Whether you have a business or are a race driver aiming for the top of motorsports, your target will be to get as much press as possible in order to build your public image or to be seen as an expert.
That is what usually happens. However, there are a few people who get too much media attention. And that, believe it or not, can be a problem too.
Having worked in Formula One for nearly two decades, I have met a lot of drivers and also their PR managers. You will have seen them many times. They are those team members who are always next to ‘their’ driver during interviews, holding a recording device. Fancy their job? Well, think again, because it is tough, really tough, particularly if you work for a top driver, a world champion.
The life of a top driver’s PR manager
When you ask a PR manager whether it is more difficult to get press or to shield your driver from the press, you get the somewhat surprising answer ‘both’. Imagine you receive literally hundreds of requests for media interviews, attendance at sponsor events or other media related obligations (filming or fan events for example), all of which you have to fit into a schedule already filled to the brim with engineering meetings, physical preparation and of course, the minor occupation of driving an F1 car at race weekends. Add to this time to relax, eat and sleep and you know that one thing has to go. That’s usually the media requests.
Media obligations at race weekends – how to manage too many?
Of course, the PR manager cannot cut all media obligations. A minimum, like attendance at official press conferences or fans events like autograph signings, are compulsory and non-attendance results in a fine issued by the FIA. In addition, there are the individual interview requests a driver, or rather his PR manager, receives. How to choose? Well, let’s say (for the sake of neutrality) your driver is Norwegian and drives for a Spanish team, so the PR manager will try to accept as many media requests from these two countries as possible. In order to ease this task, each team organizes open media calls of around 10 to 15 minutes for English, Spanish, international press, etc. The few remaining time slots will be given to individual media requests that fit into the current PR strategy of the team.
What about those you don’t get interviews?
The non-target markets and journalists you only attend the odd race per year and don’t know the PR manager that well, will go without an interview. So they will have to go home and tell their editor-in-chief that they couldn’t get the interview they were sent to do in the first place. Guess how many more races this guy will do…
So the media is not happy and the PR manager is the one taking the bullet. He or she has to find explanations why their driver can’t do the interview. If they are good at their job, they will try to offer an alternative, for later on, like an email interview or a portrait, which works fine for print media but is a real problem for TV crews. They NEED to get some sound bites, failing which they will have to take generic footage of F1 TV, the host broadcaster at nearly all races. That’s of course not good enough when you pay millions for the right to broadcast a race.
Not to grant interviews is a luxury that can easily backfire
And is something that very few drivers have in the first place. It is advisable to be at least a one-time world champion or you might pass for arrogant… And even then, it is a fine line. With a busy schedule, many top drivers are trying constantly to get out of PR duties, so the PR manager has to convince him, repeatedly if necessary, why he has to do this or that interview. Sometimes the driver agrees, sometimes he doesn’t.
If he fulfills his media obligations, there is one last hurdle to overcome for the PR manager. Stop your driver from giving snappy answers, telling the journalist what he thinks of their questions or simply… walk away. All of which has already happened, I am told.
So how do you get enough media attention to be in that ‘luxury’ position to say no?
There is no definite answer to this question but here are a few suggestions:
- Find a way to communicate with your audience that suits your personality and targets.
- Position yourself or your brand in a unique way.
- Make sure people know about you and your USP (unique selling point).
Whether you are on social media or not, is actually a personal choice. One four-time world champion is an avid hater of social media and hasn’t got any accounts. He still is very, very well known. The other four-time world champion can’t be seen enough on social media, his personal and professional life confounded.
As a communication specialist, I wouldn’t recommend either of these extremes. It is a fine line and only works because these drivers have the success to go with it.
And if you want to find your USP and learn how to communicate about it, get in touch. In a 30-minute free communication check, we’ll look at all sides of your current media and PR work and make a plan how to achieve your personal communication targets.