To persuade or not to persuade…

This post was written by John White on Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:11:36 +0000
Posted Under: fluff,marketing manager,persuasion,relationship with engineering

…that is the difference between a technical writer and a technical marketing writer.

Figure out which one you want before you award the project.

One of our engineering directors has funded a series of news articles on a technology platform we’re rolling out. (Actually, a marketing manager is funding it, but the engineering director got to pick the writer and is picking the topics for most of the articles.)

In a meeting yesterday over a draft of the seventh article in two months, I saw the light begin to go on for him.

“You know, we need to stop and think about these articles,” he said. “My boss tells me the ones so far have been a little bit ‘too slick,’ but this latest one is a much deeper dive into interfaces and newfuncs and libraries. This is a really different kind of thing, isn’t it?”

Uh, yes. It is.

I kept hearing the f-word – fluff – applied to the first six articles, usually from people with an engineering background. (In fact, I posted on it.)

  • I looked at it as technical marketing content; they looked at it as confetti.
  • I was being mindful of the role of persuasion in getting people to adopt the platform; they want to dive in and start writing code.
  • I’m focusing on the external audience that doesn’t know what the platform is for; they’re thinking about people who breathe the same exhaust as they do and want to reduce memory footprint while enabling statically linked window management.

“I need you to strategize some more about these articles before we do any more writing,” he said to me. “We need to start answering a couple of basic questions, like ‘Why should I want to register and download the kit?’ and ‘Why should I move to the new platform from the old version?'”

I wish I’d thought of that.

He told me that the marketing manager had wanted to hire a writer who was a a real writer, but he had wanted somebody who knew the platform and knew this building and the people in it, which is how we ended up with our current writer. I think we’re all bouncing back and forth between wanting a technical marketing writer and a technical writer, between needing to persuade readers and assuming they’re already convinced.

Have you run into this? Do you cut it with the same knife?

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