Today we're going to look at the side of telecom and fiber that by some measures we hear from the most, and yet by others also the least. It has now been 10 years since Jaymie Scotto Cutaia founded the marketing, PR, and event planning firm JSA. Focusing from the beginning on the telecom sector, she and her team have played an outsized role in driving the sea change in public perception about the infrastructure it depends on. But do you know what she herself thinks? I thought it was about time I asked:
TR: When you started JSA back in 2005, why did you choose the telecom industry to focus on?
JSC: Before starting JSA, I was the Director of Marketing and PR at Telx and had the very fortunate opportunity to work with Telx's clients and partners, who were top marketers and telecom operators. I was able to build wonderful relationships- friendships I am still fortunate to have today-- and had top minds in our industry patiently teaching me 'telecom 101' -- including all the different layers of the OSI stack, how they work together, and how they are all critically dependent on one another. As a former journalist, I felt like I was uncovering an entirely new world – (still do!) – the 'plumbing' that allows the world to communicate. We are laying the railroads of tomorrow with each new fiber lay or cross connect, and it's an incredible gift to pass on, as it allows us- the human race- the opportunity to compete and bolster local commerce and economies, including in hard-to-reach areas. So why telecom? I believe it plays a critical role in providing opportunities across the globe- especially for our children.
TR: Has your background in journalism helped you navigate the transition to today's social-media-driven world of communication and promotion?
JSC: Yes definitely. MSNBC taught me the importance of letting accurate data drive the story, even when running at an "every minute counts" pace. Really great marketing is not about "spinning" a flashy headline; it's about marrying quality content with facts. I often think telecom headlines are plagued with misinformation; too often companies try to sell on an idea of the technology rather than the actual technology available. We here at JSA make it a point to work with companies who are delivering value-driven solutions. In our messaging, we clearly define what products are accessible today and what are the company's projections or plans for tomorrow. This clear and factual approach drives great messaging, including: timely headlines; persuasive social interaction and next-gen marketing. It's not about "smoke in the mirrors" - it's real people doing extraordinary things to further our communications- and in my opinion, that's always a memorable read.
TR: What's the biggest change you've seen in the telecom and internet infrastructure sector over the past 10 years?
JSC: That's a great question-- probably the way journalists and the public have become very aware of the 'plumbing' of the Internet. It used to be very difficult to pitch a story about colocation or dark fiber to Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Now journalists reach out to us, asking what happens when they 'pull on the cord attached to their computer'-- wanting to better understand the security and physical infrastructure of their critical data and communications. It's been an amazing transition towards public awareness-- now words like 'cloud' are in every other TV commercial. And with the explosive growth of the Internet and social communities, end-users have more control than ever over not just customer service but competitive service offerings and opportunities. Social posts are now playing a pivotal role in R&D, customer support and HR, as well as of course PR and marketing.
And looking ahead, I look forward to the changing landscape of virtualization, SDx, and the Internet of Things-- and providing these amazing opportunities to rural America and beyond.
TR: How has the way you approach marketing and public relations for carriers and vendors changed over the past 10 years?
JSC: Our clients range from start-up regional dark fiber providers to global carriers and data center operators, and although their needs have been similar (namely, increased brand equity on a tight marketing budget), each marketing plan is necessarily unique and tailored for each of our clients; and dependent upon multiple factors like geographical reach, target audience, corporate culture, public vs. private requirements and social/online exposure. Over the past decade, we've learned to align our marketing plan with the company's business plan faster, with better onboarding planning and resources. And specifically in the last four years or so, we have complimented our media outreach and traditional public relations services with inbound marketing techniques and we have been utilizing unbelievable new marketing, planning and PR technology to track and determine our ROI. So in short, we keep growing with the technology available to us. We have also been very fortunate to grow our community along the way.
TR: There's been so much consolidation in the industry; how has that affected what JSA does? Do you think things have settled down yet?
JSC: The M&A market was intense here in the States in the past five years or so (essentially after we clawed ourselves out of the market crash in 2008). I think the new M&A targets for our actively-acquiring US companies are now in Europe. But who knows--I just read your polls and try to figure it out like the rest of us. As for how has all this consolidation affected JSA, as you could imagine, at first I was a little nervous! There was a two-year span when our clients kept acquiring one another, but fortunately we were blessed with a new trend: outsourcing became 'in.' Many CFOs were forced to cut spending during the delicate acquisition phase (which sadly usually meant reducing their marketing departments), and then they would often seek JSA to help with the big news. We developed an 'M&A Communications Checklist' that we used on some of our industry's biggest moves such as: Lightower and Sidera; Zayo and AboveNet; and Tinet and Neutral Tandem, just to name a few. We were also blessed to bring some of these experienced telecom marketers in-house here at JSA.
TR: What do you see as the most interesting technology ahead of us now?
JSC: The Internet of Things. Looking forward to my Apple Watch (Apple, if you are reading this, I am happy to be a tester!) and having my fridge do its own shopping. I also can't wait for self-driving cars. Just imagine what we can do once our kids can pick themselves up!
TR: Personally, as a Stephen King fan the concept of driverless cars scares me more than a little bit. Do you think the rise of the Internet of Things will force us all to take data security more seriously?
Absolutely. Each day, our lives become more and more dependent upon technology. We relinquish more control to companies like Google and Apple and whatever companies dominate the driverless cars' market (if that's not Google too). These networks carry the details of our lives: how long you've slept, your current heartbeat, the location of everything valuable to you- including your children. Scary, right?
Of course the collection, hosting and application of this data are -and may always be- at risk by predators, hackers and cyber terrorists. It's really the classic battle of good vs. evil (for my fellow Star Wars fans). And unfortunately, as technology grows to make our lives easier, cyber villains are out there hacking up a strategy to misuse this precious and critical data.
But we can't let fear or evil cripple us either (remember when we were all afraid of putting our credit card info online? Today we "Amazon Prime" all our Christmas gifts and only bank on our cells). If we stop the growth of technology (if that's even possible) because of fear of the "bad guys", then they win. It's why I stayed in NYC even after 9/11. You just have to keep on going.
And the good news: there are those out there who are dedicating their lives to pinning down and outsmarting these hackers, and coming up with new ways to protect the Internet, the IoT and lastly, us, from these attacks. Many of these unsung heroes are part of our industry, and even at times featured right here in TR. I like that it's our job to keep promoting and investing in companies that hold our collective security as sacred as it should be- and I do trust that technology will continue to find new solutions for the problems it may inadvertently cause (like net neutrality - but that's a whole other conversation! We can make that a Roundtable topic at our next event together Rob!) And as always, love to know if you agree with me!
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!