Comment & Analysis
Jan 26, 2016

Communications Candidates Vow to Improve Union Visibility and Transparency

In interviews with The University Times, candidates consider the importance of a solid base for advertising, increasing visibility, and creating feedback channels.

Jack Hartnett and Nora Donnelly
Pavel Rozman for the JCR

Featuring two well qualified candidates, this year’s race for Communications & Marketing Officer of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union is expected to be tightly contested. A recently reformed position, following the separation of the roles of Communications Officer and Editor of The University Times, the victor will be critical to defining the work of this position.

The officer takes charge of “the online communications and physical communications of the union”, according to Aifric Ní Chriodáin, the current Communications & Marketing Officer, and this means that they have to collaborate with the other officers to communicate what the union, as a whole, is doing. On the marketing side of the role, they have to secure sponsorship for things like weekly deals, prizes for competitions and the Ents card. Ní Chriodain emphasised the need for experience in the role: “For some parts of the role like dealing with sponsors or graphic design or even social media, you do need to have experience to do that.”

Emmet Broaders is a third-year computer science student from Wexford who draws his experience from his time as Tech Officer for Trinity Hall’s JCR last year. Speaking to The University Times, Broaders cites both his year on the JCR and his problem-solving abilities as his reasons for running: “I decided to run because I could see problems and I could see how to fix them, at least to myself anyway and to the people I talked to about these think that my methods of fixing them could possibly work.”


On the other hand, Glen Byrne, a fourth-year law student from Dublin, is the current Public Relations Officer (PRO) for both TCD Law Society and the Dublin University Photography Association (DUPA). Furthermore, he was the PRO for Trinity Politics Society last year and Pro-Librarian for the University Philosophical Society two years ago. In an interview with The University Times, Byrne mentions both his experience and plans to foster better communication between the union and students as his motivations for running: “It was, on one hand, the experience from having worked on communications and marketing for societies for the time I’ve been in College. I’ve done a lot of that sort of stuff, and on the other hand, it was that to be given the chance to work on the students’ union and to create a really effective communications strategy with students would really help with some of the issues that people find with the students’ union currently.”

Both candidates will have to bear in mind, that whoever is elected the next Communications & Marketing Officer will play a part in defining the work of this position in future years

Each candidate has a slightly different view of what the Communications & Marketing position involves. Byrne explained how the role involves effectively communicating the work of the other officers to the students: “It’s not just shown in what a communications officer does in terms of communicating or getting sponsorship for the students’ union, but it is also about creating a lot more visibility for the other officers’ work as well, so that people are fully aware of what their union is doing, which is a hugely important but underappreciated aspect of any organisation, especially a students’ union.” In contrast, Broaders highlighted the importance of the Communications & Marketing Officer in bridging the gap between those fully involved in the union and those who are not: “I think it’s a little bit of a disgrace that massive groups of people don’t hear about things just because they are not involved in council. You’re still a member of the SU even if you are not part of council.”

Last year’s race centred around whether the role should be focused more on the communications or marketing aspect. Aifric Ní Chriodáin, the eventual winner, outlined strong policies on the benefits advertising could bring to the union, whereas the other contender, Jemma O’Leary, stressed the necessity of effective communication by the union. Although such a divide existed in the last race, both candidates agreed that this should not be the case this year. According to Byrne, the position involves two main “fronts” which “are slightly different, but are two related ideas.” Broaders argues that, although the position involves two key roles, equal amounts of work are not required for both. As a result of the “strong foundation” laid by Ní Chriodáin this year, Broaders sees “no need for big sweeping changes in terms of marketing”. However, “with the communications, I can see several big changes that I’d like to implement.”

Both candidates praised Ní Chriodáin’s efforts in not only increasing the visibility of the students’ union but also in defining the newly formed role. However, Broaders and Byrne both cited shortcomings in the work of this year’s union. Broaders argued that, although Ní Chriodáin established a solid base for advertising, many advertising promises were not delivered upon. He plans to rectify this using native advertising, a type of marketing in which the advertisement changes depending on the type of environment it is in. “We can’t have blanket advertising, essentially. Things need to adapt and change depending on where they are and who they’re being delivered to. Or else advertisers aren’t interested, because they could just rent out a billboard and put it on that.” A lack of transparency was Byrne’s key criticism of the Communications & Marketing Officer this year. Byrne argues that many “students feel there are issues that are going under-represented from the union to College or in the wide national sphere of things.” To tackle this issue, he hopes to build a stronger feedback system such that students will be given “a more impactful voice”.

Ní Chriodáin hopes for some “ingenuity” and “to see them bring some original ideas to the role

The communication style they would use, if in office, also differed between the candidates. Although both spoke about the importance of interactive communication, the term was used in a slightly different sense by each. Broaders spoke strongly about ensuring information is truly “taken in by everyone” rather than just passively releasing the information to the public: “I want it to be thrown at people.” Whereas Byrne outlined the need for channels and feedback mechanisms such that students’ issues are dealt with effectively by the union through good communication.”

It seems that, in a similar way to last year, there is no consensus on what exactly the work of the Communications & Marketing officer should be. As the reformed role is still relatively new, these differences in perspective are not only expected but are welcomed. Speaking to The University Times about what she would like to see in candidates, Ní Chriodáin hopes for some “ingenuity” and “to see them bring some original ideas to the role because the role itself is only two years old in the way it currently is”. Both candidates will have to bear in mind, that whoever is elected the next Communications & Marketing Officer will play a part in defining the work of this position in future years.

What does it take to be Communications & Marketing officer? Ní Chriodáin emphasised the importance of organisation and good communication: “I think it takes a degree of organisation, just in terms of you’ll be doing regular things every week, in a way that other officers might not. You’ll be scheduled in to do the same things every week, in a way the Welfare Officer might not. I also think, obviously, it requires good communication because you spend most of your time doing things that the other officers, or members of the SU or Union Forum ask you to do and you do to help get their events off the ground.”

Correction: January 27th, 2016
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Glen Byrne was Librarian of the University Philosophical Society. In fact, he was Pro-Librarian.

Jack Hartnett is an Assistant News Editor, and will edit the communications & marketing race for The University Times. Nora Donnelly is a Junior Editor, and will serve as communications & marketing race correspondent.

Eleanor O’Mahony contributed reporting to this piece.

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