By Tina Ornstein, IOD Editor
Blogging on technical topics for a knowledgeable audience is a little bit like tightrope walking — it requires incredible balancing skills and one false step sends you plummeting into oblivion. In other words, if you don’t find the right balance between technical expertise and audience engagement, then your blog will be ignored (which is the equivalent of oblivion in the content world.)
At IOD, we have developed and perfected our own secret sauce for helping our customers reach their target audiences. Our methodology is based on one simple mantra: “writers are not experts and experts are not writers.” Thus a successful technical blog, (i.e., a blog that gets traction with its target audience) requires the collaboration of an expert and a content person — either a writer or a proactive editor.
Although chefs tend to guard their secret sauces carefully, we at IOD believe in transparency and are happy to share with you the key ingredients of ours.
The Role of the Expert
So you’re a marketing manager or responsible for content at a growing start-up and you want to start a blog or scale up your current blog. Whether your topics focus on how to deploy an SQL database on AWS or how to run a data warehouse on top of Redshift or how to deploy Kubernetes, it is unlikely that you know a marketing writer who understands the topic well enough to bring the real-world examples that will interest the devops professionals or sysadmins you are targeting to engage.
You need to find the subject matter expert in your organization who has hands-on experience with the product or service and is as close as possible to the profile of your target audience. You need someone who understands the audience’s pain points and can bring alive for them how your product or service eases that pain.
You could (and should!) encourage your internal expert to write for herself, in a way that she and her peers would find informative and engaging. Make sure she understands that her unique role is to bring practical and useful examples — as detailed as necessary to convincingly illustrate the particular benefit under discussion, but not so detailed as to lose focus on the main point at hand. With the proper guidance, you will be amazed at the creative ideas your tech expert will come up with to make the blog memorable.
If you have chosen your expert well and she is your target persona, she also brings the credibility and reliability that are both crucial for a successful blog. Your audience’s time is valuable and there is nothing more put-offish than joyfully starting to read a blog whose title and introductory paragraph promise actionable insights only to find that it is fluffier than a cloud of cotton candy at the county fair. Once again, make sure your expert understands that the true measure of the success of the blog is whether she would read it from beginning to end and feel that it was a good use of her time to do so.
The Role of the Content Person
The content person — whether acting as writer (based on detailed inputs after interviewing the subject matter expert) or as a proactive editor — is responsible for packaging the blog in a professional manner. The content person is the upholder of the article brief, which should have clearly outlined the two or three main points that the audience should take away from the article, as well as the intended voice and tone of the piece.
With this as the starting point, the content person will make sure that the blog is organized properly, with a beginning, middle and end. She will maintain a good reading flow by balancing the level of detail — providing links in cases where some readers might want more information.
She will ensure that it’s skimmable, with callouts, emphases, and section headers that highlight the key takeaways. She will check that the language is at the right level — technical enough for the primary target audience, but not so dense that the organization’s “economic buyer” of your product or service would get lost should the technical person forward the blog.
Guess what? There is no need for content geared to a technical audience to be boring and it is the content person who will make sure that the writing style and examples are evocative and engaging.
And, the Role of IOD
If your internal team members don’t have the time or interest in working collaboratively to create compelling content, IOD can help in a variety of ways. We have gathered an extensive global team of experts and writers and we know how to match them up according to the needs of each deliverable. We have a structured project management process in place that keeps the customer and the IOD team on the same page, starting with the brief and continuing through the abstract, outline, and drafts. We also have the tools to maintain frictionless communication between the expert and the writer, so that each one can fulfill her unique role brilliantly.
If your internal team members are interested, but wary of their ability to produce high quality content, we offer a monthly roundtable in our Tel Aviv office for tech experts who want to become a blogger. If you’re a local subject-matter expert, sign up for the next one. And if you’re not local, be in touch with us! We’re currently working on a virtual roundtable we’ll be happy to offer your company.