Clare Smith

Senior PR Manager for The Scottish Government

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director



Tom Holmes talks to Clare Smith Senior PR Manager for The Scottish Government.

Prior to her current role, Clare was Marketing and Comms Manager at Edinburgh Napier University and before that  International Comms Manager at The Scottish Government where she worked on a number of leading initiatives such as Tartan Week, St Andrew's Day and G8.

Clare graduated in 1996 and has a BSC Hons in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Stirling.


Creativebrief: As Senior PR Manager at The Scottish Government what is your primary focus?

Clare Smith: My role here is pretty varied, which I thrive on – it makes for some pretty interesting answers to ‘what are you working on’ questions from friends. In a nutshell, I support the domestic campaigns PR work and also lead on the international marketing and reputation work. At a strategic level, it’s about delivering policy objectives through communications, and supporting “the focus of government to create a more successful country, with opportunities for Scotland to flourish, through sustainable economic growth”. In practice this means PR strategies for anything from preparing the country for winter weather to sponsorship activation of the Scottish League Cup.

I lead a small team of five who are all motivated, enthusiastic and creative – I’m not sure I can take credit for that though, I think they are just a really good bunch of people who take pride in striving for excellence.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned The Scottish Government, Edinburgh Napier University, KD Media, Business a.m. Newspaper, Business7 and Insider Magazine, what have been the high points?

Clare Smith: I’ve worked on some really exciting projects. When you work for Government you get the opportunity to work on really high profile and interesting stuff – G8, Olympic Torch Relay, Referendum launch, Scotland Week, Health campaigns, Greener strategies. The social marketing work we do is particularly rewarding, making a real difference to peoples lives.

Across my career I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some brilliant people who have supported me and my development. I hope I’ve learned from them and am now offering the same support and mentoring I was fortunate enough to have received.

Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been any individuals who particularly impressed and inspired you?

Clare Smith: Arianna Huffington – a hugely talented editor and successful business women who clearly knows her audience. Huffington Post is arguably one of the best read and most influential blogs, and is making money. 

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently makes you really proud?

Clare Smith: In April this year the Scottish Government sponsored the ninth Scotland Run 10k in Central Park, New York. I had worked on the project in 2005 and 2006 – it was great to be involved again and to take it to the next level. We secured four major TV networks coverage and increased the number taking part to over 11,000 – a record breaking number. Less glamorous but equally rewarding is the continued success of our Organ Donation campaign, really making a difference to peoples lives as more people sign up to the Organ Donation register – Scotland now has 39.1% of the population on the ODR, breaking through the two million registrations mark, compared to 30% across the whole of the UK.

Creativebrief: What Scottish brands do you most admire and why?

Clare Smith: There are loads of brands I admire – I think Scotland contributes loads of excellent products to world, for a small country we produce a disproportionate amount of global brands. Personal favorites would be Hunters Wellies, Henricks Gin, Timorous Beasties, ANTA – from a business perspective Scotland’s whisky brands really are taking the world by storm and contributing so much to Scotland’s economy and reputation internationally.

Creativebrief: Do you think Scottish marketing is of a world class standard?

Clare Smith: I do. Work produced by Scottish companies and their agencies is up there with anything that comes out of London. I think that the industry is really showing that you don’t have to be based in London to be at the heart of world class marketing. It’s a cliché, but we really are a creative, innovative nation – past and present.

Creativebrief: What is your favourite advertising campaign?

Clare Smith: Recently, I really liked the Harvey Nichols ‘wet yourself’ campaign. I think it went way beyond advertising, I think they calculated the PR element and went for it. Risky, but I liked it. Historically, I loved ‘Pea and ham, from a chicken? Now that’s clever’… Knorr stock cubes. Always made us laugh as kids! The Irn Bru spoof of the Coke ad in 1988 was also legendary. Showing my ‘80’s childhood much?!

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Clare Smith: Clearly the growth of online will continue to have a detrimental effect on print circulations, and the increase and influence of bloggers is rocketing. We are still behind the US in our adoption of blogs but I think that we will be being to follow suit in this over the next 5 years. That said, I think newspapers will survive – particularly as a trusted source of information. Bloggers and online sources aren’t regulated in the same way as the print / mainstream media, when comes to trusted factual content and influential, credible opinion, my money would be on qualified journalists rather than amateur bloggers. That said, there’s huge opportunity for technology advances to complement traditional media so I’m excited to see how that mix develops in the next 5 years.

Creativebrief: Do you think the Scottish Government recognises marketing’s contribution to creativity and culture?

Clare Smith: On the whole, yes. The PR and marketing industry has become better at evaluating its contribution to achieving Government objectives and this in turn shows policy and Ministers that it’s a valuable lever in the policy / legislative tool box. In terms of culture, Scotland’s best exports are our people, creativity and innovation – you just need to look at business leaders around the world – many are Scots or indeed have studied here.

Creativebrief: Do you think the Edinburgh International Marketing Festival can help support this?

Clare Smith: Absolutely. Edinburgh in August welcomes millions of visitors, here both for leisure and, increasingly, business as it becomes a centre for creative industry networking. The International Marketing Festival is a natural extension of this for the marketing and creative community – and where better for this to be? The EIMF will fast establish itself as a vital part of Edinburgh’s annual festival calendar. 

At home, Scotland is in the grip of a nationalist renaissance with a fresh appreciation of what it is to be Scottish, does this help or hinder communicating a clear brand identity?

Any brand lives or dies on its proof points. Scotland’s international promotion work has been celebrating the nation’s strengths for close to 10 years now. We’ve got as much to offer the world as we ever did – if not more in terms of world class events coming to Scotland such as the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games – as well as our world class hotels, visitor attractions and Universities.

Creativebrief: Around the world, bagpipes, tartan and Highland games, have been triggers for the promotion of the Scottish brand, playing strongly to the Scottish diaspora, however, as the older generation of Canadian, American, Australian and South African Scots are dying out, how is Scotland engaging and capturing the imagination of the next generation?

Clare Smith: Many of the current US and Canadian diaspora are already third or fourth generation Scots – I think this will continue. Equally, social media is one of the best communication tools ever for Scots and Scots-at-heart around the world feeling more part of the Scottish community than ever before. We manage a very active facebook page – About Scotland – where the appetite for news and conversation about Scotland (funnily enough!) is insatiable.

As with most major brands and industries, Scotland is pro-active in emerging markets – China and India are increasing priorities for us.  And through travel, studying abroad and the internet, the world continues to shrink and become more accessible than ever before. (and associated in country micro-sites) is our international facing website providing a window to the world and links to specialist Scottish sector sites.

Creativebrief: Considering the incredible line-up of eight major make-or-break events for Scottish business and tourism, ranging from 2012’s Year of Creative Scotland and the Olympics in London through to the Ryder Cup, the Commonwealth Games and Homecoming in 2014, what will your role be in this?

Clare Smith: We will be on the frontline! It’s an exciting time and we, a long with colleagues at VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and Scottish Development International, will be maximising the opportunity afforded by these events, truly establishing Scotland as a world class destination.