Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Learning to understand your audience
Amy Fischbach shares how to connect with readers in any field

Knowing the lingo of the industry you are covering is essential when it comes to being able to write an award-winning b-to-b special section, Amy Fischbach, incoming national president, told members of the Kansas City chapter at the Western regional awards luncheon on July 27. Her work as a contributor to the Electric Utility Operations section of Transmission and Distribution World magazine has made her a finalist for a national award.

“You need to be able to talk the talk,” Fischbach said. “If you can relate to them, you can build trust.”

A big challenge for Fischbach in covering linemen, foremen and field superintendents for electric utilities is the fact they are rarely in the office. Yet she overcome this by finding out the best ways to contact them, such as getting their cell phone numbers and their wife’s email addresses (as the linemen themselves are rarely at a computer), both of which usually prove effective. She also focuses on making as many contacts as possible during an annual Lineman’s Rodeo, where linemen come to compete in events and network. During this event, she visits every tent and leaves her card and packets of information.

Throughout her career, Fischbach also has found how to effectively work trade show floors to make the best contacts and hear the most interesting and relevant story ideas. When at a trade show, she suggests figuring out which booths are attracting the most attention and visiting those, but she also recommends paying close attention to the smaller booths of companies that might not be able to afford the flashiest booths.

“The most interesting stories often come from outlying areas,” Fischbach said.
Finding what topics will get members of a specific industry talking is important as well. For linemen, storms are quite exciting.

“Linemen love to talk about storms,” Fischbach said.

It’s also important to put yourself in your reader’s shoes, and Fischbach did this at the Lineman’s Rodeo by getting in a bucket truck to feel what it is like to be high up in the air. The catch? Fischbach has quite the fear of heights, but she believes putting aside her fear and doing something her readers do every day helped her build rapport with her audience.

To make sure she captures the detailed technicalities of the industry she is covering, Fischbach summarizes key points mid-interview to make sure she is understanding and interpreting concepts correctly. She also asks sources to explain various points in different ways if she doesn’t understand something initially.

And finally, there must be quality images to go along with any package. For special sections, she suggests a specific cover for the section, and action shots throughout the section are important.

While it might sometimes be hard to obtain action shots, she has found many companies have photographers on staff that will to get pictures for you.

Amy Fischbach’s tips to creating an award-winning special section:
1) Get to know your target audience
2) Reach out to your readers
3) Tackle technical topics
4) Tie your section together visually

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