Interview with editor and stylist Samantha Harman

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Getting Naked With | 0 comments

Samantha Harman is a stylist and an award-winning editor of newspapers, magazines and websites. She was the first female editor of the Bucks Free Press and the youngest ever editor of the Oxford Mail and Times. She specialises in digital transformation and currently edits Oxfordshire Living magazine and teaches at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing as Senior Lecturer in Journalism. Samantha is known for her bold, sassy outfits and empowering messages to women. She helps women gain confidence in their style and media strategy so they can achieve their goals.

I met Samatha via Instagram and absolutely love her attitude and outlook, especially her passion for supporting other women. I asked Samantha all about her incredible career and her new business, The Style Editor.

Samantha Harman

Getting Naked With Interview with Samantha Harman

NakedPRGirl: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

Samantha Harman: I am from Portsmouth. I grew up on an estate called Paulsgrove. Now I live in Oxfordshire with my husband and dog. Both my husband and I have moved around a lot, so it’s nice to be somewhere that feels like ‘ours’. Oxfordshire definitely feels like home, I really love living here. Unfortunately, the dog does think he owns the house though!

NakedPRGirl: What did you study? What was your first job?

Samantha Harman: Growing up, I was very socially engaged! I saw a lot​ of things on that estate. But I had amazing parents who did everything they could to give us a good education and family life. 

I was always writing letters to Tony Blair or the local paper!! I remember being about 8 and being there with my notebook like ‘Dear Sir, further to my letter of the 6th!’ 

So I knew I wanted to be a journalist; not to be ‘famous’ or rich… but to genuinely make a difference.I studied for the NCTJ at Highbury College after university. All the way through school, college and uni, I worked. I did lots (cleaning, worked in a bank, lettings, telesales, factory work) but my first one was as a waitress for a wedding and events catering company. Unfortunately, I am extremely clumsy so lots of people ended up with coffee and gravy spilled on their nice outfits… 

NakedPRGirl: What was your big break?

Samantha Harman: Back in the day (!), getting a job in journalism was very difficult – lots of new jobs have been created in the online space since then (whilst traditional roles have been lost in newsrooms) – but there were about 40 candidates per trainee job. I went ALL over the place for work experience whilst studying towards my NCTJ and working part-time jobs (to fund the unpaid work experience!). I didn’t know anyone who was a journalist, so it was on me to go and make those connections. Because the job market was highly competitive, I started hounding editors, rather than waiting for jobs to come up. One day, I got a reply from the deputy editor of the Dorset Echo, who said they happened to have a job come up and I should go for an interview. 

“Do you know where our office is?” He wrote.

“No but I’m a journalist, so I’ll find it,” I replied. 

Passed the first test! 

It has always surprised me since then how many candidates who want to be journalists don’t do the basic investigation. Time and again, I’ve invited people for interviews and they’ve said ‘where is the office?’ 

… Google it. 

When I went for the interview, this deputy editor said to me he thought I might be too into fashion to be a serious reporter. I’ve always been the kind of person who, when someone tells them they can’t do something, takes that as a challenge (which I think he probably knew). 

So I went back a week later – from Portsmouth to Dorset which, when you are driving a bright green old Daewoo Matiz is a pretty dangerous drive – with FIVE news stories he could use.

A couple of years later, that same deputy editor (then editor) promoted me to chief reporter, and then deputy editor. I was around 25 and at the time and it was perceived by some other people in the industry to be a risk. It seems quite unbelievable (or perhaps not!) that there is still such a problem in our society with ambitious young women. Thankfully, my editors were the kind of people who promoted on potential, not age or gender. But I’ve constantly come up against those stereotypes during my career. 

In 2017,  became the first female editor of the Bucks Free Press in its 160-year history. So that was quite a proud moment. 

Samantha Harman on The Style Editor

NakedPRGirl: Tell me about your new business The Style Editor, what is the idea behind it?

Samantha Harman: Yaaaaas! I feel SO passionate about helping women step into their best selves and go after their dreams. 

When I started posting on Instagram – or meeting women at events – they’d ask me about one of two things. First – how they could get media coverage. Second – how they could bring more of themselves into their workwear. 

So, The Style Editor combines my experience as an editor with my training as a personal stylist to help give women confidence in themselves and their brand.

Some women just want media strategy, others want personal styling – some want a mix of both. But it ALL comes down to one thing; confidence. It’s helping them recognise their blocks or the limiting beliefs they’ve been holding on to, talking to themselves like they would a friend and showing up as the woman they know they are – not one day in the future, but NOW. 

I’m launching a new programme called Skyrocket Your Confidence this April. They’ll be a styling and confidence option, and another option to add media strategy as well! 

The Smash Your Media E-Book

NakedPRGirl: Why was the Smash Your Media E-Book created and what can we expect?

Samantha Harman: Journalists need content that is relevant to their audience and practically ready to publish. Small businesses need media coverage to build their brand and position themselves as experts. But the problem is that many of them can’t afford help just now. 

I get a LOT of messages from small businesses asking how they get media coverage. And if you’ve never been taught this stuff… you just have no clue where to start. 

And so I decided to take everything I’d learned in all those years in newsrooms and create an easy-to-follow guide for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s for anyone who’s never had media coverage, or has sent off their first press release and heard crickets. 

I wanted to price it so it was accessible – but at the same time, it was a lot of work AND I think it’s really important people understand the value of this industry. Plus, when people pay for something, they’re more likely to act on it. When you commit with money, you commit with energy. 

But you’re not buying a service or a product – you’re committing to your uplevel.

The Business Plan

NakedPRGirl: How did you come up with the business plan? And name? Who did your branding for you?

Samantha Harman: I have a friend named Hester who is such a cheerleader. We were chatting ideas and the name seemed quite obvious! What do I do? Style and editing… The Style Editor! 

I invested in some coaching right at the beginning of my business journey. In early 2020, I hit burnout. I was editing news titles during a pandemic. I’m not kidding when I say I was working 24/7. I started to get really bad headaches and thought something was seriously wrong. I also was finding it very hard to get out of bed and I couldn’t stop crying. 

When I went to get it checked out, I found out that my stress-related psoriasis was in my eyes and had caused an infection. 

“It’s not really my place to say this,” said the eye doctor after asking me all about my work, “but you are only young and if you don’t make time for wellness, you’ll have to prepare for illness.”

People often talk about ‘the moment’ things clicked for them. This was mine! 

A few years previously, I had met a stylist called Casey Paul. She had said to me a few times ‘you should be a stylist.’ I knew in my soul it was what I really wanted to do, but I lacked confidence and – it felt like – any agency over my life. 

So I walked out of the eye appointment and got on the phone to her. “I’m ready,” I said. 

I worked with her as my coach and learned the fundamentals of business, as well as getting some help with mindset. It changed my life. To think that was a year ago (it was around the time of my birthday, which is next week), WOW! How things can change in a year. 

But you don’t need to have a lot of money to start a business. If I didn’t know something, I Googled it. I listened to podcasts. I read books. I joined groups. And in the process, I’ve met some more incredible women and we collaborate and support one another. The most important thing you must do is start. Take action. Don’t let your dreams stay as a dream. Think of yourself as a 90 year-old woman. Does she have regrets? If the answer is yes, you have the power to change that!

I did my branding. Instagram is very noisy and there are lots of people telling you ‘do this, no don’t do that, do this instead…’ 

And so when it comes to creating your brand, it’s important not to let too many outside influences sway you from your intuition. 

There is very much a ‘popular’ aesthetic and it would have been easy for me to go down that road because I wanted it to be popular but… my services and my ethos are all about authenticity. And if I didn’t create a brand that was authentic to me – I’d have failed before I’d begun! 

As the saying goes, you can be the juiciest, ripest peach and there will be someone who doesn’t like peaches. Not everyone has to ‘get’ you and that’s fine. Wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same! 

No, my branding won’t be for everyone, but it isn’t supposed to be. It’s supposed to call in the women who are meant to work with me.

Style Editor Logo

NakedPRGirl: What’s your USP?

Samantha Harman: There are few editors really showing up and giving the kind of information that I’m giving to people on socials. People seem to find me from all over and message me. Because if you’re on the outside, you have no clue about this stuff! And the more women we can get represented in the media, the better!!

I also think that I am a woman who’s stepped into roles not really made for someone like me. All whilst wearing leopard print shoes, floral trench coats and sequins. Being a stylish newspaper editor IS a USP (sorry, lads, it’s true!)

And that brings me onto the main one – confidence. I talk a lot about mindset; because it’s the key ingredient to everything. A stylist can put you in a fancy dress or a suit and say ‘ok great, you’re ready to go now’… but if you haven’ttruly address what’s going on inside, you won’t move forward. 

What happens to women is like a landslide. We start off as these magical, audacious little creatures, full of ideas and hope. But then society tells us we are too much. Or we are not enough. Whatever we are, it is never quite right. These limiting beliefs are like big boulders and they trap our magic. They squash our dreams and stop us from achieving our potential. And we learn to look outwards for validation, instead of looking inside for our truth.

My job is to help women smash those boulders and release that magic again. It’s not about changing them; it’s about helping them get back to who they really are. 

Personal Branding

NakedPRGirl: What’s your personal style? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?

Samantha Harman: I didn’t realise it at the time, but marketing myself came with the job. When I first got a paid job, Twitter was just becoming ‘a thing’ and I knew I had to start building a presence as part of the job. People need to know who you are so that they’re comfortable telling you their stories. 

But over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve really grown into myself. I’ve stopped doing the thing I described above – looking outside for validation.

My personal style is – peacock meets Bet Lynch! Am I too much? For some people, probably. But that’s the point of being confident in your style. You dress for you, not for other people. And when you’re being authentic, the people you’re supposed to serve will be called to work with you.

One of the worries people have with a stylist is ‘will you just make me dress like you?’ – absolutely not! 

Firstly, I want allllll the sequins for myself, thanks, back off! Secondly, my job is to make you feel amazing as YOU. It doesn’t matter if your personal style is the complete opposite of mine. What matters is that YOU are happy with it. I don’t want to shoehorn you into anyone else’s perception of what you should be. I want to help you unlock the person you want to be and wear what you want to wear!

Social Media Tips

NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media for your business? What’s your favourite social media channel? Do you have any social media tips?

Samantha Harman: I have a love-hate relationship with social media! As an editor I truly have seen the worst of it. People aren’t accountable for what they say online. When I speak, I do so with the conviction of having my name behind my words. Unfortunately, not everyone does. And they think that they can send off all their anger into the abyss like it’s a tool for therapy. But someone is always reading your words. The person on the other end of it is a human being. 

Last year, when I was going through a really tough time, I got the most awful email from someone. I recognised that her issue wasn’t about me, but it really, really hurt. So, I decided to respond. I explained to her that what she had done may have been stress relief for her, but it hugely impacted me. She replied the next day saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m a keyboard warrior and when I’m angry I use the internet to get rid of it’… 

My favourite platforms are Instagram – which is where most clients find me – and my lovely Facebook group. It’s a really space for ambitious women to get together, support each other and get my daily help with styling dilemmas. I’d love to welcome anyone in, so if you feel that it’s the place for you, search ‘Levelling up your style and confidence’ on Facebook. 

I also like LinkedIn. I didn’t ‘get’ it for years, but lately it’s been somewhat of a solace to the constant noise of twitter and Instagram. The conversations on there are genuinely interesting and it has a bit more of a slower, friendlier energy. 

It’s important to remember that Instagram (or any social media) is not reality. No one is posting the real behind the scenes. Recognise it for what it is – a marketing platform. No one is doing amazingly all the time. And if you find yourself getting into a ‘I’m not good enough, I’m so far behind’ spiral, take a step back. 

Also remember that it’s community over competition. Having loads of followers doesn’t mean having a successful business. Cultivate an engaged community and use your platform to try and make a difference.

And if you’re struggling with overwhelm… just pick a platform that works for you. You can’t realistically be everywhere all the time. You aren’t an octopus, you don’t have enough arms for that.

Industry changes and the future

NakedPRGirl: How have you seen your industry changing over the last few years?

Samantha Harman: When I was a trainee, there were about 6 layers of staff between me and the editor. Now there are none! Social media was just becoming a ‘thing’ back then… wow, has it changed the landscape of journalism! Even within the last couple of years. Unfortunately, not everyone recognises the value and importance of media. The majority have no idea how the media is funded. 

I get very frustrated when I see people with thousands of social media followers sharing entire issues of a publication they have no affiliation with. It means that none of their followers need to buy a copy to read the journalism. And so those people have no idea of the cost of producing it. The magazine I edit is free to read. We fund it through advertising, and we measure our reach through page views. If someone is sharing entire articles on their social media, as well as taking my work and using it as their own promotional tool, they’re also taking away pageviews – why is someone going to click onto our website to read, if they can see it all on your profile? This means we can’t truly measure how many people have read our stuff – and then how are we supposed to tell our advertisers what the reach is?

There’s a decline in readership, a decline in advertising, a decline in jobs… a decline in publications. 

I believe that some news should be free – we shouldn’t be putting information that’s vital to the public behind a paywall. But if we want to sustain a free press, it does mean work for everyone. Firstly, publishers who need to look at the working practices in their newsrooms. Secondly, social networks and their irreversible impact on trusted news. Thirdly – the general public, who need to start to understand the cost and the importance of trained journalists.

NakedPRGirl: Where do you see it evolving in the future?

Samantha Harman: It will be very interesting to see what comes of the Australian inquiry into Facebook and whether it will be the first country to impose a levy on social media networks. I HOPE that we will come full circle and more people will recognise the value of news and long-form journalism.

NakedPRGirl: How do you manage your blog/social media workload – are you a planner and a scheduler? And do you get techy in the back end?

Samantha Harman: Being creative and being organised don’t always go hand in hand! I have to be ‘in the zone’ to write features. And sometimes that means inspiration will strike at 11pm! Hence my eyebags and constant search for an effective eye cream! 

But for day-to-day tasks, I’ve recently started time-blocking. It is such a simple tool, but it does stop procrastination. I know I have 20 minutes for a task, I focus.

I do plan my social content. However, it’s really important to me to be as authentic as I can, so I don’t schedule. If I wake up in a really terrible mood, or inspiration has struck, then that’s what I want to share. I don’t want people to look at my social media and think ‘urgh, she has it all together all the time.’ I don’t want to be the reason anyone goes into a spiral of self-loathing. So if I’ve planned a post and I’m not feeling it, I’ll post what I’m feeling instead. Yes it takes more time, but I’m here to help people with things that are personal. And if I don’t show up authentically, I can’t do that.

I’ve also just hired a VA. This was a MASSIVE step for me, and when my business coach suggested it, I was like ‘are you kidding, I am nowhere near ready for that!’ But then I started to realise how much time I was spending on ‘busy’ work. Tasks that are essential, but take up time and I’m no good at. Like invoicing, accounts, sequencing. Having that help (especially from someone experienced) means that when I’m spending time on my business, I’m delivering the best client experience I can, or doing stuff that’s going to move me forward. 

Making an investment is terrifying. A lot of blocks come up for us. Money mindset, fear of failure, even fear of success. 

But you’re not buying a service, you’re investing in your development. And so my biggest piece of advice for anyone thinking of starting a business, or who knows they have potential but completely lacks confidence is – make that investment. Sign up for that coaching, book that course, book a styling and confidence session(!) 

Instagram and Inspiration

NakedPRGirl: How important is your Instagram grid? Do you plan everything in advance?

Samantha Harman: Instagram IS important. It’s where 90 percent of clients find me. So I always try to show up every day, as authentically as I can. However – it’s not everything. 

I don’t want it to be so that if Instagram collapsed tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a business.

It’s really important to build up your list outside of social media. It’s also important to remember that your reputation precedes you. Just because you have X number of Instagram followers, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else (I could tell you some stories!)

Sometimes clients will say ‘but I don’t have many followers’ when I’m asking them to show up as the expert who I know they are. I always reply – there are millions of amazing, inspiring, successful people… who aren’t on Instagram. Your follower count doesn’t define your worth. Please remember that.

NakedPRGirl: Who in the industry inspires you?

Samantha Harman: I’ve met so many amazing women over the last few years. I feel so fortunate to have made the friends and connections I’ve made.  I genuinely don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have those women supporting me. When women work together, incredible things happen. Conversations with these women are magic. I come away feeling refreshed, renewed and inspired. 

I think the most inspiring people in journalism are the ones doing it because they believe in the cause.

When people think of ‘journalism’, they think of Piers Morgan. He’s a multi-millionaire able to afford security.

The reality is that most journalists earn somewhere between £15k and £24k. They move across the country, work incredibly long hours, all whilst dealing with abuse and harassment. It is not the glamorous, highly-paid, party-fuelled lifestyle people think it is. 

When kids come in for work experience and I ask them why they want to be a journalist, if they say ‘because I want my own column/I want to be famous’, I always say… go and write a book, or go and be an influencer. What you’re talking about isn’t journalism. Because journalism isn’t about you. 

Journalism is about wanting to make a difference. Journalism is about being the last resort for someone at the end of their tether who needs representation and has nowhere left to go. Journalism is about holding power to account, cultivating community, helping people. 

Lots of people have lots of things to say about journalists. But they don’t know journalists like I do. REAL, proper journalists are in the newsroom late at night trying to get answers for someone – not because it will make a story, but just because they want to help. Lots of times, these incidents don’t ever make it to print. It’s just a journalist, putting in a call and getting a company to sort out something it should have done weeks ago. 

Local newspapers raise millions of pounds for charity. They fight for their community. They bring you vital information 24/7, often with tiny teams who are working round the clock. 

YES I’ve done incredible things in my job. I’ve met the queen, been to Buckingham Palace, covered the Olympics, met celebs, had amazing press trips, been in massive court trials, got press passes to incredible events… I know what an absolute privilege that is. Especially coming from where I came from.

But those aren’t the things that stay with me. What stays with me are the people I helped. The woman who was going to be deported, the OAP who was being fleeced by a company, the parents who needed financial help for their disabled child. The lady who called me when she was feeling like she couldn’t go on and she just needed to talk to someone. 

There are so many inspirational people working in journalism. And they’re inspirational because day in, day out, no matter what is going on, they show up and they serve the public – not for money or fame, but because they want to make a difference.

Business vs real life

NakedPRGirl: How do you split your time between business and real life?

Samantha Harman: Real life… what’s that?! I think A LOT of people have struggled with this during the pandemic. Work and home are the same – you don’t have a healthy separation anymore. My husband is very good at making sure I clock off. When I was running the newspapers (and myself into the ground!), he would always say ‘no one will write ‘worked lots of unpaid overtime on your gravestone.’ And he was right. 

I try to make it so that when I’m zoning out, I’m zoning out! I’ll light a lovely candle and have a bath, or go for a long walk with the dog, or even stick on some music and pretend I’m Beyonce (come on, be honest, who doesn’t do that from time to time?!). I’ve also got into meditation and journaling. Me from the past would have thought that was extremely woo woo and ridiculous. But now I realise how blocked off I was from myself. Sometimes just sitting with yourself in the quiet (because when is the world ever quiet), gives you all the answers you need.

Having a healthy life is about balance. Our only finite resource is time. This is something I always remind clients when they’re saying ‘one day I’ll have a styling session… one day I’ll feel good about myself…’ 

Because the problem with ‘one day’ is… TODAY is one day. The future only ever arrives as the present. So how are you going to show up as the woman you want to be TODAY?

NakedPRGirl: Do you have a motto or mantra that you live by?

Samantha Harman: What’s for you won’t go round you. It’s something my grandad used to say (apparently. My grandad was a Glaswegian with a very strong accent, I never really understood a word!)/ I tell myself this on the days when I’m feeling like I can’t do it. Put it out to the universe, things are happening in the background that you can’t see yet – just trust that what’s for you is coming for you.

NakedPRGirl: Where would you like to be in ten years time?

Samantha Harman: On a beach! I’d like to have made a difference to more women’s lives. I’d like to be looking back at the women I’ve helped and see them absolutely smashing it.

Follow Samantha on Instagram here.

Visit her website on https://www.thestyleeditor.co.uk.

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