Talking tech? Don’t overestimate your audience!

People have been talking about the Internet of Things for years. Before somebody in marketing coined the phrase ‘IoT’, it was also known as machine-to-machine – or M2M – communication. Unfortunately, much of the coverage in consumer media has led people to believe that IoT is for trivial applications – connected sensors for fridges and toasters and the like, which leaves people thinking ‘Why would I need that?’.

That kind of portrayal in the popular press is unfortunate because it misses the opportunity to raise awareness of the potential that IoT has to fundamentally change the way that we work and live. There’s a raft of innovative technology start-up businesses that are tapping into the latest low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) technologies, like Sigfox, to create applications that will disrupt whole industries. But enough of that for now.

Something surprised us recently. We set up an interview between one of our clients, WND UK (the Sigfox network operator for the UK) and The Register. Anyone who reads The Register probably understands that any coverage you get will highlight the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of your story. The publication’s strapline, “Biting the hand that feeds IT”, is well deserved. Actually, the final article, which you can read here, gave a fair account of the interview, albeit with its usual tongue-in-cheek mood and tone.

While The Register gives some column inches over to personal tech, the main editorial is aimed fairly and squarely at IT professionals. And one of its strengths is the level of engagement between those readers and its content.  What took us by surprise was the fundamental lack of understanding of IoT, which was evident from some of the comments. For example:

“But what will ordinary people do with it?”

“But what exactly is yet another layer of EM radiation blanketing the population of the UK supposed to achieve? 'IOT connectivity' all very vague what things? and why can't these non-defined 'things' use the existing infrastructure of wired broadband and non-wired internet already blanketing the country?

“In the old days we used to be faced with a real problem and then we would engineer a technology to solve that problem. To me, SigFox and other low data rate wireless technologies are part of the modern tech malaise of developing tech - because we can - and then trying to force-fit a problem to it.”

These comments from readers of The Register are a salutary reminder of the need to never overestimate how much people understand about new concepts – even within ‘technology literate’ audiences. Sometimes it’s necessary to set out the context of a story before talking about your solution. For example, in this instance outlining the market forecasts for IoT, some of the business-critical applications, and why innovators need a low power wide area network.

This marketing framework is a useful reminder of how to pitch a story to ‘sceptics’, whether they are ‘specialists’ or ‘generalists’.

Of course, journalists will always decide for themselves what they want their readers to take away from a piece of editorial, but having a clear set of key messages that you weave into your communications is one way to ensure that your marketing activity supports your desired business outcomes.