UCD Elects: Public Relations


I ended my last blog with the line “the candidates have a weekend to capture the electorate’s attention, otherwise maybe RON should” and shockingly some of them actually listened.

For those unaware, last night saw both Presidential candidates release their first campaign videos. That’s where any sense of good campaign management ends. What followed was the most pathetic excuse for campaign management and PR, even by UCD election’s own low standards. To put it in context, James Atkinson, a Campaigns and Communications (C&C) candidate last year, managed to drop the N bomb at the end of his video and still came out looking better than Gallagher does this morning.

Gallagher’s own video was the first to appear online. The current Welfare Officer brought us on a shaky and wind swept tour of UCD landmarks. While we have no right to expect professionally produced videos, we do have a right to expect that they will match the quality of previous years. It must be remembered that the job of President now encompasses some of the responsibilities previously looked after by the C&C Officer. Now more than ever with a Union, which has decided to go it alone, a good communicator is what we need.

To even leave aside the technical quality, or lack thereof, of the video, it is the attention to detail which is truly concerning. It is not unheard of for candidates to spend a number of days ensuring they get the best video content possible, but this video contains numerous shots which any other candidate would have instantly disregarded. Whether he thinks that because he is virtually uncontested anything will do, I don’t know.

If that was where the evening ended for Team Gallagher, it wouldn’t have been too damaging, after all his opponent’s main idea is a puppy room. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t.

Aidan Kelly released his first video shortly after Gallagher. I had high hopes that Team Kelly would produce some innovative content along the lines of the ‘joke’ candidates in Trinity. They didn’t. Instead what they delivered was the by now seriously overdone and unoriginal Hitler Downfall video, in which they cast Gallagher as Hitler. This video has been used as a humorous reaction to so many events at this stage that any chance of it being offensive to most has long been lost. Not Gallagher.

Only a matter of minutes later Gallagher posted the following status:

Now as I have said, Kelly’s video was so unoriginal that it never had a chance of going viral. The reaction it received meant that it did just that. Not only did Gallagher misjudge the public perception of the issue, but when he realised people didn’t agree with them, he tried to silence them. Numerous comments were deleted and former Facebook friends blocked because they chose to disagree with him. While Gallagher did make a mistake, he could have appeared much stronger had he stuck to his guns, instead he back tracked, deleted the original status and then put up the following:

No doubt this was a complete storm in a tea-cup, but I think it points to something more serious. The President of UCDSU is now the CEO of a limited company with over 30 staff and a turnover of a couple of million. The decisions taken by the President now have a very real commercial effect. The electorate needs to know that they can trust the snap decisions their President is going to take under pressure. Gallagher is not new to media, having been a sabbatical officer for a year; he should be well versed enough in the key basics of PR not to make these mistakes.

My suggestion of RON on Friday was somewhat tongue in cheek but now I’m not so sure. I can’t decide what’s worse: Gallagher’s inept PR or that there is no real alternative.

The other candidates did exhibit some good PR however. From what I’ve been told, they all planned to launch their videos yesterday too, until the fiasco unfolded. The fact that they were smart enough to realise it was better to wait means perhaps all hope is not lost.

Read: UCD Elects: Manifestos