An old stereotype of technical writers would have us all believe that we’re really just doing this tech writing stuff until we get our novels published. And the debate still ranges as to whether technical communicators are creative. On the other hand, content marketers, advertising gurus, and customer experience leaders frequently espouse the importance of storytelling to connect with customers. Creating a narrative that establishes a bond with customers.
All of which implies that somehow, technical content is different. As more organizations begin to look at content management from an enterprise perspective, we find ourselves wondering if that’s really the case. Everything else about the world of tech comm is evolving, so we want to know if the approach to conveying technical information is evolving too. I’m not referring to the media types or platforms, nor the tools to produce technical content, although they impact it. Providing an end user with a set of instructions on using a product used to be a straightforward proposition. But, RTFM not withstanding, did anyone ever really use that information in sigfinicant numbers? Nobody ever gets out their smartphone to tweet about how great that user manual was. Does accurate and simple preclude effective?
Over the years, I’ve spent nearly equal amounts of time in technical documentation, marketing and PR. I’ve often thought that experience makes me a better all around business communicator. But when I look at some of the technical content I’m producing for clients now, I see very little of the storytelling elements, and I question whether it is effective as it could be. That’s why we wanted to introduce this poll question. To start a conversation about whether elements like plot, narrative, emotional context, and points of view can be used effectively to convey technical information. Or do we really have to switch the lens we use to write when we’ve got a marketing assignment versus the one we use to develop an instruction manual?
Take a view moments to vote in the poll, and more importantly, take some time to post a comment about your experience, or lack thereof, with storytelling as a part of tech comm. Do you know of some particularly good examples? Include any links you know of as well. It will make for a great conversation.