The team here at CarNewsCafe enjoys sharing and writing stories about the auto industry, news, and writing editorials. While we love writing about cars I recently came to the realization we are focusing too much on “Us” and we don’t spend enough time keeping tabs on what other auto journalists do in the field.
To combat this I’ve decided to talk with different figureheads in the auto media each month. This will not only benefit us as writers but our readers as well since you get different perspectives and stories.
For our very first interview I have reached “across the pond.” I asked Geraldine Herbert to do an interview for CarNewsCafe. She’s the founder of two excellent websites that cover the automotive industry specifically geared toward women in Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK), WheelsForWomen.IE and WheelsForWomen.co.uk. Geraldine was voted Motoring Writer of the Year 2013 in The Journalism and Media Awards (The Jams) and servers as a writer and contributor editor for many major newspapers and magazines publications in the UK. We talk about the fun experiences she’s had around the world as an motoring journalist (seemingly all in Land Rovers), how she got started, and advice she has for others. Since everyone has a unique and interesting story here is Geraldine’s.
Geraldine Herbert – I have been journalist for 15 years with over ten of those spent as a motoring journalist. In that time I have contributed to numerous publications from performance magazines to National newspapers and pretty much everything in between. Writing about cars has taken me to such far-flung places as Iceland to camp out Land Rover Discovery Style, off roading in Morocco’s Sand dunes or driving the fast and furious Nurburgring ring in Germany. When I’m not doing all that I live outside Dublin and am Mum to two car obsessed little boys.
AYH – Wow, you’ve had a lot of great experiences in your career. Is there one experience that is most memorable, fun, or crazy from the past 15 years?
GH – If I had to choose one experience it would driving onto a Boeing 747 in the Range Rover Sport last year it was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure!!
AYH – What makes you, Geraldine Herbert, a “Petrolhead?” Was it a particular experience when you were young? Did your family always love cars?
GH – My dad was a motoring journalist so I have vivid memories of arriving at school in some new and often exotic car. I took it totally for granted growing up that all Dads changed cars on a weekly basis. During my teenage years though it was not something I appreciated as press cars by their nature tended to come in very noticeable colours and I clearly remember on one occasion my Dad was driving a multicoloured Citroen so outrageous that I had asked him to drop me a short distance from the school so no-one would spot me getting out of it. Much to my total humiliation in the time it took me to walk to school he had driven to the traffic lights, swung round, and with perfect timing precision was honking his horn madly just as I was walking in the gate – mortifying. Today my two sons find it in no way abnormal to be dropped to school in a BMW and collected in a Toyota.
AYH – Do your kids think Mom has a pretty cool job?
GH – Probably when they get a little bit older but at the moment they are far too young.
AYH – When did you start WheelsForWomen? What was the inspiration and entrepreneurial spark that made you start it?
GH – Wheelsforwomen was founded on international women’s day March 8th 2012 and it was really a response to the lack of information about cars that is there for women. It is about getting women interested and involved in motoring. All our reviews are jargon free so we stay away from words that need an automotive dictionary but we still convey the necessary information and we review everything from a Fiat 500 to a Ferrari.
GH – There are subtle differences between Ireland and the UK in terms of the car markets, for example the UK uses miles while Ireland uses kilometres, different currencies and cars are much cheaper in the UK than in Ireland so generally the effect is that cars are of a much higher specification there than in Ireland. The content of the site is ultimately very similar but it is tailored to take into account these differences but rarely is content from one completely irrelevant to the other.
AYH – Do you feel you have an advantage being a women in male dominated field? Seems motorists that are women obviously would prefer to get advice from the WheelsForWomen ladies. When working with automakers and auto brands is this an advantage in your mind?
GH – Since I came into motoring I have never defined myself as a female motoring journalist, wheelsforwomen is one of the many publications I write for. I am a motoring journalist first but can wear my mother hat or female hat or simply my driver hat depending on the publication.
AYH – Tell us about some of the writers you have on staff? How did you find them? Did you know them and were you friends already?
GH – I have been very lucky finding some great contributors, for some it has been a chance to cut their teeth in motoring and journalism while others like for example Jennifer Mullan have shared experiences with our readers. Jennifer is a racing driver so she posts articles regularly about the events and races she takes part in. I am very grateful to all of the contributors but Suzanne Keane, a confirmed petrol head with a penchant for VWs, is the one I could not do without. She came onboard very early on and has been taking apart (and sometimes putting back together) her own cars for years so she brings with her a wealth of experience.
AYH – We learned about WheelsForWomen via Twitter and I’ve noticed you are pretty active on there (@GerHerbert1). Do you find that Twitter has been a good source of traffic and gaining new followers for your sites?
GH – Twitter has been a very useful promotion tool for wheelsforwomen and interestingly we have managed to grow both the Irish twitter account @wheelsforwomen and the uk one @wheels4women independent of each other and there is very little overlap between followers which is great for us.
AYH – Have you had success with other social media platforms?
GH – We have a facebook page with a combined following of over 2,000 fans but apart from that we haven’t ventured yet to pinterest, google+ or instagram – all in the pipeline
AYH -What advice do you have for women using social media to enhance awareness about their brand or website?
GH – It really depends on what you are promoting as to what is the best social media tool so don’t think automatically what works for one company will work for you. The most important thing is know why you created your website or brand, what is it that you do well and listen to your customers, fans, followers and know what they are telling you and respond. Based on this decide which tool works for you and experiment between them to find the right mix
AYH – Do you ever see WheelsForWomen turning into a full-time gig?
GH – It takes up a lot of my time but it will always be one of many things I do
AYH – What advice do you have for women that want to start an auto website or a website in any topic or niche?
GH – I think the key to a successful website is define your niche and stick with it. It is very easy to expand content in a bid to get more readers but by distilling down what is unique you your lose your competitive advantage. Wheelsforwomen takes a broad view of motoring so we include driving tips, car reviews, motoring events, competitions and feature but at the core of all of our content is motoring we never deviate from that.
AYH – What advice do you have for other women in the auto industry?
GH – Don’t expect to be treated any differently as a woman and you won’t be.
AYH – What was your first car?
GH – It was a Suzuki Swift Van ( my father insisted I would learn to use my mirrors properly driving a van), in steel grey, plain and functional but I loved it and still have fond memories of it
AYH – What are car(s) do you currently own and drive?
GH – NONE!!! On average I test drive two cars a week excluding launches and my diary is always booked at least 3 months ahead so it would be completely pointless to own my own car
AYH – That’s actually pretty common among auto journalists.
Out of curiosity what would be an ideal car for driving around Ireland in? Particularly for a US auto journalist that isn’t used to driving on the right side of the car! 🙂
GH – Something robust our roads are terrible and something comfortable our congestion is worse.
AYH – You should visit Baltimore. Some roads have so many potholes it would be better to drive on dirt roads.
GH – Then you’ll feel right at home.
Adam Yamada-Hanff – 🙂 Ok, last question. Any parting thoughts you want to share about your websites, yourself, or mention with our readers?
Geraldine Herbert – “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
END OF INTERVIEW
If you have questions or comments for Geraldine please leave them below and we will try to get her to come back and answer them when she has time. Also, please let us know if you enjoyed this CarNewsCafe interview.
Please remember to visit both of Geraldine’s websites – WheelsForWomen.IE and WheelsForWomen.co.uk. You can also follow her on Twitter @GerHerbert1, be sure to thank her for doing this interview with a Tweet. Remember to follow WheelsForWomen via social media as well;
Ireland Twitter – https://twitter.com/wheelsforwomen
UK Twitter – https://twitter.com/wheels4women
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/wheelsforwomen