter @AlannahStephens and on  Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/alannah-stephens-ab1525127/