The Lockdown Diaries: The PR firm

Image by Brian Cleary/BCPix

The Lockdown Diaries: The PR firm

IMSA

The Lockdown Diaries: The PR firm

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The disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com is sharing stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.

Depending on the racing series, you might find a 50-50 split of public relations staffers who either work directly for the teams and sanctioning bodies, or hail from specialist firms who are hired to supply PR services on a contract basis.

The Indianapolis-based Sunday Group Management falls into the latter category where the compact team of eight employees – a blend of full- and part-timers – covers teams in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the NTT IndyCar Series, and looks after PR for the Trans Am Series and the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup.

Sunday Group’s offerings cover the gamut of press releases, along with social media account management and video production for their clients. Look across the sport, and CoForce, TruSpeed Communications, and many others play the same roles as the for-hire communications experts for teams and series that prefer to outsource those needs.

In a parallel to their clients who rely on testing and racing to produce income, Sunday Group and its counterparts have nothing to write, nothing to tweet, and no videos to create in a racing-free world of COVID-19 lockdowns.

They can, of course, cook up non-traditional content. But also keep in mind that with a long off-season to fill with team and sponsor profiles, and a variety of other items to fill the racing void, the well of creativity was tapped.

Before the impromptu content starts to flow, Sunday Group owner Matt Cleary says he’s taken the same precaution as many have by closing their offices.

“Starting Monday, it’s been working from home and we’re using whatever tools we can to stay in touch,” he told RACER.

“So from the business point of view, it’s really a function of seeing how this plays out. We are fortunate to have outstanding partnerships and clients, and we plan on working together to get through this, whatever that takes. Obviously yes, it’s a different level of responsibility for me just as the business owner to have eight of us to care for, so there’s a lot of people to consider in terms of how we approach everything.”

The economic recession that began in 2008 taught Cleary invaluable lessons that have been applied in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are fairly conservative from a financial point of view, and while we don’t know what this racing delay is going to look like, it’s not the first time I’ve experienced a significant downturn or opportunity for downturn,” he said.

“This situation can affect our business in a way that can be very significant, so this is the kind of thing that I always keep in the back of my mind in the decisions we make financially. I’m not thinking about that number of how long we can keep going without racing. Not yet. I think when we have a better idea as we get through this, then that might become a little more evident. But my commitment to my employees and clients is similarly unchanged.”

As a PR veteran who worked for everything from the former Pacwest CART IndyCar team to the Skip Barber Driving School, Cleary has used an articulated content production and posting process for many years. Now, the formula has been thrown open to input from the Sunday Group team as they look to arm their customers with content to share.

“AutoNation was poised to play a significant role in the COTA race for IndyCar,” he says. “So a lot of work was done by us on trying to find ways for them to maximize that investment, both in the team and in that event. And we’ve had to throw all of that out. So what we’re doing instead, is coming up with ideas about how to generate social content without having racing events to base that on.

“Some of that is going to come to fruition in what I anticipate to be some kind of down and dirty self-shot video from our drivers, since we can’t film it professionally at the track. It’s stuff like, what are they doing now, right? How is this shutdown affecting them? How eager are they to get back to a racetrack and what are they doing in the meantime to burn off that unspent energy? It’s trying to maximize them as a resource to tell the story of what they’re feeling and seeing, so that we can continue to maintain this engagement in conversation with our clients’ audience.”

Cleary says the underlying goal during this unexpected absence of racing is to expand the skills of Sunday Group’s team and offer more opportunities to lead.

“We’re asking our staff to use this time and look into online training and classes,” he added. “If we have this time to fill, which almost never happens in racing, I want them to enroll in classes to learn new things in graphic design, or web design, or management, or whatever they might use to do more for themselves and our clients. I can’t see a reason to miss a chance to make ourselves a better business by having our employees grow. This break is begging for it.”

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