Do you need a technical writer or just a damned good editor?

Organisations that sell and support complex, technical products and services in New Zealand increasingly understand the value of content marketing in the current environment, but often end up stymied by either a lack of technically capable content writers, or with knowing how to develop and implement a technical content marketing programme for their business.

Unlike their products or services though, the job of setting-up a good quality technical content marketing programme is much more simple than it looks.

The first step is to separate the roles of a technical writer, or a technical content creator, from the person or expertise required to set-up a successful content marketing programme. Don’t be confused by thinking that they are one and the same thing. They are not.

Content marketing strategy and tactics are a separate skills set. A journalist may be a good content creator or writer, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify him or her to develop a content marketing strategy for the organisation.

First develop your content marketing programme, and then only look to source your technically capable content writers.

Content marketing strategist

The job of a content marketing strategist is to help your company identify it’s content marketing opportunities. He does not need to be technically capable, but he does need to be an astute, experienced marketer – you wouldn’t hire an electronics engineer off the factory floor as your marketing manager, no matter how well he knows the product.

Your content marketing strategist deals with concepts such as audience needs, brand and message positioning, communication preferences and effective channel strategy. In effect, he can help you set up your content marketing programme, from identifying your weaknesses, strengths and opportunities, to establishing your systems and processes – all of which are needed for a successful content marketing initiative.

It is necessary for your content marketing strategist to understand traffic objectives, social media, metrics and user experience on your website, not concepts like ‘bio-fouling’ and the schematics of an optical dissolved oxygen probe.

Technically capable writer / content creator

Your electronics engineer will understand the schematics of an optical dissolved oxygen probe, but does she know how to communicate that concept, and will your audience care (in other words, what’s the right kind of message for the audience)?

There are two things at play here:

1. Do you really need a person capable of understanding complex technical concepts to create content? Companies often think they need somebody who understands technical complexities, but again, how likely is it that she will be a good communicator or educator?

The flipside is that a good communicator may struggle to grasp certain technical concepts, which leaves you pulling your hair out with frustration.

2. Or do you need a person who is primarily a communicator who is capable of translating technical and complex concepts into succinct and easy to understand content?

They are both different skill sets, and it’s rare to find somebody who can do both.

Remember your technically capable people will more than likely be ‘features’ or ‘details’ focussed, without the ‘sales’, ‘teaching’ or ‘communication’ skills required to create compelling, valuable content.

How’s this for a compromise?

If you are a company with a technical and complex offering, consider the compromise approach.

Appoint a content marketing strategist / editor (this person should be a good communicator by default) to set-up your content marketing programme. One who is able to appoint, source or manage your technical writers / content creators on your behalf.

Your content strategist / communicator / editor does not have to be technically capable, he just needs to be a good editor.

Ten to one, a good content strategist can coach, mentor, train and manage your electronics engineer (fresh off the factory floor), to produce good quality content – while taking care of all the marketing science at the same time.

Your content strategist / editor can also source good quality content from other experts in the field – complementary to your business – and marshal all the technical content in such a way that the content achieves your business objectives.

In short, when it comes to setting-up a good quality content marketing programme, expertise in content marketing and communications should take precedence over technical ability.

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