SU Elections: Philly Holmes on breaking “the wall of SU blue”

“I feel like I can use the skills that I’ve gained from four years on campus, a lot of them have been given by the SU, and then use them to give back”

Philly Holmes, a fourth year Music student, says his chief aim as Communications and Marketing Officer is to put “students first” by laying digital foundations to increase students’ engagement with the SU, and to make sure that students know the tangible benefits of the sponsorship relationships he hopes to foster. 

Holmes has plenty of experience to back up his claims. He is already involved in a lot of societies. “I am the station manager of Trinity FM. I make the posters for DUDJ. I serve as the technical officer of Ents. And that’s all just this year,” he said. He also has valuable experience as a corporate intern. He stresses, however, not to let his corporate experience define him: “I learnt a lot about how to communicate clear messages to people. But I am very aware in bringing that experience to the SU that students are very different from salespeople…I’m not a corporate hack”.

He wants to become a sabbatical officer because the SU helped him to grow as a person: “I feel like I can use the skills that I’ve gained from four years on campus, a lot of them have been given by the SU, and then use them to give back, to help voice the SU on campus, and put the SU in a really good place to continue in the future.”

Holmes confidently details his plans for the communications side of the twofold role, hoping to increase engagement by updating their online presence. He sees value in all the different forms of social media: “The weekly email is the only guaranteed form of communication, but we can use Facebook and Twitter for more official stuff, whereas Instagram can be a bit gas.” Here, he can boast a successful track record, tripling the DUDJ following on Instagram. 

He insists that despite the weekly email being left unread by many students, it still holds value. “Engagement is a huge issue…Even if people don’t open it, it’s still something that is in their inbox every week without fail. Even if they’re not reading it, they’re seeing a continuous contact with the SU and even that can build engagement. We also need to make it a no-brainer, by forefronting the SU deals and what the SU is offering to students. Forefront the resources for students to increase the value of the email to drive engagement.”

He also argues that the email is not currently accessible to everyone. Though there is an accessible version, he sees this as flawed. “The weekly email is currently pretty inaccessible. And when I checked, like 35% of content not present in the accessible version. We should be really careful to make sure the weekly email is accessible by default. Two or three people have told me that the existence of an accessible version feels othering.” He will back this up by providing an audio version, read by himself in English and Irish, each week. 

By developing the email’s accessibility, he hopes that more people will engage with it. “It is a good way to show that the students are being listened to, to signal that we care”.

Holmes’ plan for the social media is to get rid of what he sees as the impersonal “wall of SU blue”. Instead of the “blank-faced thing” that it is at the moment, he wants to showcase the people of the SU, and its diversity.

“There are loads of sabbatical officers, loads of part time officers, and this year, none of their faces have been seen on the social media, really, at all. Showcasing what they’re doing through social media, we can show that the SU is diverse. It is such a diverse body, people from so many countries, with so many backgrounds, it’s a huge thing .. I just don’t think the wider student body has a way to access those people.”

One of the first things that Holmes wants to do in order to make sure that the SU’s social media is useful for students is to install a ‘chat bot’, for “connecting students to resources pretty instantly. This will increase engagement because they know the SU is a place they can go to for resources”.

Speaking about potential sponsorship deals, Holmes admits that since he doesn’t yet have the weight of the SU behind him, he cannot speak authoritatively about the types of deals that he will look for. However, he seeks to build upon the relationships already formed by past officers, while framing them in a way that ensures that students know the benefits of the deal. 

“We don’t want TCDSU to be a walking Nascar car that’s covered in logos and more brand than SU. There is plenty of room to develop sponsorships, but it can’t be at the cost of the students…I think there is a case where there are too many sponsors, but not too many sponsorships”. 

Holmes’s passion for accessible design is made evident by his commitment to run upskilling workshops for students, teaching software and design skills: “It would come completely off my own bat. I actually have taught a course in design before, for DUDJ, so now I know how to go about teaching…I will volunteer my time to do it because it’s something about which I am passionate. I think it will even be outside of hours and my commitments as Comms Officer.

“A lot of graphic design is difficult to read. Accessible design is about making designs and texts and materials that are clear and easy and accessible to read in multiple forms. I would teach in a block course curriculum as it is better than a weekly thing. By the end students could produce something for a society.”

He also suggested barista training could be possible at the SU cafe, and cash-handling classes have been held at the SU shop before, so could be done again. 

“I just want to put more skills in the hands of students basically. When it comes down to it, students aren’t just in college to study. They’re here to learn about all of the other stuff outside it.”

When asked whether or not it was a good idea to merge the positions of Ents Officer with Comms and Marketing Officer, Holmes said no in the resolutest terms. Drawing on his experience working in Ents this term, and seeing previous Comms officers, he deems that there is two much work to merge the positions into one, and that more money would be lost by the missed opportunities due to lost time, than would be saved by the smaller wage bill. 

He also wasn’t worried about the SU falling into deficit again, employing a fix the roof while the sun is shining approach. He suggested better utilising the digital billboards, and working with UT to improve advertising revenue as means to keep the money flowing in effectively. 

Holmes was charming to chat to, barely making his way through a scone – such was his enthusiasm. He said, of his chances of success, that he was “confident but not cocky”.

Alfie Fletcher

Alfie Fletcher is the Deputy Food and Drink Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Fresh English student.