‘The Engine Room’ aims to build the profile of Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) staff members and provide interesting insights into what it is like to be part of the team working on two iconic international events, the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Phillip Island.
Rebecca Sayer - Manager, Corporate Affairs and Communications
1. You’ve had a career spanning many areas of PR and communications to date. Do you have a favourite area of expertise across the disciplines?
With over 12 years’ experience as a Corporate Affairs and PR professional under my belt, I’ve worked in a number of fast-paced industries including tourism, sport, major events, fashion and they all have one thing in common: creating memorable experiences.
There’s so much I love about our craft – it’s creative, it’s strategic, it’s the art of influence and understanding the psychology behind what motivates people, there’s an element of sales in order to nail a pitch, it’s storytelling, and also the ability keep calm in a crisis.
If I had to pick a specific area of expertise, corporate communications is a discipline that I am particularly passionate about. This encompasses everything from creating the tone of an organisation and ensuring messaging to different audiences stays consistent, stakeholder liaison and communications, to managing reputational risk and issues/crisis management.
2. How does the work of you and your team contribute to the success of AGPC?
Our role is more than generating media coverage – although even after so many years in the industry, I still find myself still doing a little happy dance when I see a pitch come to life!
I believe in the value of collaborative teamwork and I am fortunate to contribute to a high-performing, results-driven team that works towards a clear common goal: to support the broader business strategy via innovative and integrated media and communications strategies for the organisation and our two global motorsport events.
In addition to being publicists, we’re content creators and passionate storytellers with the ability to create media activity that aligns to key marketing campaign timelines and ticket purchase periods to not only achieve maximum event awareness among core and growth audiences, but to also promote Melbourne and Victoria to the world.
Major events are subject to a myriad of rapidly changing circumstances, and it’s also our job as communicators to maintain composure, quickly adapt to change, and provide expert media advice and support to staff across all levels of the business to maintain the integrity of the organisation.
3. We’re in strange and uncertain times at the moment. How has your work changed in this environment?
For anyone working in events, the feeling of ‘post-event blues’ is real. The adrenalin wears off, the phone calls and emails slow down and you end up staring at your phone waiting for that familiar ‘ding’ to shake you out of it.
So for me, there has certainly been an element of that, as well as genuinely mourning the loss of two major events that the world sadly won’t get to see in their entirety this year.
Really good quality, innovative work is often achieved when you are forced outside of your comfort zone, and this pandemic has certainly done that. Over time, I’ve learned to accept and embrace the uncertainty and look for new opportunities to ensure that AGPC, our people, and our two events remain in the public eye. In addition to BAU tasks, my team is using this time to leverage the profiles of our staff, implementing a staff media training program, as well as launching AGPC’s official podcast, In the Fast Lane.
Working at the dining room table with a toddler pulling at my jeans has definitely encouraged me to be smarter with my time and look for new efficiencies!
4. The media landscape has changed considerably in a short space of time. How has your role changed and where do you see the dynamic between communications professionals and journalists heading into the future?
The relationship between journalists and communications professionals has been an ongoing discussion for many years – I see it being symbiotic; we both need each other, however, the nature of this relationship is ever-evolving.
Both industries are constantly changing, and I believe the shift in how people consume media plays a big role in that, meaning that journalists also expect bespoke pitches and dynamic content from communications professionals.
Over the years I’ve seen the ways in which we generate media coverage change a lot – traditionally, it used to be all about blasting out a media release far and wide and sitting back and watching the coverage come rolling in (as a fresh account coordinator, this was done by fax!).
Media releases will always have a time and place, however, I think now more than ever the industry standard is calling for communications professionals to not just be good writers, but to also be content creators, with many diversifying their skillset across marketing, video creation and social media. This broadened knowledge enables tailored multi-tiered strategies across a variety of channels, to reach different target audiences.
Another key element of this symbiotic relationship is to treat it the way you would any good relationship; nurture it, value it, and treat it with respect.
5. How do you contribute outside of your normal role and responsibilities to drive outcomes for the Corporation?
Having worked at AGPC now for over 4.5 years, I have been fortunate to wear many hats and work on a number of projects that not only complement my day-to-day role but contribute to the overall strategic direction of the organisation.
Recently appointed on AGPC’s newly formed Emerging Leaders’ Team, I enjoy being able to bridge the gap between the Leadership team and the wider organisation. While it’s early days since the group was formed, we have the opportunity to be active voice for staff, encourage the value of challenging the status quo, and help bring the wider organisation on the strategic decision-making journey.
I am also a member of AGPC’s ‘Pulse Check Culture Club’, which aims to analyse culture survey results and workshop tangible results to ensure a positive and inclusive culture remains at the heart of everything we do at AGPC.
I pride myself on also having a positive can-do attitude and ensure there must always be the element of fun in our work and workplace.
6. The worlds of Formula 1® and MotoGP™ can be fast and action-packed – what’s your favourite memory from each of the two events over the years?
There are honestly too many to mention. I absolutely love the first few days of event week; the buzz around the city is undeniable and seeing all the international team personnel arrive at the circuit reminds you of the true global scale of the events. I’ll admit I’m also like a kid in a candy store watching the high-speed F/A-18 RAAF jet aerial displays over Albert Park and Phillip Island – the technical capabilities of the pilots are absolutely incredible.
One of my favourite media opportunities to date has been craning a motorbike up onto the scoreboard roof of the MCG for a photoshoot in 2016 with MotoGP™ riders Jack Miller and Marc Marquez. It was logistically challenging, but visually amazing with the backdrop of Melbourne’s CBD skyline. The giant media scrums that attend the press conferences of our Aussie motorsport stars, Daniel Ricciardo and Jack Miller also brings a thrill that never gets old.
A professional achievement I am proud of was delivering AGPC’s winning submissions at the prestigious RACV Victorian Tourism Awards, in which the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix was recognised as the GOLD Winner in the ‘Major Festivals and Events’ category for three consecutive years, which ultimately saw the event achieving Hall of Fame status in 2018.
7. You hold a degree majoring in criminology – why did you choose the career you have and would you choose a career along your study lines if you didn’t choose communications?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I finished school, but criminology was an area that I gravitated towards because it has always intrigued me having completed legal studies. I actually wanted to be a criminal psychologist, so clearly human behaviour and communication were an underlying passion that I just hadn’t quite uncovered yet.
After realising that psychology wasn’t for me, I completed my Arts Degree at Monash University with a double major in Criminology and Sociology, however, I couldn’t quite see a future in any of the relatable fields. At some stage there was a lightbulb moment and I went back to university and completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Relations at RMIT.
Over the years, I discovered my love of tourism. We live in such an incredible city – Melbourne truly does have the best events, food, entertainment, and culture, and I feel very lucky to help play a small part in showcasing this to the world. I’m still a sucker for a crime movie or documentary!