The British Grand Prix is one of the most highly anticipated races on the F1 calendar, with host circuit Silverstone being one of the most iconic tracks in the sport’s history. Attendances have increased over recent years and 340,000 fans visited over the weekend in July, but for the event to be a success, those working at the circuit must organise an exciting and entertaining atmosphere for fans. Katie Tyler has worked with and for Silverstone in both marketing and communications, so I spoke to her about working at the track, dealing with wet weather races and launching the Silverstone Wing.
Katie’s connection with Silverstone began long before she started working there having spent many weekends at the track as a child. “My father did a bit of Club racing and I used to go to every race with him from a very early age. In fact, the company he worked for rented one of the Silverstone Woodcote hospitality suites from new so I spent every weekend at Silverstone for quite a few years,” Tyler said. Despite this strong interest in motorsport, she did not intend to work in the industry having spent many years wanting to be a stockbroker working in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf. “I had studied this as part of my A Level Economics syllabus and it fascinated me. Then I saw the job advertised at Silverstone and it distracted me from my plan,” Katie explained.
The role Tyler applied for was a Marketing Assistant however the bosses were initially wary and felt Katie was over-qualified, but they did find another job that may suit her. “The new Managing Director of Silverstone, Denys Rohan, needed a Personal Assistant. I did not hold out much hope as I was very young with little experience. Luckily Denys liked me and offered me the job!” she exclaimed. Denys Rohan went on to become an extremely influential figure in Katie’s career, helping her learn and develop throughout her role as his PA, allowing her to gain more knowledge of how Silverstone as a brand and business worked. “I loved being Denys’ PA,” she said. “I got a fantastic understanding of how a business, specifically Silverstone, ran and got involved in absolutely everything while working for him. Every evening leading up to a major race meeting we would drive around the site and I would make notes of all the little things he thought needed doing. It was then my job to follow everything up that evening or the next day and it gave me a fantastic understanding of the operational side of Silverstone.”
It was not long after that Katie began running the circuit’s Press Office, speaking of this she said: “Denys has since told me that he realised I had the right personality and talents for a career in PR and Marketing and it was selfish of him to keep me as his PA. Over the years I gained valuable experience and inherited more responsibilities until I eventually became Head of Communications with a team of 5 staff.” Working as the Head of Communications meant Tyler was responsible for anything relating to the PR and marketing for the business, this included everything from driving experiences to marketing activations as well as Silverstone’s overall brand.
Having to cover so many different areas within her role was a challenge, especially with a team of only 5 staff, and many times they only had a limited amount of funds and resources. “There have been times over the years when budgets have been tight and we had a very small team but I am proud of what we always managed to achieve. Sometimes the biggest challenges can be the most rewarding,” Katie explained. However, the typically unpredictable British weather can also prove difficult when events have months of planning behind them, only to be changed at the last minute. “There have also been the years that the weather has made it a challenge to deliver the Formula 1 British Grand Prix – 2000 and 2012. I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to hear the rain falling relentlessly day and night in the week leading up to the event, knowing that all the hard work that has been put in by the Silverstone team to ensure the fans will have as good an experience as possible will be hampered by the wet weather,” she added.
Earlier this year, Katie left her role working for Silverstone to start her own company working with the circuit. “The structure of the team at Silverstone was changing and the directors wanted to outsource the PR for the British Grand Prix. This is the part of the job that I enjoy the most and also where I feel that I can add the most value. I feel very lucky that I do the job I love but have the capacity and flexibility to work for other clients,” Tyler said. This means that rather than being focussed on Silverstone as a business and covering all their events, she concentrates on the PR strategy for the British F1 Grand Prix. “This gives me more time to be proactive and not get distracted by other areas of the business. The other big difference is that I no longer have a team to support me and to delegate to so that is a bit of a shock at times!” she described.
In the weeks running up to a Grand Prix, those behind the scenes work increasingly long hours to make sure everything is ready and runs smoothly on the day, but even then, as Katie has said, you never know what will happen at the last minute. Although the work-load increases, once the Grand Prix arrives, the hard work pays off and Tyler has had some incredible experience thanks to her work. “Launching the Silverstone Wing was quite a highlight and a challenge. A major milestone in the history of Silverstone and the great and good of the sport were there to experience it. Builders were still clearing out and the painters still at work at one end of the building and we were hosting 400 guests including Mark Webber, Valentino Rossi and Jenson Button, at the other. Another highlight was bumping into Lewis and congratulating him as he ran up to the podium after his very first win at Silverstone in 2008. He was buzzing and you could see in his eyes just how much that win meant to him. I was also lucky enough to be ridden around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit on the back of a bike by Cal Crutchlow, quite an experience especially when he pulled a wheelie up the main straight,” Katie told me.
Katie Tyler’s love affair with Silverstone began when she was very young, and it appears almost destiny that it has played such a large role in the working life. Although she may not be working directly for the circuit anymore, she still works with them, allowing her to do what her favourite part of the job was: PR for the British F1 Grand Prix. Having worked her way up from a PA to running the Press Office and now her own business, Tyler’s advice to others would be: “motorsport is a small world and a lot is built on relationships so be as helpful as you can when people need support from you as you never know when you might need something in return!”
photo credits: Katie Tyler