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Cady Chow – PR Director, COTA

“You will be a better leader if you can learn a bit about what your colleagues are doing—that’s how you can support them better.”

As the Director of Public Relations for Circuit of The Americas, Cady defines creative communications strategies, builds and maintains media relationships, establishes brand ambassadors, and more, to fuel the storytelling of COTA’s brand. Having previously held roles in communications at the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort, Cady’s experience at world-renowned brands brings expertise in-house to the Circuit.

We sat down with her during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2022 weekend to get some insight into the world of PR at an iconic motor circuit.

Where it all began…

I remember back when I was a kid, I would create a magazine for tween girls on Word and print it out, designing the cover with like scrapbook elements—I’ve always loved storytelling and writing. This little creative hobby carried me into High School where I was the Editor-in-Chief of our yearbook, which was essentially being a journalist and a photographer, because I had to cover all the activities across campus throughout the year. I just loved being behind the scenes, whether it was taking action photos or interviewing someone to improve a story.

After finishing my B.A. in English at U.S. Santa Barbara, I started the Disney College Program as a Merchandise Hostess on Main Street U.S.A. during the Disneyland Resort’s 60th anniversary. At that time, Paint the Night was the night-time parade (my favourite!) and I learned there was something beautiful about making memories for people. It’s a different version of storytelling where you create an experience for someone else, suddenly you are part of their story, and that is so special. It made me want to write about those moments, so I worked my way into the communications department.

After almost three years of working at the Disneyland Resort, I went over to run the Marketing Communications department for a small Parks and Recreation district in Northern California that had basically no guidelines or distinctive brand. Having to start something from scratch allowed me to understand I could take all of this diverse knowledge I gained at Disney and use it to create something very, very specific for a niche community-oriented audience. They handed me the keys and let me let me drive, which I think was pivotal in preparing me for this role at Circuit of the Americas.

My role in 10 words or less…

Managing the brand, reputation and what people say on camera. (Although, “Gatekeeper of confidential information” also works!)

Why what I do is important…

For the business to be successful, we must understand who we are, and the full picture, to build our brand personality. For instance, everyone knows that we have Formula 1 here every year but not everyone knows that we donated almost $100,000 to the Tree Folks to plant hundreds of trees, or that we can host a local high school prom, or karting birthday parties.

I think having a point person to be listening all the time … to be involved in conversations with higher leaders of each department … and hearing not only what we have forecasted for the future, but what we have done in the past is so important. It helps tell the world COTA’s story and, therefore, allows COTA  to become a living, breathing brand rather than just a racetrack that hosts Formula 1.

My first race…

This is it – The 2022 F1 USGP at Circuit of The Americas!

My most challenging moment…

My most challenging moment in my professional career so far was honestly most of a year: 2021. This was before I got this job. I was struggling to find the right professional environment, where leadership was going to believe in and support me. Once you’ve experienced that type of distrust and micromanagement, it is hard to do a good job trusting yourself. I remember feeling like I knew what I was capable of, but there was a huge cloud of doubt I lived in due to my environment.

Joining the team at COTA totally relit the fire. I believe in myself and the work that I'm doing. In short, I've kicked out that imposter syndrome!

Cady ChowDirector of Public Relations at Circuit of The Americas

The real challenge was revitalising my self-confidence in what I knew that I was not only passionate about but could really excel at. Joining the team at COTA totally relit the fire. I believe in myself and the work that I’m doing. In short, I’ve kicked out that imposter syndrome.

My Proudest Moment

Seeing a piece in the New York Times that SMG and I helped put together ahead of the Formula 1 US Grand Prix this year. Wow. Seeing something you’ve worked on physically in print in one of the biggest outlets in the country is huge and was a mega  proud moment.

Non-media related, this year we supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation in granting four wishes. And I got to help make that experience above and beyond in every way possible, which was special. The reactions of the kids made me really proud of my PR/Comms team here at COTA. We worked together to get Ed Sheeran meet and greets, and he let one of the Wish Kids wear his watch (the kid was a HUGE watch fanatic) and the reaction and joy was SO wholesome. A real heart-warming moment for sure.

An F1 Memory I Will Never Forget

This year we organised personalised gifts for each of the drivers as part of our 10th Birthday celebrations. I was one of the COTA delegates to present these gifts and seeing their different reactions is something I’ll never forget. Whether that was watching the Williams guys struggle to put on their cowboy boots, (but being super determined to do so!) or presenting Lewis Hamilton birthday gifts for his dog, Roscoe, and seeing him be so happy! It was great to be a part of this 10th birthday campaign because I think we were able to really level things up!

Working with SMG

I think it’s important to share how much I’ve just adored working with the team. They’ve made this whole process so easy to connect and communicate but it really feels like they are part of the wider team here. It feels like they are an extension of us here at COTA just in a different country and what I love about that is how supportive they are – like me getting up early to jump on calls or messaging the guys 11pm UK time asking a quick question. We both sacrificed to make it work.

I also have never once felt like there’s been any other interest than having the best interest for this business as well, and it’s been so easy to work with them!

My Advice For Those Wanting To Get Into Public Relations

A lot of people outside of this field don’t understand the difference between public relations, marketing, communications, public affairs, etc. but they all tie to each other. I think learning a little bit of everything, becoming a Jack-of-all-trades so to speak, and getting a grip of each component in that larger umbrella of advertising, marketing, and communications will give a budding professional a real edge. Learn as much as you can and find what specialty makes the most sense for you and where you feel like you thrive. It doesn’t matter what your title is at that point, no experience is a bad experience … it is just a learning moment!

You will be a better leader if you can learn a bit about what your colleagues are doing—that’s how you can support them better. Don’t feel the need to be pigeonholed into one specific branch of that larger communications umbrella. Whatever is meant to be will find you if you continue to work hard.

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