Today we welcome Sophie Ogg, Williams F1’s head of communications. She’s here to tell us about her work with the Formula 1 team and what her career in motorsport was like so far.
Click here to subscribe to our print edition!
Sophie, how did you become Williams Martini Racing’s Head of F1 Communications?
Motorsport was always a passion and something I just wanted to be around. No one in my family was involved, but my nan knew someone who was involved in a local single-seater race team and so passed on a telephone number. I made the call and from that, I started washing wheels and helping out on events, basically doing anything just to be involved and learn more about the sport and make as many contacts as possible in the industry. I did this alongside a public relations degree at university before working in a London PR agency, to gain some experience in the media industry. Over the years I then worked my way up through a number of motorsport series including Vauxhall Junior, Formula Ford, Formula BMW, British GT, A1GP and the World Touring Car Championship before finally stepping into Formula 1 with Williams back in 2010, and into the role of Head of Formula 1 Communications in 2014.
What is involved with the job, especially during a race weekend?
As Head of Formula 1 Communications, I’m responsible for creating and implementing a communications and digital strategy for our Formula 1 and Heritage operations to support the business aims of the Williams Group. I oversee two press officers but also work with all the divisions across the company regarding Formula 1 looking after internal and external communications, social media platforms, our CSR programme, announcements, launch events, fan engagement and this year, our 40th-anniversary activations. The role is extremely diverse and a 24-hour a day job, so the challenge is to remain proactive as well as being versatile enough to react to the changing climate both at the track and away from it.
At the track, race weekends are quite formulaic up to a point. We have a schedule which constantly evolves, social media to manage, news to monitor and then during sessions, I’ll be based in the garage. Whatever happens, it’s up to me to decide how we handle it from a communications point of view, whether it’s a good result or a bad one. Our busiest time is always after any session, managing the drivers or senior personnel with TV and print interviews, getting quotes, writing content, managing social channels and ensuring information is given to all the media. The main thing people notice in this role is the fast pace as which you need to operate, things change so fast from an accident or failure on track to a last-minute driver change before qualifying (as you saw in Hungary!), and all need to be managed accordingly at the moment.
The organisation is key. You need to be able to organise your workload, manage people, and prioritise and manage complicated and constantly changing schedules.
What are the specific qualities or skills needed to tackle the job?
I think the key things you need for this job are passion, dedication, organisation, versatility and the ability to sleep anywhere!
Passion and dedication are needed as the job is 24-7 and it does take over your life. Adding extensive travel on top of that means that it does become a way of living, rather than just a job. It may sound glamourous, and I am fully appreciative that there are some great perks to the job in allowing me to visit places I may never have otherwise gone, but it is a tough life, not only on yourself but on your friends and family.
The organisation is key. You need to be able to organise your workload, manage people, and prioritise and manage complicated and constantly changing schedules. It would be a luxury to get to track and only have to worry about what is happening there and then, but in reality, you do this alongside your usual day job!
Versatility is also important. No two days are the same, and if that kind of work stresses you out, then PR and motorsport are probably not the right paths for you. Life at the race track is an emotional rollercoaster. It’s an ever-changing environment, whether it be track action or news stories breaking, nothing stays the same for too long.
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking for a career in this field?
Get experience, make contacts and be prepared to work from the bottom up. Motorsport is more than just a job, it’s truly a way of life, and so you need to love it to be prepared to work that hard for something I think. Learn your trade, whatever role it is that you are after, and gain relevant experience wherever you can. It won’t always be easy, and it won’t always be fun, but the rewards at the end make it worth the effort.