Ray Le Maistre

What do telco media want? Babel spoke to TelecomTV’s Ray Le Maistre to find out…

At Babel, we work closely with clients across the technology and telecoms sector. But we also work very closely with our friends and allies in the media. This week, we thought we’d unite the two and offer interested parties a unique insight into what’ll be driving the telco news and business landscape in 2021.

Last week, Paul Campbell, a Director at Babel, was joined by Ray Le Maistre, esteemed Editorial Director at TelecomTV and previously Editor-in-Chief at Light Reading, for a fireside chat. Broadcast live, viewers were able to hear from one of the most respected and influential telecoms journalists, who during the event gave his views on the telecoms themes that will be driving the media agenda in Q1 2021. Discussion was then opened to the floor, allowing stakeholders from across the tech sector – and tuning in from around the world – the opportunity to quiz Le Maistre.

We’ve rounded up key points from the event, below. In case you missed it, Campbell shared an initial write-up last week, including opinion on the future of MWC. And to ensure you don’t miss it: a head’s up that Babel’s Abbie Anderson will draw on the discussion to share her top PR tips later this week.

What was your main takeaway from 2020 in terms of telco trends?

It wasn’t so much a trend as a realisation, explained Le Maistre: how important and resilient the communication services and networking sector is. As little as three years ago the events of 2020 would have brought comms networks to their knees. As a result of developments in networking technology and the softwarisation of communications systems and networks, infrastructure providers were able to adapt a lot quicker last year. This has given the industry more confidence in what it can achieve.

What will be the big headline-stealing issues of 2021?

First (and unsurprisingly) 5G will be the most-used term in 2021, said Le Maistre. However, it’ll be important that the 5G story moves on this year. We need to stop talking only about the fact that 5G is launching or 5G is here, and branch out into what 5G actually means for end-users and enterprises.

We’re starting to see some of that right now in terms of communications around 5G edge strategies and enterprise services. What we need to see more of though, is use cases and solid examples of what 5G is delivering vs 4G.

It would also be good to see more stories about cultural transformation, Le Maistre continued. The ways in which companies are changing working practices, partnerships and go-to market strategies will drum up media interest. This could include how telcos are partnering with hyperscalers for instance, or how they’re working together to share assets. Shared infrastructure, he said, will continue to be a big deal.

Network security has always featured in the media, However, it has previously been a second-tier topic. It needs to be up there with 5G, Le Maistre commented.

Stories on business diversification will also do well. This is a very important strategy for operators, Le Maistre explained, and something we’ve already seen grab headlines. He gave the examples of Orange’s move into banking, and Telstra announcing it’s to start selling renewable energy.

Finally, we can’t talk about headline-grabbing 2021 telco trends without mentioning open RAN. Momentum will only increase this year, said Le Maistre. Open RAN is now front and centre in the strategies of some of the largest tier one operators in the world. It’s a case of when, not if, he said.

However, many questions still remain, including those around investment and the proportion of a network that will use open disaggregated systems. We’ve seen announcements from the likes of Nokia and Ericsson, but we’ll also see new entrants in the market – which is great news for any smaller companies out there looking to launch with a media splash. We’ll see the emergence of small, nimble companies that can play a role as partners and can deliver specific expertise to systems integrators and vendors. The open RAN media opportunity therefore is open to all.

Are there any telecoms trends you’re bored of hearing about? And are audiences still interested in covid-related content?

It’s not so much telco themes than means of engagement that Le Maistre is ‘bored’ of. I’m tired of being fed 500 words of nothing, he said. I’d prefer 50 words of something. In terms of methods of engagement – long emails are out for 2021, and LinkedIn is… in! Brands should look at efficient means of communicating news and views – either picking up the phone and going direct to a journalist, or via social media.

Le Maistre also confirmed that audiences are still interested in covid-related content. Brands should be looking at commenting on how the current situation is impacting strategies and how companies are dealing with it. No one wants to read about the simple fact that covid has made an impact. They want to know how, what change that’s had on investments, and to what extent it’s influenced strategic business changes.

Covid-related impacts on the here and now will interest media and readers, but that’s not to say that brands should hold off on the future-gazing stuff, continued Le Maistre. He gave the example of 6G: it’s only through continued R&D and communication that new ideas will be sparked, new investment cycles will begin, new start-ups will form, and the industry will move forward.

Most tradeshows and in-person events are on hold for now. How can companies ensure they remain or get onto the media radar this year?

Effective means of communication – like LinkedIn and old-fashioned phone calls – are important. But brands also have to make sure that what they’re communicating is helpful and effective. It’s absolutely critical that content discusses three things, said Le Maistre: people, technology, money. Anyone who comes with a pitch which details all three will definitely get a briefing.

Being effective is also about being clear. Avoiding jargon is important, said Le Maistre. Brands need to talk about money, investments, ROI, and tech strategy in a detailed and easy to communicate way – if you have this in the bag, you’ll get coverage. Communication isn’t all about wordy press releases. Video resources and data-rich infographics are also helpful in conveying stories.

And finally, Le Maistre shared details on what not to do. Don’t promise something unique without being able to back it up. If you set expectations it’s incredibly important to be able to live up to them, said Le Maistre. Promising a CEO for comment and then she/he not being available? An absolute no-go. Making empty promises, said Le Maistre, is a road to nowhere.

Want to get on the road to somewhere? Whether that’s success at a (TBC) MWC21 Barcelona, engaging with media for the first time, injecting energy and newsworthiness into brand messaging, or maintaining momentum for an existing campaign – Babel can help.

We work closely with analysts and journalist like Le Maistre, and always keep abreast of the demands of our clients’ vertical and target media sectors. It’s this mixture of outlooks, news and views that helps us create campaigns that deliver for our clients, the media and the end-users of our clients’ products and services.

We hope to see you at MWC21 Barcelona in June, and to hear from you in the meantime.

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