The intersection of docs and marketing

What is the technical writer's role in content marketing?
What is the technical writer's role in content marketing?

Post excerpt

"If you're trying to win over a technical audience, you need to communicate with them on a technical level. You need to understand the technical issues they face and talk with credibility about those issues.

I'm not saying content marketing should consist of verbatim topics from a user manual. But the concepts that you cover in tech docs could certainly be repurposed into larger, more conceptual articles that address strategies around those topics.

For example, a topic in a user guide on "Generating an HMAC Signature for Requests" might be repurposed into an article on using "HMAC Authentication for APIs," in contrast to other authentication protocols (such as OAuth).

As a technical writer, you have the insight to provide substantial, information rich content that will build relationships with technical audiences.

Marketing writing without substance is going to come across as empty marketing — the kind of brochure or product literature that has such a strong agenda it's almost unreadable."

The idea of content marketing

Content brings people together

Engaging users through product stories

From The User's Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love by Donna Lichaw

Independent vs. corporate blogs

AFTV News blog post vs. Amazon Appstore blog post

My conclusion

Approved marketing content essentially consists of announcements and tech tips. As such, it's no better than documentation, so why not focus on documentation itself and let marketers (or whomever -- support, BD, training) share direct links to the docs?

Corp newsletters are links to tech resources

Stripe Developer Digest
Stripe's Developer Digest newsletter

Docs are at the center of content strategy

Same content in different output formats

Format reuse

Same content in different deliverables?

Content reuse

Single source publishing paradigms

Single source publishing models

Making docs visible to other groups

What I've learned as a blogger about visibility

Building visibility through doc reports

Documentation reports
Sending doc status reports -- a tool for visibility and relationship building

Outcomes of regularly sending docs reports

Visibility to the groups around you


  • Tech writers might not have much success writing engaging marketing content because marketing strips out conflict.
  • If you want to address real issues, you’re better off staying within the documentation domain.
  • Documentation is useful to groups across the company, but the difference in deliverable styles and conventions means single sourcing the documentation is unlikely. It’s better to point users to a single instance of the docs.
  • For docs to be useful across these groups, you need a strategy for increasing awareness of docs. Sending a monthly doc report helps build the awareness and relationships you need.
  • The more awareness you create around docs, the more feedback and input you get for docs. You can leverage this input to make docs even more helpful to these groups. It’s an upward spiral.


The end

Tom Johnson
[email protected]

Slides: techcomm_and_marketing.html or tcworldchina-gslides