Life as a Motorsport Press Officer
“I’m definitely better on the other side of the paper or pretending to be a racing driver!” Carolyn Paterson jokes. She is a Press Officer for Envision Virgin Formula E Team and has been a fan of motorsport all her life.
At Females in Motorsport, we often get questions about how to become a Motorsport Press Officer. So, we chatted with Carolyn who dreamed of landing this very role just a few years ago!
Have you always loved motorsport?
Yes! I’ve grown up in Woking [Surrey] and still live here. I’ve got McLaren on the doorstep and you have to drive past to get to the M25. There’s little bits, like my school did a driving day with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at Mercedes Benz World. A lot of people have a football team whereas I had a motorsport team and it’s carried on throughout my life.
Did you go to university and what did you study?
I went to Portsmouth University and studied a business and management degree over four years. I did an industrial placement in my third year and went and worked for BMW UK. When I joined Virgin, I realised that most people I’d worked with had studied journalism degrees. That does help to a certain extent but my degree was useful. PR isn’t just about writing press releases and website stories; there’s budget management and lots of other elements of the job. My degree gave me a broad range of skills which have really helped develop my whole job, not just my writing skills.
What were your steps into motorsport?
I did my placement and that was working in the marketing and communications team. You aren’t treated as a student or intern and it was an incredible experience to see how a large scale manufacturer works and how each department works together. I knew I didn’t want to stay in manufacturing; I wanted to be in motorsport. I got to do a little bit with West Surrey Racing in BTCC and I worked at Goodwood, PGA and events but I didn’t do a huge amount. I went back to do my final year of uni and was applying to jobs throughout. I didn’t really see a lot come up, so decided to go travelling and had booked a month trip to Australia! After booking I received an email from Virgin - I’d completely forgotten I’d applied for a role on LinkedIn. It was the week I was graduating, so I went to London and met my boss Tom. I was then invited back for a second interview where I had to present to him a social plan for the season four launch. I went full George Russell and put my heart and soul into this PowerPoint. He invited me back to meet the Director of Marketing the day before I flew to Australia - I was walking onto the plane and had to phone call to say I’d got the job! It’s been incredible ever since - I’m still with the team three years on and my job has evolved massively. I love it.
What does your role as a Press Officer entail?
My role changes every single day. On events, I organise everything from PR schedules and briefings to photography and filming - absolutely everything goes through me. Outside of racing, I own the press office. All enquiries come through me and I write press releases, website stories, editorial for the website and draft answers from senior management or drivers. I set up any kind of interviews, reach outs, or sell ins with bits of content we’ve created. It is an evolving role and because I’ve been here for so long I’m really hands on with everything! We’re a roll up your sleeves and muck in kind of a team and that shows when you see us on TV or when we win. We’re the underdogs and it’s obviously a team sport for us.
Do you get to travel?
I get to go to all the races and have been since season four which was my third week with the team. I’ve been to some incredible places - I’m so lucky. We get to tag on holiday sometimes after a race so I went to Beijing after the first race in Hong Kong. I actually visited Vietnam in between Hong Kong and Sanya between the two races with some of the other press officers in Formula E. We were working all day but you can't complain about working by a pool! It was so nice to visit lots of different cultures and immerse yourself in that. We’re only on the ground at an event for a few days as the schedules are so mental, so making the most of the time you have is really important.
What’s your most memorable race?
In my first race, Sam [Bird] won and we weren’t expecting it at all! It was dusty and crazy - we were working crazy hours as we’d launched our climate change initiative. I think I’d been up until two in the morning and with jet lag. Then Sam went and won it but it was a double header and there was another race the next day! Robin Frijns winning in Paris was incredible - he hadn’t won yet and we were so ready for him to win a race. It was raining, the weather was awful and I had to run from the media centre to the garage as we had no idea he was going to win. It was a horrible run in the hail but the emotion when I got to the garage and he’d just crossed the line was incredible. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I’m normally very much head down in my laptop during the races and it was really special to be there for that moment.
How many women do you work with?
We don’t have any on the racing side, but we’ve had Alice Powell and Amna Al Qubaisi testing for us. Our Operations Director is a woman, as is our events team and account directors. In general, motorsport women do club together. We do look out for each other. It’s half and half male to female in press officer roles. We’re a very close group of women and it’s really nice to have that support and look out for each other.
What do you love most about Formula E?
Formula E caters for everyone. Working in the paddock, it’s so nice and so small. Everyone kind of knows everyone and it’s very much a Formula E family. You can pick up the phone to anyone and we meet up outside of work - that shows testament to how well we get on. You go to a track and there are families there. I have to walk through the eVillage often for the driver activities. We get stopped but we aren’t mobbed and it’s not horrible. People want to chat but it’s not crazy. It’s just nice to be a part of something like that.
Read about Envision Virgin Formula E Team here.
If you want to find out more about a role you dream of doing, let us know in the comments or get in touch with us and we'll do our best to reach out to an industry expert for a chat!