Tag Archives: public relations

You can’t handle the truth!…

or can you?

I’ve been mulling this one around for a while now, and as we get deeper into the depths of the silliness that is silly season, mired knee deep in rumours and hearsay and bad news, I thought I would purge the brain and perhaps start up a conversation with y’all to see how you feel about it. Bear with me as this is going to be pure stream of consciousness…

This stems from a couple of incidents this week. Firstly, the not so surprising report that Rahal Letterman may or may not, but probably not, but they don’t want to say No just yet, so they’re going with ‘we’re still working on it”, but who are we kidding, it’s probably not going to happen, and if it does, it’ll only be for the 500, proving once again that the business model for this series is all wrong cause it’s crazy to market an entire team/season around one race… and…. wait, I lost my train of thought…

where was I? Oh ya, there was a big kurfuffel over an AP article that hit the newswires on Thursday. An innocent little 2 paragraph note saying that RLR was likely not going to answer the bell in 09.

Well, as always happens with these AP articles, it got picked up almost instantly by everyone and their brother… and their brothers brother. In the process it got misread and re-titled and the sky was falling and the series folding and… well you get the picture.

When it landed in my hands, it came as no shock to me, as I had just had a conversation with the PR guru at RLR, wherein he had told me pretty much the same thing. “Nothing is set, it’s not looking good, but we’ve not given up yet” So when I presented this “breaking news” to the 100 or so people that religiously follow OWW.net (we’re hoping to kick those numbers up a notch this season!) I was careful to use journalistic buzz words like “allegedly”. I was also able to dig into my personal stash of correspondence and add another quote lending credence to the story while supporting the “we’re not dead yet” theory.
Of course I still willingly wrote an amendment to the story immediately when the RLR team went into spin control about an hour later.

Yesterday a couple of other tidbits hit the interweb rumourmill highway. As one involved a friend, I immediately reached out to clarify the story. Turns out it was much ado about nothing and I was asked to nip it in the bud if possible. I won’t repeat it as we all know how broken telephone works.

I will say as well though that I do believe where there is smoke there is fire… this is inbred in me from years of being a Champ Car fan and proclaiming “it’s only a flesh wound” while series bled to death before our very eyes… but I digress..

So here’s the thing… every week there seems to be a one step forward/two steps back situation. Every week another little “hey didja hear??” rumour makes it to the surface (both positive and negative) and rides off in an internet air bubble… to be popped sooner or later by the fickle finger of truth.

So what’s better? Blind faith that the season will happen, while we swat at the rumour bubbles, or a consistent, controlled message, released by the teams/drivers themselves. (and here is where we get to the actual purpose of this long winded ramble-a-thon)

I believe, especially in this economic climate, and especially after years of both sides of the split riding the precarious “will they or won’t they answer the bell” fence, that it is important for everyone; teams, drivers, series, to stay ahead of the rumours and control the message.
The off season is a breeding ground for negativity and doubt. Sure we all know in the back of our minds that things slow down, people get laid off, sponsors fall away… because we’ve been through it season after season. And season after season we laugh it all off at the first race when the green flag waves.

But what of the new fans who aren’t aware of this? What of potential sponsors who may be interested but are put off by the spinning and beeping of the backpeddling news stories?

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little weekly or heck, how about monthly updates from the shops themselves. “we’re on our annual break, the crew has been let go temporarily as a cost cutting measure, but we are confident that come (Jan? Feb?) we will regroup to prepare for the season ahead” blahdy blah blah… or a brief Q&A with the team owner reflecting on the past season and their hopes for the one ahead.. How about a “hey isn’t our sponsor great!?” article. You know the kind of thing that there is no time for during the season or would get buried by all the other news, but in the off season would be a nice thank you to the sponsors that are still sticking it out, and would act like a big dangling carrot to sponsors that are on the fence.

I personally am a “give it to me straight” kinda gal. I want to know, for better or worse, what the situation is, so I can prepare or rally or whatever. If it’s bad news, tell it to me straight, up front. It’s not going to get any better the longer you hold on to it. Case in point, RLR. They know they are in a shitty situation. Why give a misconstrued quote to Mike Harris at the AP only to have to fix it later? Why not utilize the awesomeness that is your director of communications, Eric Mauk (little plug for my bud!) and put out the story yourself? “The struggles of a team trying to survive in trying times” Right away you’ve garnered the sympathy of people who will rally around you rather than the suspicion of folks who now feel you are back-peddling.

As a potential sponsor I would be more inclined to hang my hat on a team or driver who maintained a positive buzz in the face of a negative situation, than one who remained mum while rumours of their demise swirled the drain.

IndyCar itself gets a B+ for their off season efforts. There has been a nice mix of fluff, and information and the occasional fire outputting since the checkers waved in October. Every week some little tidbit of information about the series or a driver lands in my inbox. That to me signifies strength and growth or at the very pessimistic least, sustenance. If all of the teams/drivers within the series followed suit, and if other series did the same, then we wouldn’t be subjected to months of speculation every off season. We would all be more inclined to talk UP the series rather than talk it down. That in and of itself can only be seen as a positive in a time when the decision to support can be made or broken based on the smallest perception of “this might not be a good thing”

So, my lurking interweb brethren, what say you?

American Open Wheel…

a breakfast rant.

So, as you many of you may know, I’m a managing editor/writer at a racing website. We started as a Champ Car centric site, covering the Champs and the feeder series (Atlantics).
When unifimergamalgimamorphacation happened we decided we would “transition” along with our teams and drivers. We also decided since we were now the more generic “OpenWheelWorld.net” that we would jump at the opportunity to cover some of the other major junior formulas in N.Amercia. Give those up and comers a little extra coverage and get to know the kids coming up the ladder. So we now cover IndyCar, Indy Lights, Atlantics, Star Mazda & Formula BMW. (and will add the odd article about other open wheel series if the situation warrants)

We do this as a labour of love. We rock on our own dime. We do it because the mainstream media doesn’t or won’t. I do it because over the years I got to know many of the players, especially the young drivers trying to make their mark in the world, and I figured if there was any way I could help them on their journey, I would, as I too reaped so much pleasure out of watching them pursue their dream.

So, fast forward to yesterday. All hands on deck. IndyCar was qualifying their final starting grid positions, Atlantics were qualifying for round 2 of their season. Star Mazda was contesting round 2 of their season, and Formula BMW was kicking off their season. Great! Busy day ahead for Meesh but I was looking forward to all the action!

but see, here is where the wheels fell off…

Were I not in possession of a computer, some savvy and some connections, I wouldn’t have had a fucking clue what was happening or when or where.

IndyCar gets an A, as they manage to provide some sort of coverage for anything that happens on track. Sometimes without any formal commentary, but nevertheless, there is live visual coverage. Apparently there was some TV coverage as well, but being that I live in Canada, ESPN2 is not an option. (nor should IndyCar be relegated to that channel… but that’s a separate rant) I had everything I needed to write my reports in a timely fashion, with very little effort or frustration on my part.

Atlantics get a C. Their trainwreck of a website (lots of now obsolete fluff, very little substance) is so out of date it’s infuriating. No schedule uploads. (had to go to the Laguna Seca website so I knew what the session times were) No Session reports. (they uploaded Friday’s practice times about 3 hrs after yesterdays 2nd qualifying session. Helpful huh?) The timing and scoring was working. The commentary however was from the Long Beach race. Again, not very helpful. And no working video coverage. Today I will hopefully be able to watch the race via their website. (since there is no tv coverage in Canada) We’ll see how that works out. I managed to get my articles up, but with very little flavour as I had no first hand accounts of anything that happened.

Star Mazda gets a C-. While their website was more up-to-date and cleaner, and they posted the session results in a more timely fashion, their timing and scoring was majorly fucked up. Surprising since they are hooked up to the IMSA site for that. It looked like it was working just fine, but see here is where the savvy and connections come into play. I happen to know John Edwards PR rep. I also happened to know that he had kicked ass and had smoked the field in practice. So I knew to give him a call when the timing and scoring showed him doing an installation lap then never returning to the track for qualification. Turns out he was on pole. Fast forward a couple of hours to the race. Again, no video coverage. IMSA radio was rebroadcasting some race from last weekend, and IMSA timing and scoring was again about as useless as a tit on a bull. This time John Edwards, who was on the pole remember, wasn’t even listed in the field. I watched, perplexed as the entire race unfolded, with no commentary, just times, and no JE. Again, a call to his PR rep (who btw is in Laguna with some of his other clients, not in Utah) to ask WTF?? was going on. He, being at the mercy of the T&S like I was, was equally perplexed. Turns out John had not only participated in the race, but had won by a substantial margin. A few hrs later I managed to get all the details in the SM press release. What I didn’t get however were any photo’s for editorial use. Nor did I get a response from the series PR rep when I wrote to request some for our coverage. Article up, hours after the fact, with an old Atlantic’s pic of John to coincide with it.

Formula BMW: They get a D. No schedule breakdown. No T&S. No video coverage. A press release that arrived at 11:30pm EDT and no photo’s to accompany the story available anywhere. It’s little wonder there are 4 teams and 10 drivers contesting this season. (two teams of 4 drivers btw…)

So, here’s the thing. We live in a N.America. A society filled with the most advanced information technology. Why then is it so fucking hard to provide timely and accurate accounts of the on track action in open wheel? Even something as simple as an email providing a timely session report with 2 or 3 photos for editorial use sent to a distribution list an hour after the event would do the trick.
Over in Nascarland, you not only know whats happening on and around the track, 24/7, but you know when every driver wipes his ass & what brand of toilet paper he uses. Then you get live coverage from 10 different angles on two or three networks, with a panel show to analyze it afterwards.

And what is it with these junior formula PR folks? Their series and their drivers are flying so fucking low under the radar that they don’t even register, yet someone contacts them for information to promote them and they ignore it. (I can’t tell you how many emails go unanswered) Ironically Champ Car was rarely any better as far as responses go. If you got a response, it was curt and mostly a one line answer, with no niceties. No big surprise that we were writing eulogies a month ago.

By sharp contrast, the “evil IRL” has been nothing but courteous, immensely helpful, & very welcoming. The media sites (for the series and the brickyard) are a plethora of information and access. Every email has been answered, with salutations, and if the person contacted didn’t have the answer, they not only replied but forwarded my email to the right person on the team. Just yesterday I received a reply from the brickyard folks. First she apologized for the tardy response. (it had been over a month, but I just assumed the answer was no as I was used to being ignored) Then she went about giving a detailed explanation. I replied right away thanking her for even replying at what surely had to be a crazy busy time for her, while adding a few other things. She replied again, right away! Such a simple thing but it makes all the difference in the world. Immediately my labour of love, and a lot of times inconvenient, attempts to cover the series is worth it. I know my efforts are appreciated by them. (Jeff Olson be damned!)

Someone else who gets it all right is A1GP. I had more access to their races, media, information and pictures, and they don’t even race in N.America! Their online coverage was amazing. Full live streaming video race coverage. Full live video podium. Full live video post race interviews. All free online. Cross platform. Simple.

So why do some get it so right and yet others get it all wrong?

Atlantic, Star Mazda and Formula BMW have no excuse!! Tell me those title sponsoring car companies don’t have the money and resources to at the very least have state of the art websites and I’ll tell you bullshit.

People sit and complain about the state of Open Wheel in this country. How we get no coverage, how sponsors ignore us. Well, when the sanctioning bodies of these series stop shooting themselves in the foot and start getting their acts together, only then will it change.

I feel bad for the drivers who are out there raising their own funding and busting their asses so they can pursue their dream. Hell, most drivers have more advanced websites than the series they are whoring themselves out to. What does that tell you?

So what is the answer? Well first of all, get your shit together people! Make some simple changes and build from there. Find an example of who gets it right, then emulate them, adapt, and make it work for you and if you don’t know how, ask! Cause I’m telling you, a few more days like yesterday, and I will be hard pressed to continue to put the effort in at my end.