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Advanced Technical Writing

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By Colin Ramsden, June 2006.

xyzThe advanced technical writer needs to develop and practise "entrepreneurial aptitude".

In the article 'Beyond Brand Management' subtitled 'The anatomy of the 21st-century marketing professional', Richard Rawlinson states that "the typical business marketing career has attracted gregarious people who operate comfortably within a familiar professional culture with well-defined techniques. But now marketers must not just select and purchase proven instruments. They must envisage, shape, and develop new tools for designing and engendering more effective consumer connections. This demands openness to experimentation, an inclination toward pioneering, and an ability to integrate marketing with strategy as never before. The new marketing team must do this while honing the number-crunching analytical ability that is needed to justify and fine-tune new strategies." (http://www.strategy-business.com/press/freearticle/06205)

Marketing? He could have been talking about tech writing and tech writers. Everything he said could relate to an advanced technical writer, not just marketing professionals. For example, consider the first point made about the need for professionals to adapt to their changing consumer landscape. Marketing professionals cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and neither can professional technical writers. They must "envisage, shape, and develop new tools" for the prime purpose of "designing and engendering more effective consumer connections". Oh wow. That is some powerful statement of purpose.

Any technical writer who ignores the principle of establishing and maintaining "more effective consumer connections" (emphasis added), does so at their own peril. The consumer (client, customer, end-user) is rightly the focus of marketers, and should always also remain the primary focus of technical writers. However, Rawlinson is declaring that a focus on the consumer, and practices which worked adequately in the past, are not enough in today's consumer based economic environment. His conviction is declared with the use of words such as "must" and "demands". I wholeheartedly agree.

Advanced technical writing is the methodology designed to more effectively address this need to "engender consumer connections". This involves going to the level of providing more than is commonly expected by the consumer. Continuously. Repeatedly. Surprisingly. What ever that takes to keep above consumer expectations.

Necessarily, in order to meet and better the level of consumer expectations, the advanced technical writer must better understand the needs and expectations of their consumers (those that consume the writer's output). Without an extremely excellent connection with their consumers, there can be no measure of effectiveness of the connection. Subsequently, without an effective measure of consumer connections, there can be no chance of measuring any improvement in effectiveness of the connections.

  1. So, the first step (in progressing) to advanced technical writing, is to not only identify the consumer of your writing, but to engender a better understanding of the consumer's expectations of your writing. Only then will you be in a position to measure its effectiveness, and adjust your delivery accordingly.  
  2. The second step to advanced technical writing, involves the assessment and evaluation of all possible methods of connection with your consumers, and identifying those connection methods which will likely exceed your consumer's expectations. Then addressing them. 
  3. The third step to advanced technical writing, is to regularly and persistently measure the effectiveness of your connections, and constantly adjust your delivery to remain above their expectations.

If you think all this sounds like too much hard work, consider the consequences of stagnating your current working practices, and their ultimate cost on the quality and effectiveness of your work. If you can't measure the effectiveness of your writing, you will never be able to meet your consumer's requirements, let alone better them.

Just like modern professional marketers, being an advanced technical writer "demands openness to experimentation, an inclination toward pioneering, and an ability to integrate marketing with strategy as never before". Which brings us back to the opening statement of this topic: "The advanced technical writer needs to develop and practise entrepreneurial aptitude".

By entrepreneurial, I mean in the sense that can relate to those aspects of the technical writing job to do with consumer connections:

Advanced technical writers are those which are thinking of the future in their actions of today. They are the ones who establish and maintain effective connections with their consumers, which provides the means to identify their consumer's requirements and expectations. Armed with this knowledge, advanced technical writers are better equipped to evaluate methodologies best suited to meet and exceed those consumer requirements. Better tools, better scheduling, better information, better feedback, better delivery, better job satisfaction. Better get to it!



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