It is widely recognized in the technical communication industry that marketing communications and technical communications are increasingly converging, and it makes good business sense. This topic was explored at the 2018 Society for Technical Communication Summit, which I attended. Check out this great presentation on why this trend is happening if you are not familiar: Content is Content: Marketing and Tech Comm are Converging.
The trend was also very recently featured in the findings of the 2017-18 Adobe Tech Comm Survey published a few weeks ago, which I participated in. The survey cites “content reuse, sharing of common assets, better search integration, and a common taxonomy” as the biggest drivers for bringing the marketing and tech comm disciplines together.
As I was networking recently, I made friends with the marketing director at a nearby Sheboygan company. She told me the technical writers there started to merge with the marketing team a few years ago because they had the technical knowledge to confirm information being published as part of marketing efforts. She currently has one technical communicator on her team.
All this evidence that the trend is happening both on a national/global scale and locally supports my own experience in the last three years at JOA. I have been helping JOA’s marketing director with marketing communications projects as needed. I have created technology descriptions for the first JOA Innovation Tour for our customers, created magazine advertisements for our technology, and most recently, created marketing print collateral brochures for our machine platforms, technologies, and services.
In transitioning to thinking like a marketer, I am exercising a writing muscle that had atrophied a bit since my college days: creativity and persuasion break the rules I otherwise live in as a technical communicator. It is very refreshing and exciting. Marketing language brings a fresh perspective
The marketing projects I work on benefit from my technical knowledge and technical communication workflows. For example, when terminology or acronyms in marketing documents are inconsistent with technical documents I’ve been writing for years, I pick up on it immediately and question it, creating greater consistency across the literature system and breaking down silos in communication. I talk with subject matter experts (SME) as I normally would in my technical communication workflow to confirm the accuracy of technical details in a marketing brochure, but instead of just asking about the accuracy of the information, I also find myself asking questions such as:
Is this a unique JOA technology?
What benefit does this offer our customers?
Is this above and beyond what our competitors offer?
This is better in comparison to what? How should I phrase that?
What should be emphasized here?
What is going to make them want to hire JOA?
What other flexibility can we offer our customers here? If I advertise this, can we deliver on that?
I also get to spend all day designing documents using Adobe InDesign, which is one of my favorite work activities. I have fond memories of Document Design class in college. I’ve always lamented not getting to do more document design in my job, although in my early days at JOA I initiated a total redesign of over 17 documentation templates to re-brand our documentation package and bring it out of a design that looked like it was right out of the 80s. Marketing communications give me a huge opportunity to lots of what I love in terms of design work.
My advice to technical communication professionals who are being called upon to inform or contribute to marketing efforts is to embrace this change and realize your technical communication workflows and detailed product knowledge are incredibly useful on the marketing side of things and you might have a lot of fun exercising your aesthetic, persuasive, creative muscles in the process.