Q&A with Clare Smith

Our Q&A with Clare Smith, Chair of the PRCA in Scotland and Chief Marketing Officer at the Scottish Government

#1 Collaborating is a huge part of the festival – why do you think it’s important that we collaborate as practitioners?

Working in public sector communications means that collaboration is not just a nice to have, it’s a necessity. We work with other public sector comms teams, third sector, private sector depending on the project to ensure joined up communications and to drive better value, reducing duplication. But I think it comes naturally to PR folk, we are a collaborative bunch by nature – because we’re always seeking opportunities for our projects, clients and messaging. However in the current economic climate, particularly in public sector, there are gains to be made by working together, to be greater than the sum of our parts.

#2 Time was cited as a major issue for people learning – what are your top tips for making the time to learn?

We’ve just done a campaign targeting parents of primary kids, the proposition being that learning doesn’t stop at the school gates. I believe that working in communications we are given the opportunity to learn all the time – if anyone working in PR says that they’ve had two days exactly the same, I’d be shocked. Yes, more formal learning – attending conferences, workshops, courses – can take up time, but e-learning is a great way to dabble before committing to a full day or traveling to a course that may or may not be what you are looking for. I find Twitter and LinkedIn  great sources of people sharing blogs and slides from presentations they’ve been at or given. And can digest these insights from my own sofa with a G+T.

#3 How do you think the PR community in Scotland can be more inclusive?

We as leaders and employers in the sector have a vital role to play. Talent doesn’t just come clutching a degree nor does it always come from within the, until now, traditional PR industry.  The skills to be a good PR person are varied and can be learned in various places. Having been a journalist might be a great qualifier to work in some comms roles, however having a digital agency background, strength in community building, knowledge of data and search analytics, partnership relationship management… whatever the role is depends on the skillset sought from under the ever-expanding PR umbrella

#4 There is a breadth of topics being covered at The PRofessionals – what topic do you think is the most important?

I’m delighted to see this event come together. For a long time PR has seen itself – and therefore talked itself into being – the ‘poor cousin’ of the marketing mix. I’m pleased to see this changing as we assert our profession in the boardroom and with better evaluation prove our worth and impact on the bottom line, not just when crisis hits. So I like the celebratory ethos for the whole conference and particularly look forward to Ketchum’s contribution to set up day two – Grow up or Get out.

#5 Budgets (or lack of) were also cited as a challenge to people learning – is there a smart way for practitioners to learn without costing the earth?

Learning can be reading blogs, taking free online tutorials, having coffee with informal mentors –  and in my experience people are delighted to be asked to download some of their experience or offer a one off coaching conversation. More formal training can be costly, however there is no shortage of member organisations – PRCA, SCN, CIPR – offering courses and conferences that aren’t that pricey.

#6 With such a breadth of knowledge coming to The PRofessionals stage, what’s the one thing you’d like to take away from the festival?

I think inspiration and pride that we’re working in an adaptable, successful profession which is coming of age. The growth of social media has changed everything – how we live, work, think. And PR is brilliantly placed to play a key role in this changing world.

#7 What do you think the opportunities are for people in Scotland working in PR?

Scotland is easy to navigate and network yourself into, and having a breadth of contacts is really useful to the modern PR person. The opportunity is the same as it is anywhere right now – stand up, be proud of our skills and play our part in modern commerce.

#8 What’s the biggest challenge for practitioners as we move forward with a modern PR?

The opportunity is also the threat, PR is evolving to tell stories across different platforms in different ways and technology and dispersion of media consumption can be daunting. But we can learn from each other at great events like the PR festival and continue to evolve and create engagement, impact and outcomes in the organisations we work.


Clare Smith will take part in ‘PR for social good’ on Thursday, 16 June. Register to attend now to ensure a place!