#10: Alexandra Schieren – How PR can change your life in motorsport
Podcast with Host: Jai Shukla & Guest: Alexandra Schieren
Q1 – What got you into motorsports and how did you turn that passion into a business?
It was by accident in mid ’90s when I saw an ad in the newspaper. It was a steep learning curve and I felt it suited me.
Q2 – What was your educational background?
Languages and economics. I was not made to work in PR, but learnt by doing and got additional training over the years. It’s really about common sense.
Q3 – How is your PR agency different to others as you recently set one up?
It’s mine and I have my own personal touch to it. Being in motorsports for long and in media, for long I knew a lot of media and my client typically would like to be better known so it made sense. Or it’s to manage their reputation which are two different aspects to it.
Q4 As a female in a male dominated sport – how does it influence the way you work with people?
I’m not mad about the sport and I’ve kept a distance – this allows me to keep a neutral eye. That helped when I worked with FIA. I keep my favorites to myself. It’s easy to stand out which is an advantage too.
Q5 – How did you know when it was the right time to start your business?
During the time while I was at FIA. When the time was right was about 5 years ago. I had enough of traveling and being away from home – 6 months at a time. Going in and out of hotels. And then finally the trigger point was during 1 winter I looked at the picture and thought it looked familiar but it was a picture from the previous year and that’s when I knew.
Q6 – How is it different to work for yourself compared to when you are working for others?
Before you certain types of customers with specific interest. Now it’s more all rounded types of work for associations, and meeting the needs of the clients.
Q7 – Who are the most troublesome people to work with?
I only work with people I get a good feeling with. This freedom allows me to be picky. I’ve been very lucky.
Q8 – PR has many facets – how do you manage it?
Each client’s have different needs. It’s about managing their needs.
There are different elements – company elements, sponsoring events, SM etc.
Q9 – Where do you get fulfillment from?
When they are happy. Managing a successful event. And then it’s also about the journalists picking up on your stories. It’s hard to know if the circuit got attention directly because of your work.
Q10 – Who have you worked with and how do they differ?
Pirelli, FIA – they all have different needs. One interesting one was with IndyCar – they wanted to do a push in Europe. This was just a very interesting for me – as it was fun to see different countries and events being amalgamated to create something new.
Q11 How does crisis management work?
I’ve been lucky to not have had to deal with that. Not a major one anyway. This maybe because of prevention of them in the first place but when I worked for the FIA – my boss had an issue with women – and that landed on the front page. There is also dealing with accidents…and it’s hard from an emotional management. Tires which exploded was a bad one too. This was my job to understand what happened. This was very bad for the tire manufacturer and it’s important.
Q12 – By working in different parts of motorsport – does it help?
In smaller formula – you have to get more media coverage whereas Formula 1 – it’s about managing it. It’s not harder just different. Journalists are hard to sell for lower formulae.
Q13 – Your interview with Will Buxton – two sides of the coin journalism and PR?
They are complementary and help each other in an ideal world. Your side of the story is different to the one they want to hear or write about. The information should never be a lie. As you will be found out.
Q14 – What can PR do for a client or a company as many may not understand its importance?
Yes many people don’t understand it and therefore they think I don’t need it.
An example is someone who wants to drive and not be in the limelight. So then it comes down to the fact that 5000 other driver want your position and why should someone pick you and that’s where PR comes in. It’s about finding your USP and ensure everyone knows it. PR is about making sure what you want people to know about you is what they do know about you.