Comms and Marketing: Interview with Úna Harty
“The biggest part of Communications is listening”
Úna Harty, JS Nanoscience student, is the sole candidate in this year’s Communications and Marketing Officer election. Trinity News say down with Úna to ask about her qualifications, her plans for the role and her views on the SU.
Harty is enthusiastic about what can be achieved in the Comms Job: “If no one’s there to tell anyone what the other sabbats are doing, what’s the point of the other sabbats being there? If you get rid of communications and marketing, you might as well get rid of the whole SU.” She believes marketing is essential to students getting the most out of SU services, “so people who didn’t realise they wanted or needed to do something, end up doing it”.
Harty says she plans to make “engagement from the students” the focus of her time in the role. Harty finds it sad that some students are unaware of the services offered by College and the Students’ Union. For example, some don’t know about queueing up at lunchtime for emergency consultations at the health centre or that there is an SU shop on campus.
“Harty described the accommodation and jobs portals on the SU website as great resources and intends to revamp them because currently ‘people don’t even know they exist’.”
Harty told Trinity News that “modernisation and engagement go hand in hand” and that the SU should “take it to the next level” in terms of communicating its activities to students. The Limerick native plans to make the the SU website “more student-friendly”, revive the SU Snapchat and Instagram accounts, and use short auto-playing Facebook videos so students “feel like they don’t have to read anything, they’re getting the information without even realising it”. Harty described the accommodation and jobs portals on the SU website as great resources and intends to revamp them because currently “people don’t even know they exist”.
Harty said it was “simply not good enough” that the College’s MyDay app, used by over 3,000 students, can only direct them to the TCDSU webpage. With usage predicted to rise to 6,000 students next year, Harty says this is “a massive market we are not capitalising on”. The SU’s current Strategic Plan will need to be updated in 2018 and Harty hopes to include the development of a comprehensive SU app in the next Strategic Plan.
Harty intends to involve more students in her work by expanding the Communications Committee, to introduce “tech-specific roles” and would like to give computer science students the chance to work on the SU website and app so they can gain “real world experience…they can take out with them into the working world.”
“Another idea of Harty’s is to make greater use of infographics displayed on screens around campus to inform students of Union events and of how the Union allocates its resources, saying that students ‘deserve to know where the money is’.”
Another idea of Harty’s is to make greater use of infographics displayed on screens around campus to inform students of Union events and of how the Union allocates its resources, saying that students “deserve to know where the money is”.
Nonetheless the candidate says the SU needs to strike a balance in terms of how it communicates with students; she aspires to make an SU that “people are happy to work with, happy to listen to” but one that’s “not in their face”.
Asked about why some students don’t feel engaged with the Students Union, Harty said it was “hard to explain” but that it’s “about the relationship” and “we need to listen to students more […] the biggest part of communications is listening”.
Harty believes that her communication-related society involvement qualifies her for the communications aspect of the role. She’s been involved in Trinity FM ‘‘since day one, first year’’ and plans to host a weekly TCDSU radio show if elected. She has also designed the layout of the tn2 magazine for almost two years and edited STAND magazine.
“Harty said that Trinity was ‘probably one of the most inclusive environments in all of Ireland’ but that ‘we can always move towards a more inclusive Students Union’.”
The candidate says she has an interest in how marketing works but admitted she lacks “real world marketing experience” except for some promotional pieces she has written as a writer for lovindublin.ie. However she believes that communications and marketing are “mutually beneficial […] one really does go with the other” and thinks marketing is “something you can pick up”.
When the issue of inclusivity in the SU was brought up, Harty said that her personal experience in College has made her passionate about bringing marginalised groups into the fold. As a Junior Freshman, Harty was inspired by a “Women in Leadership” series run by the SU and would now like to run more events of this nature, specially tailored towards LGBT students and ethnic minorities. Harty said that Trinity was “probably one of the most inclusive environments in all of Ireland” but that “we can always move towards a more inclusive Students Union”. She welcomed the addition of an Ethnic Minorities Officer to the Students Union.
Asked whether it reflects poorly on the SU that only two of the six Sabbatical races are contested this year, Harty said she was disappointed and “wouldn’t like to see that again” because “competition is important”. Harty said it was “curious” but that “circumstance is a huge thing” and this may “just be a fluke of a year”. She also said that potential candidates can be “intimidated” when someone seems intent on running for election early in the year.
This year’s Communications and Marketing Officer, Glen Byrne, says he devoted about 40% of his time to organising sponsorship deals. Harty’s position is that sponsorship “most of all must be beneficial to the students”.
“[Harty] would like to see a policy on ethical sponsorship made part of the SU’s long term plan”
Harty says she will make any deals as “ethical as possible” and ensure the Union works with companies that “conduct their services in an ethical manner”. However she said that ethical grey areas are common and she would like to see a policy on ethical sponsorship made part of the SU’s long term plan. Harty also said she’s keen to make the SU more professional and strategic and would look into case studies of the operational strategies in large organizations, to bring in techniques that the SU can use for the benefit of students.
The SU has increasingly campaigned outside College on the basis of mandates given by the student body, setting up lobby groups on issues such as student fees and organizing marches. When asked about how the SU can more effectively campaign outside Trinity, Harty said that “videos that appeal to people’s emotions are the way to go there”, citing the effectiveness of video content as part of the marriage equality campaign.
The SU has taken a pro-choice stance on abortion since a February 2014 referendum in which 73% of students supported the position. Harty said she is “personally all for Repeal the Eighth” and agrees with the Union’s position, “the SU is a democratic body; we must represent the people’s views.” When it was pointed out that most of those who voted in the referendum have now left Trinity, Harty said she was in favour of “updating mandates as new college students come in”.
“We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to make a change. We should grasp this by the horns and really, really try.”
One way of doing this would be to improve the way in which class representatives bring the opinions of their classes to the SU, another of Harty’s suggestions for improving communications. She would like to implement some sort of online polling that would allow students to give their opinions on SU mandates and motions to their class reps, who could then bring these views to SU Council.
The Students Union ran a 30,000 euro deficit last year, which Harty described as a “scary situation”. Asked about what can be done to solve the problem, the candidate said that rebranding the SU Cafe and Shop could increase sales and help balance the union’s finances. She also suggested selling SU Cafe sandwiches in the SU shops, as the long walk to Goldsmith Hall puts some students off heading to the SU Cafe.
Harty says students should be grateful for the opportunity to run for SU office, “We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to make a change. We should grasp this by the horns and really, really try”.