Dear Younger Me…

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Dear Younger Me…

By Diane Swintal, Public Relations Coordinator 

I would like to think that my younger self would have been willing to listen to advice, should
someone have sat me down and offered some words of wisdom. More often, though, we
learn by watching those far more experienced than we are, emulating their example.
Hopefully we had good teachers along the way, but there still are a few things I’d wish I’d
known in those very early days. Such as:

Listen (far) more than you speak. The media center is full of people who have so much
experience and you can learn so much from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And
know that you’ll never impress someone by what you say, only by what you do – and
respect usually comes after a fairly lengthy amount of time.

Value your relationships. So much of this business begins with the people you work with,
including local journalists, national journalists, TV people. Get to know what they need,
because the better than you are at understanding that, the better you’ll be at your job.
Never be too nervous to stick out your hand (remember when that was a thing?) and
introduce yourself. You’ll be amazed at the number of friends you’ll have years from now
from relationships that began with a simple “how can I help?”

Be nice. It doesn’t take much to treat people with kindness, reacting with a smile. Yes,
some days that’s easier said than done, but you never know when that kid who is currently
talking your ear off will end up in a position of power and you’ll be glad you took the time to
be friendly. Everyone is working hard and if you can make someone else’s life easier, do it.
The only constant is change. Jobs change. Teams change. You change. You must welcome
change because the only constant in racing is change, so learn to embrace it. Life is a story
and we all come and go in the telling of it. There will be loss and there will be heartbreak.
You have to accept everything as it comes because there is no other way. You can’t fight
something you can’t control. Not only will your life evolve, but how you perceive it will
evolve.

Appropriately, you will one day have a client named Change (Racing).

Be a storyteller. It’s more than just writing. It has more heart than that. Once you start
talking to people, you discover how much they really want to be heard. It may take a bit of
work, to get the best quote, to get the best anecdote, but it’s worth the effort. People want
to be heard, want to know they’re being heard, so even if they’re a bit reluctant, if you give
them the right atmosphere, they’ll give you what you’re looking for to convey their story in
the best way.

Proof EVERYTHING. Twice. Including texts. Especially texts. And most especially, check and
recheck the subject line of press releases before you hit “send.”
Think twice. If you’re not sure it’s funny, don’t Tweet it. And never, ever comment on
someone else’s racing series. This comes under the heading of “if you don’t like it, don’t do
it to someone else.”

Actually, quite a few things come under that heading. Common sense comes in quite handy
here.

Have a checklist. Flying by the seat of your pants might sound like fun, but when the client
has a list of expectations that they’re paying for, you’d best make sure you did them all.
This is, after all, what you get paid for.

This is fun. Seems like a silly statement when you’re just starting out, doesn’t it? This is not
rocket science. We’re not curing cancer. We’re helping to facilitate an industry that is
recreation for most people, so how can it not be awesome? Well, the travel can be a grind,
the hours are long, not every media center chair is comfortable and not every racetrack has
24/7 high speed wireless on pit lane. Try to remember always how much fun it was early
on, when you walked into another historic racetrack for the very first time, in complete awe.
That feeling will keep you going when you’re writing a press release about your 15th place
finish at 1:00 a.m. in Sebring.