“It’s a very important role because, at the end of the day, everybody has a story to tell,” says Rachel Cavers, the director of Cavers Communications who has over a decade of experience working motorsport PR and communications. “The job of a PR manager or comms person is to tell that story and to tell it well. It’s that middle person between the media and the driver.”
It’s the Monday evening after the first-ever Extreme E race and Rachel Cavers has just landed back in the UK after being in Saudi Arabia, where she was supporting a client - the Andretti United Extreme E team who scored a maiden podium.
“Extreme E is different from the norm because you’re only allowed limited personnel on-site in keeping with the championship’s aim of keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum,” Rachel tells Females in Motorsport. “Each Extreme E team is allowed seven people, plus your drivers and team principal. So that’s in total 10, which is really small if you compare it to a team in any other championship where there’s three or four times that number.”
Working with the Andretti United team, Rachel has been planning and executing social media content, managing media interviews with the drivers - Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen – plus their team co-owner Zak Brown, and partner relations too.
“A lot of people think that my job is just coordinating media interviews, but there’s much more to it than that,” Rachel says. “There’s so much hard work and preparation that goes in beforehand. It was a new race, a new championship, everyone was trying to kind of understand what was what and, logistically, it was in the middle of the desert as well. We were all doing multiple jobs and there was very little sleep.”
Despite the whirlwind of the first event, Rachel will look back at it with fond memories - even though her laptop will have sand in it forevermore!
“We’re all part of this hugely exciting new championship,” she says. “I felt very privileged to be there for the first race with a small group of very talented people. There was this real buzz and even though it was exhausting and there was so much going on, it was this massively exciting series to be part of.”
Since beginning her PR career in motorsport, Rachel has worked for and with several global brands and championships including PETRONAS - the title and technical partner of Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team – Pirelli, the FIA World Rallycross Championship and most recently the FIA World Endurance Championship, which remains her main client.
When working on these accounts and projects, Rachel has become accustomed to working with an array of racing drivers and different personalities. A challenging aspect can be managing a driver’s media appearances and getting the balance between interviews and preparation time right.
“You’ve got to treat them with respect - you can’t just drop one interview after another,” she says.
“Have a media schedule for your drivers beforehand, and go through it. I always do this if I’m working with them on an event, catch up with them in the morning and give them a heads up on what’s planned. Drivers aren’t robots, you need to strike the right balance of helping the media get what they need but also showing respect and not throwing your drivers in front of a TV camera at the wrong time.
“I try to encourage media who are more outside the box - automotive media generally want to ask the same questions. But if it’s other lifestyle media, I always encourage them to ask different questions, because you’re going to get more out of your drivers. They naturally get bored of answering the same sort of questions.”
Rachel has always had an interest in motorsport, having grown up next to a rally preparation factory. After completing her studies at the University of Edinburgh, Rachel’s first Press Officer role was for the highly successful M-Sport outfit.
During her two years with the team, Rachel attended 25 FIA World Rally Championship events, representing the World Championship's leading customer programmes.
“Within a week of starting that role, I was off to WRC in Turkey, and it was something that I had to learn very quickly,” she says. “Actually, that was the same event where the Icelandic volcano erupted. We couldn’t get back; Rally New Zealand was the next event after that. So, everyone needed to get back to base to work on the cars before flying out to New Zealand.
“We ended up getting a bus back across Europe - four days on a bus! It was a hell of a journey and it was me plus 25 or so mechanics. I thought what on earth have I got myself into and it was just one of those weeks where it was so full-on because everything was new to me.”
Over the years, Rachel has continued to tackle tricky situations face-on, learning and developing in her roles as she grows.
“In every job I’ve done, there have been challenges,” Rachel says. “But it just makes me stronger and each time you learn from them. That’s why we all do the job that we do in motorsport. It’s not easy, but the reward makes it worthwhile.”
Whilst working at Crunch Communications, Rachel played a key role in the PETRONAS account that the agency looks after. One of the activations she managed was taking Lewis Hamilton - a Mercedes F1 driver - to the heart of Borneo in Asia.
“We took Lewis over there to highlight the conservation work that’s being done,” she says. “Logistically, it was incredibly difficult, but once the event had happened and we got Sky over there, the end product made all the long hours and preparation worth it.
“I remember seeing it on Sky F1 two weeks later, and I was so relieved. It’s always such a satisfying feeling when you’ve worked hard on a project and you can see the result and it all works out.”
The hard work and planning paid off for Rachel and the team, but this didn’t come without its curve balls thrown right at the last minute in the form of a tropical storm.
“The day before we were due to fly into the remote area of the jungle where Lewis was doing his interviews, we couldn’t safely fly the helicopter anymore due to a typhoon,” Rachel says. “We had to come up with plan B somewhere else on the island within a day, which was incredibly stressful but you just have to accept that sometimes these things happen, and you have to adapt in the best way you can.”
When asked to sum up her role in motorsport in three words, Rachel chose “challenging, rewarding and satisfying”.
“You have to start from the bottom, and you have to work your way up,” she says. “It can take years to get to where you want and it sounds cliché but there is no substitute for experience. I’ve faced a lot of challenges but how you deal with and learn from them is what’s important. I wouldn’t change anything in my career as it’s all led to where I am now.”