Doubling Up at the Grand Prix
Handling the public relations for multiple clients on a race weekend is generally easy. At the 24 Hours of Daytona, KBru Comm (just myself, KBru, this time around) covered 22 drivers between five cars, and it went swimmingly. I’ll do a blog with tips of how to do this later in the year, but it all boils down to your personality type and organizational skills. Some PR representatives are at their best when they have one client to focus on. Me personally, I’m at my best when I have several. Different strokes for different folks.
Multiple clients in one series is cake because they’re all on and off track at the same time. Multiple clients in multiple series on the same weekend is a little more challenging. One series session is usually immediately followed by the other. Appointments or podiums overlap with sessions, or transit between paddocks absorbs valuable time.
This week, Ryan Dalziel and I (and others outside the KBru umbrella, including journalists and photographers) will be doing double duty at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) are competing at the Grand Prix this weekend. It’s not the first time for either one of us, but it’s still challenging nonetheless because the schedule is consolidated, and the IMSA paddock, PWC paddock, and pits map out a triangle, with each point as far away as possible from the other two. If you haven’t been to the Long Beach Grand Prix, I’ll tell you this: It’s huge. Not only is there a lot of ground to cover, but like any street course, you either have to wait for track openings, or wait in line to cross a bridge to get to access part of the track. If you’re lucky, the media center and your team hospitality are on the way, and you can grab supplies as you power walk to your destination.
This week, I’ll be covering Tequila Patron ESM and Paul Miller Racing in IMSA, and CRP Racing in PWC. Ryan Dalziel will be driving for both Tequila Patron ESM and CRP Racing (Coincidentally enough, Paul Miller Racing driver Bryan Sellers will also be doing double duty as well).
As a PR rep, my priority will not only execute my PR tasks for each team, but to assist Ryan by keeping him on schedule, and getting him to where he needs to be on time, as I’m going back and forth between the same two teams he is.
Ryan: For me, the biggest challenge is going to be logistics. Both paddocks are on opposite ends of the race track. Thankfully, the schedule only has one or two back to back sessions, so I’ll probably need some running shoes handy if I need to sprint from one car to the other. Driving the cars on track will probably be my least stressful time of the weekend.
For us PR minions, our work for each race event usually begins a about month before. We pitch interviews, negotiate media schedules, write, rewrite, and distribute press releases, get manufacturers preview content, create tune in graphics, etc. At an event like Long Beach, the schedule—which goes through several drafts–is even more important. Because we’re running on a street course and the IMSA paddock is outside the track, we have to factor in the 20 minutes where the track is open for us to jump on the pit cart and avoid the hike through the crowds to pit lane. The additional transit time at this event pushes back other things, like team meetings, driver debriefs, etc., which leaves less time for interviews, meet and greets, and other PR activities. Heading into an event like Long Beach, it’s imperative to create an easy to carry schedule that takes every minute into account. The more things we can get locked in before the event, the better. There are always walk up interviews, which are fine, but if we can hammer out some before the event, the smoother the weekend will run.
Ryan: Thankfully, I know the long beach track really well, but my plan will be to arrive early on Thursday morning and do a couple of run-throughs of where I need to be, and when. The hardest part is for both series, the driver has to drive the cars from their paddock on to the race track and into pit lane. With IMSA, that won’t be too difficult, as I have a teammate who can help with that. But in PWC, I’m the only driver, so I just have to make it happen. For sure, the worst case scenario will be finishing one session and having to run to start the next session. So when we plan the running schedule between our teams, we take this into consideration.
Sticking to the schedule is imperative, because things always pop up. Someone needs a last minute appearance, a TV interview goes over, or [my favorite] your driver ran off to the bathroom, then got distracted by the merchandise tents, or an old friend they found along the way.
This weekend, Ryan will be carrying around a lifeline I’ve created for him: a credential sized, color coded schedule that lists all his sessions, meetings, and appearance times. Green for Tequila Patron ESM in IMSA, and orange for CRP Racing in Pirelli World Challenge. Mine is orange for Pirelli World Challenge, and red for IMSA. Then for my schedule, each type of appointment is formatted differently to separate on track sessions from PR appointments, since I have various appointments for three teams in two series to cover.
Thankfully, although they’re competitors, the IMSA and PWC sanctioning bodies do their best not to overlap the autograph sessions, PR meetings, or driver meetings. Every now and then, there’s a crossover, but each series allows some flexibility for participants who run double up for the weekend.
Ryan: The hardest part is for both series, the driver has to drive the cars from their paddock, on to the race track, and into pit lane. With IMSA, that won’t be too difficult, as I have a teammate who can help with that. But in PWC, I’m the only driver, so I just have to make it happen. To be honest, track time is not my biggest issue because there are a number of off track events/meetings that overlap. Those are somethings I will need each series to allow me some slack on.
One of the top questions I’m asked is how I determine which client gets priority. For KBru Comm, priority is based on a variety of factors, and when contracts are signed, each client is 100% clear on where they fall in the pecking order. That being said, I want to do my job so well that my clients don’t even notice I have other customers. The interviews are being booked an executed, the autograph sessions run well, press release drafts are in their inbox an hour or so after the race, and social media is being posted in real-time to the right accounts. I’m clear with each client: If you feel there’s a gap in coverage, bring it up immediately. Thankfully, this conversation has yet to happen, and it’s my daily goal to make sure it never does.
Ryan: To me, both teams are equal, and thankfully, the schedule will allow me to give both teams 100% of my attention. I’m grateful I have two teams that are allowing me to take on this task, and we will work it out with both engineers when it comes to scheduling drive times. I’m probably going to need to do my debriefs on the run, or on the cool down laps on the radio in my car. It’s not a perfect situation, but my priority will be not letting either team down in any way. I am fortunate to have been able to do this a few times in the past, so I think I’m pretty relaxed about it these days.
As with any race weekend, things never go the way you plan, and I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way. To some this may sound complicated and overwhelming, but it’s not (Last year, KBru Comm covered six cars!). For Ryan and me, it’s just another race weekend, just with slightly different logistics.
So follow along on twitter at @RyanDalziel and @KBruComm as we document what should be a very entertaining Long Beach Grand Prix!
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