“Let’s Have the Tech Writers Do It”

This post was written by John White on Tue, 06 Jan 2009 22:24:22 +0000
Posted Under: Hiring writers,persuasion,technical writing,technology marketing writing,white papers

A chief technology officer and a VP of Engineering were talking about an upcoming product launch. Both agreed that the new features were a big leap forward, worthy of a white paper.

“We’ll need a white paper to explain the advantages,” said one. “We need to get existing customers to upgrade, but they won’t do it without a good overview. They’ll just be confused and ask us a jillion questions.”

The other agreed. “You’re right. We also need to get the attention of people using competing products, though, and prospects new to the space.”

“I think it’s a really compelling technical story. If the paper’s done right, Sales could probably use it for lead generation, we could hand it out at trade shows, maybe get some trade magazines to pick it up.”

“There’s a lot we could do with it. We could use excerpts in blog posts and collateral, follow up with case studies and syndicate it.”

“Good idea. So, when are you going to write it?”

“I’m not going to write it. Why don’t you?”

“I don’t have the time.”

“Neither do I.”


“I know: let’s have the tech writers do it. Let’s talk to Tech Pubs and see whether they can cut us a writer for a few days. We can push them some graphics and text, and they can re-purpose some of the product documentation.”

“OK. Then we can do a technical review on it and get it out there.”

– – – – –

These two engineers have noble goals. They understand the value of a good technology marketing piece – in this case, a white paper – and how it can help them explain their technology to prospects. They’ve even been kissed by the marketing muse, judging from the way they want to use the paper.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

They’re forgetting about the important difference between a technical publication and a technology marketing piece:


Both groups of writers need to inform, and they need to deliver technical information and details accurately. But technical writers don’t need to persuade anybody of anything; the customer has already bought the product. Marketing writers work long before the purchase has taken place; their stock in trade is persuasion.

These engineers require a writer who is able to deliver information in a balanced way – so that the reader doesn’t feel insulted – yet simultaneously unveil the advantages of the company’s product and persuade the reader to take the next step: pick up the phone, register for a demo, subscribe to a feed, pull out a credit card.

It isn’t that technical writers don’t know how to persuade like this; it’s that they’re unaccustomed to doing it in user documentation.

The moral: Leave your documentation to Tech Pubs, and your persuasive pieces to Marketing.

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