This week on the podcast we’re going back to our B2B tech roots with an interview on telecom journalism. For our fifth episode, we speak with Light Reading Editor-in-Chief Carol Wilson. She joins us to talk about covering the telecom industry, avoiding buzzwords, and finding a journalism niche in the modern media landscape.
Here are the biggest takeaways from our conversation.
There Are No Dumb Questions
Telecom is a complicated beat. New technology is always on the horizon and reporters are often interviewing technical people who internalize the complicated nature of their work. This is made even harder for journalists as many of B2B tech reporters don’t have a technical background. Carol told us during the interview that to truly understand the tech they’re writing about reporters need to be willing to look silly.
“The challenge covering telecom is that you have to be willing to do a lot of homework. You have to be willing to answer a lot of dumb questions, and that’s the hardest part. As a journalist you don’t like to appear dumb but if you don’t ask the simple questions you’re not going to get at the answers that will enable you to explain and write about what you’re covering,” said Carol during our interview.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Tech marketing is built on a strong foundation of buzzwords and hype cycles. Whether it’s due to the nature of promoting a complicated product or simply because it’s easier to talk in generalities, buzzwords often slip into every press release and blog post. It’s the job of a reporter to cut through the hype and buzzwords to actually report on what something does. Carol said during our interview that it can be a challenge but she always asks for clarification and pushes for people to move past the buzzwords and into the reality.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the hype and the buzzwords. One of the things I’ve always tried to do was – and I don’t think I always succeed – but I think I try to get some level of understanding about the technology and not just accept it at the buzzword level,” continued Carol.
Exasperating Through Total Nonsense
Buzzwords and hype are also often the language of lazy PR folks. Carol told us that the buzzword heavy pitches she gets can truly be exasperating. She finds it’s a key clue that the PR person doesn’t understand the technology and it’s something she’ll ignore. However, it’s not all bad, Carol said during the interview her and her colleagues play a game where they try to find the most nonsensical email pitch from a PR person.
“We sometimes send email pitches back and forth to see which one best represents total nonsense,” reported Carol.
K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid
The collectively take away from our interview was that a PR person who knows the technology is a prized commodity for telecom reporters. One that’s also easy to work with is doubly helpful. As a PR professional, if you can explain the technology and have a pitch that cuts through the hype you have a good chance of getting bylines.
If you’ve enjoyed these takeaways be sure to listen to our full interview below. As always, also be sure to listen to rate and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play or SoundCloud.