“Who are you wearing?” (Hilton. P, 2017)

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Just over 3 years ago, my 18-year-old self, boarded a one-way Aer Lingus flight to London. As I sat in my overpriced seat I was confident, more confident than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had just left my Mum, pretending to cry into the sleeve of her jumper, outside WHSmith in Belfast International Airport to pursue my dream of working in Television. Fast forward 3 years, I return, to the same sight of my crying mother, with my tail between my legs and my bank account £1000 overdrawn, having failed to secure Holly Willoughby’s daytime slot.

Living in London introduced me to a great concept, I previously had not heard of, called ‘growing up’. I would have voted myself, the least likely out of my undergraduate course, to pursue a Master’s Degree, however, somehow, I have found myself back in Belfast, learning about this concept of “public relations”. Image may contain: night and outdoor
As interesting as I find myself, I have learned to find PR even more interesting, since starting my MSc. My only real experience in the field of PR stemmed from my part-time job in a restaurant, dealing with the public all day, every day. I learned more about ‘people’ waiting on tables in that small restaurant that I had in the previous 18 years of my life. If I could take one thing away from the customer service industry, it would be the idea of “giving the people what they want”.

Like Jade, in the iconic “Bratz” movie, I have a “passion for fashion”. Growing up, when most boys my age were idolizing Gary from Geordie Shore, my only interests were the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model. The fashion industry is ever evolving, and this week, the biggest piece of news in the industry was Gucci’s decision to stop using real fur in their designs.
Fur in the fashion world has always been a controversial topic, however, it is an issue I have always remained relatively neutral on. Recently I have begun to think, is fur really necessary in the fashion industry? For years, organizations such as PETA have campaigned against the use of fur in the industry, but why now in 2017 has such an iconic brand such as Gucci decided not to carry on using real fur?

I recently was reminded in my Strategic Marketing module, of this idea that you should “give the people what they want, not what you think they want”. Which perhaps is what Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzari is now beginning to do. In PR, we learn about the idea of ‘publics’, does this mean that Bizzari has decided that his customers do not need real fur anymore?

Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA said “The writing was on the wall: Today’s shoppers don’t want to wear the skins of animals who were caged, then electrocuted or bludgeoned to death. Until all animal skins and coats are finally off the racks of clothing stores worldwide, PETA will keep up the pressure on the clothing and fashion industry.” (Holt, 2017)

Gucci, along with other brands such as Ralph Lauren or Stella McCartney has been able to adapt to ‘give the people what they want’ which is becoming refreshing, seeing as other brands such as Versace, stick to the conservative idea of ‘tradition’. I said previously, that I have always remained neutral on the issue of fur within the fashion industry, however, after Gucci’s decision of taking fur off the catwalk, my opinions have swayed. The fashion industry and current trends change season by season but the issue of fur has been a long-lasting battle. Should other brands now follow in Gucci’s footsteps?


Before enrolling on this course, I would have never thought about issues like these in this way, however, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the world around me. In the PR industry, likewise with marketing, I have learned that we cannot sit on the fence. Opinions are a great thing, and questioning others’ opinions, is also great.

This time next year, I hope to sit again on a flight to London. Although this time, I am not after a seat on the “This Morning” sofa.

Jordan Spry is studying for an MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @jordanspry_

Once upon a placement…

In June 2016 I began my placement in The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London as Regional Communications intern for Disney Channels.

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Writing this now it is hard to believe that it has been four months since I have finished my year-long (AMAZING) placement with Disney and as this is my first ever blog post I thought that an insight into the best year and experience of my life would be a great place to start.

This was my first job in PR and in the beginning I had zero confidence and like most people beginning their placement journey I did doubt my ability and was hyper conscious of doing a good job and completing every task to the very best of my ability. I also had the added worry of moving to London, a city where I didn’t have a network of family or friends. Daunted about the prospect of tubes and the size of London when I first arrived I can honestly say it is an amazing city and living in London has made me more independent person. It is a city I am very glad to have called home for a year.

Looking back I am very proud of myself for taking the plunge as it was the best decision I have ever made.

My role was Regional Communication Intern for Disney Channels and I was across franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.

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The Regional Communications team supports campaigns in Europe, Middle East and Africa. On a day-to-day basis I liaised with PR managers across EMEA – this involved ad hoc requests, distributing assets, setting up phone opportunities with talent, playing a key role in organising asset creation days and talent tours and EMEA coverage reporting.

I was extremely lucky to have such a wonderful team who encouraged me and gave me roles of responsibility throughout my time as an intern. In addition the strong network of interns enhanced the experience even more.

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As the only Irish girl in my department there was a slight language barrier in the beginning and the spelling of my name confused 99.9% of the people I worked with, experiencing more variations on the pronunciation of my name than I can even remember! But my Irish brogue and slang did provide many entertaining moments and laughs I still look back on – explaining an appropriate response to “what’s the craic” being a highlight!

The PR department in Disney is very busy but it is best just to dive right in and learn as much as possible by absorbing all the information you hear and by taking advantage of every experience there is too offer.

My top five placement tips from my time with Disney:disney5

  • Communication

Obvious to start with I know, but good and continuous communication with your managers and supervisors is key to ensure that you complete every task to the best of your ability and to manage your work load.

It is also vital, especially in PR to make contacts and the best way to start that is through effective communication, taking note of who you are communicating with and what you want to achieve.

Throughout this experience I have relied strongly on the ability to communicate effectively whether it be through good interpersonal skills or clarity, focus and accuracy in my writing skills which are the foundations of effective communication in PR.

  • Organisation is key

Without sounding too like Monica in Friends, organisation is Vital. I had my trusty diary and my daily to do list by my side at all times to ensure that I kept up with deadlines and important dates and embargoes. By keeping a diary of key dates and events this ensures that you have a more informed view of what’s happening around you. A placement student that is highly organised with key information on hand stands out.

  • Participate

No idea is ever too small or too silly, as Walt Disney once said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.”disney3

In the beginning I was hesitant to put forward ideas especially in a group context but as the year progressed I began to understand that no idea is a silly idea and that your managers are eager to hear what we as placement students think. Don’t forget we are the social media generation: we are a useful tool to PR practitioners.

  • It is ok to make mistakes

The age old mantra “you learn from your mistakes”. I found this to be very true. Everyone makes mistakes as long as your correct your mistake and learn from it, as one wise person in Disney once said to me, “its PR not ER”.

  • Lots of tea and treats

My wonderful managers had a slight addiction to tea and throughout my year on placement I found that a cup of tea and a biscuit goes a long way especially on a busy day!

New experiences can be daunting and at times quite beastly but just remember, the beauty is that you get out what you put in.

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Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95

Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the placement year plunge

I spent a few days looking for inspiration and thinking of topics for my first ever blog post. I scrolled through Twitter and looked at articles in the news to find something interesting and current to write about, and something that people would want to read. But my mind kept floating back to my placement year. I figured it would be fitting for my first piece of writing as a final year PR student to provide a little bit of background information about me, the year that brought me here and provide some context to thoughts I’ll share in future posts. And as for addressing a specific audience… 2nd year PR students this one’s for you.

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I arrived back in Belfast this summer after completing a year’s placement with the UK Publicity team at Warner Bros. Entertainment UK in London. My mum said to me recently that I “left Belfast a student and came back an adult”. After finishing my first two weeks of 4th year with drive and a determination to work hard and ‘hit the ground running’ I feel like she could be right (after all, mums always are).

I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t get the flight to London for my interview that day dreaming of getting the job. I’m a home bird and even moving to Dublin, nevermind London wasn’t really what I had in mind for the year. In fact, it scared the life out of me. I applied for the Warner Bros placement ‘for the experience’ and as practice for the many applications I planned to fill out for the Belfast placements that were due to be advertised in the following weeks. But nevertheless I found myself boarding the first of my many BFS-LDN flights for the assessment day and consequently saying “Yes please” when my soon-to-be boss called to offer me the position.

Moving away from Belfast was a huge deal for me and having never thought I’d even get the job, the prospect of packing up my life and moving to London was incredibly daunting. But I am a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’. I surprised myself and never looked back!

I am very lucky to have been given the amazing opportunities and experiences I had during my time at Warner Bros. I worked on the publicity campaigns for some of 2016 and 2017s’ biggest films, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemWonder Woman and Dunkirk, and learned from the most amazing people in the industry. I worked at premieres and events that many PR students would dream of being part of. It was a rollercoaster and probably the best year of my life (so far)! I never dreamed I’d be a part of such an amazing team or work on the incredible projects I did. But it is true what they say, you only get out of something what you put in and I worked harder than I have ever worked before.

The good times and captured highlights didn’t come without time, energy, late nights, early starts and a new reliance on caffeine (shout out to Café Nero at Holborn station). Photos on a red carpet were only the end product of what was usually weeks of hard work. But nothing worth having comes easy! I learnt more in those 13 months at Warner than I have in all my years of education combined. Hard work, commitment, resilience and initiative are things they can’t teach you at uni.

As for London life, I loved every bit of it (apart from the central line…avoid at all costs)! As one of Belfast’s biggest fans, it turns out that the best thing I ever did was to spend a year away from it. I embraced every opportunity London threw at me and made the most of everyday in what I believe to be one of the best places in the world!

I couldn’t imagine now not having done my placement at Warner, being the Publicity intern or moving to London. It was the scariest thing I have ever done but among the many things I learned along my placement year journey, is the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself and just going for it. You might think something is not for you, but you’ll never know until you try and you may just surprise yourself!

 

Paula McKay is a 4th year PR student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulamckay55, and on Twitter @paulamck55

 

Survival Guide to University – From a Final Year to a First Year.

This is a guide to help prosperous first year students get the low-down on all aspects of university life.

Let’s start with what you already may have figured out by now – no one is here to hold your hand! Probably the most difficult adjustment I felt when joining university was the strange feeling of being left on your own. For example, on my first day I was clueless about the documentation needed to register, or registering in general.

Of course I wasn’t alone, several friends were as oblivious as I was, if people tell you they know what they’re doing within the first two months – they’re lying… Most people are generally as clueless as you are, they just hide it better!

There may be guides to help you, but they disappear after the first week, the second semester rolls in and just when you think you have a handle on life at the Poly, block 21 appears on your timetable. Don’t bother standing in the mall, ferociously scanning the Jordanstown map with minutes to spare, you’re not going to find it. FYI – it’s in the Dalriada building.

You might think, “Why would a PR student need to venture to a medical building?” Well Freshers, welcome to Jordanstown’s wonderful, questionable, layout; the gift that keeps on giving.

Rest assured there will be days you will sleep in for your 9am lecture after a complete rager with your culchie housemates in the Bot, followed by a house party on Rugby Avenue. Do not do as I did and assume a taxi will take you there promptly – it won’t. In fact you’ll end up 30/40 minutes late and £15 poorer and the taxi will more or less drop you off at the lough and expect you to walk the rest of the way. Speaking of transport, if you’re planning on getting the UniLink, be sure to be there early, the first few weeks are when everyone tries to make an effort, meaning the queue for the bus will be packed.

In your first few weeks of class, suss out who the rich kid is, who has (luckily for you) decided to bring their car, lives in the Holylands and thinks they’re a cut above public transport. They are your first class ticket to free, comfortable journeys to class every day, and save you from the misery of a horrible hangover surrounded by people at 8am on a Goldliner.

Essential side note – when you’re hungover the Spar sausage rolls and a Starbucks caramel latte will be your almighty Saviour.

The final and most important tip to university is to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, unless it’s people trying to sell you roses outside the Bot on a Wednesday. You will never be as carefree and have as little responsibility as you have now. HAVE FUN. No one looks back at their time at university and thinks about all those golden weeks (it is a fantastic achievement though).

First year is all about going on pub crawls around the big smoke, trying new things, meeting different people, and waking up to go to the Hatfield at 11.30am (another one for the culchies). P.S. The Hatfield is not the place to showcase that snazzy pair of Nike trainers you bought when the loan came in, trust me. A half zip and a lanyard with the keys to your swanky new dungeon in Damascus will suffice.

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Purchasing Hatfield merchandise is always a good idea.

P.P.S. – when it comes to the end of the year and house inspections are looming, if you have a bedroom door off the hinges, a light fixture in the kitchen ripped from the ceiling and a broken fire extinguisher, (or any other household damage) the Holylands Handyman Jimmy and some trusty old superglue will save your dignity and of course, your deposit. Thank me later.

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Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What in the world is PR?

Having studied a degree in English and Drama at undergrad level, for my masters I wanted to throw myself into something I had never done before; the world of PR. Public Relations, to my untrained mind – my PR role model being Samantha Jones – was writing press releases, going to fancy events and ‘schmoozing’ clients. From just one lecture I soon realised this certainly is not the case. I will not profess that after just one week on my PR and Communications MSc I am immediately a PR guru, however, I can say that I now know what in the world PR actually is. For me, this image sums it up perfectly…

 

PR-vs-Ad

It is easy to tell someone that something is ‘great’ but getting someone else to say it, is an art form. PR practitioners are utilizing their communications skills to uphold the reputation of companies, big and small. In today’s competitive marketplace, for a business to be successful it must be able to withstand its competition. Look no further than the Ryanair scandal which has dominated social media and the press for the past few weeks. Other airlines have cleverly cashed in on their competitor’s misfortunes…

 

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Alongside my first week at Ulster University, I had the pleasure of hosting my sister’s Hen Party in Edinburgh. I quickly realised that planning a hen party was great experience for my future PR career. From the early stages of planning, my sister was adamant she did not want anything ‘tacky’ at her hen. No inappropriate straws or strippers popping up at any point. My main focus had to be my sister’s reputation, which I can say was very much still intact by the end of the weekend. Although it was gratifying to hear my sister’s admiration for her wonderful hen party, it was even nicer to see her seventeen other hens posting on social media about their fabulous experience.

 

Bride To Be

When I first set out to write this blog I did some online searching for other young PR bloggers to gain some ‘blogsperation’. I stumbled upon Livi Wilkes on twitter (@LiviWilkesPR), and soon became hooked on her blog ‘Live Love Laugh PR’. The first thing that really stood out for me was her advice to gain experience alongside my degree. I immediately got myself into gear and began sending out emails to PR companies in Northern Ireland to generate work experience (which I assume is what most of my class have been doing). To attempt to stand out from the crowd I revamped my CV, making it as aesthetically pleasing as possible using Canva.

As pretty as my CV may be, I recognise that it alone will not get me a job. Having gone straight into a masters from my undergrad, it was daunting to hear the amount of experience my peers have already achieved. I did not let this dishearten me, and in fact, it made me more determined to get my name out there in the world of PR. My twitter newsfeed has gone from Gemma Collins memes to PR companies and bloggers imparting their words of wisdom. A simple follow or like on a company’s post could mean that my name may be remembered.

Basically, as scary as it is to start something completely new, delving into a fresh world can be daunting but exciting. My journey into the big bad world of PR is just starting but I will keep you updated on where it leads me to…

Olivia x

 

Olivia McAleenan is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @OliviaMcAleenan / LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mcaleenan-88774413b /Facebook – Olivia McAleenan / Instagram @oliviamcaleenan

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.

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‘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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Fighting Placement Panic

Right now I am sitting on a bus surrounded by people who are equally as disappointed in the Wi-Fi service as I am. Let’s hope inspiration really does strike in unlikely places.

I’m travelling towards a placement interview and so excitement (and nerves) are running high. For a career in PR, work experience is essential and so degrees that offer placement years are a must. However, trying to find experience can be a gruelling process and a lot of people have the same opinion of trying to find placement.

I know that I’m definitely not the only one starting to feel the pressures of finding a placement so this post is focused on little tips that may help you if you’re anything like me. Keeping on top of what you’ve already done and trying to find the best placement for you can be difficult. Here are just a few tips that I’ve found useful that may help you calm those frayed nerves!Related image

KEEP A LIST 
This may sound simple and tiresome but I can’t stress how helpful it is to keep a list of placements that you have applied for. Even a simple notebook with a list of placements you’ve applied for and the dates you’ve applied can be really useful when you start to feel overwhelmed or have those worrying thoughts like “Should I have heard back by now?” If you keep a note of the closing dates of these placements, you’ll have a better idea of when you should get a response.

COMPANIES HAVE BLOGS TOO
A great way to find out more about a company before you apply for their placement or even to prepare if you’ve been offered an interview is to check whether they have a blog. Lots of companies nowadays have blogs run by employees, graduates or even current placement students detailing what their role is and a bit more on the company culture. For example, Unilever run a great blog that includes posts from placement students! A resource like this can really help you decide whether or not a placement is the right fit.

SEARCH ALL AVENUES
Most universities have an online resource that you can use to find placements that suit you. While this is a great tool it shouldn’t be the only one you use. Websites like http://www.ratemyplacement.com and http://www.glassdoor.co.uk can also be useful in finding possible placement opportunities. They usually also include a review service so you can see immediately how others have fared with this position.

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
It’s so easy to feel inadequate or disheartened when others around you start getting interviews or even offers and you don’t even feel like you’ve started. While it’s not good to be so picky about placements that you don’t apply for anything, you should never apply for a placement that you wouldn’t accept if you got the chance. If you haven’t found one for you and others have that’s fine. Just keep looking and remember that it’s your job to make sure you get the most out of this opportunity as possible.

Hopefully this will help you keep on top of your placement search. I wish you all the best of luck and happy hunting!

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples