Candid Camera: Louise Goodman interview

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They say that the camera never lies, but it has been known to flatter some more than others. One person who has certainly faced the camera on many occasions is Louise Goodman, a former Public Relations Officer and current TV presenter. Karting magazine caught up with her at a recent Super One round where she explained how important good interviewing techniques can be for ambitious racing drivers.

Louise has been closely involved in motor racing for more than 27 years. Her first job was as a secretary at an architectural firm. She got involved in journalism as an editorial assistant on “Powerboats & Waterskiing magazine”, eventually rising to editor. Her introduction to the world of F1 came a?er meeting Tony Jardine. He offered her a job with his PR Company and their first significant contract was to launch Camel as title sponsor for the Lotus F1 team. A?er that she became the Press Officer for Leyton House, formerly known as March. This team, with Adrian Newey as its technical Director, operated in F1 for two seasons before being taken over by a consortium which changed the name back to March. Louise le? to take up a post as Head of Communications at Jordan Grand Prix. Then, in 1997, she joined ITV’s F1 team, introducing a breath of fresh air into F1 coverage.

“I think we brought something new into the coverage of F1,” she claims. “We introduced a lot more pre race features than the BBC ever a?empted and gave new insights for people who had never previously been
all that interested. I had next to no previous television experience, so the task was a bit daunting. I was also the only female working on the team, but colleagues like James Allen gave me lots of useful advice. My previous experience in PR also helped me a lot as I already knew most people in the paddock. I also think that, having seen things from the other side, it gave me more empathy with those I was interviewing.”

Carrying out a wheel change isn’t the kind of task that many people relish, especially if it’s done under pressure. Nine years ago at Silverstone, though, Louise had to perform this job, under very stressful circumstances, during the British Grand Prix. “It was actually something that had been arranged with the BAR team many months earlier and I’d undergone lots of training,” she admits. “I was scheduled to be their le? rear mechanic during the pit stop. At the last minute they got cold feet and pulled out of our arrangement. It le? me at a loose end, really, but Andy Stevenson from Midland Racing (formerly Jordan) kindly stepped in and allowed me to work on their car. The task is relatively straightforward, but in the midst of a Grand Prix you definitely can’t afford to mess up. It was all over in a couple of seconds but gave me a massive high a?fterwards.”

Apart from becoming a dab hand at changing wheels, Louise developed an enviable reputation actually behind the wheel. “I’ve taken part in several races, basically whenever someone offered me a car,” she confesses.

“There have been a few successes, specifically when Maurice Hamilton and I finished 3rd in our class during the 1999 Rally of Britain. Rallying was great fun but I’ve also done one or two karting events, such as the Johnny Herbert Challenge and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. It’s probably the most fun you can have without there being any alcohol involved. At a more serious level, karting has been responsible for producing just about the entire F1 grids over the last 20 years. It’s meant that drivers are ge?tting into F1 at a much younger age, as we can see with the likes of Max Verstappen.”

Max was born into the motor racing world, of course, with both of his parents Jos and Sophie excelling on karts. Jos went on to become Holland’s most successful F1 driver, racing for seven different teams and claiming two podium places. Sophie was an outstanding kart racer, winning the prestigious Margu?i Trophy against top flight opposition including future F1 stars Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella. “I seem to remember Jos once admi?ing that Sophie had actually been quicker on a kart than he was,” says Louise. “We shouldn’t be too surprised by that statement. I don’t believe there’s any physical reason why a woman can’t become F1 champion, eventually. I’d certainly like to believe that one or two could join Susie Wolff who is on the cusp of F1 right now. Statistically, of course, it’s a rather different story. There are so few women entering motorsport that the odds against this happening in the near future are quite high.”

Louise currently works as an ITV presenter for the British Touring Car Championships. She has also formed her own firm, Goodman Media, providing training in media & presentational skills. “Obviously, most of our work is focused on motorsport, although we do have several multinationals as customers. I’ve done a lot of work with the MSA Academy and the BRDC Elite Driver programme, as well as Racing Steps Foundation. Occasionally some of the F1 teams will bring me in to address a particular presentation problem. Mostly, though, I deal with individual drivers, from karting youngsters right up to F1 stars like Daniel Riccardo, who has turned into a very media friendly person.”

So what can Louise offer young karters that they can’t get anywhere else? “For a start, there’s almost 30 years of invaluable experience, working from both sides of the microphone,” she points out. “That makes me sound very old, but my excuse is that I came to it all at a comparatively young age. We offer tailor-made packages that can be aimed at small groups or focused upon individuals. All are targeted according to age and experience, plus, of course, their own requirements. That doesn’t just happen at the drop of a hat. Part and parcel of a driver’s job today is the ability to talk in front of an audience and, without the necessary training most of them will find that task to be very daunting.”

She insists that an adequate grounding in media skills isn’t simply a requirement for budding F1 stars. “All forms of motorsport are expensive and most participants will need to find sponsorship at some time. You need to develop skills in selling yourself to potential sponsors, just like any commodity. The good thing is that there are many more opportunities now, especially through social media. Also, local newspapers are always happy to run stories, especially if much of the work is done for them and they don’t need to send out reporters. It’s important to maximise these opportunities and we can help all drivers with that aspect. We don’t try to churn out automatons who can repeat key phrases parrot fashion. That won’t impress any audience. Instead, we give drivers the confidence to convey their own personality and make the most of individual qualities”.

So, who amongst today’s crop of F1 stars makes the best interviewee? “That’s an easy question to answer,” she says with a laugh. “It’s always the winner of the last Grand Prix. By this I mean that whoever wins will invariably be keen to discuss every aspect of the race. If things have gone particularly badly, it’s usually hard to draw them into making more than a few desultory comments. There are a couple of notable exceptions.

Even a?fter he’s won a race Kimi (Raikkonen) is a man of few words and always wears the same expression on his face. He was perhaps fortunate to have made it into F1 before media relations became such an important aspect. I think Kimi can carry it off because he’s accepted as a real character. The other exception is Jenson Bu?on who is forthcoming on interviews even on bad days. It wasn’t always the case, but he has certainly grown into his role and now understands the importance of keeping sponsors happy. I o?en use Jenson as an example of how drivers should react in front of the camera irrespective of how well or badly their race has turned out.”

You can contact Louise by e-mail info@ goodmanmedia.co.uk or telephone 01869 351605