Embedded industry communication and media strategies at the Farnell element14 round table

May 7, 2014 OpenSystems Media

Held at a prestigious central London location, Farnell element14′s (www.element14.com) round table event probed the question: “How to engage today’s engineers, amidst ever changing communication processes and platforms?”

Changes in communication
Times have changed since the days of exclusively hard copy handouts and hand-completed registrations of interest. Today’s fast-paced world is used to “always on” information access and our working practices have followed suit. Whilst a global trend, the pace at which this change occurs geographically varies significantly; for example in our industry the UK’s love affair with trade exhibitions died years ago, leaving a shell of what was before – whereas in Germany it’s never been stronger, with embedded world the poster child of exhibition success worldwide.

The communications revolution has made it exponentially easier to access information, whether that’s obtaining specific information through your own query, or keeping abreast of technology by way of receiving company marketing. In marketing, this, on the face of it, makes everyone’s jobs easier, but the danger in today’s world is over-communicating and avoiding alienating potential prospects by perceived “spamming”.
With so many new options available and legacy methods still clinging on, individualism amongst today’s engineer is more visible than ever. No blanket approach on a single communications channel will be successful – companies must be prepared to talk (and listen) using almost every available option to ensure their net is cast wide enough, and, despite that individualism, they can engage across the board no matter what the client’s preferred medium.

Changes in the role of trade press
The trade press has also moved on from the days of print-only magazines. Despite the electronic revolution, a steadfast population spanning both old and young retain an insatiable appetite for print publication. The electronic revolution was feared by some publishers, but those who embraced it as complimentary (as we did at OpenSystems Media), rewarded their readers with rich digital content at their fingertips. The dual approach achieves loyalty from readers regardless of their individuality and preferences.

The role of trade press in providing credibility to company announcements hasn’t changed so dramatically, with a shared consensus that the trade press remains relevant in today’s markets – credibility stemming from the “third party” approach, rather than purely self-promotion of products. Our role importantly necessitates knowledge and information-gathering across an industry, with that perception of vendor agnosticism adding credence.

Changing media
For decades text and (often a single) image were the only tools you had available; today a plethora of media options exist to the marketeer. Rich video content heavily promoted by Google (thus SEO companies worldwide) can be a magic bullet in retail product promotion, but in our industry far less so – especially in the world of solid-state electronic components Farnell Element14 typically operate in!

Personally, I often find technical videos painfully sedate, in that they dictate a rate at which I must absorb the information, typically far lower than I desire – though their popularity is undeniably on the rise. Interactive diagrams, including 360° 3D models, are extremely useful to design engineers and truly are a demonstration of the usefulness and power of computerised media today.

Social media has enabled us to share relevant information with our peers in an instant and where it fits in with business is evolving rapidly. As with videos, social media’s initial crossover with business came from big retail brands, creating communities of brand ambassadors eagerly sharing their latest product news. In a less (and I say this with care) “personally exciting” industry as our own, these brand ambassadors can’t be relied upon, yet individuals expect a presence on all popular social media channels. The lesson here, discussed in depth, again comes back to catering to the individuality of the client and communicating via whatever channel he prefers.

Changing relationships
Whilst the choice of first point of contact channels is changing rapidly, what will always remain is that the personal relationship is key. It’s never been easier to communicate with engineers, but as there are so many ways of doing so, it’s actually much more difficult; you must encompass all the digital avenues in which engineers lurk and convert that relationship to a personal one before the lack of personal loyalty through relying solely on “new media” comes back to bite you.

Yes – it’s never been easier to engage with engineers; the challenge is getting it right!

Rory Dear, European Editor/Technical Contributor
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