Calling all telco vendors: look after the trade media, they’re worth (even) more to you than you thought

Yesterday we announced the results of an independent (no really, it is) study looking at how operator digital transformation is impacting the vendor sales cycle. We wanted to ask operator decision makers how internal flux was impacting their ability to make purchasing decisions. At the same time, we also wanted to know what vendors could do to improve their chances of selection for RFP shortlists.

To get the clarity vendors need, we asked operators what sources of information are most helpful when shortlisting vendors. Almost three quarters (74%) said the IT or trade media. 56% said industry analysts (the second most helpful).

Well, isn’t that just music to the telecoms PR industry’s ears? The PR purists would argue that being too media focused and pursuing ‘earned’ coverage to the exclusion of all else is far too one dimensional. I would agree, but then our friends in the telecoms trade media offer far more than just well balanced, insightful editorial.

But it’s precisely because of this approach to editorial, that I think the telecoms trade media should be applauded. Let’s face it, the last few years haven’t exactly been kind to them, have they? Most survive on a crew of two or three people. Some outlets just one. In most cases, the trend has been downwards instead of upwards – though there are some exceptions. I’ve only had a chance to discuss it openly with a few journalist friends since the paper was launched – most recently on an industry podcast. The general feeling amongst the hacks is ‘well, it’s nice to be appreciated.’ 

I have seen some green shoots over the past few years to suggest a slight resurgence. Our telecoms media publications offer commercial packages that help the vendor community deliver messages to their buyers in increasingly innovative ways. They are playing a valuable role in helping teach these audiences things they didn’t already know, and in ways where the vendors receive the maximum halo effect. This has contributed to the operator goodwill generated by the trade media reflected in our survey. 

My love and admiration for the telecoms trade media should come as no surprise. I have grown up with them over the past 15 years. I have seen the cycles they have been through and the challenges they have faced. The slimming numbers have seen us PR people help out with client-contributed opinion (all be it according to tight editorial guidelines). This is great, and we all welcome the opportunity. But there is nothing quite like helping clients take their stories to journalists direct – helping them overcome cynicism (a British tradition), share in successes, while lamenting failures.

Our telecoms industry needs a filter. Anti-hype chastening, if you will. Raised eyebrows and bored monosyllabic grunts in the face of wild unsubstantiated vendor-based claims. As a PR industry, we need to be kept on our toes. We need to laugh in the face of BS and place our own filter on client content in anticipation of further media scrutiny. The truth catches up with us all in the end.  

It’s great to know the major customer we all look to charm, the operator, appreciates the trade media as much as I do. So, shouldn’t we all do more to make sure they survive?     

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