Race drivers, circuits, motorsport series: everybody needs it – media coverage. Even the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula One, needs media coverage in order to stay on top. After all, there are tons of other sports, games and activities people can spend their time on instead.
So how do you get in the media? How do you get journalists to interview you and TV stations to give you air time? Here are six tips that will help you generate media coverage:
Before you even consider giving an interview, learn a few basic rules how the media operates. Giving an interview for the print press is not the same as for radio, TV or even a website. The purpose is different, the questions are different, timing is different. So try and get as much information about the publication and interviewer beforehand. Don’t be shy to ask what type of story they are looking for, so you can give them the right angle.
Like there is a ladder of motorsport series, there is a ranking in the difficulty of interviews. So before you even consider giving TV interviews, get some experience with the print press first. The next step up are radio interviews, then move on to recorded TV. And only when you feel comfortable with all of these, move on to the queen of interviews: live TV. It is daunting and can be awkward. But you’ll get better – and more confident – with time.
When giving interviews, stay with the facts. Don’t lie. Don’t say ‘no comment’. And always remember that there is no such thing as an ‘off-the-record’ comment. Once you say something, it is out there. It might not get published (if you are lucky) but it might come back to haunt you eventually.
If you don’t want to learn gradually but rather be fully prepared right from the start, invest in some professional media training. It can be expensive but a good media trainer will be worth every penny.
Prepare your communication channels
Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Find all media contacts relevant to you (motorsport media, national media, life style, etc.). Then build up your tailored media list and update it regularly.
It takes time to grow your reputation and you have to be prepared for rejection. Journalists might unsubscribe from your media lists, they might never call you back when you leave a message or they bluntly tell you that they are not interested. The bottom line is: Don’t take it personally. And don’t waste your time. Find journalists who are interested in your story instead.
Also, build personal connections with some key media BEFORE you need them. A quick chat in the paddock or at the airport might be all it takes.
Prepare your story
Race reports are just the basics, an excuse to write to the media regularly. But race reports will not make you stand out from your fellow racers in the long run. For that, you need to make sure you create other media opportunities all along the way. Think of what you have to offer. What’s your background, what interesting story could you tell about you, your career, your life, that the media will find interesting?
Prepare to get out there
Once you have a few ideas, pitch a story at a time that fits the publication’s style and timing. This is actually the hardest part. You might have to come up with different angles to your story and you will certainly have to be persistent without being a pain in the you know where…
Instead of calling just a few key media, you can also send your story to your full media lists (or parts of it, depending on the story). Magazines and online outlets are always looking for articles, particularly in quiet times like the summer break or after the season.
Before you send something to the media, you need to write it. So it is important to know that press releases are factual (How to write a press release). A story, on the other hand, should be catchy, emotional and interesting to read. Like a short novel. And a blog post is entirely written from your point of view.
Other than getting the right tone and structure, make sure to keep your copy simple and short! Don’t be too technical and of course, watch your grammar and spelling. Open with a to-the-point sentence and use bullet points to break up paragraphs.
Prepare your follow-up
Check how the media respond to your pitch or stories. Have a basic media screening in place – a few simple Google Alerts will do in the beginning. You can also ask the media outlet who interviewed you to send you the printed story or tell you when the interview will be aired. Most will be happy to help if your request remains an occasional one.
Prepare to be different
You work in a competitive environment and many of your fellow racers will be able to win a race. So you need to make the difference off the track as well: with a memorable personality, different looks, an interesting background or simply by saying different things than your fellow racers. If what you are saying is identical to what your competitors are saying, why should the media give you space in their outlet? So if it fits your personality, say something controversial or just speak your mind (within reason!). If you do so, be prepared to stick up for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable with being controversial, that’s fine too. Instead, find out where you are different and how much of this difference you are prepared to share with the world. Then go for it!
Generating media coverage is not easy. It is based on the journalist’s good will and interest. It is based on whether you are able to provide interesting stories. It’s a skill that needs to be mastered, so it takes time, persistence and a lot of follow-up.
What are your experiences with generating media coverage? What mechanisms do you have in place? Do they bring the results you want? If you have a moment to spare, I’d love to hear from you!
Here’s to your success, on and off the track.
Hi, my name is Alexandra Schieren and I have been working in international motorsports as a communication specialist for over two decades.
After having travelled the world for nearly as long, mainly with Formula One, I now help race drivers, sponsors and teams to get the best ROI out of their motorsport commitment with tailored media and public relations.
I also help circuits to run their full media set-up at race meetings, including accreditation and media centre management.
Benefit from my two decades in motorsports and my extensive network in the industry. And whatever your situation, as long as it is motorsports and PR related, get in touch to see how I can help.