The Formula 1 season has ended and now is the time for summing up the year. You will no doubt read many seasonal reviews in the next few weeks and I am sure that there will be an exciting TV edit from FOM. I hope that someone will have the nous to stick a few clips on Youtube. The Lotus F1 truck jumping over the F1 car was posted four days ago and has six million views (just on YouTube alone) and it is still gathering steam.
But what have we had so far from the powers that be? Instead of press releases lauding a great season in F1 and drawing attention to the positives, what we have from FOM is… nothing (as usual).
And what we have from the FIA is a press release about the federation’s annual prize-giving party in Qatar. Talking about fiddling while Rome burns…
Do these people not read newspapers? Do they not see that in recent weeks Qatar has been in deep trouble for being a haven for al-Qaeda financiers, not to mention at the centre of sleaze investigations in the FIFA World Cup?
I’m all for promoting the FIA Prize-Giving Gala as a big event, but only if it sends out positive messages. Going to where the money is, is not always the right answer.
How much better would it have been if one or both of these organisations had put out press statements congratulating the new World Champion and his team for their brilliant success and making the point that the racing has been at the same level as last year, but has been done using 30 percent less fuel; that the rules achieved their goals and that F1 is creating free energy with its hybrid devices.
That is the big story of the year. That is the message that the FIA should want to deliver, but fails to do so because it is too busy writing about galas and road accident remembrance days. The United Nations and the World Health Organisation are dealing with road safety. The FIA is a still only a bit player at best in these activities and in any case the federation seems to be viewed as being an apologist for the automobile industry. And does this activity add value to the FIA? Surely, it is better to play to one’s strengths and tell the sustainability story as it should be told. F1 is driving new technology in road cars – and it has been a long time since that happened. And F1 is still an amazing – if underdeveloped – entertainment property that continues to wow the world, despite some very obvious weaknesses.
Just imagine what could be achieved if the Formula One group was making concerted efforts with the media, rather than Bernie dropping propaganda tidbits into the mouth of a big-eyed puppy who dares not bite his master’s ankle for fear of never being fed again, or giving interviews about how OAPs are F1’s primary target and saying that Vladimir Putin is the world’s greatest and most admired leader. It was proved not to be the case the other day when Putin left the G20 meeting in Australia early, with his tail between his legs having been brow-beaten by the other world leaders over his activities in Ukraine.
Jean Todt has never been good with the media and his handling of the press in Abu Dhabi was ill-advised. He held a press meeting for those who were deemed unlikely to ask him difficult questions.
Todt seems to be unable to grasp that criticism is actually a good thing. If you know how to handle it. Admittedly, there is some baseless “trolling” that has no merit at all. You cannot do anything about it, but it has little real impact. It is mist that evaporates.
Other criticism is legitimate, honest comment which intelligent communicators would identify as valuable, because it tells you that your audience cares and that you warrant feedback. If people did not care about a subject, they do not criticise, so having critics is inherently valuable.
The key is to try to win them over. Critics can also be helpful to a leader because they will often tell you painful truths that your friends, allies and flunkies will only say behind your back. If you surround yourself with yes-men you have inherent weakness as a leader. So the best thing to do with criticism is to embrace it, listen to it, discuss it and work with the critics to make things better. On top of that, if you have any intelligence, you will know that the best advocate you can ever have is a former critic who has been won over. So the media you want around you are not the docile who will write every word and not question the stories, but rather those who do ask questions and have opinions and, as a result, are more widely respected than those who never question anything.
Sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “la-la-la-la” very loudly is not the best way to win friends and influence people.