My Media Day: Martha Bryce, founder, Martha Bryce PR

MARTHA Bryce founded Martha Bryce PR in 2012 with the aim of focusing on two of Scotland’s biggest and most diverse industries: food and tourism.

She also co-ordinates Food from Fife, a membership group of food and drink organisations throughout Fife.

What exactly is it you do?

I work with a huge range of different organisations and help meet their objectives through effective communications.

I’ve worked with public sector bodies, charities, food and arts festivals, exhibitions, food producers, food markets, cook schools and caterers.

The diversity of the industries I work in makes this a really vibrant area to focus on.

However, while there are crossovers, each client’s requirements are different; so, while I manage the social media for some clients, for others’ this is more appropriately managed in-house.

Some clients (particularly events like food festivals or exhibitions) lend themselves well to photo stories or the broadcast media. Other clients are natural spokespeople, making them ideal commentators when the news agenda allows.

I’ve also recently taken on the coordination of Food from Fife. This is a membership group that works to grow and promote food and drink and food tourism in Fife.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

I start the day making sure I know what’s going on in the news. This may sound obvious but I do believe that people working in PR should be voracious consumers of the media.

I try and vary my media diet by picking up different magazines, newspapers, tuning into different stations and keeping an eye on Twitter. The more you get to know the media, the easier it is to sell in a story to them.

I also think it’s important to have a sound understanding of the world your clients’ inhabit. In my line of work, The Grocer is required reading but if I’m promoting an arts exhibition or festival, it’s good to be aware of how journalists are reviewing current shows.

At the moment, I’m working on festivals like the Cupar Arts Festival and the Crail Food Festival.

I love promoting events as there’s a natural narrative there with a strong call to action.

Crail Food Festival takes place from 10th – 12th June, so I’ll soon be putting together a press release providing full details of the final programme.

At the moment, I’m reaching out to food producers and chefs who are taking part in the event to find out if there are stories and recipes I can place in the media – these are hooks that allow me to talk about the festival.

The Cupar Arts Festival has an incredibly strong line-up of some of the most well-known contemporary artists around.

The festival places art works around this small town and the surprising ‘stumbled upon’ feel works well for the media.

In previous years, Cupar Arts Festival included an artist who stenciled handwritten messages into the grass of a local park with the help of local school children.

There was also an artist who dressed as a pig and encouraged locals to chase him round the streets!

Such a visual hooks are a great hook for TV and for photo stories. Looking out for opportunities like these is really important but good fun too!

I’m also working to grow the membership of Food from Fife; so, today, I’ve been setting up meetings with chefs and food and drink businesses in Fife. Our members range from the likes of Kettle Produce, one of Fife’s bigger employers, to artisan food producers. I strongly believe that, by working together, we can all grow the quality and demand for food tourism and the food and drink industry as a whole.

Food from Fife is moving from a model where it’s been reliant on public sector funding to one where we’re sustaining ourselves through membership fees. Showing benefit to our members is therefore critical, so I’m busy on Facebook and Twitter, setting up consumer newsletters and looking at grant opportunities with Fife Council, the Community Food Fund and other sources. This will allow me to organise participation at trade fairs and further activity for our members.

I’m also working towards a networking event and our AGM.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

When I first started in PR, newspapers were stronger, and the impact of social media has only really been felt during the last seven years or so.

It’s still important to read the print media but my day now tends to start by reading online. I think it’s also interesting to see the way ‘the blogosphere’ is changing too.

In the last few years, I’ve increasingly seen bloggers in Scotland become more commercial – selling content on their platforms or working to develop others’ social media or online output.

It’s also pretty shocking to see the number of redundancies in the print media. There are now an increasing number of freelancers chasing stories and fewer staff writers, with huge workloads.

This means it’s harder than ever for journalists to break away from their desks and get out on press trips or take time to research a story. A good story is still a good story, but there’s a real demand for free content like recipes, which is an opportunity.

The demise of staff photographers also means that there’s an expectation that you’ll be able to supply photography rather than newspapers taking their own. Some clients have a real gift for this, though! I work with a wonderful catering company, Lazy Sunday, which also does food styling and food photography. This goes down well with lifestyle media across the UK.

How do you see your job evolving?

Both the food and drink and tourism industries are growing in Scotland and there’s increasing recognition of this (particularly with the current downturn in the energy sector), so there’s a greater need than ever before for strong voices to tell the stories.

I think there’s recognition that working together for a stronger Scottish sector (in both tourism and food and drink – as well as combining both in food tourism). The quality is improving and with it the demand.

When I first started working in this area, I worked (at VisitScotland) to bring international journalists and UK-wide journalists to Scotland. At that time, it was incredibly frustrating how frequently the dread words, ‘deep fried Mars Bar’, were mentioned in features. That’s just not the case now.

In terms of PR, social media is incredibly powerful and continuing to grow. The way social media is harnessed by marketeers seems to develop almost organically and it’s great to see real creativity here.

Social media and the numerous online channels means that being able to react quickly is also more vital than ever.

Timing is such a critical part of a successful PR campaign but things have become a bit more complex with the instantaneous nature of the internet.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

I still continue to get a buzz out of seeing my clients’ stories placed in the media.

There’s something particularly exciting about seeing a successful photo story or getting a client broadcast coverage.

Feedback from clients saying that my work has had a direct impact on sales, visits or other aims is the ultimate accolade. There’s never been a perfect formula for evaluating PR so when I do receive comments like this, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Listening to your clients is incredibly important and I strive to get to know a clients’ business as much as I possibly can.

It’s only by developing a really close relationship that you learn what works for them and what doesn’t. It also helps you identify a story and sell it in properly. Along the way, you really do meet the most inspirational people and this is what really makes this work such fun.