If you’re a Leeds Met student and have made it to campus over the past week you’ll have failed to notice that the Student Union Elections are back in full swing. The halls are filled with posters, candidates accost you while you’re trying to get a coffee, and you keep getting invited to join events and fan pages on social media.
Voting for the elections opens tomorrow and tonight is the final question time offering you the opportunity to speak to the candidates for President, VP Education and Faculty Officers. So there’s plenty of time still to decide who you want to represent you.
Why is it important to vote?
Bearing in mind that students fitting into the 18-24 year old category are the most likely to be non-voters in general elections, then why would they want to vote in a university election?
One answer: you will see the impact. Sometimes it can be easy to be unaware of the student union activities if you’re not that involved in university life, but this team is responsible for representing you. They are responsible for ensuring that Leeds Met students are getting a fair deal from the University, employers and landlords.
They run a number of campaigns and services, including an advice service available to all students that can help with financial, housing and academic problems.
If you are not aware of the things that the union are doing, ask yourself why. Is it because you are not being adequately represented? And if that’s so, then doesn’t it make it even more important to vote for your representative.
View the dedicated Leeds Met Student Union Elections page to find out more about the candidates and how you can vote.
But I’m a final year – why should I care?
I posed this question to the candidates via Twitter. If I’m not going to be at the university next year then why should I be bothered about who runs the student union?
Josh Chandler – standing for VP Activities – responded with a blog post that I recommend you read here. His opinion was that final year students shouldn’t care about the elections. The SU cannot engage the entire student population, but should be considerate of all their needs. I think it’s a good answer, and one that demonstrates a realistic outlook and understanding that the union must prioritise engaging the students who need it, therefore maximising its ability to meet the requirements of all students.
If I receive any further responses I’ll update this post.
Let me take you back two years ago, February 2012. I had just secured a role as a Communications Assistant for a year placement as part of my degree. This was the beginning of a journey of ups and downs and more lessons learnt than in the entirety of my previous education. After completing the year I would, without doubt, recommend a placement year to anyone considering it.
While the things I learnt and the ways in which I developed are countless, I thought I’d count 5 of them! My top lessons are below.
1) Learning never stops
It’s almost comforting to realise that your education doesn’t stop when you accept your degree certificate.
Everyone I worked with was on a continuous development plan, which included training and the opportunity to take career enhancing opportunities. This included courses, internal training, and professional qualifications.
I was also offered training to enhance my job-related skills and improve my job ability. In addition to this I had the opportunity to meet with a mentor to help me perform at my best.
Every industry requires their staff to remain up-to-date and well trained. The learning doesn’t stop when you finish school, and it’s exciting to think of how I will continue to develop in the future.
2) The inner workings of your industry
When you are submerged into an organisation you cannot help but absorb knowledge about its industry and how the business works.
I finished the year with a confident knowledge of how my organisation produces, markets and distributes our products and services. I also learnt about other areas of the business, including regulatory functions, advocacy, public affairs and so much more.
I left the organisation knowing I could confidently discuss industry issues with experts and novices alike!
3) Internal networking
Previous to my placement I had experience working in small organisation, it was quite a jump moving to a large global organisation. Even our regional head office of about 200 felt huge!
I learnt a lot during the year about how to effectively network internally. Identifying who I need to talk to, and how best to get their help!
This might seem like a small skill, but when you’re trying to work on issues that range from needing to talk to people in your office, or in your European office, or even the global HQ, it could all get a bit confusing. And at first, a little daunting! But of course, in that situation, you pick it up quickly!
4) University makes sense
This was something I realised when I returned to Leeds, suddenly the things we were doing made sense when compared to the working world.
Sometimes the books can feel distant from real life, and the classroom doesn’t always seem relevant. However, the placement year helped me to understand how the skills I was learning slotted into my future career! My placement helped me appreciate my course more than ever before.
5) Where will you be in the future
Everyone’s placement year is unique, and the lessons people take from them are very different. Some people go on placement and find themselves doing a role they love. Others find out that they’re interested in something else.
You also discover a lot of your key strengths and areas where you’re most comfortable. All of which are useful when trying to make important career decisions.
For myself, my year cemented in my mind the role I want to perform, and the career path I need to take. It’s very exciting, and I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t taken a placement year.
If you’re considering a placement year, I would definitely recommend it. The lessons you learn won’t be the same, but the year will help you with your course and to make decisions about your future.
There’s a buzz in the air, or should that be a fluttering of wings? Anticipation is high for Twitter’s initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s got the people in finance excited, but should the people in communication also care?
The plan, as it’s currently understood, is to sell 70 million shares in order to raise over $1 billion. At this point Twitter will change, it has to change because it will have gained one new very important stakeholder to answer to, its shareholders.
Shareholders demand power and influence, and they’ve paid for it. If they’re funding a company they expect to see returns, and this could mean big changes for a company, like Twitter, which has never made a profit.
To understand what may change, let’s look at Facebook. It’s been nearly a year and a half since Facebook’s stock market launch, and in this time the company has worked on ways to make money. As a regular user you may notice your Facebook feed is no longer exclusive to your chosen people and products, but now includes a number of sponsored or suggested posts. Adverts are also an area for development, for example auto-play video adverts are in the pipeline, and mobile ads are being constantly developed.
What’s the impact for us? Twitter has been a very useful tool for many communication professionals. Many companies use Twitter to help manage their customer service, run successful campaigns, and monitor their environment. When Twitter goes public there are a number of things that may change, including the following:
- We may be able to look forward to Twitter offering a range of new, paid tools to be used in the running of integrated communication campaigns.
- We may have to fight harder to ensure that our message fights through promoted posts and adverts.
- We may have to reinforce the credibility of the messages which we do promote.
From another perspective, it’s very interesting to see the monetary value of new media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are undoubtedly two of the biggest social networks, and it’s fascinating to understand how our friends in finance value them.
Update: I want to reccomend this article by Belle Beth Cooper on the Fast Company website, it introduces some of the biggest changes Twitter has made that you may not be aware, and the implications that these may have.
- 7 Big, Recent Twitter Changes You Should Know About Before the IPO (fastcompany.com)
- EXCLUSIVE-Aiming to avoid Facebook chaos, NYSE runs Twitter IPO test (uk.reuters.com)
- Twitter is going public – what does that mean? (policymic.com)
- How Facebook has changed since going public 1 year ago (mashable.com)
- Ahead of the Twitter IPO an infographic (hosting.ber-art.nl)
In April the horrific pictures of the Rana Plaza collapse reminded the world of the true cost of their cheap clothing. Over 1,100 factory workers died and 2,500 more were injured – many losing limbs. These workers were all paid low amounts to mass produce the clothes that we buy from stores such as Primark, Walmart and Benetton.
Almost instantly in the UK it felt like the disaster became defined as a Primark Problem. Primark has worked over the years to improve on its sustainability image, but it isn’t about to shift its image as the bad boy of the high-street. This is an image build up over years, the knowledge that there has to be a sacrifice somewhere for the cheap prices that consumers desire. And when disasters like Rana Plaza happen, they highlight that no matter how shiny your sustainability plan, there are major problems.
Primark wasn’t the only store to use Rana Plaza to produce clothing. In fact, as pointed out on the Today Programme alongside their clothing, clothes retailing as far more were being produced in the same conditions.
In the aftermath of the disaster Primark paid out short-term financial aid to the workers of Rana Plaza and they are now in discussions with other retailers, including Matalan and Bonmarché, about long-term compensation plans. It is absolutely right that they now take responsibility for the lives that have been affected through this process. What is sickening is that in September Retail Week reported that two thirds of manufacturers using the building have shunned compensation talks.
The reality is that this isn’t just a Primark problem, it’s wider than that. It’s a problem with cheap, unethically sourced clothing on our high-streets. It’s a problem of retailers making such huge demands that their providers take massive risks with unsafe buildings, low wages, bad working environments. This is far bigger than just Primark.
- Primark to pay long-term support to factory victims (independent.ie)
- Primark attacks rivals over Bangladesh disaster support (standard.co.uk)
There are many things communicators consider while creating internal materials. Are they using effective methods of engaging their audience? Are they maintaining internal branding? Perhaps they could be forgiven for not thinking about how external audiences would interpret their information; however this is not something they should ignore.
There is always the potential that internal materials will make their way to unintended audiences. It can be as easy as a staff member accidentally (or purposely) forwarding an email, or a guest reading something while they are in the office.
Tesco has again been in the news (Wales Online), criticised for their use of motivational poster showing a man pointing a gun to his head alongside sales figure. This poster was certainly never meant for public viewing and will no doubt cause embarrassment to certain Tesco managers.
Could it have been avoided? Communicators need to think carefully about how their material is interpreted. What could be perceived as a joke within your organisation may not be taken so lightly by external audiences. And perhaps posters depicting suicide are not necessarily suitable, even for internal communications!
- Tesco slammed over suicide joke staff poster (itv.com)
- Tesco criticised for poster showing man holding gun to his head (walesonline.co.uk)
British Gas faced a nasty backlash when they tried to have a go at a social media Q&A. It’s debatable whether such a tactic would ever have been a particular success, but as it coincided with the announcement of a 10% price increase to hit customers this winter, the Q&A was a resounding failure.
The social media team faced around 16,000 tweets, the majority of which angry and unsupportive. The replies to the Q&A didn’t satisfy the audience either, with many replying that they were just hearing the same old corporate blah and not actually being engaged with. Essentially British Gas riled the lion, then through itself into the lion’s den.
The idea was nice, and probably based on good communications practice and previous Twitter successes. Let’s give people an opportunity to discuss an unpopular decision with the customer services director. Except it didn’t work.
In some cases engaging audiences like this would have been an excellent success, so what was the problem?
People are not able to relate to British Gas like they can with other brands, they’re a big corporate brand who supply an expensive commodity – no number of fun adverts will change that.
People are also unable to sympathise with British Gas regarding their price hikes, nor can they easily avoid the impact of the costs. And the costs will significantly hit their budgets leading to a deterioration in their lifestyle – whether it means they’re out of pocket, or a bit colder.
This isn’t just a social media issue, this is a general communications issue – you need to understand what tactics to use in what situations with which audiences. Get it right and it works. Get it wrong and it can get ugly!
- British Gas #AskBG Twitter campaign backfires (telegraph.co.uk)
- The funniest questions Twitter asked of British Gas boss today (liberalconspiracy.org)
- Don’t #AskBG for social media advice (wearesocial.net)