Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Gareth Fraser-King, author and IT marketing expert:

Shaheen Samavati 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here with Gareth Fraser-King, a veteran marketer, expert in information security and storage, and an author of several books on the topic. Thanks so much for joining us, Gareth.

Gareth Fraser-King 0:25
You’re welcome.

Shaheen Samavati 0:27
So can you just tell us a bit about your background and your areas of expertise?

Gareth Fraser-King 0:33
Yeah, sure. I’ve been, I’ve worked in IT for 33 years, 34 years. And I got into it quite by accident. And really, the last 20 years has been where I’ve actually had a trajectory that kind of makes sense, as opposed to, you know, popping in here and doing something and popping out again. And it’s been focused on storage, backup, information protection, really, and security, so cyber security and all the aspects of information protection.

Shaheen Samavati 1:09
So kind of how did you get to that? How did you end up in that field?

Gareth Fraser-King 1:14
It was, I think all these things, you know, I was in a lucky position originally. My qualification is all in the arts. And so you think, well how do you manage to go from that to, you know, I majored in sculpture in my first degree, so how do you get from that to IT? And I, you know, in 1987, it was luck. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. And I got asked a question, I kind of fell into it. And then, so about 20 years ago, I moved to a company called Veritas, which has now reinvented itself. And that was all about storage and backup. And the game was to try and make storage, which is a little bit boring, a little bit more exciting. And I worked with some interesting characters back then. And that’s what we did; we made storage interesting, which in itself was an achievement.

Shaheen Samavati 2:10
And how did you do that? And what mediums were you working in?

Gareth Fraser-King 2:14
So in those days, it was much more traditional. I think one of the mistakes that we make today is that we assume that the cheap option via email is the answer to everything. And of course it isn’t. You still have to use the communications mix appropriately. And you’ve got to push people in the direction of the things you’re Instagramming, or whatever you’re doing. So it was much more straightforward in those days, I swear blind that we could profile better 20 years ago than we can today. And that’s partially down to our ERP systems. It’s partially down to GDPR and other legislation which kind of prevents us from doing that. And, you know, so we would do live events, we would do PR, we did an awful lot of AR, I spent an awful lot of time hacking around Europe, talking to analysts about what we did. It was in the days where we had tech journos who would take stuff away and test it and see if they could break it. And then you have to have an answer for that, and it has to be scalable. And it was, again, it was in the days where, you know, IT was really taking over from the business process.

Shaheen Samavati 3:34
Yeah, so it’s something that is like, touches all of our lives every single day, but it’s like working in the background. And so how I mean, but what was the answer to like, how did you make it interesting? What are the stories that, are there to tell?

Gareth Fraser-King 3:48
I do think it’s about storytelling. And really, that’s how you gain interest. You know, the number of times that I look at, I get sent through something, I look at a website, and I’m struggling to work out what the hell these people do. Because it’s just written in that techno speak that is completely internally focused. I did an English degree, but I’m dyslexic, and I’m absolutely useless at acronyms. So every so often an acronym comes up and I go, oh, I know what that means—and I don’t. Or I just blank completely. But we use acronyms, we use our own languages, we don’t think about the target language. You know, we don’t tell stories, we just give people facts. We tend to overwrite things. And you know, I’m fairly verbose as a writer. But you know, sometimes it needs to be short, sharp. If you’re gonna grab someone’s interest who wants to go on reading, you’ve got to capture them in a very, very short space of time. And to do that, the best way is not to sit back and go “OH!” Because that’s just, you know, not going to interest anybody. And when you do public speaking, I’ve done a lot of that as well, when you do public speaking, the best thing is to take, you know, start off with either some, like killer numbers or with a story. When I first started writing a blog, it was about 2005, I think, the company I worked for at the time were horrified that I would be doing this. Now we take it for granted. But it was kind of new at the time. But when I started out, I had, I don’t know, half a dozen people reading it. And after about a year there was about 300 I think, and then two years later it was like 25,000. So it’s a real slow burn. And that’s one of the things that the industry, IT industry, is not, is consistent. The secret of business success is continuity of purpose, which means that, you know, if you start doing something, you’ve got to keep doing it. It’s no good, you know, if you’re gonna start a newsletter, it’s no good doing a couple of them and hoping that that’s going to suddenly drag in 50,000 clients. It might become a big thing after four or five years, but not in that short space of time. And when things are on stock market, or in IT, where we’ve got this chain going on all the time, it’s very, very difficult to be consistent. But that’s really what we should be aiming, is so that people know, you know, the rule of marketing is that you don’t muck about with brand, and you don’t muck about with font color, fonts and colors and and all that kind of… And you keep things stable. So, you know, I’m talking to these guys about how they’re going to do that and how they’re going to be consistent about going about that.

Shaheen Samavati 7:00
Reminds me of a quote, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but something about, like, “business is creating order in a world of chaos.” And I liked that idea because it’s kind of like being consistent so people know they can count on you. And that applies, of course, to your messaging and your marketing as well.

Gareth Fraser-King 7:17
It’s like the whole idea of “who moved my cheese?” Have you come across that statement?

Shaheen Samavati 7:23
It sounds familiar, yeah. I don’t remember what it means.

Gareth Fraser-King 7:26
The idea is, and you know, if you live in a family the size of mine, then it happens all the time, is that you go to the fridge, and look at it and go, “gone.” Because, you know, I’ve got children who Hoover up anything that I may procure. But yeah, “who moved my cheese?” it’s like you need… we automatically go in and we go or, you know, ES or wherever it is. And that’s just a, if someone took that URL away, we go, “Hang on. I was going there. You just broke it for me. What’s happened?” You know, we wouldn’t—”Have you going out of business?” So I remember that happening, where people had changed brand names, and assumptions would be made. Because it takes so long to get from vendor to end user, that they just make assumptions that they’ve gone out of business, or it stopped, or it’d been end-of-lifed.

Shaheen Samavati 8:31
Yeah, no, it makes a lot of sense. Another question, changing the topic, but you’ve, you know, the king of content, the ultimate piece of content you can create, I think, is a book, and you’ve written a few of them. Did you do that in the capacity of your past roles, or was that something you did totally separate from your job, and what led you to write those books?

Gareth Fraser-King 8:54
So I had written books that were internal books, that were aimed specifically to fill a gap. Early on, I’d been doing some training, technical training with some of the non-technical folks. So it would have been sales, marketing, HR, finance, legal, those kind of people. And somebody came up to me and said, you know, “This stuff’s all great, but could you just tell me what that thing is again?” And I realized that they needed a frame of reference, because I’d been, you know, you can train people by keeping it simple, but eventually there is this, still this thing called a backup program, and you need a reference to that. So I thought, this is gonna be easy. So I went to the website and looked up whatever it was I was going to look up, and it had a pile of tech in there that I struggled to understand. I realized that we needed a, you know, a crystal clear, and that was one of the first ones. So that was an internal book, it was around about 60,000 words. It was basically paragraphs on technology and product and saying what they did, what it did on the tin. It takes this thing from over here, and it puts it over here. So if that thing doesn’t work anymore, we can get this thing and put it back over here. I mean, you know, like down to that kind of thing. When I started writing for Wiley, that was an accident. There was a friend of mine that I’d done some ghost writing for already. And he said, there’s this guy who is, I mean, technically brilliant. But he speaks in consulting, that’s impossible for anybody to understand, except for another technical consultant. He said, could you help him out? And it turned out I pretty much had to rewrite it, because I understood what he was trying to say. But you know, and he was so eager the way that he wrote, so eager to get this stuff out. Actually, there were moments where it was difficult to just untangle what it was that he was trying to say. So I kind of, I wrote about five… there was 11 chapters, I think, and I wrote about five of them, but I had to rewrite most of it anyway. But that that was how it started. So it was a joint thing. That one was about data lifecycle management. And, you know, my co-authors were brilliant, but I think that I helped sort of bring it together.

Shaheen Samavati 9:35

Gareth Fraser-King 11:29
And then I worked with Guy Bunker, who, his latest gig was with Clearswift. And Guy and I wrote one of the Dummies guides. That was an interesting process. And it was on data loss prevention, DLP, and it was actually before the company I was working for actually had a DLP product. And I wrote that on my own laptop, flying backwards and forwards to the States, actually, because if you’ve ever looked at one of those books, you know, the black and yellow Dummies guides?

Shaheen Samavati 12:15

Gareth Fraser-King 12:17
They have 28 chapters, the last three or four chapters are just lists of things, you’ve got 20, whatever it is, and then that’s broken down into a certain set number of sections, and the sections are broken down into another set of sections. And then those are broken down into three paragraphs. And then you’ve got to have one of those little icons, it’s something like that, I can’t remember… And I said once you, and Guy wrote the table of contents, which is the most difficult bit. And all I did was I filled in the paragraphs. All I was doing sitting on an airplane and writing a paragraph about something and then writing a paragraph about something else. And I think I wrote most of it just going backwards and forwards from the UK to San Francisco. You know, if I was going to give anybody advice about it, is it first used to be where, you know, technical authors, or authors generally, were sacrosanct. Not so much anymore, people’s span of attention is much smaller. I think printed books, from that perspective, that by the time you put the full stop at the end, it’s out of date. So that’s one of the dangers of it. So anything that’s dynamic is good. Anything that’s in sections is really good. And I would have said, if you’re going to go down that route, whatever it is, I mean, you know, get the table of contents right, or get the plan of what you’re going to do right, and it makes it so much easier.

Shaheen Samavati 13:51
How do you think the industry has evolved when it comes to technical writing? Because I think, like you said, maybe the book format isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I imagine there’s as much demand as ever for people who really understand the subject matter and can put it into simple terms. But maybe the output and the people publishing that might have changed.

Gareth Fraser-King 14:11
I still think that the, you know, that whole thing of trying to capture somebody within a very short space of time is true. I think that the attitude towards technical publications, so user guides, has changed a little bit. It did feel at one point that the user guides were quite often written in Indonesian and translated by a Latvian into English. And I think that’s changed. I did a talk to the Writers Guild of India a few years ago. One of my points was, I like to hear people’s voice. People quite often say to me, they can always tell it’s me writing because it’s got the, it’s not that it’s colloquial anyway. It’s just, it’s the way that I voice things. And I think that’s quite important because it personalizes things a little bit more. And I think in terms of… my daughter does the same thing, she’s doing social media for some galleries. And her boss does not understand that it takes longer than five minutes to write something that takes five minutes to read it. It’s almost like people who, you know, an hour and 40 minute film takes an hour and 40 minutes to make, doesn’t it? No. You really do have to hone it, and if you go back far enough, when we used to proofread things we’d sit opposite each other. And you would go and you’d say, it’s an uppercase V, and you’d read every piece of grammar, every piece of, you know, punctuation, and that’s how you picked up mistakes. We don’t spend enough time, and we don’t give ourselves enough time to do that. And I’m like, you know, I am very prolific. But quite often, because I am, I, you know, I muddle words up, I put double words in, it really does need someone to look over it, because when I read it back, I read what I wanted to write. And fortunately, my wife’s a brilliant proofreader, so that helps. But you know, that we don’t spend enough time doing. I remember the first time we didn’t have a physical… in front of us doing that proofreading thing. And we did it on the screen. And this particular company printed out 60,000 copies, and what you couldn’t pick up on the screen, which was slightly smaller than the ones we’ve got today. We couldn’t pick up was the fact that it was letter size, not A4. Because you were looking at the whole screen, and you weren’t looking at, we would have picked that up immediately, you would have been able to see the difference. I mean, you know, it’s a couple of centimeters, you know, it’s one and a half centimeters one way and 17 centimeters the other, or whatever it is. You know, you would havee picked it up immediately. So I don’t think we give ourselves enough time, we try to do these things as a, you know, a straight-off. And I think that there’s no harm in leaning back and asking someone for their help. I think the other thing that’s important is that you’re not precious about it, you know, it’s content. And if somebody’s got a different view, their view is just as valid as anybody else’s. And that’s because we’re all consumers as well, we tend to forget that. You know, someone has got a point of view. I mean, you know, it may well be that you don’t, you know, you’re aiming in a particular way and you’re saying something in a particular way and you can have a discussion about that. But if someone turns around and says, “Well, I don’t know why you said that because… I don’t like it,” probably it’s not constructive enough. But you know, I think collaboration, especially between the US and EMEA, I think is really important. If you can’t pull that off, and people get precious about things, and not invented here, then that kind of creates a very difficult working environment, in whatever you’re doing.

Shaheen Samavati 18:27
Yeah, definitely. Well, so we’re running out of time, but did you have any parting advice for, I mean, those who are getting into the field these days, perhaps? Who are getting into marketing and content creation?

Gareth Fraser-King 18:41
Yeah, I’ll give you an example actually. When I was at university I had to write a dissertation—well, two. I worked really, really hard on the first one, and I plagiarized like crazy and copied the language of other people, and then hid it by using a thesaurus. And made it long winded, and when I read it back, I thought, my God, this guy’s clever. And I got a B. At the second one, I didn’t have as much time and I just wrote it. And I got an A+. So believe in yourself more than you believe in the way that other people write, because other people don’t necessarily write correctly. I would have said, keep it simple, and make sure that you look at it from an outsider’s point of view looking in. And make sure that you tell people what it is, what it does, what benefit it’s going to be. And that’s not a feature, by the way, that’s a benefit. So you can sit down and say to yourself, which means what? And that gives you the answer. Keep going as much as you can. So I have a telephone. Okay, great, which means what? Well I can ring people, which means what? Well, that means I can keep in contact with people, which means what? I don’t go insane, sitting here, I talk to other people. You know, and so on and so forth. You can do that. That’s a good trick too. Keep it simple. Keep it very clear and very concise. And just don’t go into a ramble, and don’t use buzzwords, and don’t use all the things. Because the CIOs and the CSOs and the techies and the management and the exec, you know, I mean, I was thinking very much about just approaching websites differently. We know what happens, we have home products, solutions, support, partners, about. I mean, how many companies don’t do that? One of the things I saw quite recently, it was like, you know, had— and now the techie bit—but why not have “home,” you know, in English, “techie.” So the technology is, you’re sitting there and you go, oh the technical bit, I want to see the bytes and the, you know, the speeds and feeds and all that kind of… How big is it and how does it fit in the rack? And, you know, how often do I need to update it? And what was the latest patch? And all that kind of stuff. But the other one says, “Mr. Exec, do this, and this is going to solve this problem.” This is the benefit.

Shaheen Samavati 21:22
In theory, they could use browsing history to make a personalized homepage, depending on the kind of content you looked at before.

Gareth Fraser-King 21:30
That would be wonderful. I mean, the first time somebody talked to me about portals was probably 1997. And we still can’t do it.

Shaheen Samavati 21:40
Yeah. Well, there is that, like, GDPR thing and everything like you were talking about. Might be a ways off from being able to do that, but yeah. Well, awesome. Really interesting. So thank you so much for sharing your perspective. Yeah.

Gareth Fraser-King 21:58
You’re welcome.

Shaheen Samavati 22:00
And thanks everybody else for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry, check out, and we’ll also be releasing more interviews like this one every weekday, so keep tuning into the podcast. See you next time.

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