Elaine is one of those people so brimming with spark, brains and wit that you feel your own mojo rising just by being in her glorious presence. During her 17 year career Elaine has worked for some of Scotland’s biggest and best creative agencies, as well as for clients such as Domino’s Pizza, One Spa at The Sheraton, Whyte & Mackay, Buchanan Galleries, Scottish Rugby and even Susan Boyle.
Elaine set up independent agency Ginger PR in 2009. She’s now based in beautiful Angus where she rocks the world of her clients all along the east coast and beyond.
I’ve been lucky to call Elaine a pal since 2006 when we first met in person over tea and scones at the swanky Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh (start as you mean to go on, right?). I’m chuffed that she was up for letting us peek behind the Ginger PR curtain and share how she gets things done with her trademark style and kickassery. She also shares her top tips for making great Instagram stories, as well what she sees as the barearse minimum we can do to promote our work online, without going bonkers.
1. When did you first become self-employed? Can you you recall the moment you realised you wanted to paddle your own canoe?
I can indeed. It was 2009 and I was spending around three hours a day in total commuting from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I really enjoyed my job but I longed for more control. It really stuck in my craw having to carry out work just to appease a middle manager (on the client side). I wanted to do work that actually made a difference and had integrity.
The credit crunch was biting down hard and I could sense redundancy was in the air (the company I was working for at the time had just closed the Edinburgh office I headed up) and it seemed like things were all falling into place for me to take that jump.
2. Pick three adjectives to describe your work.
Varied, creative, evolving.
3. How do you make your money?
Explaining PR has never been easy and the profession has changed so much in recent years that it’s even harder now. I help companies/brands/people raise and manage their profile, and in turn their revenue stream.
That comes in various guises. I might devise a social media strategy; creating a content plan for different platforms. I might place stories in newspapers and magazines. I might write the copy for a website. I might arrange an influencer event to launch a new product. I might provide essential marketing – such as signage/website creation/logo development. Anything that falls into these areas… I’m on it.
4. What does a typical working day look like? Do you like structure or are you more a by-the-seat-of-the-pantser?
I love structure but as in most jobs, things come up that need immediate attention so it’s the pants that are held aloft at this point. I’ve got two small children and don’t work full time as I want to be around for them. I like to joke that I’m living a full time life in a part time world, but it’s not very funny on the days I’ve got 283 things to do before I can go to bed.
On the days the kids go to nursery or granny, it’s head down GO GO GO. If there are any meetings or business development opportunities I need to try and schedule them on those days. The actual work can get done in evenings and weekends but the time spent with real life actual human beings who are my clients cannot!
5. I love how you share the everyday realities of running your business. You’ve posted a many an Insta story of you fitting in a bit of work in the car while your two young kiddos are napping. How do you find those pockets of time for work?
I love that phrase, pocket of time. When the girls are around (they have just turned 3 and 1) it’s impossible to get any real work done as I can’t concentrate – one eye is on the baby who loves to use her mouth as pocket to store all manner of choke-able items, and the other is on the 3 year old who needs a drink/ a fly removed/ a toy from a top shelf/ me to watch how high she can jump.
So if they are busy for a moment it’s a case of checking emails and firing off quick responses. Occasionally when they are in the double buggy and we’re walking somewhere I can make a quick call (with my headphones in) but that always runs the risk of background crying/mummy requests, or noisy traffic! Not so profesh so I try to keep that to a minimum.
The one handed buggy push 💪🏼. Mastered by mothers everywhere trying to get places, reply to texts, plan meals, schedule appointments, check work emails, make shopping lists, find snacks, moisturise our lips, set reminders and turn the hot water on 🤳🏻💆🏻♀️ #mumlife . . . . . . . #gingerpr #scotland #angus #workingmum #pr #publicrelations #prangus #boutiquepr #pragency #buggy #walking #busy #instamum #instapic #prlife #buggywalk #doingitall #montrose #reallife #pram #fitbit #outnabout #stepcount #motherhoodthroughinstagram #mumsofinstagram #scottishmum
6. You seem to dive into a day and get shit done with minimal faff. Were you born this way or has it gone up a level since you started your own business?
Ha! I feel like I faff WAY too much. Instagram has a lot to answer for! I am definitely more focused since I had children as there isn’t always another day to get the work done; I have to get it done when they are at nursery, or after they have gone to bed. Aside from that time pressure, I do hate being unproductive. The thought of a day wasted is very upsetting to me! The more I get done the happier I am.
7. You’re a natural at Instagram Stories. I never ever skip past yours! What makes a good IG Story? Any advice to encourage those who feel a bit IG-story-phobic?
I LOVE Instastories. It is very self-indulgent to film yourself and your life and I suppose it gives me that taste of being the TV presenter that I would have loved to be. It can be really cringe talking to your phone, knowing people are then going to watch it and probably judge you. But if I don’t like someone’s story, I just swipe past. So if people want to watch or not – it’s up to them.
My top tip is talk to the camera. Film yourself. People don’t want to see people. 17 stories in a row that are all pictures… boring. Get talking and show your face. I never plan what I’m going to say. I know the point I am going to make, so it’s good to have that in mind but otherwise I suggest pretending you’ve called up your best friend/mum and talk – and smile! Oh, and try not to be monotone. Be excited, angry, passionate, sneaky… anything that’s just a bit more.
8. What’s your least favourite work task?
I cannot be doing with the money admin. Invoicing and expense spreadsheets are dull dull DULL and I take no joy from them whatsoever. I have an accountant who makes me very happy but I still manage to leave ALL my expenses to the end of the year. Oops.
I don’t mind this but I mind the time it takes – a lot. Learning and training. Things are changing all the time and trying to keep up, and keep up to a level where you are advising your clients correctly is exhausting. I can spend hours looking into new platforms and understanding something technical, and it will still take hours to actually get my head around it. That’s one of the things I miss about working in an agency; the experts and training available.
9. You’ve been working in PR a long time, before social media was a thing. Is PR tougher work these days? What do you see as the biggest changes?
I wouldn’t say it’s tougher, I would just say it’s different. The biggest change is the adaption of ‘traditional PR’. While the concept remains the same (essentially selling a story into print media) the media has changed – it’s online and it’s social too OBVS. This means you also need to work on the way in which it’s delivered and get creative. The written word is always important, as well as events and collaboration, but images and the video need to take centre stage.
Fifteen years ago, courting journalists and developing relationships was THE THING. Now, that’s still essential but add into the mix, influencers and bloggers… that’s a huge additional audience to keep on top of.
There is also the challenge of succumbing to a scattergun approach as there are SO many things to suggest and recommend. A bit of social media, a bit of blog posting, some media coverage, a website refresh, a social influencer event… and are all of these tied up together?! A focused approach with measurable results is essential. Can you see if what you are doing is effective? How are you measuring this? Very important.
10. For the entrepreneurs or self-employed folks reading – what’s the barearse minimum folks can be doing online to promote their work? Any common clangers you see where people don’t quite get it right?
So many! The main thing I would say is don’t feel like you have to do it it all. Pick the things that are central to your business and do them well. Website – is it up to date? Are the images clear? All the pages working and actually have words on them that are written well? Is there a phone number? Have you set up a Twitter account and last tweeted 4 months ago? Delete it.
The online and public perception of your business reflects directly on your brand. For example, if you run a self-catering venue and your website is dated? That’s what people will think about your accommodation. If you’re an engineer and your social media is sloppy, people will expect that of your work too.
11. What’s the nicest thing a client has ever told you about your work?
It’s probably that I’m dynamic and the publicity I’ve driven for their brand has resulted in direct sales/increase in new customers. It’s not very exciting feedback as a lot of what I do is hard to ‘show’. Yes, a lovely big spread in the newspaper looks wonderful but it’s the impact that counts – which can be hard to measure. And there is so much work that is relationship building – which is very much behind the scenes work.
12. What are your favourite ways to procrastinate?
Instagram is most def up there. I am so bad at getting sucked into Stories for quite some time.
Working from home always has the ‘tidy the house’ factor. You know, you’ll tidy and clean things that wouldn’t normally get a look in, rather than tackle the to do list. When I get back from dropping the girls off at nursery, I allow myself 15 minutes to clear up breakfast/empty the dishwasher/ put the washing machine on before sitting at my desk for the day – otherwise before you know it, it’s time for lunch!
I can also while away far too much time looking at recipies! I want to make something different for dinner tonight but I know I need to limit my online recipe trawling to 15 mins or I would be there for an hour.
13. Fast forward five years from now… what do you imagine Ginger PR will look like?
I’ve not been great at making future projections and plans for my business as I always knew I wanted to have a family and I knew if I was lucky enough, it would impact my business greatly. I’ve been working part time for over three years and on maternity leave twice in that time. But things are beginning to build back up and I’m at a stage now where things are growing steadily and I’m choosing to bring in people to work with me so the Ginger PR roster can increase.
I also don’t like to plan too much as you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Something totally different could be around the corner that you had no idea was coming.
14. What is your workday beverage of choice?
I love a coffee. A huge mug of coffee. I smashed my favourite mug some time ago and bought this purple delight as a replacement. It’s humungous and the pattern reminds me of my Granny Couper who died two years ago, and also loved a coffee.
15. Working for yourself can be a lonely business! Do you have any sources of support?
I don’t mind it too much. It’s a chance for me to enjoy listening to music and drinking coffee without anyone asking me 1393 questions, haha! I do miss the team chat and camaraderie at times though. I know a number of freelancers in the same boat so they are always on hand for a chat and I’ve also established a local monthly creatives meet up where we like to share gripes and have blether about the industry.
16. When it comes to getting organised, are you a digital or analogue person?
I am old school. I have a notebook for client work and a notebook for my weekly/ daily do to list. I love to write it all down, segmented by client/life topic. It really helps me to see where I need to prioritise my time. And yeah, ticking it off feels so good! The only other must have is my calendar on my phone. Ideally that would also be an old school paper one but I have a shared calendar with my husband, and ain’t nobody got room to cart another item around with them.
17. Is there anything about the world of social media that that you’re not a fan of/feel is a bit bullsh*t?
Yes. Insta is really where you’ll find me these days and I find it to be mostly a very supportive community. However, sometimes it’s a bit preachy. Lots of women telling other people they don’t need to feel X/put up with Y/ be afraid of doing Z. Ugh. A bit pious to offer advice when it’s not asked for.
18. What do you see out the window of your workspace right now?
Rain! The heatwave is over! Beyond the rain, some houses and some hills. I’m based in Angus, a beautiful part of Scotland with towns surrounded with glen, and fields and beaches.