Over the last several weeks, I’ve been running into reporters that are new to reporting on the fintech industry. At the same time, we at BackBay Communications have been hiring at all levels and sometimes my new colleagues are straight out of college and have a ton of potential, but are unfamiliar with the fintech world and its various moving parts.
My biggest piece of advice for both groups as someone who’s sat on both sides of the fence: to paraphrase Michael Scott, have everything explained to you like you’re an 8-year-old.
When I first started as a reporter for SourceMedia in 2007, I knew absolutely nothing about the payments industry. And I received conflicting advice about how best to approach interviews. One editor told me not to tell the interviewee that I was new to the industry because they might not take me seriously. I had another editor tell me I should absolutely tell the person on the other end of the line I was new because that would be the best way to learn. Fortunately, I went with the latter piece of advice. The bottom line is that learning just the high-level ins and outs of banking, payments, fintech, etc., takes time. And if you must ask someone to explain to you what banking-as-a-service means like you’re 8 years-old, so be it. There’s no shame in that. That’s how you learn.
When I think back about my own learning process, others didn’t consider me an “expert” (I don’t like calling myself one) until 2014, seven years after that first job with SourceMedia. I was the editor at Mobile Payments Today (now Payments Dive) and I had mainstream media reporters contacting me to discuss mobile payments. It was strange because I was accustomed to asking the questions. I remember thinking after an interview with a reporter at Quartz about mobile payments trends how bizarre the experience was for me. But I also knew that I had put in the work the previous seven years to be considered an expert in the reporter’s eyes.
And that brings me to my other piece of advice: read. For journalists, that means reading your competition, white papers, government reports, press releases, Twitter, etc. The same approach applies to entry-level PR employees (and seasoned pros). If you’re not checking in on American Banker, Banking Dive, Payments Dive, The Financial Brand, Digital Transactions, The Green Sheet, S&P Global Intelligence, Coindesk, Protocol, WSJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, Quartz, etc., at least every other day, start. It’s also a great way to build up your personal pitch list for future media outreach.
Building up expertise takes time. But there certainly are tips and tricks to help get you there a little faster, whether you’re a new reporter or account executive. In either case, do the legwork. It pays off.