This month, we’re shining the spotlight on one of JSA’s best writers: Content Director Laura Barnett. Read on to learn more about Laura’s role at JSA, her love for cooking and art projects, how it all started and more!
You bring immense experience to JSA, including content writing throughout your career in the network infrastructure industry, as well as deep technical knowledge and insight into evolving digital trends. Can you tell us how you started your career and what made you write in this industry?
I was fortunate enough to have a foothold in the telecom and tech infrastructure industry through knowledge – but if you had told me as a recent graduate that I would work in this industry, I wouldn’t have you believed. It’s kinda funny that I ended up here, because I’ve always been known as someone who stepped away from tech (sometimes I’m still a little nervous about updating to a new operating system, okay? And no, I’m not sure why). Technology is a daunting thing, and a lot of this bullying comes from the relative inaccessibility of the internet, the cloud, networks – how they all really work.
It turns out that while I never imagined writing about this topic day in and day out, it is an extremely rewarding industry to be a part of. Network and IT infrastructure has never had a more prominent place on the global stage than it does now in the aftermath of a pandemic when connectivity became vital – and even vital.
It’s amazing how much empowering businesses, technologies and initiatives in this industry are empowering people and communities, and it’s even more amazing to look ahead and see applications come to life that seem to be coming out. from a science fiction novel. This is what still interests me in writing this next article, and it’s why I keep finding new things to love about this industry. Once you’re in the flow of all this rapid transformation, it’s hard to jump in again. You kinda feel like you might miss it.
At JSA, you are known for your ability to tell a story and bring it to life. Can you tell us a bit more about how you approach content strategy and work hand in hand with JSA clients to tell their story?
At the heart of every compelling story is this question: Why should I care?
It might seem a little callous, but it’s the most important part of creating something that people will actually want to read – and keep or even share after the document or webpage is closed.
This takes a bit of strategic thinking because in this case the “I” in this question is actually “the reader”. You need to get into the minds of your specific target audience and think about what will impact the most – what value they are looking for, what topics they are addressing, what call to action will move them, what stories will strike a chord.
Then it’s about understanding the brand and the voice of the customer in that conversation. It doesn’t just mean knowing their company values or statements – it means building on the vision behind their products and services and seeing how they fit into what interests the reader or the industry at large. Collaboration is always the key to making this come to life.
When you examine your crystal ball, what type of content do you think will have the most impact in the coming year for B2B businesses?
A large portion of the answers to this question would likely talk about shorthand, digital (video-based) content, or other similar strategies, and these are all correct. The days are so busy, the content is so available, and the entire digital world is saturated with so many bits of information – that means sometimes we’re fighting for seconds of attention. But when I look at my crystal ball, I see that a more psychological shift is what sets the content apart.
The tone in which people want to be spoken to changes. An online world puts everything at their fingertips, but what people always look for in this digital world is authenticity. If someone opens a page and feels like they’re interacting with a real human, that’s a major win. That’s why we see content in B2C channels trying to replicate the way people really speak – overly technical, marketing-oriented jargon and stuff is pushed aside in favor of a more relaxed approach with colloquial, informal or simply content that gets a laugh. Even in B2B, it’s still people buying services and evaluating options, and people want to be treated as such. So I think this relaxed and accessible strategy rings true.
This can be a very difficult target to hit because it is an extremely subjective psychology game. It takes the right touch, because if not done right, “relatable” content can quickly become out of date and stilted or make the reader feel like they’re trying too hard. It just comes down to feeling inauthentic and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But when it’s done right, that accessibility and relativity can definitely distinguish a business in an industry like tech and telecommunications that’s still pretty closed.
Which author do you admire the most and why?
I’m going to cheat and do what everyone hates the most with questions like these, which is give no answer by not picking a single person. There’s no one here to stop me, so there you go.
Honestly, there is something to admire about so many authors – just about every author in one way or another. Here are a few obvious examples, perhaps: Hemingway is a master class on how to be economical with language – get the best with the least money. Tolkien’s world-building exhibits unprecedented creativity and an ability to delve into an idea, removing the most interesting parts for the reader’s consideration without taking away the richness of the overall story.
Most of all, I admire any author who gets something relatively successful on the page and then is fearless (some might say misguided) enough to show the world what they’ve created.
Outside of work, we understand that you enjoy cooking and art projects. Please share a little about yourself and what you love to do when you’re not dwelling on press releases and signature articles.
Growing up, if my family was in one place, that place was probably the kitchen. If we were doing something together, we were probably cooking. My childhood home was dotted with my mom and grandma’s art projects, and homemade gifts were a mainstay of birthdays and holidays for all of us. So, an affinity for art and food was ingrained in me.
A lot of the things we do these days are online. It’s impactful, but much of it isn’t really tangible – it just goes into the digital ether. Cooking and art are meditative for me because they both help me focus on what’s in front of me, they allow me to work with my hands and calm my mind, and at the end of the day I have a tangible end product to enjoy. It’s a win-win.
Other than that it’s a choice between going out into the world (for a walk around the neighborhood, a game of tennis or an international trip – I’m not discriminating) or staying home watching the Great British Bake Off. or something.