Sturgeon's PR masterclass with selfies

by Scott Douglas

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as Clinton Copies Sturgeon’s Smartphone Selfie Blueprint

Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland's 'selfie queen'


FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the undoubted Scottish ‘Queen of the Selfie’ – and now her smartphone-based photography skills could be having an impact on the US Presidential election.

With a keen eye for both popular trends and media opportunities, Ms Sturgeon established herself as a selfie-taking force to be reckoned with during the run up to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon understand the PR power of selfiesHer dexterity and discipline in learning how to use multiple different mobile phones to best frame and shoot picture of herself with well-wishers, campaigners and members of the public sparked multiple headlines in the Scottish media – with the likes of the BBC proclaiming the ‘Art of the Sturgeon Selfie’.

Political journalists from across Scotland further recognised her skills when, in December 2015, they attended a Christmas Party at Bute House and presented the First Minister with a tongue-in-cheek gift – her very own selfie stick.

While politics is now as much about popularity as it is about policy, there is also a lesson in here for businesses. Quite simply, communication in the digital age is visual. That means messaging is now as much about a pouting photo as a pithy soundbite. Every business with ambition should take time to learn about the power of photography.

Essential business guide to public relations photography from Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

PR agency guide explains the essentials of visual communications for businessesLooking to boost your business reputation? Then check out our two essential guides: Picture Perfect explains how to plan and enjoy powerful photography for businesses. Meanwhile, Visual Communications shares tips on pics, video and more for the digital age.


Piqued  By Peak Selfie

My interest in the FM’s selfie taking skills was piqued ahead of the 2014 independence vote, when a fervent Nationalist pal caught up with Ms Sturgeon at an event and asked if he could have his photo taken with her.

Quick as a flash, she asked for his phone, manoeuvred them both into the ideal position and then – deftly and without any hesitation – used his large Android phone to line up and shoot a perfect selfie. It took just seconds and the result was an immaculate, well-lit and well-framed photo.

I was even more impressed to hear that friend’s account of how Ms Sturgeon proceeded to work along the line of other selfie-seekers, in each case taking their phones and shooting the pics for them.

Of course, in a blinding flash of the obvious, I realised this made perfect sense. It meant Ms Sturgeon could work the line much more quickly, preventing members of the public from making nervous fumbles, or shooting out-of-alignment and out-of-focus pictures.

Sturgeon understands the PR power of selfiesAs well as being quicker, she ensured images were clear, focused and eminently shareable. I can’t begin to imagine how many of those pictures ended up spread across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of which must have helped build La Sturgeon’s enviable public profile as one of the most admired and respected politicians in Scottish history.

With a bit more digging and checking, I was able to find out more details about the skills which have seen The First Ministers dubbed a  ‘Selfie Queen’.

Remarkably, she has had no formal training, and her expertise with multiple phones has all been gleaned through practice – doing the hard yards on the campaign trail and at government events.

It seems that when out at events here team often try get a queue formed and literally move her along it in the direction of the exit.  Sometimes people get pretty nervous or excited, so either the First Minister or one of her team will take the phone and take a snap. While Ms Sturgeon is now adept at working with a huge variety of mobile phones, generally she finds iPhones a bit easier to use, which is understandable since she has one herself.

When she is engaging with well-wishers and selfie-seekers, generally those people have their phones unlocked and cameras ready to use – and in such situations it’s not unusual for the First Minister joke around and tell people how best to pose for selfies.

Now it seems the First Minister’s finely honed ability has moved well beyond Scottish shores and caught the attention of another female politician – in this case the woman bidding for the highest and most powerful office on the planet.

Political Selfie Ninja

Courtesy of David Meerman ScottHillary Clinton was recently branded a ‘Selfie Ninja’ by one of the world’s best-known and widely respected PR and Marketing experts, David Meerman Scott. He was impressed by a set of skills which sound as though they were inspired directly by Nicola Sturgeon’s selfie-taking abilities. In fact, the image, on the left, is a selfie which Meerman Scott had taken with Hillary Clinton and posted on his blog and across his many social media channels.

Meerman Scott is the author of numerous best-selling books, including the New Rules of Marketing & PR, Marketing the Moon and Real-Time Marketing & PR – and is also known for introducing the world to the term “newsjacking”.

In a recent episode of the excellent Marketing Over Coffee podcast (from 23 mins 30 secs in), Meerman Scott told how he had become obsessed with following the marketing aspects of the US presidential elections, starting from around August 2015.  He attended dozens of rallies involving the numerous politicians vying for both the Republican and Democratic nominations – at which point he was wowed by Hillary Clinton’s selfie-taking expertise.

He said: “Now, I had a really interesting observation about Hillary Clinton’s marketing when I was physically at the event and I haven’t heard anybody else talk about this. Hillary Clinton is a selfie ninja. What Hillary Clinton does is crazy!”

He told how he attended a rally where both Bill and Hillary Clinton were appearing and said: “Hillary Clinton started working the rope line and she’s a selfie ninja. Why? She doesn’t let you just stand there and take a picture of her, because it might be blurry, you know, ‘Oh my god I’m meeting Hillary Clinton!’.

“You’re nervous, you know like pushing the wrong buttons and you have to take time and maybe take a second picture. She grabs your phone out of your hand, lines it up herself, snaps the picture, gives you your phone back.

“Goes to the next person in line, grabs the phone, lines it up, takes the picture, gives the phone back. And I’m like ‘Holy Cow, that is the coolest thing in the world, Hillary Clinton is the selfie ninja’.

“I actually calculated it at under 10 seconds apiece she’s able to do these selfies. Meanwhile Bill Clinton was also posing for selfies and it was taking about 30 seconds apiece because people were getting, ‘Oh my god its Bill Clinton, I’m a little nervous and uh, can we do it again?’.”

Former president Bill Clinton stopped the crowds in Princes Street, Edinburgh, as he emerged from the five star Balmoral Hotel dressed for a game of golf. Moments before he emerged, Secret Service staff loaded golf clubs into his vehicle.In fact, in May this year David Meerman Scott even wrote a detailed blog post about his observations on Clinton’s selfie skills and declared: “Donald Trump is the real-time (media) master – but Hillary Clinton is the selfie champion.”

If Clinton goes on to win next month’s titanic battle with Trump and earns the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, then once settled into the West Wing, one of her first acts as president might be to take a selfie in the  Oval Office – and send it straight to Nicola Sturgeon with a sincere note of thanks.

Could your business benefit from working with a PR agency which understands and unleashes the full power of photography in communications?

 At Holyrood PR we are experts in visual communication, with awards for our use of photography and in-depth expertise in helping businesses to tell powerful stories in words, pictures and video, on paper, on air and online.

If you think it’s time your business was camera ready and well-prepared for a stint in the spotlight, we’d love to chat with you about what is possible. You can get us any time on 0131 561 2244 or take a few seconds to complete the simple form, below, and we’ll get straight back to you:

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Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

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