One of the biggest challenges marketers face today is producing content. Not just any content, but content that produces results. That means high-quality, relevant content delivered to the right prospect, for the right reason, at the right time, in the right language and format. Content with appeal. Content that converts, regardless of where prospects and customers interact with it.
How do we overcome this challenge? One of the best ways is to ask for advice from others. Unfortunately, departmental silos often prevent us from discovering useful and innovative solutions. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many lessons to be learned from other communication professionals — regardless of where they work inside an organization.
In a recent article entitled The Why Behind the How and the What of Content Strategy, Alexia Idoura, Idoura Coaching, LLP, explained that “Organizations have many teams. If you find that other teams have whys that conflict with yours, use those discoveries to engage in conversation. Find out about the other person’s why. Listen with the intent to understand, not to refute.”
A Science-Based Approach to Producing Content Efficiently
Technical communicators — folks who document how products and services work — have overcome several complex content production challenges over the past two decades. They’ve invented, tested, and successfully implemented some useful techniques that marketers should consider emulating.
Take single-source, multi-channel publishing, for example. It’s a method of repurposing content across multiple delivery channels and output formats. Technical writers in companies that use a single-source approach produce more deliverables, more quickly, and with less effort than those who use traditional desktop publishing methods.
Single-source, multi-channel publishing helps technical writers ensure that the documents they create include only the information that is relevant to the audience they are targeting. The methodology relies on the creation of discrete chunks (or components) of semantically rich content intentionally designed for reuse. Each module of content has a specific label (e.g., product description, procedure, value proposition). Technical writers create content models (e.g., assembly instructions for documents) that content management systems use to pull the right pieces of content automatically into the deliverables they are creating.
Marketers who adopt this approach produce laser-targeted content, without all the hassle and delay associated with traditional publishing techniques. And, they can publish to multiple output formats simultaneously because the content — and its formatting information — is stored separately. This critical difference separates the efficient content producers from the inefficient among us. And, it’s part of what makes technical writers more adept at creating increasing volumes of relevant content.
Managing Tone, Voice, Style, and Terminology
Technical documentation professionals also were among the first to address issues of content quality — long before it became fashionable for marketers to discuss the subject. Using the wrong words in product assembly, maintenance, or repair instructions can lead to confusion, increased support costs, customer dissatisfaction, compliance problems, financial difficulties, injury, and even death. That’s why technical communication teams (like those at Rockwell Automation) were among the first to adopt a content optimization platform designed to control and report on content.
In companies that value their content as a business asset, technical communicators leverage content optimization software to ensure that their content follows the rules. Doing so has helped them realize tremendous productivity gains — think faster time to market — while simultaneously increasing content quality and performance. Technical writers that use tools like Acrolinx are guided toward producing content with the right tone of voice; content in alignment with company style, branding, and writing rules.
If you’re a content marketer, you know how important content is to the success of your business. After all, catching those after-the-fact content mistakes may have already impacted your prospective customer’s decision. In its latest research report, Good vs. Great: How to Double (Yes, We Mean Double) the Impact of Your Content Strategy, Acrolinx conclusively proves the connection between content quality and business results.
Marketers Can Benefit From Discoveries Made by Their Technical Communication Cousins
It’s not easy to see the connections between technical documentation and marketing. But, the connections are crystal clear to those who study online consumer behavior. Prospective customers shop for information to answer questions about products and services before they purchase them. Search engines like Google serve up answers to these online queries based on relevance, not based on which department created the content. Marketing content is competing directly with technical content for attention. So, why not align all content, produce it in the same manner, and control it using the same rules and tools?
Great Content Experiences Aren’t Easy to Craft — Make It a Group Effort
In summary, marketers have a lot to gain from their technical writer peers to ensure that the content they are producing follows these three general principles:
- Consistent tone, language, and editorial standards
- Solid document and content-management approaches
- Reusable content for different purposes and channels