- The Craftsman
How to Craft Technical Content That Actually Engages
Forget your preconceptions about technical content. The mind-numbing jargon. The blandly precise tone. The copy that fails to connect with its audience—and fails to inspire. Creating engaging technical content may be a challenge, but with the right tools, it’s one you can confidently overcome.
Step 1: Do your research.
Before you dive into even the smallest technical content project, you need to do your research. Why? First of all, as with any marketing project, you need to stay true to the company’s brand and messaging. And with technical content, your audience will have years (if not decades) of experience thinking through topics you’re only starting to explore. Come in from the wrong angle, and you’ll never gain their attention. Mess up the details, and you’ll quickly lose their trust. While research does take time, it’s time well spent—because without it, you can’t create credible, memorable content that resonates.
Get the right resources.
Start with a thoughtful review of the resources required for the project. These resources should give you a deeper understanding of how to talk about the brand and products as well as how to address the audience.
Here are a few examples of resources you might reference:
Branding and style guidelines.
Explainer videos or blog posts.
Non-confidential presentation decks.
When requesting the latest and greatest materials relevant to the project, remember to ask for context. Is this infographic geared toward one audience segment? Does that ebook use current messaging? This contextual information can be critical in ensuring that you start off on the right foot. And if no recent materials are available, see if there are any style guidelines to reference or brand changes you should be aware of.
Take the industry's pulse.
Next, seek out industry perspectives. This will give you a sense of where your content could fit into ongoing conversations. It also offers you a view into how insiders speak to their audiences, which are often similar to your target audience.
Not sure where to start?
For the latest announcements and trends, read company-recommended B2B publications.
For hot-button issues and other popular topics, follow social media thought leaders.
For comparison points, check out similar content from competitors.
Ask the experts.
Now it’s time to speak with the experts. Subject matter experts (SMEs) can fill in any information gaps you may have, of course. But more importantly, they can help you better understand the audience’s goals, challenges, and interests, plus offer insights from the front line.
Scared of asking “dumb” questions or using the wrong jargon because you’re out of your element? Don’t be. We find that most SMEs love talking about what they do. Just be up-front with them about where you’re coming from. As Copyblogger points out, a “state of ‘non-knowledge’ is a great place to start. Admit to your expert that you’re not too familiar with their topic, and they’ll realize that they need to start at the beginning.”
Step 2: Tell a story.
At this point, you’ll have some ideas about what key messages will be relevant to your audience. But to set yourself apart from other brands and truly connect with your audience, you need to shape this content into a well-crafted story. That’s because stories breathe life into data, enabling you to catch your readers’ attention with an intriguing hook and then take them along for a journey.
Focus on form and tone.
Now, you may have already been requested to make a certain type of deliverable. If that’s the case, ensure that your story works within that deliverable type. For example, a white paper may lean more on technical details than an ebook, while an infographic needs a streamlined, stats-based story that can be visually conveyed.
If you’re still in the content strategy phase, however, consider what forms will work best to deliver your narrative. It could be a single blog post with a straightforward story, eye-catching visuals, and cross-references that prompt the audience to further explore the topic. Or it could be a suite of deliverables that connect with your audience where they are in their customer journey. For example, it could start with a social campaign that builds brand awareness and end with an animated ebook that beautifully illustrates product benefits.
You also may want to adjust the brand’s tone to better speak to your audience. What do they respond to? If they’re CIOs, keep it direct. Talking to developers? Think about weaving in a bit of humor.
Mind the craft.
No matter the deliverable format and audience, follow marketing best practices to ensure that your research is put to good use and that your story shines bright. Here is a short checklist of questions to consider when crafting your technical content:
Is the copy concise and focused on the right details?
Do the visuals work with the copy to further illustrate the narrative?
Is the look and feel consistent with the larger campaign, if applicable?
Does the editorial style adhere to the brand’s guidelines?
Are you including compelling and accurate numbers, statistics, and/or quotes, and are they visible at a glance?
Are your sources clearly cited?
Is the content laid out so it’s easy to follow the story? For example, did you use bulleted lists and sections along with arresting headlines?
There’s no doubt about it—crafting engaging technical content isn’t easy. But if you do your research and tell a compelling story, you can create something that truly connects with your audience…and maybe even inspires them.
Struggling to get inspired yourself? Check out our blog post with pointers on letting your creative genius loose, or feel free to reach out to us. Together, we’ll craft your next technical masterpiece.