Article features images courtesy of The Cahier Archive (f1-photo.com)
In part one, Louise spoke about getting her big break in Formula One, and her time working at Jordan Grand Prix. In part two, Louise discusses getting the call from ITV and how her career went in a totally different direction.
At the end of 1996, Louise received an offer from ITV, who had recently won the rights to show live Formula One in the UK. Her new role would see her thrown in at the deep end like never before.
“Initially it was terrifying. ITV didn’t bring me onboard because I was a broadcaster; I’d done a small amount of broadcasting in my role as a press officer, but I’m talking about a very small amount. I’d come from a time when you learned journalism on the job – you didn’t go off and do a degree and learn about all the different areas of journalism and broadcasting like you do now. I’m not sure such a thing existed then, to be honest.
“I was very much in at the deep end, but ITV had brought me in because I knew who to talk to. I had access to them, and I knew what to ask as well as I had a background in motorsport, but it really was a case of ‘there’s a microphone, off you go’. James Allen was great. He and a guy called Kevin Piper, who was with Anglia TV at the time, were the ones who actually suggested me to ITV in the first place. I can remember sitting down and James giving me a quick run through, but when we got to Melbourne, I was walking up and down the pit lane feeling utterly out of my comfort zone.
“Thankfully, because I knew everybody, the drivers were all very gentle with me. They helped me out a lot. About halfway through the season, I remember Johnny Herbert saying to me ‘You’re getting a bit more comfortable with this now’ which made me feel a bit more relaxed, but that was a big mistake. Johnny started doing things like poking me off camera as they were just about to throw down to me live on the grid. That’s when the trouble really started.”
As the years progressed, Louise came into her own in her new role as a roaming pit lane reporter and developed her own unique style, earning respect from her fellow broadcasters.
“It helped that I was working for British TV. Back then, a lot of the foreign speaking TV effectively deferred to me because if you’re speaking in a second language to a racing driver who is also speaking a second language, there’s the potential for a question to come out the wrong way. I could see it happening around me a lot.
It was slightly more difficult for a bloke to say ‘F**k off!’ to a girl!
“I always found as a press officer that I was comfortable approaching the drivers. It was a different dynamic, and it was slightly more difficult for a bloke to say ‘F**k off!’ to a girl, than to another bloke. I think in the end, it comes down to the relationship you have with people.
“A good example of that was Eddie Irvine on one occasion when he was racing for Ferrari. We were in Hungary, and I can’t quite remember what the quote was that he gave me, but as it was coming out of his mouth the ex-press officer in me was thinking ‘you really shouldn’t be telling me this, you’re going to get in trouble’. It was only after that he said to me ‘I f**king forgot, I thought I was just talking to you, I forgot I was talking to ITV’, so I think once you have that relationship and understanding with somebody, they’ll divulge more with you than with someone they’ve just met.”
These days there are many women working within the F1 paddock, and that number is growing, but back then Louise was very much a rarity in a male-dominated world.
“When I started you could probably count the number of women in the paddock on the fingers of two hands, maybe three. A lot of them were working in motorhomes, sometimes it was a husband and wife team. He would drive it, and she would do the catering – but on a much smaller scale than what you’d see today. There was Annie Bradshaw – who is still in the paddock now – but there really weren’t that many other girls around.
I wanted to them to feel that I was not to be messed with. I think being tall and gobby probably helped!
“It’s a subject I’m often asked about for obvious reasons. I was aware that there weren’t many girls around, but I never felt like people were treating me any differently. Maybe they were as I was being naive, but as far as I was concerned, I was just doing my job. I was quite determined that people knew that, and I wanted to them to feel that I was not to be messed with. I think being tall and gobby probably helped!
“I suppose in hindsight, I look back and think ‘yeah, actually I was a bit of a rarity’ but at the time I was so focused, my thought was ‘What’s the relevance? I’ve got tits. Big deal! Get over it.’”
In late March of 2008, Louise was dealt a career blow when ITV announced that they would be calling time on their coverage of Formula One with two years still remaining on their contract.
“I didn’t know what I’d be doing next, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be in F1. I had no desire to go back to being a press officer because that felt to me like a backwards step and that wasn’t something I wanted to do.
“When the news came out my first thought was ‘Shit. I’ve got no job’, so I had a long hard think about what I wanted to do. Thankfully, I had already done some work the previous year with ITV in British Touring Cars, and I thought that’s what I’d probably go and do. I’d also had an idea for a couple of years that I wouldn’t be doing TV for the rest of my working life. It’s not the easiest job in the world, and no one wants to see a sixty-year-old running up and down the pit lane chasing drivers!
“I’d had the idea of setting up a media training company, and of course when I heard that ITV was pulling out of Formula One, I said to myself ‘Right, you better get your act together and set up that company’. It’s a business that’s in my control, rather than having my entire income taken away because someone at ITV decides they like football more than they like Formula One!”
I don’t want a load of PR-bullshit on the end of my microphone!
Today, Louise runs her own firm – Goodman Media – delivering media training for individuals working in motorsport. She explains how in today’s age, it’s vitally important to be media savvy.
“We’re in a very personality-driven era and if you want to get exposure, no matter what your sport, you’ve got to give something back.
“That side of a driver’s world these days is so much bigger now, and you’ve got be media savvy by the age of 15 or 16. Eddie Irvine didn’t set foot in a racing car until he was 17 – he never did any karting but went on to race in Formula One. That just wouldn’t happen these days.
“What I’m doing now is helping drivers, and some of the engineers from the Formula One teams too – basically, anyone who is likely to be put in front of the media, to help them understand that environment and help them to get the most out of it. I always say ‘personality is key’ and I’m very keen not make a load of PR-speaking robots. I don’t want a load of PR bullshit on the end of my microphone – it’s boring! I want drivers who’ve got some character and can show it!”
Many thanks to Louise for her time, and for sharing her experiences with us.