Team Wizikey

Written by Team Wizikey

March 10, 2023

“Engagement is an important metric as it indicates a higher level of audience interest and provides insight into the individuals involved.”- Kortny from Atom Computing

This episode features Kortny, a seasoned professional who began her career as a journalist and worked in newspapers and journalism for a decade or more. With expertise in marketing & communications area, Kortney has immersed herself in the world of Quantum computing and has valuable insights to share about her experiences in this cutting-edge field. […]

“Engagement is an important metric as it indicates a higher level of audience interest and provides insight into the individuals involved.”- Kortny from Atom Computing

This episode features Kortny, a seasoned professional who began her career as a journalist and worked in newspapers and journalism for a decade or more. With expertise in marketing & communications area, Kortney has immersed herself in the world of Quantum computing and has valuable insights to share about her experiences in this cutting-edge field.


0:54 So I actually started my career as a journalist, working, completely dating myself here, but working in newspapers and journalism for the first 10 to 12 years of my career.

So I’ve been on that side of the house you know, working communicators, marketing folks, you know, distilling information, understanding my audiences and who, you know, what, what stories were important for people, what news do they want to consume what was important for that particular community. And, you know, after a while I love newspaper, I still love journalism. I love journalists follow that pretty closely, very much so but decided that I needed to do something different for my family. Just a lot.

There was layoffs happening in newspapers and decided to do something different and end up working at a national laboratory, a national research laboratory for the US Department of Energy or it’s the US Department of Energy National Laboratory in Idaho and got a job working in communications and had the view that a lot of journalists did at that point of what we thought communications did, you know, called journalists and asked them to write stories versus what they actually do, which is far more in depth and complex.

So I started working at a national laboratory. Out of national laboratory working in science Communications, which, you know, is difficult to, you know, you’re trying to communicate really complex topics to people that are familiar with them. And so that totally changed the trajectory of what I’m doing. I’ve worked in science communications since really 2008 working in with projects on renewable energy, clean energy, nuclear energy, working at a university covering everything from physics to natural sciences, biology, breakthroughs in biomedical. And you know, a few years ago, I was looking for a change and a challenge and responded to a job in quantum computing, which has been by far probably the biggest challenge of my career learning to learning this area.

And that’s part of what I really like to do is I like to learn about new science and technologies and then communicate them effectively. So I’ve been working in quantum computing. This is my third year working in quantum computing.

So it’s been definitely by far the most complex topic that I’ve had to communicate about.

PR and marketing in quantum computing world

3:29 We’re very much a small company. We’re a small startup. We are newer to the quantum computing field. At Atom computing we have a really specific technology that’s there’s certain technologies and quantum computing that are probably more well known superconducting and trapped ion qubits and we’re a newer company, we have a different modality or architecture cubits for our technology that we’re developing and Atom computing is very small, I say were small but mighty where we do a little, we do a lot with very little.

I am in the marketing communications department; I work with agencies on specific needs and help.

But a large part of what I do is communicating, you know, doing the marketing communications for the company with various audiences. So it’s, it’s a pretty big role. I get to do help with a lot of different items. And because I come from a research organization background, I do actually a lot of work with helping set up, you know, developing working with the technical team on collaborations with researchers as well.

Favourite Campaign

4:41 I’ve been at Atom Computing for a little over six months or just coming on that and worked at another quantum computing company before that. And I think quantum computing is a very interesting area. And when we talk about campaigns, you know, a lot of folks talk about, you know, digital campaigns and marketing campaigns. And I think for this stage of the technology, it’s very early-stage technology.

I think it’s very; it looks very different than what most people think about in terms of product marketing and communications. And I would say that because the audience is very different, right?

There’s, you know, there’s people who understand quantum computing, that’s a very small group. And because at this early stage and we’re trying to bring on people, one, we have to tell people what it is and why it might be useful for them. But our audience is very different, right? We’re in this early adoption stage of this technology proving out the technology. So it’s really driven things differently, I believe, like for example, you know, there’s we have a scientific audience, right, people who worked in the quantum computing field for a long-time academics, they’ve been doing research on this for a long time. So sometimes are I would, I would call them less campaigns but more of our targeted communications and marketing is around. And I would say probably more communications is around, you know, engaging with those audiences because we have, you know, doing peer reviewed articles talking about in a very authentic, technically accurate way but trying to be accessible. What does okay, we accomplished something technically.

What does that mean? Providing enough data that the scientific community can say? Yep, they did it and having the conversations that are extremely relevant in that world because it’s what we don’t want to do is engage in hype and oversell what we’ve done any of that because that’s important in that in the world that we live in. At the same token, we’re doing a lot of work, you know, educating stakeholders and investors.

And I would say even government, because a lot of governments are investing heavily in quantum computing and frankly, you know, the next layer of users which are researchers, particularly subject matter experts in their own field.

So for example, you might have a computational chemist working on molecular interactions and you know how we communicate with these different audiences is we have to be able to explain you know, how we, how we talk with the quantum computing ecosystem and the academia and about our breakthroughs are very different than how we’re going to talk to potentially somebody who’s working in Pharma or with, you know, on energy catalyst about molecular interactions.

And so, you know, this is a tool for them, it’s a potential tool and how that could help them and what they’re doing, you know, the same token, then we’re over working on the government relations side and talking to people about our PPA particular architecture.

Why we think it’s going to scale, talking to investors about quantum computing and why it’s exciting why it really is where, you know AI and machine learning. We’re not too long ago, what that next breakthrough looks like. So I think it’s very different than what because of the stage of the technology, because people hear the word quantum physics and that sounds scary. You know, it’s a lot more about educating than probably, you know, than true, like you know, rolling out a 2.0 version of a marketing product or a more mature customer product, consumer product.

Data as solution

8:20 It’s not just about, I mean, I’m talking a lot about communications and community specific audiences, but those campaigns are important and how and whether we’re reaching them, you know, our people actually, you know, we can put out a lot of different information, we can engage, we can do those things, but we have to be able to measure if it’s working and who are those audience, you know, if we’re reaching them, if it’s making sense, any of that sort of stuff. And so that’s where the data comes in all the time.

We’re always looking at data to say, okay, what, you know, what was the engagement, what was the click through rate? What kind of, what are we seeing with a particular piece of, you know, in a campaign or a piece of content or any of that stuff? Are we reaching the audiences that we’ve, we want to reach? And if we’re not, why is it, you know, what is, can we try something different? Can we adjust tactics? Can we, maybe it’s that particular audience isn’t ready?

Or there, that’s not the format or medium that there were getting to them on. It’s not the right way. You know, it’s not going to be an in-mail message or going to be a blog post, it’s going to be more okay. What if we have a webinar? What if we do engagement? What does that look like? And I think that’s where the data really comes in and getting feedback from people. Okay. All right. Why didn’t this go well? Did we not target correctly? Did we not look at the right outlets, the right channels?

What happened that this did not perform as well as we thought? And so I think there’s a lot of that that happens. We’re like, because these segments are so different who we’re talking to.

We have to really look across, you know, what these different channels and you know how we, what we’re looking at for an audience. That’s more general, vastly different than an audience that is more technical for us.

So we’re constantly, always looking and seeing, okay. Did this work? Does this make sense.

And also because it’s such a complex topic you know, it’s, it’s changed a lot, you know, when people, when I first started working in quantum computing, I think it’s gotten to be, people heard it more, they’ve heard the term more. There’s more, coverage and excitement and what is this?

It’s kind of taking writ but still where a couple of years ago people would have said, what are you talking about? Like what, why are we even talking about this? And what is, I mean, it felt a lot more scary now. It’s exciting and, but also our people are they understanding our message are they, you know, it’s so I think there’s a lot of work to be done and having data to be able to look and see. Okay, what happened? This was something that was particularly engaging.

Okay, let’s do some analysis. Why was it? And who were the audiences who did engage with it? Are they the ones that we were trying to target?

Metric to measure/PR objective in Quantum Computing

11:20 So, I would say particularly right now for the stage of quantum computing and Atom computing, I think probably one of the biggest objectives for us is to for brand recognition, right, brand awareness, brand recognition that we are in the quantum game and we are a player in the quantum game. You know, it’s, it’s a big we’re up there’s big companies IBM, Google, Honeywell has Continuum, INQ there’s a lot of players internationally in the quantum field.

So there are two things really for Atom computing were a newer sort of architecture, a lesser-known architecture and quantum computing. So we have to one educator about our technology and why we’re taking the approach we’re doing and why, why we think it’s successful and then we’re really small company, you know, we’re not, we’re not, we don’t have the same brand recognition and awareness as an IBM or Google.

So we have to do a lot of work in, you know, working with people on you know, in particular, in the pr world, working with a lot of, you know, folks who are covering bloggers, analysts doing a lot of ground work with people helping them understand you know, some of these people are familiar with quantum computing, some art and even if they are, they may not understand our approach to it.

So we’re doing a lot of work to try to lay that groundwork and understand like here’s why the neutral atom approach to quantum computing is important, why people believe it is an emerging a promising technology to scale.

So there’s really sort of two things, there’s one our technological approach which is new, newer and people are not familiar with doing a lot of education around that. And then why are particular, why Atom computing in particular, why we are a player? So even among the companies that are taking this approach while we are a leader. And so there’s sort of these two things that are happening, right? So we’re like I said, we’ve only been around for a couple of years. And so one of the measures that we really look at is, you know, when people are mentioning, I know it sounds like a small thing, but it’s a big thing when you’re in PR is that when a, when a reporter or blogger journalist is writing about something and they’re saying, yeah, you know, these are the emerging players and we’re listed, right? And we may not have been interviewed, they’re doing a piece about generally quantum computing and they mentioned us as an emerging player, you know, that that’s significant for us because it means that we are, they know about us, they know they’re familiar with what we’re doing and we’re doing our work successfully that we are being we’re just growing our own brand recognition and awareness about what’s happening, we are a player. You know, that’s, those are exciting things. We recently there was a story in popular science about neutral atom quantum computing.

And we were listed and we recently won a big award through the US Federal government. And you know, those are big things for us because even though we weren’t interviewed for that article, the fact that we were on their radar indicates that what we’re doing is we’re making progress and what we’re trying to do and from a business objective, you know, you have to have that.

I mean, people aren’t going to, whether we go after a government grant or investors, you have to have stuff, you know, it’s in some ways it’s validation with those folks right about you, right?

Like you are a serious player, you are in the game, you are doing things that are making a difference and you need to be taken seriously. And so from a business objective point of view, that that is important because if we’re not known, how are people ever going into the only people who know about us? It’s not bad from a technical perspective but from a business objective when we partner with somebody, when we win a grant or an award or if people are writing about us, they’re starting to pay attention.

Those are important, whether you’re an investor you happen to, you know, you’re interested in quantum computing and you want to invest and you’ve seen us in popular science, those things just help, help with our recognition of our company and our technology.

Dream metric

15:33 So first of all, having worked in science worlds, you have to love data because that’s how you like even internally when you’re interacting like data is important, right? I learned that early on in different parts of my career working with researchers. I mean, that’s fine, you can give them.

This is really cool but you have to have data and show, yeah, and not just have a data but interpret it, you know, have data over time and look and see what’s going on at the same time, it’s also about metrics are a funny thing, right? Because you really it’s, and so I really look at so many backups.

So metrics, they’re keeping all of that stuff is wonderful, but it’s also doing the interpretation like I just don’t want to look at the number, I want to see what’s deeper, like what is happening and I seeing a trend over time, are we starting to get traction in a certain area?

What are we seeing?

So for example, so sometimes it’s not always just a remember, sometimes it is like just being mentioned in an article that said, yeah, here’s a list of emerging promising quantum players and we’re listed because we’re top of mind that we’ve raised our profile enough with a particular market, journalist analyst, whatever that were mentioned in the same company as the bigger players. So to me, I know that sounds, that might sound odd to people, but it’s sort of the combination between the numbers and that’s a proof point that what we’re doing is working, right? That were they are paying attention; people are recognizing who we are. And yes, it would be better if we could be, you know, an interview.

But it also means that in some ways were well known enough that were considered a player in the field. So it seems, it probably sounds odd to people because you want to be the front, you know, the primary story and all of that. But it also is, sort of indicates that you’re on the radar. You’re in the game, you’re in the field at the same token though, the metrics, I think are what, you have to look at the metrics, right? And for me, it’s, I’m really looking at engagement probably more than anything. I mean, it depends on what we’re doing.

I’m looking at engagement or I’m looking at pick up if it’s pr and we’ve set out information or what kind of pick up are we getting, who’s, who’s picking up information, you know, our influencers in the market, picking up on what we’re saying?

You know, for example, we had, we recently were awarded we were selected for an award for through DARPA, a big federal project in the US.

And there was a researcher who has a very large following on Twitter, very well known in the quantum world, John Prescott Will. And he gave us a shout out with the other people who won.

Well, that’s, you know, that watching those metrics and like watching them people engaged on Twitter and who introduced, basically introduced Atom computing to and watching that is really important. But also engagement, right? I mean, I always talk about engagement a lot because you can, it’s easy to like something like a post but engaging and sharing and re posting and, you know, those things are probably more important to me because they show a deeper, a deeper interest and also who is doing it.

I recently had a conversation with somebody and they’re like, well, you can get a lot more likes and followers. That’s true. And those things are important, but it’s also who’s following us and who’s promoted, you know, who’s sharing and who are doing those things that are equally as important. And I think that’s particularly true when you work in science or research communications, you know, it’s a validation when someone calls out good work you’ve done from that field. You know, it’s, it’s really important to our researchers as well and employees.

So it’s, it’s probably a little bit. I think it’s a hard thing to only look at numbers.

It’s also what’s behind those numbers and who’s doing things if we’ve gained and someone, you know, that we’re excited about, you know, says something that’s a really big win for us. It feels really like, oh okay, we’re being noticed or were on the radar of the right people as well,

How PR and comms will look in future?

20:00 you know, that is a question everybody’s feeling, I think and particularly I think it’s, it’s particularly true in quantum computing from the sense that this is a technology, technologies take a while to come to market to commercialize. There is a lot of talk about what quantum computing can do. And I think there’s a big role for marketing for PR and comms to level set where we’re at with this technology and be very forthright about. Yes, this is an extremely promising technology. We are making headway and actually helping to clarify what that headway means, right? Because people want to go from here is this thing to, you know, we’ve done this huge breakthrough, but that’s not always, you know, that’s not you have to provide context and what that means.

And I think that’s where PR and Comms comes into play very much. So where, what is the true state of the technology?

Where are we at?

Where are we headed?

What does this look like in this kind of, you know, economic environment?

The reality is in quantum computing. I mean, there are headlines right now about people being laid off, the cutbacks, all that stuff. But if you look at numbers beyond that global investment in quantum computing is on the rise, it’s ventured, you know, between, you know, private investment, government investment, there’s a lot going on, there’s actually a lot of really cool things happening. It just so you have to do a lot of work to get past the headline of economic downturn.

Yes, these things that have happened, but there’s also a lot of really, you know, it’s an exciting time to be in quantum computing. There are big things happening. And yeah, it’s not the same type of headline.

It’s easier to write a headline about. And I get it, I understand I came from that world about these things and people are worried. But at the same token, I also think it’s an opportunity for companies to say, look like for example, Atom competing, we’re very focused on quantum computing hardware. That’s what we do, that’s what we’re focused on. That’s what we’re going to do.

We’re going to deliver the best highest performing, you know, sister that we think you need to solve these problems. And here the specs and here’s what we’re working on and here’s why we’re making progress against our technological goals and remaining very focused on that and what it means for this technology to progress, right? It’s and I think that’s one of the things I really appreciate about Atom computing is we’re very we’re just we’re very focused on what we’re doing. And also the fact that yeah, we, you know, we get asked those questions too and we have to say, look, we’re doing what we can, we’re remaining focused you know, we’re not going to go off into these other areas but also to give people context in where quantum computing is.

Yes, it is scary. People talk about a Quantum Winter is coming.

But really when you look at the numbers and you look at what’s happening countries all over the world, India, all over are investing heavily in quantum computing because they see that it’s the future. And what does that mean?

And how can we play a part? We’re a hardware company. But how do we, you know if there’s a partner or places, we can support? I mean, it’s exciting to see it actually and I feel like it’s kind of a bump, it is a bump and it’s not unexpected. It’s just if you look at where quantum computing was three years ago to now it’s vastly different. It’s on people’s radar, people are talking about it, they’re investing. So it’s also kind of keeping those two things in perspective for people.

My two cents

23:38 I think for me, it’s to be curious and to really get to know to be willing to learn and always be willing to learn because I mean, look, I told them completely aging myself, dating myself when I started off in the world is radically shifted the channels, we have available to us now.

I mean, when I started and journalism, people call newspapers to get stories. Now you have your own channels. And it’s amazing just to see how much the world has changed, but be willing to learn to adapt to that. You know, from a, from a Marcom perspective, a PR communication like really understanding what those tools are, be willing to embrace that, learn about them.

You don’t, you know, you’re maybe you’re going to be an expert in everything but you do need to understand, be willing to learn and adapt. The second thing is I think if you’re going to work in a particular industry or, you know, where I’ve worked in science fields with researchers is to really spend time to understand what they do, why they do it and really understand that space and it’s okay to not know I wasn’t, I’m not a quantum physicist, I’m not going to be, but I, you can spend enough time learning and understanding of technology and where we’re at and you have to write, how can I get these messages out and provide context if I myself don’t understand it.

But I also think just genuinely being curious and interested in what researchers are doing or working on goes a long ways, you know, they like to talk about it, they want to talk about it. And, you know, I think that’s part of the reason I always like being a journalist who I like to understand those things and ask people why they do it what they did. I still think that’s really important for PR and Comms.

When you, when I talked to our researchers, I’m always astounded by how they got into this, why they do it.

You know, what makes them excited.

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