This month, we are shining the spotlight on one of JSA’s top writers: Content Director Laura Barnett. Read on to find out more about Laura’s role at JSA, her love for cooking and artistic endeavors, how it all started, and so much more!
You bring an immense amount of experience to JSA, including career-long content writing within the network infrastructure industry, and a deep technical knowledge and insight into evolving digital trends. Could you share how you got started in your career and what drew you to writing in this sector?
I was lucky enough to have a foot in the telecom and technology infrastructure industry’s door through an acquaintance — but if you had told me as a fresh college graduate that I’d be working in this sector, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a little funny that I ended up here, because I was always known as someone who shied away from technology (sometimes I still get a little skittery about updating to a new OS, okay? And no, I’m not entirely sure why). Tech is an intimidating thing, and much of that intimidation comes from the relative unapproachability of the internet, the cloud, the networks — how they all truly function.
It turns out that even though I never would have imagined writing about this topic day in and day out, it’s a hugely rewarding industry to be a part of. Network and IT infrastructure has never had a more commanding place on the global stage than it does now in the wake of a pandemic when connectivity became vital — and even lifesaving.
It’s amazing how the companies, technologies and initiatives of this sector empower people and communities, and it’s even more amazing to look ahead and see applications coming to life that seem like something out of a science fiction novel. This is what keeps me interested in always writing that next piece, and it’s why I continue to find new things to love about this industry. Once you’re in the flow of all this rapid transformation, it’s hard to jump out again. You kinda feel like you might miss out.
Here at JSA, you are known for your ability to tell a story and make it come to life. Can you share a little about how you approach content strategy and work hand-in-hand with JSA clients to tell their story?
At the heart of every engaging story is this question: Why should I care?
It can seem a little callous, but it’s the most important part of creating something that people will actually want to read — and will actually retain or even share once they close the document or webpage.
It takes a little bit of strategic thinking because in this case, the ‘I’ in that question is actually ‘the reader.’ You have to get into the minds of your specific target audience and think about what will impact them most — what value they’re looking for, what topics they’re engaging with, what call to action will move them, what stories will strike a chord.
Then it comes down to understanding the client’s brand and voice in that conversation. This doesn’t mean just knowing their value props or corporate statements — it means drawing on the vision behind their products and services and seeing how they fit into what the reader or the wider industry cares about. Collaboration is always key to making that come to life.
When you look into your crystal ball, what kind of content do you feel will be making the most impact in the coming year for B2B companies?
A lot of the answers to this question would probably talk about short-form content, digital (video-based) content or other similar strategies, and those are all accurate. Days are so busy, content is so available and the entire digital world is saturated with so many bits of information — this means that sometimes we’re fighting for mere seconds of attention. But when I look at my crystal ball, I see a more psychological shift being the thing that will set content apart.
The tone with which people want to be talked to is changing. An online world puts everything at our fingertips, but what people are still searching for in that digital world is authenticity. If someone opens a page and they feel like they’re being interacted with like a real human, that’s a major win. This is why we’re seeing content in B2C channels try to replicate how people really talk — the jargon and overly technical, marketing-oriented stuff is pushed to the back in favor of a more relaxed approach with colloquialisms, informalities, or just content that gets a laugh. Even in B2B, it’s still people who are procuring services and assessing options, and people want to be treated as such. So I think this relaxed, approachable strategy rings true.
This can be a really hard target to hit bullseye on because it is a hugely subjective psychology game. It takes the right touch, because if not done right, ‘relatable’ content can quickly become cheesy and stilted or give the reader a feeling of trying too hard. It just goes right back to feeling inauthentic and leaves a bad taste in their mouth. But when it’s done right, this approachability and relatability can definitely set a company apart in an industry like tech and telecom that’s still pretty buttoned up.
What author do you most admire and why?
I’m going to cheat and do the thing that everyone hates most with these types of questions, which is give a non-answer by not picking one person. There’s nobody here to stop me, so here it goes.
Honestly, there’s something to admire about so many authors out there — pretty much every author in some way. Here are perhaps a few obvious ones: Hemingway is a masterclass on how to be economic with language — get the most bang with the fewest bucks. Tolkien’s world building showcases unparalleled creativity and an ability to dig deep into an idea, pulling out the most interesting parts for the reader’s consideration without removing the richness of the overall story.
Mostly, I admire any author that actually gets something relatively successful on the page and then is intrepid (some may say misguided) enough to show the world what they’ve created.
Outside of work, we understand you have a love for cooking and artistic endeavors. Please share a little about yourself and what you like to do when you are not plugging away at press releases and byline articles.
Growing up, if my family was all in one place, that place was probably the kitchen. If we were all doing something together, we were probably cooking. My childhood home was dotted with my mother’s and grandmother’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.
Nowadays, a lot of the stuff we accomplish is online. It’s impactful, but a lot of it isn’t really tangible — it just goes out 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 let me work with my hands and calm my mind, and then at the end I have a tangible finished product to be enjoyed. It’s a win-win-win.
Other than that, it’s a toss up between getting outside in the world (for a walk around the neighborhood, a game of tennis or an international trip — I don’t discriminate) or sitting at home watching the Great British Bake Off or something.