Persuasive writing or fluff? The engineers weigh in.

Persuasive writing combines story with tech

Persuasive writing happens when you combine the marketer’s desire to tell a story with the engineer’s desire to talk about the gears.

But it doesn’t happen because you want it to. You have to make it work.

“Finger-lickin’ good” vs. “Chicken parts in grease”

Our director of engineering has funded a series of news articles to evangelize our technology platform to the developer community. She selects the topics for the articles and my team interviews the engineers and writes the content. She and I met yesterday to review a draft of our fourth article this month.

“Some of the engineers are complaining that the articles are too slick,” she said. “They want the articles to just describe the tech and leave it at that.”

“It’s your product,” I said. “What do you think?”

“Well, we’ve got to go into the interfaces and newfuncs and libraries. That’s what these articles are supposed to explain. Right?”

There I stood, on the precipice of the technical marketer’s dilemma. We all know that engineers want the details and the how-to’s, but we also know how important it is to wrap those up in a decent story.

“Which would you rather buy,” I asked: “Finger-lickin’ good or chicken parts in grease?”

She stopped and translated our articles into that fast-food context. The light went on.

“Readers want the same thing,” I said.

Persuasive writing oils the gears

The engineers had thrown the f-word – fluff – at the first three articles.

  • I looked at the articles as technical marketing content; they looked at them as confetti.
  • I’m trying to be mindful of the role of persuasive writing in getting people to adopt the platform; they want developers to dive in and start writing code.
  • I’m focusing on the external audience that doesn’t know what the platform is for; the engineers are thinking about people who think as they do and want to reduce memory footprint while enabling statically linked window management. Right now.

“So, if we’re going to emphasize finger-lickin’ good,” she said, “we should start answering a couple of basic questions, like ‘Why should I want to register and download the developer tools?’ and ‘Why should I move to the new platform from the old version?'”

I thought we’d been doing that. The director of engineering and I should have had this talk before we started.

It’s the classic non-meeting of the minds: the marketer’s desire for the story and the engineer’s desire for the facts. There’s always a fair amount of bouncing back and forth, with Marketing wanting a technical marketing writer and Engineering wanting a technical writer.

Start the conversation with finger-lickin’ good. There’s plenty of time later to describe the chicken parts in grease.

photo credit: Martha Soukup


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”