Technical Communicators’ First Brush with Content Strategy

When I was preparing and promoting my presentation Content is playing. Game on. for STC India Annual Conference 2015, a reader wrote to me via email:

“I would be very keen and interested to understand how the technical communications world handles/approaches Content Strategy. This is something we have been trying to create competency on.. but I have not been able to get much material. Can you please help? We can talk as well.”

I saw that she is a UA lead at a senior position. I replied as below.

Thanks for writing to me.
For me, technical communication is one of the facets of the *larger content vision* of an organization. By nature, there is a huge overlap in the whole process and the discipline of content strategy and technical communication. For example, whether the documentation process involves such questions:

  • Why we need these deliverables and why we need these specific content types (for knowledge base, quick guide, webinars, customer support portal)
  • What voice and tone are being used by the marketers, business analysts, event sponsorship managers, procurement managers (is there is a consistent vocabulary in place to ensure a consistent brand positioning of the product/brand?)
  • Do we have a process to measure the effectiveness of documentation?
  • Do we measure how the documentation (tech comm deliverables) aligns with the business goals?
  • Do we know what all content is being published in our organization, by whom (role), and for what purpose?

Unfortunately, the answer to most of the above questions is generally No. Technical writers do not know who writes the White Papers for their organization, how the customer service are communicating in support calls or emails, and how the marketers are speaking at events or webinars (terminology, voice and tone, and positioning). To bring everyone together to setup content processes integration points, regardless of their role towards the business goals, is the first step in content strategy.

Does it help? Let me know if it doesn’t.

Additional Comments

For an end user who connects with a brand for its product, service, or to seek information, all content belongs to the brand. A user does not really know whether the White Paper is written by a technical writer or by a content marketer. Likewise for technical instructions, or FAQs or product blog posts.

When users cannot differentiate and when they consider all content as part of the brand, it is important that all content teams work together to align their processes towards the common “content vision” of the organization.

Vinish Garg Technical Communicators Content Strategy

If you do not interact with content strategists or marketers for their processes, content source, content reuse strategy, or for content distribution cycle, your job as a technical communicator is only half-baked.

Recommended Reading: Content Strategy for Technical Communication, by Sarah O’Keefe

Update on 16 January 2018: See Content is an Approach – Content Strategy is the Outcome for more details on the switch from technical communication to content strategy.