How virality is helping activism

This week’s lecture consisted on activism both online and offline. As a class, we had a discussion about the positives and negatives of both, and what attributed to the successes of both methods. We focused in on online activism and arrived at the conclusion that online activism is largely successful because of the possibility of virality.

What is Virality?

Cohen (2013) defines going viral as the sharing of content from one person to another or multiple persons in their social network through the use of the internet and/or mobile technology. Going viral is the modern age word of mouth. It gets people talking, spreading a message about your brand. Helm (2000 cited Woerndl et al. 2008) identified virality as“The internet word of mouth communication” that is a much more capable and effective medium than traditional word of mouth communication.

If you’re curious as to why a video, in particular, goes viral, check out the talk below.

The ability to go viral is of the utmost importance for activist organisations especially ones that may not immediately be on the public’s radar.

Viral is hugely popular because of its cost effective nature and quick dissemination of content. Balter and Butman (2006 cited in Cohen 2013) recognises virality as a cheap, quick and effective method of spreading a message which combines the power of word of mouth marketing and mass communication.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This challenge encouraged users to pour a bucket of ice cold water over their head, then nominate three more people to copy. People all over the world participated in this challenge. The aim of the ice bucket challenge was to raise awareness for ALS  and for participants to donate to the organisation.

Pouring water over your head is in no way connected to what ALS but it worked. Why did it work? Because people felt they were making a change at minimal effort. Forbes state “Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story”. I feel that watching people’s reactions to freezing buckets of water poured on them contributed to the success and virality of the campaign also.

As Forbes said people want to help and the easier it is to do, the more likely it’ll happen. Over 100 million in donations in a single month for ALS because of the ice bucket challenge.



The Rise of Branded Content

Jay Dillon. Inboundly Blog

What is branded content?

Branded content is engaging with an audience without pushing a product or service. Advertisements trying to sell something don’t get people talking about brands, at least not in a positive way and people don’t typically tweet about the next “this is what my product can do for you” advertisement (Whitney-Vernon 2016), but they do tweet in anticipation about a recent, episode of an interesting show. That show doesn’t have to be on television and an hour long. It can be on social media and last for just fifteen minutes. It can be a piece of branded content.

Branded content is based on creating and distributing content with the goal of boosting brand awareness and customer loyalty (Androich 2012). Branded content is also known as branded entertainment and is categorized under content marketing. Joe Pulizza founder of The Content Marketing Institute (cited in Rose 2013) suggests “content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you” but it is not advertising.  Cope (2014) suggests that the line between content marketing and advertising is blurred because of the struggle organisations endure to produce engaging content that doesn’t promote their product. Cope (2014) argues that advertising is a method used to sell a specific product or service whereas content marketing produces engaging, helpful and entertaining content, consistently targeting relevant consumer audiences.

Video is a popular method of branded content, but it is not the only form. It can come in traditional forms of printed magazines like ‘Porter’ devised by fashion website ‘Net-A-Porter’. This magazine can also be found of the website with links embedded for easy navigation. It can also be as simple as producing a weekly blog ‘not’ directly about the product or service directly. Perhaps a car dealership is looking it to engage with customers. They could write a weekly blog giving car tips and tricks. This would be engaging, helpful and entertaining content as (Cope 2014) suggests it should be.

Branded content used a subtle approach to raising awareness about your brand, improving its image and gaining likes and shares (Cope 2014). Cope adds that branded content needs be creative, innovative and worth sharing. Branded content is content that barely mentions its own brand or products (Cope 2014), it is not about the product and product features (Whitney-Vernon 2016).

Advantage for Organisations

Branded content mainly consists of storytelling (Mediative 2015). Brands and organisation must realise to attract their consumer’s interest, they need to create valuable, interesting content (Mediative 2015). Brands must fluidly find a way inside the consumer’s social media (Valero 2014), naturally integrating into their lives. If done successfully, it can lead to a range of benefits for the organisation or brand.

  1. Going viral

Good branded content goes viral (Mediative 2015). BeDell (2012) suggest that by creating worthwhile and interesting content, people are much more likely to spread it. It is natural in this social media driven world to share ideas, and information through social media (Mediative 2015) and sharing worthy and captivating content is no different.

Organisations can also take advantage of new technologies to communicate messages in creative ways (Edelman cited in Caywood 2012), resulting in the possibility of virality leading to an increased awareness for a brand.

  1. Build awareness

Brands are constantly looking for new ways to communicate their products and services to consumers (Valero 2014) and branded content is a subtle way of doing it. Branded content aims to resonate with people on an emotional level (Roberts 2014) and if successful can result in increased awareness for the brand and aid in brand recall (McCoy 2016). Forbes (2016) reported 59% of people that consumed branded content could recall those brands over brands that didn’t use branded content. They also reported consumers were more likely to seek out more content on their own initiative after a single exposure to branded content.

Branded content can be used to “pull people in” (Rose 2013) and since audiences are increasingly willing to accept content from any source, it has become easier to introduce a brand to consumers, as long as it is entertaining and delivers value (Donaton 2009).

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2012) suggests that google and other search engines favour dynamic content thus building awareness through engaging and share worthy branded content. It can increase a brand’s S.E.O rating on the search engine results page. Brown (2009) adds that high rankings can impact the commercial value of a brand significantly as well as increase awareness.

An increase brand awareness is an increase in the number of existing and potential consumers taking note of a brand. The happier they are with a brand and the more value they derive from it, the more likely they are to become brand ambassadors (Collins 2016).

  1. Brand advocacy

Collins (2016) suggests that content marketing can turn customers into prospects if content is interesting, appealing and the consumer can derive value from it, consumers can become ambassadors and advocators for a brand (Sabate et al. 2012).

When consumers that are looking for content, find value, there is a high possibility they will share it on their social media (Collins 2016). These people can influence their peers’ purchasing decisions through sharing and promoting the content on their own social media. Collins (2016) adds it may not seem like a large action to take but this may develop into advocacy for the brand.

It is important to note that branded content not only delivers non-tangible benefits but also physical ones. Producing branded content that is targeted correctly and connects successfully with the target audience can be achieved at a low cost, and if virality ensues, can deliver cost effective benefits for current and future pieces of branded content (Creative Rebellion 2014).

Implications for Professional Communicators

As Whitney-Vernon (2016) suggests, content that focuses on selling your brand does not resonate with the consumer, but instead pushes them away. It is the role of the professional communicator to create content that attracts the consumer.

  1. Focusing on the product

Whitney-Vernon (2016) suggests that millennials know when they are being sold to, adding millennials are the most popular demographic in terms of branded content/marketing. She argues it can cause them to become passive consumers to an organisations content. The fact that they are aware they are being sold to before a product even passes the screen, poses a challenge for marketers and public relations practitioners to promote their organisation without obviously doing so.

Joe Pulizzi (cited in Olenski 2016) speaking about the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, said there was “no single piece of category-defining work” in 2014 and 2015 and despite 1,394 total entries for the ‘branded content and entertainment’ category, no awards were given out. Pulizzi believes it was partly because of the heavy use of product placement throughout the entries, which is not branded content. Professional communicators must be careful that they do not sell or promote the product or service, as Whitney-Vernon (2016) suggests, branded content is not about the product and product features.

  1. Ad blockers

McCoy (2016) suggests that approximately 200 million people worldwide use ad blocking software while online. Holt (2016) adds the increase in new technology has allowed the audience to opt out of advertisements which poses a challenge for the communications professional. McCoy (2016) suggests that branded content is the key to overcoming these ad blockers adding consumers will want to interact and engage with the brand because of good content.

  1. Ongoing pieces of content

Pulizzi (cited in Olenski 2016) feels that an award wasn’t given at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was because “most of the entries submitted were campaign-based and not ongoing editorial pieces of content for an audience”. Branded content should be produced regularly, ensuring that it’s relevant and scheduled to a timetable that the consumer can rely on (Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2012). Communications professionals need to ensure that the branded content they produce is intended to be developed on a continuous basis and not a once of campaign with an end date.

Successful Branded Content

Consumers no longer seek out content and information to engage with, so content must travel to the consumer (Valero, 2014). It is the role of the professional communicator to provide consumers with that content and to ensure it is entertaining and informative on a regular basis.

(Rose 2013) argues branded content possesses the means to attract people to a specific product or service because of meeting a need-state behind the purchase of said product or service by appealing to the lifestyle of the consumer, by appealing to what the consumer wishes to identify with. The best pieces of branded content are those that enable the consumer’s lifestyle; content that is lifestyle-centric rather than product centric (Rose 2013). I wish to discuss two brands that appeal to the lifestyle of the consumer or affect the consumer’s lifestyle in some way: Vans and Dove.

Vans – Living Off the Wall

Vans have produced a documentary project named “Living Off the Wall” which gives us insight into the lives of people who purchase Vans products. Vans are associated with living unconventionally and alternatively which is demonstrated in its roots in skateboarding, “Skateboarders who like Vans’ rugged make-up and sticky sole are seen sporting Vans all over Southern California” (Vans 2016).

Its tagline ‘Off the Wall’ is a “state of mind” (House of Vans London 2014). It embodies thinking differently, embracing creative self-expression and choosing your own life. “Since 1966, Vans has sought to inspire board-riders, musicians, artists and anyone for whom creativity matters as they inspire us and every product we make” (House of Vans London 2014).

The Living Off the Wall documentaries serve many categories of customers ranging from skateboarders and students to musicians and tattoo artists.

Tattoos Are Not Illegal- Living Off the Wall (Vans 2014)

Vans (2014) demonstrates the authentic lifestyles of their users, not staged actors pretending to embody the brand, perhaps these people act as brand ambassadors for Vans. There are no obvious promotional shots of Vans footwear but instead are integrated into the content and lives of their consumers, for instance when the tattooist used his foot to control the tattoo needle, we saw a quick shot of a Vans product. The only obvious promotion of Vans products in their documentaries are short bursts of their logo in the introductory and final scenes and the faded logo in the top right corner of the video.

Vans stand for going against the status quo, encouraging uniqueness and exploring what makes you, you. Vans have produced interesting and entertaining pieces of branded content which demonstrates living off the wall.

Dove – Real Beauty Sketches

Dove has produced videos depicting women self-loathing in an effort to help them realise and embrace their true beauty. Dove has positioned itself as brand that promotes body positivity and embracing natural beauty, “We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realise their full potential.” (Dove 2017).

Dove Real Beauty Sketches – You’re more beautiful than you think (Dove US 2013)

Dove US (2013) features women that describe themselves to a FBI trained forensic artist. He sketches a portrait of the women based on their self-descriptions and how others have described them. He does not meet nor see the women during the encounter. At the end of their sketches, women view themselves as they’ve described themselves compared with how other women described them.

Like the Vans video, there is no obvious brand promotion throughout the video until the end where Dove’s tagline “You’re more beautiful than you think” appears along with the logo. The logo appears on the video still on YouTube on the bottom left, but not in the video itself until the end. Dove has also used real women with real issues about their bodies providing authenticity for the audience watching.

Dove wishes to associate itself with positive body image and does so subtly through the videos they produce. The most recent piece of branded content they have produced features Mothers speaking about their body issues and hoping their children don’t adopt their insecurities (Lazauskas 2014).

Both videos have successfully promoted the brands without obviously doing so to the consumer. They incorporated their personalities and core values into their videos without compromising the quality of the content or damaging the value the consumer could derive.

Devilish Designs by Gina


Devilish Designs by Gina is a small boutique in The English Market on Market Parade, Patrick’s Street, Cork City that sells retro/rockabilly and pin up clothing.

There is a developing body positive culture in Cork City and this boutique caters in clothes from body positive culture. Rockabilly and pin-up clothing embraces curves and natural beauty and typically caters for an alternative lifestyle. I would suggest that this boutique develops a series of documentaries in order to promote the boutique incorporating the Vans and Dove video ideas to create new and interesting piece of branded contents for Devilish Designs by Gina.

I understand that a lot of this boutique’s customers would lead an alternative lifestyle ranging from burlesque dancers to women that play roller derby; women that partake in these activities typically support and promote body positivity. They tend to go hand in hand.

I would urge Devilish Designs by Gina to produce a video featuring their customers telling their story of body positivity, speaking about what it means to them. The customers would also be encouraged to speak about their journey of self-acceptance and give motivational advice for the audience watching appealing to the consumer’s emotions like Dove did. Much like the Vans documentaries, each video could follow the consumer around hobbies or activities they partake in, like the tattoo artist in ‘Living Off the Wall’ incorporating subtle shots products and items from the boutique.

Gina, the owner of Devilish Designs by Gina is out-going, interesting, accommodating and adds to the experience of shopping in the boutique. If she was to take my suggestion, the piece of branded content would not only reflect the brand but also Gina, herself. It would embody the core values of the brand while remaining engaging, entertaining and helpful (Cope 2014), as all pieces of branded content should be.

Effects of the Digital Divide

A person comfortable using electronics. Image from

In today’s society, everything we do seems to drive us online, whether intentional or not. But what if we just don’t want to go online or, what if we can’t? When it’s not possible to access the internet because of 1) geographic reasons or 2) financial reasons, it’s referred to as the Digital Divide ( The Digital Divide: impact on Education).

The digital divide is the term given to gap that exists between people that have access to the internet and digital media and those that don’t (The Digital Divide: scarcity, inequality and conflict). From the definition proposed by The Digital Divide: scarcity, inequality and conflict, the digital divide highlights the problem of accessibility when society needs it.

Writing about a doctor’s online booking system, Ross Clark of argues “Technology has disenfranchised some of the most vulnerable people in society who do not have internet access or who are unable to use it.”. He adds what use is an online booking system for those who are blind, poor or digitally illiterate. Society as a whole are not digitally literate ( explanation in the video below), so why are retailers, educational and financial institutions acting like they are?

What is digital literacy?


Recently I had an issue with my new mobile number and my online banking. I rang the number provided then they directed to my local branch to get my new mobile number verified.  I arrived at the bank, only to be directed to a computer and phone, exactly what I had been doing minutes prior to that. I refused to sit there and repeat what I had just done. A significant amount of time had passed before an employee came back. After explaining what I had been told on the phone numerous times, they finally verified my mobile number. If there were not instructed to send me to a phone and computer upon arrival, my issue would have been resolved a long time ago.

Based on research conducted by The Central Statistics Office, half of Irish people over the age of 60 do not use the internet while 49% of them have never been online ( It’s quite unreasonable that most banking is online when nearly half of the elderly population have never even been online. Older people are being left behind as banking continues to offer more services online.


Michele Hanson recalls an experience when she sought to buy a dress in a physical retail outlet. She was told to go online and order it then pick it up in store ( Hanson continued to protest that she was standing there “with money, wanting to buy it”. She also wanted to “see it, feel it and try it on”. It seems retailers assume everybody has the same access and capabilities to direct their purchasing online but when that isn’t the case, the digital divides ensues. argues that “The physical store is not dead”, that even online-only stores are building physical stores and showrooms for people to interact with. Like Hanson, people want to see, feel and try things before purchasing.

Education  suggests that “It’s essential these days that students are digitally literate.” This can be achieved by ensuring their teachers are comfortable teaching digital literacy but as a social enterprise  CEO John Fitzsimons pointed out ” a lot of teachers are very uncomfortable using ICT because they haven’t been supported,” ( ), but the problem doesn’t just lie with people in education, it affects those wanting to be too. The Digital Divide: impact on Education argues that you need to have access to the internet and have sufficient skills in order to just apply for further education.

I grew up with technology so using the internet to apply for college wasn’t a big deal, in fact, it was expected, but for those who aren’t  digital natives, they must develop their skills in order to keep up or be left behind as the gap of the digital divide widens.



Video games as Social Spaces

Video games were once marketed as places for lone soldiers to “save the vulnerable from inevitable harm” (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). In the 80s/90s, these type of video games were said to be isolating but remained very popular among teenage boys, but now gaming is now perceived as a social, collaborative spaces to communicate with the real world and virtual friends in an online environment (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). Sherry et al. (2001) acknowledge that there has been a shift in how video games are perceived suggesting that “the practice of standing around on the street corner has shifted indoors to video game play”. It seems Sherry et al. are suggesting that players are now opting to meet and chat with their friends in a virtual context rather than a real one (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games).

The Video Game Player’s Social Network

Video game console controller. Hand using the controller
Video game controller. Image from Pexels

Newman argues that significant supportive and non-confrontational social networks have been derived from online gaming  (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). Users are freed from societal pressures and tradition, feeling more comfortable and confident with online interactions rather than face to face ((A) Social Reputation). Players are also communicating with, and praising each other in game play. It is suggested not all video games are isolating, solitary experiences (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games).

A player’s social network often helps with ideas and tips when a player is ‘stuck’ in a game like locating a secret door (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). The player’s social network is also important for sharing and trading knowledge about game play; an important aspect contributing to social interactions taking place among video game users. Game users learn, develop and improve skills from watching others in their social network play the game (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games), promoting social interaction among the gaming community. At this point, online gaming can be treated as a social space allowing users interact with each other and share knowledge and ideas.

It is understood that social interaction takes place in online gaming environments, but it poses the questions, why there? What are gamers benefiting from, that the real world doesn’t provide?

Why choose online environments over real ones?

“Internet-based social spaces have come to be branded as ‘pseudo communities’ that provide a superficial sense of social support and displace the time that could be spent fostering meaningful offline relationships” (Playing for Social Comfort). Research on social interaction and friendship formation has indicated that there are two types of social ties that may contribute to our understanding of why players opt for online friendships: 1) feeling informed or inspired by each other and 2) emotional support and understanding (The Social Side of Gaming).

Jane McGonigal in the talk above suggests that people are better at games than we are at reality, which may be a factor as to why some people choose online over reality. She adds that gaming provides constant feedback, either from the game or your social network, which coincides with the point of feeling inspired and supported as mentioned in (The Social Side of Gaming)

McGonigal believes ‘we like people better when we play games with them’ while some users believe the virtual world allows them achieve things they can’t achieve in the real world. A virtual world allows users believe they, themselves are capable of cultivating and managing friendships (Playing for social comfort). Perhaps this may be the answer to why some people have opted for online friendships in game play. Playing online may allow the adoption of an alter ego where they user believe they can achieve anything, where everything is possible.

Public Information Campaigns


Public Information Campaigns (PICs) aim to influence behaviour to bring about a societal change like to smoking cessations or road safety campaigns (PR Today).  For this purpose of this assignment, I chose campaigns that highlighted the top issues affecting men and women in 2017.


“Man Up” 2014 was the third phase of the Man Up Campaign devised by Safe Ireland in 2013 and was developed to highlight the positive role men can play in ending domestic violence against women.

I will also look at “This Girl Can” 2017 campaign funded by the National Lottery and commissioned by Sport England which encouraged women to get active in sport and exercise, promote body positivity and challenge stereotypes.

Man Up



The purpose of the third phase of the Man Up campaign was to show that men can positively influence the lives of women and children around them. There has been a lot of negative perceptions about men and domestic violence. To fight the negative perception, Safe Ireland wanted to show that men can play an important role in ending domestic violence.


  • End domestic violence against women and children
  • Challenge negative stereotypes of men and enforce the idea that man can be positive role models.
  • Raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence
  • Raise money for Safe Ireland.

Campaign Strategies and Messages

This strategy employed in this campaign was to use real men as a method of ending domestic violence. It also enlisted Irish influencers to spread awareness of the campaign. It was a much more positive approach to tackling domestic violence by focusing on men as role models rather than abusers.

The campaign sought to end domestic violence against women by targeting men and portraying them and positive role models and careers.


Campaign Title

A subtle but interesting message of the campaign was enlisting the destructive term “Man Up”, the title of the campaign and using it to take action against violence.

Safe Ireland transformed the term Man Up from a phrase used to insult men to a phrase used to empower and encourage them to stand up for women and children.


UFC MMA athlete Cathal Pendred approached Safe Ireland as he wished to get involved with the Man Up campaign to help raise awareness about the issue and the role men can play in ending domestic violence.


Man Up partnered with respected Irish musician Hozier to promote the campaign. Hozier’s song Cherry Wine highlights the issue of domestic violence with its accompanying video starring an injured and hurt Saoirse Ronan. Hozier has dedicated the proceeds of Cherry Wine iTunes downloads to the respective charities of the country the download was made. Safe Ireland is the Irish recipient of those proceeds.

Photography Exhibition

Safe Ireland worked with Galway-based Italian photographer Andrea Zipoli to highlight the positive role men have in the lives of women and children. Zipoli produced a series of photos capturing moments in which men are supportive, encouraging and kind. Each photo was captioned to include one sentence describing what the man in the photo has promised to do.


A website was designed and implemented as part of the Man Up campaign and is the primary information source. There is advice on how to get involved with the campaign and how as man you can help make Ireland a safe place for women and children. The video is also embedded on the website as well as the photographs from Andrea Zipoli’s exhibition.

An interesting feature of the website in an incorporated “Quick Escape” button that brings the user on to the google homepage giving users who view the page a quick escape perhaps in the case their abuser happens to walk in on them.

quick escape

Posters with various men were also produced to help raise awareness about the campaign.

Social Media

Safe Ireland focused on targeting men through social media and ran campaigns with, and benchwarmers which included page take-overs and wallpapers, promotion on Facebook and Twitter as well as editorial pieces and promotion from Facebook ads were also used and targeted specifically at men.

The hashtag #faceuptodomesticviolence was employed by Safe Ireland and Hozier to aided in promoting the organisation through the hashtag driving traffic to the website and starting a conversation around domestic violence.


Safe Ireland took advantage of the upcoming general election and lobbied politicians to include strategies to end domestic violence in their manifestos.


Based on the above stats, it’s clear that the Man Up campaign has been successful if we are to look at its reach but it is difficult to ascertain if the campaign succeeded in ending domestic violence as some sufferers may not come report abuse.

The success of the campaign speaking to men about the role they can play is unclear as most social media reactions involved women supporting women. Perhaps there’s still a stigma attached to men publicly speaking about domestic violence that could be examined, despite the work of the campaign.

This Girl Can



This Girl Can is a celebration of active women who are getting involved in exercise overcoming the fear of judgement about their physical appearance and how they look while doing it. “This Girl Can” follows on from the success of the 2015 campaign featuring real women who “sweat and jiggle”.


  • Encourage women to get active
  • Promote body positivity among women
  • Tell the real story of women who exercise and play sport

Campaign Strategies and Messages

The strategy employed in this campaign was to use real women to tell their stories of why they are involved in sport and exercise. The campaign shows a variety of women of all nationalities and sizes telling why they got involved primarily through video.

The campaign seeks to promote the benefits of getting involved in exercise and sport by promoting body positivity and challenging negative stereotypes.


Video Ad

The video featured various women of the UK participating in sport and exercise. The video features the voice of Maya Angelou (a civil rights activist and poet who passed away in 2014) reciting her poem “Phenomenal Women” while clips of different women in various sports are played through.

Sport England also developed mini-documentaries about all the women featured in the video and hosted them on their website via their YouTube channel.


The website was the hub of activity for the campaign where users could find stories, videos and suggestions on how to active and involved with the campaign. It listed sports and fitness classes available in London which was the location of the video accompanied with a list of questions and answers about getting involved like the benefits associated with it and what sort of equipment needed.  There also a section on the website that featured Instagram posts from real women to help people get inspired to exercise.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram were the main channels used in this campaign. The hashtag #thisgirlcan was used across their social media channels to encourage easy navigation of users posts and join the conversation. Users posts on Instagram that had the hashtag were featured on the website in the feel inspired section.

get inspired
Shot of feel inspired section on website

User- Generated Content

The campaign encouraged women to get involved and share their stories and photos. They developed an app where users uploaded an image of themselves participating in sport or exercise and attached a pre-determined slogan to it. They were then given the option to share the image on social media and download it.



It is evident that this campaign was successful as it achieved its goal of getting more women involved in sport and exercise. It was mainly executed through online channels with its focus centred on video and user generated content.


“Man Up” aimed to influence a group of people whereas “This Girl Can” wanted to influence individual people.

Both campaigns utilised similar tactics in order to promote the message to different target audiences. “Man Up” used video to reach men with the help of an influencer from a male dominated sport associated with aggression and strength to get men’s attention. “This Girl Can” also used video as part of their campaign but with real women instead of influencers.

Both campaigns focused on similar and contrasting public relations tactics demonstrating the versatility and the extent of which PR can be used to achieve organisational objectives.

The Web Has Changed News Forever

The web changes news forever. News production and consumption have been affected because of the web and new technologies. Professional communicators must reconsider how they issue news, how they keep track of it and most importantly how they engage with their audience. Communication is no longer a one-way system, consumers are no longer data dumps for news outlets. People have opinions, voices, and they want to be heard.


How New Media Differs from Old Media

“We’re in the midst of a communications upheaval” (Brown 2009)

Image Credits:


Brown (2009) suggests that new media is far richer and more complex than traditional media which provides platforms for traditional media to add their content to and reach a larger and different audience. New Media is a platform for frequent updates and engagement with audiences. Old media was a one-way communication of news dissemination. Grunig (2009) agrees with Brown stating the internet has empowered key publics in a revolutionary way. He continues to say people are less constrained by information provided by traditional media or by information given by organisations through the media. He adds that when new media was first introduced, it was used incorrectly; it was used in the same way old media was used, like television was used like radio was. People were reading words instead of utilising the visual aids available to them.


We Want It and We Want It Now                          

Traditional Media lacks immediacy ( Rusell Powell 2009 cited in Grunig 2009) while new media has made news generation almost instantaneous, an interview with Eoin English of the Irish Examiner has revealed. Robert McNamara of the Cork Evening Echo was also interviewed and reported that “getting news first has become more important than getting it right” which has led to a decrease in reporting standards across some social media platforms

The internet and social media means that waiting for information and news is a thing of the past. If a webpage or social media app takes too long to load or navigate, we close it down and move on to the next option. It’s quite the same for organisations too. They have news and want to tell us now, especially before the next big thing steals their moment in the limelight. In light of this, the humble press release may not be the best option anymore.

Brown (2009) suggests a new press release: the social media release. This is essentially a press release, but is used on social media. It can be used instead of a press release or in conjunction with it. The social media release allows consumers to receive information in an interesting way while allowing organisations release information in a timely manner. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) implied a similar theory  but insists the infographic is the new press release, as the majority of the population are visual learners. A study conducted in the Institute of Technology, Tralee dictated that 40% of its surveyed population were visual learners with the remaining 60% divided among the other learning styles: kinesthetic or a combination of the other four senses (Burton et al.2007). The National Learning Network (2012) states visual learners learn best by seeing information in many colours, formats, images, pictures, diagrams and charts. A visual representation of an organisations information may lead to stronger recall traits of within their audience.

Embargos still exists despite new media but in a different way. Instead of the traditional embargo, we place one ourselves through scheduling apps like Hootsuite. The main exception here is that you can adjust the release date and time, if needed.

Content is King and We, Are the Kings
Photo from

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) declares “we are all content curators” while Grunig (2009) adds “anyone can now be a journalist”. English states “everyone has a camera in their pocket (on their smartphone), and can publish their own content online through various platforms, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.” The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines content curators as “the process of analysing and sorting web content and presenting it in a meaningful and organised way around a specific theme.” (Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009

New Media has introduced a sense of inflated sense of self important that was absent in traditional media. We believe we are the ones to capture and break the news on social media and why not? We have the skills and capabilities to do so.

Blogging can quite easily be thought of as a form of journalism but it isn’t. They have similar characteristics like writing about themes and telling stories but there’s a crucial difference, credibility (Brown 2009). Published journalists are successful because of their credibility Their work is moderated and checked before hitting the shelves and their sources must be accurate. There is no such control system with bloggers and blogging, no editors or publishers to moderate the content.

The Impact Web has had on Traditional Media

“Consumers watch what they want, not what they’re fed” (Rob Brown 2009)

There’s no denying that web has made a significant impact on traditional media. McNamara suggests the practice of journalism is changing but”print will remain a niche product and not die out”. McNamara feels that there is a new wave of journalism coming that will require journalists to be in a story through several different mediums like text and video all a once.

Television needed to adapt quickly to compete with other information sources like laptops and phones. Brown (2009) argues that television had to adjust to allow customers be more flexible. We choose what we want to watch and when, whereas traditional media controlled that for us. Improvements in technology now allows us to pause, rewind and record our T.V programmes so by the time we get around to catching up, it’s yesterday’s news. How traditional has combated this is by using hashtags on Twitter. Dual viewership is a popular thing where people watch and tweet simultaneously. They encourage people to tweet the shock moments as they happen and engage in live debate (Brown 2009)

Radio has also suffered because of the web. Although it remains popular, it seems people just don’t have the time or they just don’t chose to listen to it. We can watch television instead, browse the internet for our news or just listen to music.  Brown (2009)  states that radio has become podcast. This is predominately to allow for flexibility. It is now customary  for radio talk shows such as morning talk shows to record and upload as podcasts that day. As well as the flexibility element, podcasts are cheap and easy to produce and some people may opt for a podcast over a radio show as their first choice.

New media’s influence on our news cycles and consumption

“It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure” Clay Shirky (Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009)

It’s no surprise that when and where we consumer our news has changed. We have a lot more power over when we choose to consumer and what exactly we consume, but sometimes it’s quite possible we have no control over it at all.

 Who’s really in control?

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) suggests that digital culture is a filter

Image credits:

culture implying everything we see online has been filtered either by ourselves to our own tastes or by an external source but Clay Shirky ( cited in Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009) argues that it isn’t the vast amount of information that overwhelms us, it’s the inability to filter. This statement remains quite true but we have found means and ways to control our news consumption either by self imposed filters or external ones.


Self-imposed filters allow us take control of the news we consume and can be found all over social media including Facebook and Twitter. Facebook allows us to block news source we don’t wish to see and favourite those we do. Twitter is similar as we can enable push notifications on certain accounts and block others. Twitter also allows us to customise what we see every day by composing lists compiled of a person’s preferred news sources all in one feed.

Another self-imposed filter are word filters, mostly used to avoid spoilers of popular T.V shows. In this way, we can filter what news reaches us and what we chose to avoid. This can be quite problematic for public relations and journalists.

External filters are those imposed upon us like Facebook’s news algorithm. Constine (2016) explains in an article on Techcrunch that the more a user interacts with an author’s post the higher the likelihood of wanting to see more of their content in the future. Presently, it can be summed as sources you frequently interact with have a higher chance of being seen organically in your news feed.

Wake up, check phone, repeat

McNamara of the Cork Evening Echo proposes that the web has created a 24 hour news cycle. English of the Irish Examiner offered a similar thought adding that it has made news production and consumption a 24 hour process.

Our news consumption cycles have changed. Drastically. No longer are the days where we waited till morning to hear what was new with the world. We are no longer glued to T.V screens or sitting next to radios to keep up with current affairs. Now it’s all within our hand.

I recently attended an event about turning likes into customers where Eoin Kennedy of Zone Digital spoke about the impact mobile was having on consumers and retailers. He stated phones have moved from our ears to our hands. We no longer use mobile phones as actual phones but as mini computers, where news from all over the world is just at the touch of a button.

Hern (2005) reported in The Gaurdian “smartphones are the third most popular way of accessing the internet while two thirds of adults own a smartphone”. News is mobile, like us. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) suggests that there is a need for media and news organisations to be more flexible for consumers. We no longer sit down with a coffee reading the daily newspaper but instead opt for scrolling with our thumbs while we adjust to being awake.

Below is a video about the impact twitter has had on journalism, addressing the changing new cycles,production and consumption.

The Implications for Professional Communicators

“If the social media are used to their full potential, I believe they will inexorably make public relations practice more global, strategic, two-way and interactive, symmetrical or dialogical and socially responsible.” (Grunig 2009)

Public Relations used to be an asymmetric, one way communications system,but now it’s vital to engage with and respond your audience.

Brown (2009) suggests a major challenge for the public relations industry is the fragmentation of media. There is an increased number of news channels to choose from to disseminate news and to find it. The web gives us access to news all over the world, and with media fragmentation it means professional communicators need to be creative with how to reach people because of much narrower targeting.

Brown also suggests relinquishing control as a big implication for the public relations industry. News is no longer reported by the journalist as previously explored, but by the ordinary person. PR Professional needs to extend their contacts beyond journalists to ensure maximum reach which includes media relations with social media influencers also.

Social media is quickly becoming a core channel for communications professionals to use for disseminating information. Gillen et al. (2008) conducted a research study, New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations and reported social media tools are becoming more valuable to public relations activities adding some people surveyed suggest social media is a core element of their communications strategy.

One of the most difficult implications for professional communicators is delivering on the need for instantaneous
communication. The pressure and workload increases as the communicator is expected to be a jack of all trades and deliver quality writing, photographs and video as well and optimising online content (Robert McNamara).

The web really has changed news forever and the only way to keep up with it is to continuously scan the environment of which you’re in and learn and develop skills on a regular basis.

jack of all trades
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Is Stealing Property Okay? Are Hackers Heroes?

Photo by Jason Csizmadi

Hackers were once looked upon as creative, fun and would you believe it, innocent as researched in my previous blog ‘Hacking: The Art of Trickery’. But now we view hackers as mischievous, self-righteous and sometimes criminal. Traditional hackers were once seen as unsung heroes but what about modern day ones?

Hackers Vs Crackers

The above documentary shows clips from the likes of Steve Wozniak (founder of Apple) discuss what being a hacker is. Their perception of a hacker was somebody that “hacked at a keyboard” until the programme functioned as they wanted it to. People that used those skills for illegal purposes to ‘crack’ a system were called ‘crackers’ like anonymous which represent today’s perception of a hacker.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a hacker as  “a person who uses computers to gain unauthorised access to data. In the contrary, they also give an informal definition of a hacker as “an enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user” which is more in-line with what traditional hackers were.

The above video ‘Hackers-Wizards of the electronic Age’ suggests traditional hackers hacked for the love of it. They want to explore, create and share their interests and discoveries in order to help the community. They believed in open source software that allowed users have control over the programme. Hacking was an obsessive hobby that traditional hackers wanted to share with everybody. Traditional hackers who shared this idea shared the four freedoms as suggested by Richard M Stallman below.

Stallman suggests Freedom 0 allows users to use the programme as they wish to work on a project. Freedom 1 dictates the ability to study the work in the best way possible, be it studying the source code or changing it. Stallman suggests that the two above freedoms allow individual people to adapt the software to their needs but individual control alone is not sufficient. Freedom 3 suggests individuals need the freedom to redistribute exact copies with freedom 4 allowing users to redistribute modified versions to allow for group co-operation.  Stallman argues that traditional hackers operated on freedom 4, sharing their findings and programmes with the wider community to learn and benefit from. Are traditional hackers heroic for sharing discoveries with the community? Should information be free and accessible to everybody in order to learn, grow and develop?

Popular hacking group ‘Anonymous’ seem to think so. Anonymous initially started out  as ‘trolls’ which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as “people that intentionally leave annoying messages on the internet in order to get attention or cause trouble.” In recent years, they have grown into a larger organisation with hidden IP addresses and faces covered by Guy Fawkes masks as portrayed in ‘V for Vendetta‘. Their values are not quite clear but they have seemed to grow into an activists organisation fighting for moral causes. Does this make them heroic?

Who are the Real Heroes?

Both traditional hackers like Richard M Stallman and modern day hackers like Anonymous are heroic in their own ways.  Traditional hackers promote open source programmes to allow people learn and develop their own programmes (Hackers-Wizards of the electronic Age).  A lot of programmes we have today wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for the hacking pioneers of the web world like Steve Wozniak and Apple. They were the heroes behind today’s inventions.

If I was to directly compare the traditional sense of what a hacker is to modern-day hacking groups like Anonymous, modern hacking groups must be villainous. They seem to be power hungry and self-serving. According to their activity in recent years, it seems their values have shifted from trolling to fighting for moral causes.

Screenshot from above video by Mashable

Anonymous now seem to work to expose corruption and help fight the injustices of the world. A lot of projects they participate is are illegal like stealing confidential information (Dailymail). But when they vow to fight the likes of ISIS (, can we really condemn them for trying to help the world? It’s clear they’re not helping the world like traditional hackers did with open sharing of code, but they are sharing something, and helping someone.

It seems society has altered what’s acceptable in our minds. In the past, hacking to steal private information was frowned upon by most everybody, but if it’s for the greater good, is it all that bad? Are Anonymous the heroes we initially didn’t want, but now need?

Hacking: The Art of Trickery

Image from Erik Vloothuis

It is now week 4 and we are really delving into our cyber-culture with this weeks topic: Hacking. Hacking is in no way a new idea or phenomenon. Jon Erickson in Hacking: The Art of Exploitation defines a hacker as a term used to describe those that write code and those who exploit it adding that these two groups have different end goals, their techniques are similar, while The Jargon File cited in the Newyorker suggests a hacker is “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary” Since then, it has grown its own subculture and with it introduced an underground hacking conference “Def Con”.

‘Hacking’ is no longer used as an umbrella term for people that ‘ explore details of programmable systems’ (Newyorker), it has become more nuanced than that showing an understanding that there are different types of hackers: black, white and grey hat three colours are the names given to the types of hackers in the hacking spectrum.

Howtogeek addresses the three categories suggesting black hat hackers hack with malicious intent and for personal gain such as stealing credit card information. White hat hackers are the opposite and use their abilities for good, ethical and legal reasons. They tend to specialise in this area and get hired to test the company’s security. Grey hat hackers are a mix of the both black and white hat hackers. They don’t hack for personal gain but do not have permission to do so. They attack a network but not for illegal or malicious intent, they do so to alert organisations to the fault in their security systems. This occurred when Khalil Shreateh discovered a flaw in Facebook’s security and tried to alert them to it. Shreateh was not listened and continued to hack past Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy settings showcasing the glitch he found (

There are many reasons as to why hackers choose to do what they do. Tim Jordan in Hacking: Digital Media and Technological Determinism suggests some people hack for reasons like politics, autonomy and fun, but more often than not it’s about making a difference in the world. He suggests that there are two different types of hackers; those who act like engineers and those who act like bandits.

Hacking, a Godly Affair?

Hacking can be seen as tricking in one sense, and can be traced back to the trickster gods as Svetlana Nikitina in Tricksters of the Digital Age: Creativity in Hacker Culture stated that trickster gods such as Hermes existed to challenge us and prepare us for deceit. Nikitina suggests that hackers may see themselves as divine, skilful beings that exist to challenge and find faults in security networks, especially grey-hat hackers who test systems just to make their flaws visible.

While researching this topic, I came across the term social engineering; a term I have heard used before but did not quite understand. Christopher Hadnagy in Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking defined social engineering as:

“the act of manipulating a person to take an action that may or may not be in the “target’s” best interest. This may include obtaining information, gaining access, or getting the target to take certain action.”

Manipulation typically includes trickery and deception a lot like hacking. After studying Nikitina in Tricksters of the Digital Age: Creativity in Hacker Culture and hacking as a global term and social engineering, deceit and manipulation are common terms.Perhaps one influences the other or has come about as a result of one?

If you wish to further your understanding of the link between hacking and trickery, you watch the two-minute video below to see how quick a hacker broke into someone’s personal phone account at hacker conference Def Con.

“Trickster gods defy our expectation of divine benevolence and challenge us to be prepared for deceit and pranks as part of the god’s exercise of creative powers.” – Svetlana Nikitina

Liberating the Internet

For this week’s blog entry, I would like to discuss an idea proposed by political activist Wael Ghonim. He suggested the idea in the below video when speaking about the Arab Spring and the role social media played in the Egyptian revolution.

Social media and the internet are the building blocks of our society. We co-exist with it as explored in my previous blog “Your Second Self- Being In Two Places at Once“. It has many uses such as connecting with old and new friends, sharing photographs and even breaking a news story. Wael Ghonim used social media for a different purpose. He used it to start a revolution.

Wael Ghonim anonymously created a Facebook page which helped spark the Egyptian revolution. The voiceless were given a voice. Ghonim goes on to state that social media was a tool used to unite people and topple dictators but eventually tore the united apart.

Ghonim said in an interview with The World Post that “Social media is redistributing political power. It gave people the power to develop networks, organise actions and exchange information at scale in a short period of time”. Social Media has the ability to bring people together to further a cause which in Wael Ghonim’s case was to overthrow Egypt’s political dictators.

Image from Pixabay

To liberate the internet means an open discussion on social platforms without being shut down or your opinion muted. You could argue that this already happens. People all over the world have opinions on all sorts of topics including newsworthy pieces and satirical articles. From a quick glance all is at it seems but there is a hidden darker side.

The internet is used to fuel conversations of hate and prejudice against all and anything it can get its hands on, including race, gender and occupation. The hashtag #blacklivesmatter represented a group of people standing up for themselves against police brutality. But to some, this was perceived as an attack on their skin colour and the hashtag #alllivesmatter was born. The internet gave people the freedom to stand up for themselves  but it also propelled a storm of negativity. allowing conversations descend into angry mobs.

Think Like Me

Ghonim spoke with The World Post about his endeavor to liberate the internet stating,

“Part of the Internet is being held captive by the less noble aspects of our human behavior. Today’s social media currency is likes, shares and retweets. This is how we are rewarded for our contributions. We are defined by the number of followers we have. We are participating in a never-ending popularity contest.”

We seek out echo-chambers to confirm and validate our opinions, to get those likes, shares and retweets. Echo chambers are essentially versions of group-think where we look for like minded people to agree with us.The internet in it’s current state does now allow for opposing views. We search for people that share our opinion and dismiss people that don’t agree with us.

Wael Ghonim’s intention to liberate the internet means to free it from all the negativity and disruptive behavior it brings. To let it be a place where thoughtful conversations take places not just a platform for news to be broadcast. He wants to promote discussion and a platform for conflicting opinions without the fear of harsh retaliation. He wishes to promote thoughtful and respectful conversations in a civilicised manner. Ghonim is in no way suggesting that we must all agree with each other but that we must voice our opinions in a constructive civilized manner.

We seem to have entered a world online where we perceive ourselves as the one true opinion. We have developed a sense of inflated self-importance where we talk at each other. In order to liberate the internet and take away it’s hold on us, we need to create meaningful conversation and talk with each other.

“Today I believe if we want to liberate the society, we first need to liberate the Internet.” – Wael Ghonim





Your Second Self – Being in Two Places at Once

Photo Credit to Jason Howie

Social media was the topic of this week’s lecture. A very interesting topic we came across was the idea of “a second self”. Anybody that has a social media footprint has a second self. It’s the digital you. The you, you present to the online world.

Amber Case in the video below presents the idea that there are two versions of ourselves. One is present in the real world and one resides online.

Amber Case in the video below presents the idea that there are two versions of ourselves. One is present in the real world and one resides online.  We do no exist alone in one world anymore, we exist in two.

Case suggests that we are all now cyborgs. She defines a cyborg as “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”. A new environment for which we have adapted to in this case is the digital realm. The “exogenous components” that have been added are mobile phones. They allow real-time communication in line with what is expected of a savvy social media user. Case suggests that we’ve added exogenous components to allow us to connect with a different environment. We’ve added mobile phones to our bodies to connect with the digital realm. We’ve become cyborgs in order to extend our mental selves.

Our second selves are our presence on the internet. Anybody that has a social media account has a second self. Like we present ourselves in the real world, we must now manage the second version of ourselves on the internet too!

Managing Your Second Self

Managing our second selves isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. It isn’t always a true reflection of somebody’s “first self”. It’s no secret that we usually only post the best things about ourselves online. The Independent speaking about social media reports

“We use these outlets to present a false picture of our lives to the online community; with flattering selfies and faux-glamorous images of holidays, parties and meals”

This is especially common on Facebook and Instagram. As modern day cyborgs, social media is an integrated part of our existence and we are not immune to its negative effects- feelings of anxiety, isolation and low self-esteem. (The Independent).

study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that social media makes us depressed but argues that social media only exacerbates existing issues stating that many users turn to social media to fill a void. The study concluded social media is significantly linked with increased depression but is not necessarily the cause.

Despite this study, people turn to Instagram for inspiration to get fit ( and sometimes develop body dysmorphia and eating disorders because of a distorted view of what’s reals real and attainable, but frequently, these “inspirational” images are because of good lightimillie-smithng and the right angle.

Luckily there are plenty of people exposing these distorted, fake images like Instagram user Millie Smith . Millie Smith exposed fake transformation photos in order to promote body positivity as reported by positive online community Hello Giggles.

Twitter does not escape the parade of negativity. It’s easy to be misunderstood when you need to fit everything you want to say in 140 characters or less, which happened in the case of Justine Sacco. She was going on a long flight to Africa and made a joke about America’s privilege but it was gravely misunderstood (


Justine Sacco’s second self was scorned and sent threats because of one tweet. She was away from social media for the duration of her  16-hour flight to Africa and could not manage the damage her second-self was causing.

Sacco was ultimately fired from her job as a public relations professional due to mismanagement of her second-self and perhaps her sense of humour. She intentionally tweeted to her followers who understand Justine’s humour but she had no idea one retweet could do this much damage to her real life.

I feel the the line between our second selves and our real selves (first selves) is blurring. More and more often, what we do online feeds through into our real lives and has a profound affect. The same applies vice versa. If a real life action happens, it follows into our online lives through other cyborgs granting the instance possible virality and a permanent status on the internet.

Our modern society is built upon panic architecture. It instills the need to constantly check our social media accounts for updates and notifications. Those who do not see themselves as a target to this architecture, does not not mean they do not fall victim to it. Panic architecture urges us to obsessively check and monitor our social media. Some like to believe that it is possible to escape this phenomenon but if work against, if we don’t fight this compulsion, we too could fall victim to the wrath of the blurred line between our second and first selves.