When thinking of influencer marketing, the first thing that comes to mind is often young people attending events, showcasing the latest must-haves or raving about cosmetics and fashion in videos. However, in addition to these advertising faces on Instagram and YouTube, there is another type of influencer that may already be on your payroll and often comes across as much more authentic and credible. A company’s own employee base may be the best possible brand ambassadors on social media channels.

No matter what resources you use or how much money you spend to build your brand externally, a disgruntled employee or one customer’s interaction with an employee who can’t articulate what your company stands for, can lay all that time and money to waste.

There has been a series of instances in recent years were brands have got it totally wrong when they undervalued the power of the employee.

To ensure that brand promises, and identities are clearly communicated through every customer touch point, savvy companies MUST invest in internal communications. Smart hiring, comprehensive training and regular monitoring can help empower and motivate employees to become brand champions, whether they’re on the front lines, in middle management or behind the scenes.

Once employees are onboard, the employee handbook is an ideal place to establish the brand identity and how employees are expected to convey it. If you can distil that brand message down to a couple of sentences that employees can become interested in, grab onto and use in their own words, they will be able to communicate it e­ffectively.

Here are three easy-to-follow tips to ensure you achieve and maintain employee brand loyalty:

  1. Make sure your workplace conveys the same brand messages to staff as it does to customers;
  2. Involve your staff in major brand campaigns as it’s a great way of boosting morale and spreading the word;
  3. How do you know if your staff are living the brand? Basic signs to look out for: do staff recommend your company to others? Do they enjoy wearing company uniforms? Do employees look happy, and go the extra mile?

Take your employees on the journey! If they feel like a valued member of the team and see their ideas listened too or even implemented, then they will want to see the business thrive. The stronger the foundation, the bigger the success.

If you are unsure of how to harness the power of your employees or encourage them to embrace the brand values of the organisation, contact Rumour Mill Creative Communications for advice on 028 90682185 or email samantha@rumourmillcomms.com



Prime Cut Productions, one of Northern Ireland’s award-winning theatre companies is pleased to announce it has secured significant Arts funding from leading independent funder Jerwood Arts, the Funding and Development Agency and Arts Council Northern Ireland. This combined support will enable Prime Cut to continue delivering its Reveal Artist Development Programme for the next two years.

Reveal 2020 will aim to develop both individual artists and the sector through various strands of practice. In this next two-year iteration, Prime Cut is bringing on board four new practitioners in collaboration with international partners in Manchester, Paris, Sibiu, New York and Washington. It will continue to provide bespoke support to several artists developing projects independently and broader sectoral provision.

The first iteration of Reveal was delivered between 2014-18 and culminated in the Reveal-Ed Showcase in January 2019 at the MAC, Belfast where audiences had the opportunity to experience a curated variety of works created by 10 independent Northern Irish Artists including, performances in progress, rehearsed readings, short films and rare insights into artist development.

Una NicEoin, Executive Producer of Prime Cut Productions said: “Reveal was first made possible when Emma Jordan, Artistic Director of Prime Cut Productions was awarded The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award in 2014 and used it to create the Programme. The aim was to empower our artists to seek out new opportunities to develop and grow both and home and abroad. We are now excited to continue doing this with vigour as we support our passionate and talented artists. The original Reveal proved extraordinarily successful, developing as it did, internationally successful shows such as Hard To Be Soft, Scorch and Removed and we look forward to being able to continue to develop and showcase thought-provoking theatre, community engagement and artist development into the future.”

Jon Opie, Deputy Director, Jerwood Arts said: We are delighted to support Prime Cut’s Reveal programme over the next two years. The company’s track record in dedicated support for performance makers in Northern Ireland is outstanding, and these new opportunities for a theatre maker, playwright and producer will provide much-needed, sustained development for them to create exceptional work at a time when there is very little direct funding in NI for independent creatives.

Caoileann Curry Thompson from Arts Council NI adds her support by saying: “Prime Cut’s ambitious and highly specialised programme of artistic development, Reveal 2020, is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland. The programme’s reach, creative ambition and tailored nature make it an invaluable and no doubt game changing experience for any emerging artist. Prime Cut’s high artistic quality, and outward looking, progressive nature is writ large across this programme. The Arts Council Northern Ireland is proud to support this venture and look forward to see the results of its fruition.”

Established in 1992, the Prime Cut Productions ethos has been to delve into subjects that matter across various communities and isn’t afraid to shy away from Northern Ireland’s chequered past as it explores topics within society that provokes conversations about diversity, inclusion and community.



What a year! 2019 was a year full of fantastic milestones and projects, that even as I type this blog it is hard to recall it all.

We kicked 2019 off with our rebrand from Rumour Mill PR to Rumour Mill Creative Communications. This signalled how far we had come as an agency. Not only do we have more experience working on a wide range of consumer, corporate, public sector and charity campaigns; but we now offer a wider mix of services beyond just public relations.

Whilst our bread and butter has been a thriving public relations consultancy, many say public relations doesn’t work like it used to. That’s simply not the case. Rather, the world has changed, and we are changing with it. It’s not as simple as pitching to reporters and getting quick hits anymore. Like everything else, public relations has evolved and as a result, do did we. From how reporters communicate to leveraging social channels, it has been essential that we as an agency stay ahead of the curve in this digitally obsessed world.

Digital platforms have introduced us to new ways to communicate with target audiences and channels to pursue. As a result, PR is no longer just about communicating a message with an audience. Rather, it’s about having a conversation with audiences. And we love to talk! While it may be hard to tell what the future of PR holds, at Rumour Mill Creative Communications we are positioned to ensure we can support clients’ cross-over between public relations and the digital world.

Along with our rebrand came our move to Lisburn. We relocated to a new collaborative workspace called Cubic Co Work in Lisburn, allowing us to invest more in our team, vision and services. Cubic Co Work houses several local businesses, all sharing a collective desire to push the boundaries, create and collaborate.

And whilst we are talking about creating and collaborating…what a year we have had working with some fun and innovative brands on launches, announcements, events and social media!

From launching Gander, the world’s first real-time app to help reduce food waste; introducing the amazing six-course tasting experience, Six by Nico to Belfast; announcing the arrival of Holiday Inn Express in Derry; unveiling the new American Holidays hub in Belfast City Centre to so much more; it has been an eventful year.

We have loved working with our clients and welcoming new brands onboard, such as United Wines, Carrickfergus Enterprise, City Picnic, Prime Cut Productions and Jonzara.

In 2019 we also added to our trophy collection with two wins at the annual PRCA Dare Awards and a silver win at the CIPR Pride Awards.

  • PRCA DARE AWARDS: Event, Launch or Stunt of the Year– Six by Nico
  • PRCA DARE AWARDS: Low Budget Campaign of the Year – Abigail’s Party at the MAC

Both campaigns were truly exciting and by working with clients that allowed us to be our creative selves, this enabled us to produce activity that exceeded all expectations.

In a very competitive category, the judges remarked that our launch of Six by Nico was ‘well-executed and a clear winner”. High praise indeed! This is a campaign that we are extremely proud of and demonstrates the strength of our social-first approach. We triumphed in this award category last year for our launch of Revolucion de Cuba – another amazing and fun client.

The judges commented that our campaign for the promotion of Abigail’s Party at the MAC delivered “great results for a tiny budget” and in fact “what they did with a small budget was extremely effective.”

Towards the end of the year we picked up Silver for Best Small Consultancy at The Pride Awards. This demonstrates how far we have come and is motivating us to get Gold in 2020 and beyond.

As for 2020! Well, we have big plans in place and over the next year you will see a lot of changes and advancements with Rumour Mill Creative Communications.

As a team we extremely passionate about what we can deliver for clients; not only will we be adding to the team, our services, our channels and our skill set but our clients also have a lot of exciting new plans in place for 2020 that we are super excited to be working on and announcing to you all shortly.

So, hello 2020…lets be having you! We are ready…are you???



Employment initiative, Let’s Work has received just under £1.7m funding from Northern Ireland Executive’s Social Investment Fund under the Delivering Social Change framework.  The programme aims to increase employment in areas of socio-economic needs across Northern Ireland and has welcomed over 50% participation since the scheme launched in September 2019.

Carrickfergus Enterprise is project managing the scheme alongside employability specialists, Network Personnel and it is set to be completed by December 2020 as its aims to engage with up to 160 participants from the top 10% or 20% socially disadvantaged areas including: Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Antrim, Coleraine, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Moyle and Ballymoney.

The employment training programme will widen access to job opportunities and create meaningful pathways to employment.  The goals of the project include, reducing the number of unemployed people in the Social Investment Fund Northern zone, improve skill levels of long term unemployed, and increase personal confidence.

In just over 3 months, 53% of 160 participants are positively benefiting from “Let’s Work” and the next year will see further engagement to support people to enhance their skills, encourage training accreditation and convert work placements into full time equivalent roles.

Vice Chair of Carrickfergus Enterprise David McIlhagger said: “This significant investment and support for those who are unemployed is really encouraging. Our ethos at Carrickfergus Enterprise is to create jobs and we have already seen great success in terms of placing participants with key employers as well as developing participant skills and knowledge. Let’s Work encourages participants to strive toward a fresh start in employment as well as supporting businesses in gaining a skilled and knowledgeable work force. Through working closely with the project partners, we are seeing real change not only in attitudes but in lowering unemployment in lower socio-economic areas across Northern Ireland.

“Carrickfergus Enterprise has been responsible for a breadth of employability and business successes across the province.  This large-scale project can make positive changes to peoples lives and can go some way towards addressing some of the key barriers to employment and create positive news for the area.

Alex McKee from Network Personnel said, “We are delighted to be the Service Delivery Organisation for “Let’s Work”. The person-centred ethos of the project perfectly complements our existing suite of employability provision, bridging the gap for individuals who are furthest removed from the labour market and who will benefit most from a structured programme of support during their first few months of employment. By facilitating a perfect match between employer needs and participant aspirations, we can ensure a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience for both parties. “Let’s Work” is a fantastic grassroots stepping stone which will vastly enhance the long term employment prospects for a great number of people in our local communities”.

Dr Mark Browne – Director of Strategic Policy, Equality & Good Relations in the Executive Office added: “The Social Investment Fund was designed to find solutions to deliver real, lasting benefits for communities that need it most.  I am delighted that the £1.7m allocated to this project will assist with improving training and employment skill levels to enable access to job opportunities. It is great to see how this project is already benefiting those most in need across the SIF Northern Zone and adding to the great work already supported by SIF.”



Innovative and focused on the visitor to Northern Ireland, following an initial launch investment of £20,000, Carrickfergus Enterprise has this month introduced the Experience Northern Ireland App. Designed to be a one-stop itinerary planning solution for visitors, it is the only App of its kind available. Free to use, it enables users to plan ahead whilst visiting Northern Ireland.

Featuring must-see destinations in one easy to navigate App, ‘Experience Northern Ireland’, is a brand-new hospitality and tourism platform aimed at heightening awareness of Northern Ireland’s well-known and hidden gem locations whilst boosting footfall to businesses.  It aims to make tourism and hospitality businesses more discoverable by the visitor; a key aim behind this novel App.

Kelli Bagchus, Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise said: “After months of development and testing, we are delighted to launch our brand-new Experience Northern Ireland App. It is the perfect way for a visitor to plan everything from a fun day out, to a five-day tour around Northern Ireland.  The App creates an all-encompassing trip whether the visitor knows where they want to go or just discover great experiences along the way, we are confident that the itinerary created using the App is exactly what visitors to Northern Ireland need.

“The App isn’t just for holidaymakers; we want to encourage people living locally to explore the wonderful places right on their doorstep and perhaps discover some hidden treasures along their travels.”

Experience Northern Ireland focuses on helping visitors travelling within Northern Ireland create custom holiday itineraries. Visitors are completely in control of the planning as it houses information on accommodation, tour providers, heritage experiences, where to eat and what to do, as well as major attractions to visit all connected in one place.

Times and distances are also calculated automatically to ensure itineraries are maximised, mapping out the journey digitally for ease of travel.

The tourism and hospitality sector is one of the fastest growing in Northern Ireland and as a social enterprise it is a commitment of Carrickfergus Enterprise to support as many businesses as possible. Businesses in Northern Ireland can now be part of the Experience Northern Ireland App and enjoy the benefits of the complementary website and aggressive SEO and Marketing Strategy for 2020 and beyond.

To download the free App, search Experience Northern Ireland on your App store. If you would like your business, tourism experience or accommodation listed on the Experience Northern Ireland, please get in touch with Kelli at info@xperienceni.com or call 028 93369528.



Popular Belfast eatery, City Picnic is set to open its doors once against amidst a £500,000 investment, creating 35 new jobs in the process. As the last city centre tenant to reopen following the Primark Bank Buildings fire, City Picnic has undergone a major revamp and menu refresh since its closure in August 2018. Fronted by business partners Gavin Gregg and Arthur McAnerney, the Castle Street restaurant is poised to take Belfast by storm with its renewed commitment to speedy service and quality food.

Located on Castle Street, this marks the first major revamp of City Picnic since it first hit the Belfast food scene in 2011. Working with Northern Ireland based interior and fitout company, Terry Design – the space has been given a new lease of life, incorporating a mixture of quirky Nordic design elements with a urban chic finish. The space has been entirely reconfigured to ensure efficiency is at the forefront of City Picnic going forward whilst not comprising on aesthetics. An ‘outside in’ vibe has been created for the large unit featuring a wide range of plants, mixed with vibrant lighting and textures, resulting in a completely unique look for this new city-centre addition. The overhauled food selection encompasses breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring a wide range of burgers, pizzas, salads, wraps and much more. City Picnic will offer a fast-food style service with the food sourced from natural and fresh ingredients from local providers.

With over 30 years’ cheffing experience working in restaurants all over the globe, co-founder Gavin Gregg expressed his anticipation for the people of Belfast to indulge in their rejuvenated menu. Gavin said, ‘We are delighted to finally be reopening City Picnic, having utilised our time after the fire to research and develop our menu to cater to the needs of the people of Belfast and beyond. Belfast has seen an influx of new restaurants in recent years, but we wanted to offer up something unique. Our new focus is on swift service without sacrificing the flavour and quality of the food on offer. Our customers could order a wrap, a burger or even a pizza and be presented with their order moments later. There are so many tantalising and mouth-watering choices on the new menu that I know customers will love.’

Sharing Gavin’s excitement, Arthur added, ‘Having to close the doors due to the Primark fire was a very difficult time for the business. We operated from a temporary catering trailer in Royal Avenue last year however we always knew we were going to eventually reopen in our original home. We spent time perfecting the menu, experimenting with innovative new food combinations and testing new recipes. We studied our space and assessed how we can best use the vast unit, making it a culinary hub in the city centre. So, whilst it wasn’t ideal to have to close the unit, we are excited about this new chapter for City Picnic. We are confident our customers, old and new, will love the revamp and will thoroughly enjoy the new menu.’

Operating seven days a week from 10am until 10pm, City Picnic will seamlessly switch from breakfast to lunch to dinner throughout the day without closing to customers. The menu will include offerings for all dietary requirements including gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan as well as a distinctive drinks menu with a variety of craft beers, wine and cocktails.  City Picnic will open to the public on Wednesday 4th December at 10am. For more information on City Picnic visit www.facebook.com/citypicnic



The highly-anticipated ‘Silent Santa’ initiative has returned to Foyleside Shopping Centre, enabling children with particular needs to visit Father Christmas in the comfort of a quiet environment.

On Wednesday evenings from 6-8pm – which is the Centre’s staple Quiet Shopping Night of the week – families with a child who has autism or sensory difficulties can visit Santa with the Centre’s background music turned off and tannoy announcements kept to a minimum.

The Silent Santa initiative was introduced to make the experience of visiting Saint Nick inclusive and accessible to children who may potentially become anxious in the face of excessive noise, queues or crowding during busy periods.

Centre Manager of Foyleside, Fergal Rafferty, said the service has had a positive impact on visiting families in previous years.

“Our Silent Santa initiative proved to be extremely beneficial and well-received last year by parents and children, so we felt it was important to ensure this returned to Foyleside to create an entirely inclusive Centre for those who want to enjoy Santa the same way others can, but in a calm and considered way.

“At Foyleside, we have made a number of significant changes to support those with additional needs in the last 12 months, including our new Sensory Room, which features fibre optics, bubble tubes and customisable sound and light levels to help remove anxiety and distress. We have worked very closely with Autism NI to become more autism friendly and our staff have also been provided with specific training – so we really are making great improvements to make the Centre as accessible as possible.”

Silent Santa will run every Wednesday evening until 11th December. Quiet Shopping Nights are every Wednesday 6-8pm.

For more information on Foyleside’s special needs services, visit: www.foyleside.co.uk/centre-info/services/



Extra Care, Northern Ireland’s longest established domiciliary care charity is set to launch its three-year Strategic Plan, ‘Finding Our Way’, at a VIP event in Stormont this week.

Despite recent challenges within the Social Care sector in Northern Ireland, Extra Care has taken a heads-on approach to move the charity forward and embrace ambitious opportunities in the future. After undertaking in-depth consultations in 2018 with staff and service users, it was identified that a three-year Strategic Plan would place the charity in a stronger position to continue providing the best possible care for service users, whilst maintaining a positive staff support and training system.

The ‘Finding Our Way’ Strategy will signpost how Extra Care delivers its services, connects with communities, develops partnerships and celebrate its staff and service users in the future, through the Charity’s Purpose, Vision and Values.

In the past year, Extra Care has welcomed significant changes to include an investment in excess of £190,000 creating 28 new jobs, as well as the opening of three new support hubs in Belfast, Carrickfergus and Cookstown.

Brian Hutchinson, CEO of Extra Care said, “We are delighted to announce the launch of our Strategy 2019 – 2022.  We believe this forward-thinking plan will allow us to continually provide the best Person-Centred care, whilst strengthening our links within the community. It is also an opportunity to broaden and strengthen staff training as well as provide career support to enable growth within Extra Care.”

Brian adds, “The launch is a chance for like-minded people from across the Health and Social Care Trusts, local politicians and elderly care charities to familiarise themselves with the positive work we do and establish new collaborative relationships going forward. We are privileged to have just welcomed our new Chair, Dame Joan Harbison and the Board is optimistic for the future of our organisation.”

Extra Care was established in 1935, providing health and social care services in Northern Ireland, operating across four of the Trust areas. Currently the organisation employs over 300 staff, committed to providing service users with the support they need to maintain living in their home their way.

For more information about Extra Care visit: http://extra-care.org



Northern Ireland’s US Travel Specialist, American Holidays opens the doors on its brand-new premises in Belfast City Centre, following a significant investment and a renewed strategy to grow its operations locally.

Whilst remaining in Lombard Street, American Holidays will now occupy the old Ulster Bank site that has lay vacant for several years. This new space will allow for the expansion of its retail shop and call centre for its trade partners, with a larger dedicated Belfast team in place to answer every call.

The new retail shop will be a relaxed and comfortable environment for both staff and customers. Planning a holiday to the USA can be daunting at times; therefore it is reassuring to speak directly with a specialist to receive expert advice – something American Holidays continues to see a demand for from customers.

Speaking on the continued success of American Holidays, Karen Sheals Hoy, Manager says: “We pride ourselves in offering a seamless and dedicated customer journey delivered through exceptional service. It is this passion shown by the team that resonates with our customers and gives them confidence in the services we offer. Today American Holidays has over 50 staff based in Belfast, Dublin and Leeds and we are proud to be part of the world’s largest collection of specialist travel brands.

“American Holidays has developed longstanding relationships across the industry, and we continue to forge new associations. American Holidays prides itself in having a dedicated team in place to negotiate and secure the best prices for our customers, so we can remain competitive in the marketplace.”

Starting as an independently owned company in Lombard Street 27 years ago, the business has gone from strength to strength. American Holidays opened its Belfast branch in 1991 and this new level of investment into the branch signals confidence in the local market and the continued demand for this specialist travel offering.

The larger premises will now allow for a new dedicated training room to be housed onsite, enabling American Holidays to host regular training sessions for their staff and the Northern Ireland Travel Trade with partnered airlines, hotels, destination team specialists and suppliers.

Karen says: “As specialists in our field we can share the expertise we have at our fingertips with those who support us and to better develop everyone’s knowledge, especially of the lesser known areas of the USA and Canada”.

Astrid Bell, Cruise Product Manager, Belfast and Dublin adds: “American Holidays’ biggest strength is our team. We know North America inside and out, upside and down and have a great heritage as a specialist North American Tour Operator. We go the extra mile and know that it’s often the little things that make a big difference. Our sales staff have collectively visited almost every state, so we have the USA and Canada covered.

“We understand the need to invest in education and training for our staff and work very closely with training partners to develop training programmes for all.”

American Holidays is part of Travelopia, the world’s largest collection of Specialist Travel Brands. It is always working to develop and grow new products to the USA & Canada – next year will be no different. 2020 will see a new 148-page North America brochure and a 100-page Escorted Touring brochure including Cruise and Canada. The new brochures will offer some new exciting experiences while also offering some old favourites. The new brochures will hit the shelves November 2019.

American Holidays is summed up in its tagline, Possibilities Unlimited!




Carrickfergus Enterprise has announced that results of its recent tourism initiative, ‘Glens Coastal Hub’ has exceeded expectations, boosting sales, local visitor expenditure, jobs, and visitor numbers.

Funded by the Coastal Communities Fund and following on from the huge success of its East Antrim Coastal Hub pilot in 2015, this new initiative has had a direct impact on the number of visitors and expenditure in the East Antrim Coastal Way route. Ambitious targets were in place from the outset, yet these have been surpassed significantly with the creation of 58 full time, part time and casual jobs and over 22,000 new visitors to the region, resulting in over £3million generated in additional expenditure.

The overall goal of the scheme was to develop the capacity and confidence of local businesses within the area, that are often considered the ‘hidden gems’ of the region but are not necessarily on the typical tourist routes.

The Glens Coastal Hub was devised to increase sales, enhance visitor experiences and fully take advantage of the huge opportunities’ tourism can offer for the local area. 30 businesses signed up to take part and avail of support services such as business mentoring, ICT support, WorldHost training, mystery shopping and a joint marketing campaign which included a visitor map and website.

Kelli Bagchus, Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: “The success of our East Antrim Coastal Hub and tourism map set the precedent for what could be achieved in the tourism sector within the area. It was therefore the right time to request further funding to create a larger spectrum of support. With the local interest high and the strong proposition already existing it made sense for us to build on this momentum.

“This programme has enabled us to showcase our diverse range of tourism attractions from across Ballygally to Ballycastle/Rathlin, that include the Ossian’s Grave, Layde Church, Dark Hedges Estate, the Ballygally Castle Hotel, Cranny Falls and Glenariff Forest Park; whilst empowering the businesses across these areas to capitalise on the buoyant tourism industry.

“With tourism at the fore of Northern Ireland’s economy, it is in our interest to support the lesser known locations, to keep history and heritage alive as well as helping the launch of new tourism businesses in the area.”

Speaking on his involvement in the programme, Gary O’Loughlin from Laragh Lodge said: “The programme has been really successful and has definitely brought us more business. We attended various workshops including social media training which was very helpful. The publicity from the programme put a spotlight on us and being located beside the Glenariff Waterfall has brought even more tourists to us.”

The project is funded by Coastal Communities Fund which is funded by the government with income from the Crown Estate Marine Assets. It is delivered by Big Lottery on behalf of the UK Government.

Sarah Daly, Funding Officer from The National Lottery Community Fund said: “We are delighted that Coastal Communities Fund has been able to support the Glens Coastal Hub Programme. It enables smaller businesses to develop their capacity, enabling them to capitalise on the growing tourism industry in Northern Ireland. It also helps to highlight what Northern Ireland has to offer beyond the major tourism sites. Thus, encouraging longer stays and contributing to and increased visitor spend.”

Carrickfergus Enterprise has created a successful model specialising in supporting tourism and hospitality businesses where it will seek opportunities to further support even more businesses to sustain and grow the future of this industry.