Guest Interview with Fiona Scott PR Expert

Mar 17, 2024 | Marketing Guest

“Show Notes”

This episode is an interview with Fiona Scott a PR specialist. To start Sam and Fiona discuss the difference between PR and marketing. Fiona says public relations encompasses every type of marketing as public relations is about any time your business contacts the public. Fiona says that means if someone says they can help you with all of your PR be very wary, that is a very wide field. Fiona’s specialism is in press communications. Fiona suggests that when you are starting business, get some advice about marketing and PR. You probably can’t afford PR or marketing, but get advice to help you get through the first few years. Marcus asks about the history of PR. Fiona said that Queen Elizabeth the first was one of the first people to control the images that went out of her. Marcus was thinking of ⁠Edward Burtynsky⁠ who took the ideas of Froid and applied them to PR. Sam bring in the idea that images and photography are vital to PR. Fiona says she will only ever work with people who have photos that re renewed every 18 months at the most. Fiona has a retained photographer in her business as photography is so vital to PR. So PR could be a good source of work. And offering a retainer to regular clients can be a great way to get a regular income as a photographer. It’s important when working on a retainer that you make it very clear what is covered in the retainer deal and what is not. Fiona says the best photographers she has worked with do a wide range of photography, portraits, weddings etc. She also says that photographers are often awful at getting their own headshots done. They need to ensure they keep their photographs up to date. Marcus asks how photographers can get involved in PR. Fiona says start localm and get in touch with PR companies within your own communities. Call them up and ask to meet. Fiona says there can be issue with copyright and PR. PR businesses need to pass photos on to other businesses, like newspapers. Therefore the PR business needs the right to do that and so the copyright for the photograph. Fiona says that a PR business can send the photographers details with images sent to press. But, the press do not have to credit the photographer. But a photographer can of course share on social media when their work has been used in the press.

Marcus asks what makes a good PR photograph. Fiona said that if you want to work with the media your photographs need to be media friendly. No plain backgrounds.  The background needs to help tell the story. Landscape only, portrait is rarely used unless you are being used for the front page of the magazine.  Usually they want a 1 to 3 Mb jpg. High end lifestyle magazines may ask for higher quality. Having lots of photographs to hand that you can send at a moments notice can really help you get your photographs published.  Product photographs are a little different and do need a plain background.

Fiona suggests photographers should get out on strong weather days, snowy, windy etc. Get out there, get some images and then very quickly send them to newspapers, and other media in your community.

You can get hold of Fiona here

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hello, Marcus, how are you doing?

Marcus:  I’m really good. Thank you, Sam, and hello to you. And hello, of course, to all our wonderful and valued listeners out there.

Sam: Yeah, it’s good to be in touch with you all again. And today we have an amazing guest from the world of PR. And that is Fiona Scott. So as always, I’m going to ask our guests to introduce themselves. So, Fiona, over to you.

Fiona: Thank you very much, guys really pleased to be here today, and hope I can add value to your listeners. My name is Fiona Scott, as you’ve heard, I’ve been a working journalist for over 35 years. And I’ve run my own PR company for the last 15 years. And I specialize really in working with small businesses and micro businesses to make them visible.

Sam: Amazing. Thank you so much. So, I think a first question for a lot of people is probably going to be PR, marketing. Can you kind of tell us what the difference is?

Fiona: Well, I can, most people think PR is press relations. It’s not. It’s public relations. So, it’s anywhere that you touch the public, or any of your audiences within your business. So, in my world, PR public relations encompasses every type of marketing, because marketing is about outreach. So, one little tip early on, if you’re considering working with a PR professional, and they tell you that they can do the whole of marketing, that’s a huge red flag. Because I know that for example, websites are important to PR, but I don’t build websites. And I that is not it just filled. And there is no one size fits all. And there is no person that can do everything, unless they’ve got a massive team, and you have a bottomless pit of money.

Sam: Excellent. So, if somebody’s thinking I could do some helping kind of the marketing, PR world, what kinds of things need to think about as to whether they want to work with a marketing person, or whether they want to work with a PR person, kind of what are those differences?

Fiona: Well, I think the thing is, it depends on your type of business. And also as a business owner, your comfort level in what you want to do. I specialize in press relations. So, outreach to the media, and the media. Now, it’s very different to the media when I started 15 years ago. And if that is not of interest to you, you’re going to have to consider different tools and tactics. So, my advice, particularly if you’re starting out as businesses, get some training. And really now by talking to other similar businesses, what tactics might work for you in year one and year two, because once you’ve got past those two years, which is when most businesses fail, you’ll then start to layer in different activities as your business grows. So don’t just rush in thinking all I know best if you’ve never run a business before. Because you could spend and waste a lot of money.

Sam: That makes sense. So kind of my thought of mine kind of the different sides is more you get some tactics and provide a plan. And then if you’re more thinking, I want to be out there, I want kind of my face, on social in magazines, whatever, then kind of PR is the way to go. If you’re more thinking actually I could do with a website and some Google ads, then kind of a marketing person is more the way to go. Is that kind of

Fiona: Yeah, I think there’s got to be personal choice way against the type of business if you’re selling widgets online. And it might be that Google Ad spends or social media ad spends plus, and I think everyone should have a website. By the way, regardless of the type of business you’ve got, because it’s your most valuable digital asset, because have most control, then be sensible about that. Learn from people, it doesn’t matter what they’re selling, but if they’re selling products like you, you might fancy PR, or my bit of PR, which is press relations. You might fancy that but that might not be a sensible spend in the first couple of years.

Sam: That makes sense.

Marcus: I think it’s really great. You’ve just pointed out the differences. There are few in between PR and marketing. But if I may just ask you this. Do you know much about the history of PR and how it first started because I do know the story behind it. It’s quite an interesting one, isn’t it?

Fiona: All right, I’ve done a little bit of research and from my understanding the first person who is recognized if using PR, i.e curating what people could show of her and speak about was Queen Elizabeth for Yeah, she, she controlled what images could be used to power around the UK, particularly in their older years, when she became, as many people did in those days, she became, you know, a little less attractive in her own eyes, you know, lost her teeth lost her hair had real problems with a skin for using lead base makeup. So, she controlled the images that went out, obviously, it’s a whole different one. So that my understanding is the very first time that people recognize sort of curated image, if you like, of someone, but I’d be interested in when.

Marcus: I was thinking of Edward Bernays, who was seen as the Father PR he was a relative, it was the other Lucien Freud and basically took the ideas of Freud and put it towards promoting products, which was at a time when he was asked by a tobacco company. So, he came up with this notion of the torches of freedom, where on a suffragette March he got the women to smoke a cigarette, which was seen as being very anti, you know, anti-establishment, and that was seen, I believe, is the one of the first pitch a PR that was done. So yeah, FoId Edward Bernays cigarettes are very heady combination.

Fiona: Go, I’m gonna look that up, I feel that I might be able to write a LinkedIn post on that. No information is ever wasted.

Marcus:  Yeah, I know. Paul says freedom. Can you believe that? Sorry to interrupt.

Sam: But I was gonna say and obviously we are a photography, podcast. And presumably, photography is really vital for the people you work with in PR and welfare. Anyone in PR, really?

Fiona: Yeah, absolutely. Yes, we are in, we’ve always been very visual, as human beings always. But in the age of social media, the messages that are bomb we are bombarded with everyday visuals are incredibly important. And in fact, so important to things about my business. Now, if you’re not prepared to have professional photography done, I won’t work with you, right? Because I cannot do the job you want me to do without good images to support me, and generally retaken at least once every 18 months. And the other thing is, I actually have a professional photographer retained in my business, so that I can always call on someone. Yeah, and I know that, for a micro business like me, that would be very unusual. But I would appeal to any business out there to look at their books for the last two years, look at how much they’re spending on professional and commercial photography, and work out whether a retainer and close relationship with a commercial photographer, is probably more cost effective for them. And very helpful for the photographer to in the long run.

Marcus: That’s music to my ears, Fiona. And in fact, when I, when I first come across you on LinkedIn, and I noticed we’re really promoting photography, and the idea of using photography for PR, it really wasn’t, that’s what really wanted me to get you on the show and talk about it.

Sam: And then also what you’re saying, I think we can turn that on its head for photographers, because you’re kind of appealing to general business. Historically, most of our listeners are photographers, we can turn on our head and go, Well, that’s a great sales technique, we look at your regular customers, or maybe look at people online who were doing a lot of photography and ask them to do that and go how much you’re spending on photography, would it actually be better for you to have me retained and you could, you know, have a package ready and go, you know, it could be this much money, and you get this out of it. And that’s a great sales pitch as a photographer to kind of helping people with their PR and getting the photographer a nice, reliable monthly income.

Fiona: I agree. And I think that over the years, I’ve worked with this photographer on a retainer for probably six years now. And how we’ve developed that relationship is we, we know that there are no there are certain subjects I’ll cover personally in my business, not just client things. So, they know I’m going to be talking about winter, Christmas summer. And therefore, we will use some of our time to produce photography, which is bespoke to me, that I can use on my own channels that follow the ebb and flow of the year. So, you do learn about other ways in which you can use these visual assets to promote your business and also support any clients.

Sam: And then presumably, then it’s good actually, for photographers to learn something about PR, especially if they’re commercial photographers, working with businesses in terms of you know, helping to make their shots be more useful and also for selling their shots. But because you can then kind of know what could these views are and if you’ve got way more examples of what your work could be used for, you’re kind of showing how much more value plants are going to get from it on you.

Fiona: Yeah, and I think the most successful photographers that I’ve worked with, they are portfolio photographers. So, they’ll do our what I call personal photography, lifestyle photography, you know, babies, weddings, all that type of thing. And some commercial stuff, they tend not to put all their eggs in one basket. Because if you’re skilled across all of those things, and you get busier, you can make choices about which days of the week you work, for example, I work with a photographer, who’s retired now, who didn’t want to work weekends. So, when it came to weddings, he would only do midweek weddings, and they became known for that. But there is definitely something missing, with photographers that don’t recognize those businesses that could do with and would welcome the chance for cash flow reasons to pay a retainer, and not happy with your beck and call, you have to have a sensible agreement about what kind of work yeah, but if you know someone, you have that agreement. And you work and it grows with time. I mean, it’s worked for me, and I would never consider not doing it. If the photographer I worked with now retired or stopped for some reason. It’s a lady, I would look for someone else to take her place.

Sam: Yeah, and as a photographer, you can you could do it individually with people, but you have to like make a package, this is my retained package, oh, you could do a Bronze, Silver, Gold or whatever couldn’t do. And for this much, you get that many shops a year you get this, you get my support with that, and you put together a nice package, but you don’t just go put them on a monthly retainer, and not really say what you get, because you’d both have such wildly different expectations that that’s going to be a disaster.

Fiona: Yeah. And, um, you know, you can have some businesses that soak up a lot of photography, I do. But today it was an estate agent, for example, you’ve got well for a sensible deal. The other thing I would say about photographers that I’ve noticed is they are, by and large, the ones I’ve dealt with, they’re pretty rubbish at getting their own headshots, photography done. And I, I clocked in this with my journalist hat on once, when I was doing something writing about a professional photographer in my community, and I asked for his headshot, and he sent me a selfie. Like, I couldn’t work that out. That was a selfie. And I went back to him and said, I’m not going to use it, because actually, I’m done. I believe I’m damaging your reputation by using the photograph you sent me, about you. So, I did find that rather bizarre, and your listeners may find that bizarre, but it does happen.

Marcus: There’s no doubt about it. Fiona. PR photography has always been a rich mainstay of photography with commercial photographers’ income. But so maybe you just give a few words to our listeners about how they might get into working for a PR company and what to expect and what to present that kind of thing.

Fiona: I would just look Well start in your own community. Don’t try and be all things to everyone if you can identify three, Max, good. And I stress this word good PR companies in your own community. And literally, it’s really simple ringing them up, say who you are. And would they meet you at some point to discuss you be interested in working with them? One thing to understand in the My world of particular press relations is you need to have a very early conversation about copyright. Because copyright in dealing with the media can be a thorny issue. And you need to deal with that really early on.

Sam: So that in terms of if you’re giving them pictures, is it your copyright? Have they got the copyright? who’s who?

Fiona:  yeah, it’s a gift in the copyright, because I can give you numerous examples where that’s gone spectacularly wrong. If you are going to work with PR companies, when you do a job for them, you need to give them total copyright. Obviously, the photographs still belong to you, but it belongs to them because they’re passing it to a third party, i.e the media, when that relate when that takes place. The media are given and this is this is law because I’m trained as a journalist, tacit consent to that media outlet to use that photograph. There is nothing that says the media outlet has to say who is taking that photograph, you can ask. But you cannot insist and the reason you can’t insist is because in the world of PR 50 In my case, 50 to 75% of everything I send out is about a client is being sent to a journalist and they you’re not paying for that space. That is a free transaction. That is a choice. So, you can’t say to a journalist after the fact after you sent the photograph out, let’s just say I was doing a story about a company. Marcus, you took the photographs. I sent it off I put Marcus is a I’m details at the bottom of the press release to say this photograph. But I cannot insist that media outlets use Marcus’s name, because I’m not paying for that space. So that is something that really must be discussed early doors. And if you are not comfortable with that, PR is not for you.

Sam: Good to know.

Marcus: Yeah, I mean, I think that really, that really sums it up very well. And it’s a PR is a fast turnover, isn’t it, you get your images out there. Next day, you’re doing another job, you’re getting images out there. It’s not like an advertising campaign, where you’ve got your work up been. So maybe worldwide, locally, European, wherever, over a period of time. You’re right, the copyright is very different in that situation.

Fiona: It is different. And the other you can to be honest, if you ask nicely, for me, particularly the national press, they are pretty good at naming where photographs have come from. But actually, it’s up to each commercial photographer. And the photographer I work with, she knows what job she’s done. For me when something is published locally, regionally, or nationally. I’m very happy for her to share that and say I provided the photographs for this include I expect it so that there’s a responsibility, I think, upon the commercial photographer to share their work and their outcomes. So, these are really important discussions with the upfront contract because I can give you two scenarios, if you wish, where that has gone spectacularly wrong.

Sam:  Okay, cool.

Marcus: Mentioned any names, okay.

Fiona: Scenario, one business owner employs a mate, who is a professional photographer to take photographs at the opening of a thing. Basically, sonar insists that it was made clear because it’s the opening of a thing that is going to seek press coverage of that thing, it’s an event processing operation, I may comes along to the event, photographs are provided sends out a press release with photography, about said event photographer then sends very nasty emails to me, the PR partner that I have used his images without permission sending them to the press. Now, what happens then business owner, I have to go back to the business owner and explain what’s happened. Business Owner goes back to his mate, who apparently offered to do this for free, offers to pay him. But relationship is permanently broken. And they are not friends anymore. So that’s why it’s really important when don’t offer to do stuff for free. And the other thing, even if it’s a mate, without understanding what the parameters of that are. The second one, this was some years ago now. Photographer work regularly with estate agent goes out and takes pictures. Estate agent has a very unusual property, sends me photographs of it and details. I’m at this stage of full-time journalist, I think yeah, that’s really interesting. That makes a nice story. We ran a really nice feature four-page spreads three or four photos, all the details. Photographer then tries to build newspaper and me for the use of the photography. Even though the estate agent has paid for that photography. I journalists have to go back to a state agent and say, look, there’s no way we’re paying you provide a debt. There was never any agreement about this. You provided us with tacit consent estate agent then sack that photographer and uses another one. So, they’ve lost the business. So, these are the things that can happen. So, it’s all in the upfront discussion.

Sam: Yeah. So yeah, just be really clear what you’re doing, what you’ve organized, what the how the relationship works.

Fiona:  Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus: So, Fiona, earlier on the show, you mentioned that you’re welcome. A diverse portfolio that so lots of different skills, because that’s what you need is a PR photographer. Maybe you could just give us a couple of guidelines about what makes a good PR photograph. And secondly. Yeah, actually, let’s leave it at that. What makes a good PR photograph?

Fiona: Okay, well, if you want to work with a media and you might have aspirations to be covered by the national press at some time, from day one, your photographs have to look media friendly. They have to so this is not so very simple things, no white gray playing background. And if you’re used to doing that for a client that might be solicitors or accountant because that’s the style on their website. That’s fine, but that is not the style the media want. So, you need to think what’s in the background what really makes this person’s face And I look pop, I call it narrative or lifestyle. And think of three or four different needs to create from those photographs. Landscape always, it’s got to be landscape, the media will rarely ask for portrait. Unless you are very lucky. And you’re being considered for the front page of a magazine, they will come back specifically and asked for portrait, because they need negative space to put the name of the magazine.Usually, the media want a one to three Meg JPEG. Not below that, particularly if it’s a hardcopy media, they’re less concerned if it’s online, and very high end of magazines. So, talking about country Life magazine, the life titles, the living titles, may ask for much higher resolution, eight to 10, Meg, these are the things and if you want national coverage, having your own photography, that is a good quality that you can send to the media instantly will often be the one thing that gets you over the line, even if somebody else has a better story than you. And I have multiple examples of where that’s happened. So, these are basic things, you have to marry up a client’s expectations, look at what they want the photography for. And if they want it for media outreach, it needs to be colorful, needs to be lifestylish. It needs to really speak to someone’s personality. It’s different with products, though, with products, you do need to provide some of the products with a white, gray or transparent background, as well as in a more lifestyle environment. And the reason for that is because magazine just designed pages. And therefore, with a white or transparent background, they can use the photographs and design a page as they see fit.

Marcus: Yeah, I mean, that’s excellent, excellent advice there. Yeah. And I think, you know, you just catch them on the layout on the page as well. I remember when I mean, my degree was in editorial photography. So, you know, we’re very much drilled into the idea of putting space on there for text and thinking about with a double page spread where the gutter is going to be, when you’re taking a photograph. I’m sure these are very familiar to you, Fiona.

Fiona: Yeah. And often journalists, I mean, many of us in PR, we subscribe to databases where journalists tell us what they want. There’ll be really specific, particularly in product photography around what they want. Now, I don’t specialize in product PR, but some of my clients want a bit of both they sell products, and they want what are called people. Yeah. Because people buy from people, oh, I’ll do it. Do it if I don’t have a range of good images of your product, both together and separately. So, I think product photography, photography, in a world of products is possibly more even in a business like mine, which is service base, where I’m the main asset, if you like,

Sam: Cool. I think it’s been really interesting, but we are kind of getting towards the end of our time. But I think we’ve talked a lot about photographers, doing helping with PR for other people, but what can you maybe give just to kind of to finish off like a quick win, which a photographer could do today to help with their own PR just a really quick something they could do.

Fiona: Okay, well, I would suggest that they write Okay, right now, I will be looking at the weather. The British media are obsessed with the weather. So as soon as you get a snowy day, for example, go out, take some beautiful snowy photographs in your community, submit them to local people, the local TV, to use to denote and illustrate that snowy day in your community. And what happens if they have to say, if they’re doing around up who you are and where you come from? That is a quick win. But whether we are tasked with it with the weather.

Marcus: Well, if I made this quickly, just get in there as quickly tell the story. Sorry, I know if the end of the show. But Fiona but yeah, it’s funny you say that because my I got a very, very good friend of mine, who is a really top PR photographer. And he is always waiting every year for it to snow. And last year. I think he got his picture on the front page of every national newspaper in the UK of a snowy scene and it was a very normal photograph. I shouldn’t say average but yeah, it’s bad. A really good one actually weather.

Fiona: Yeah.

Sam: Brilliant. Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much, Fiona. So, Fiona is going to tell us a little bit more in the newsletter bonus lots. So, if you are signed up for the newsletter, you will get that straight to your inbox. If you are not signed up to the newsletter. The question is Why not go now to shoot to the And you can get signed up for the newsletter. And on top of the newsletter and beyond that we also have a shoot to the top Facebook group which menu. In fact most of our guests are on and loads of other photographers. It’s kind of educational, fun, all sorts of stuff going on there. So, head there too. You can find that from the shoot to the top website. And Fiona, thank you so much for being such an amazing guest. It has been great to get all of your help, advice, stories and everything else on the show.

Fiona: No problem. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Sam: Marcus. I’ll see you next week.

Marcus: Yeah, see you next week may have a good one.