As a content manager and long-time technology writer and editor, I’ve spent just about my entire career so far communicating to an IT audience. These IT professionals really just want what we all want, whether at work or not: useful, readable content. Whether it’s blog posts or podcasts, white papers, or videos, every piece of content should address a problem, offer advice or educate the reader. There’s so much to write about in IT and so many smart people to learn from, which makes the IT editor’s job that much easier. Here are some essential tips about how to write content for a technical audience.
1. Find the experts.
Who are the people in your industry you should know? If you’re working for a technology vendor, the experts might be just a few desks away. Product managers, sales engineers, and technical customer support team members know a lot about your product and how it fits into the market. They know its best features, its shortfalls, and how it’s unique. Understanding this will give you a better sense of the overall industry. Look to company founders, the CTO, and that one person who’s been around forever to get a big-picture sense of your industry. They can not only fact-check your content but give you a ton of ideas for future content.
2. Start with the question or problem.
Instead of coming up with a bunch of ideas based on recent industry news or hot topics, find out what your audience is working on and trying to solve. You may check Quora or ITKnowledgeExchange, along with relevant LinkedIn groups, to see which questions your potential readers are asking.
I’ve found it really helpful to talk with our sales team to find out which questions they hear most often on discovery calls or during product demos. They also hear about which applications their prospects are using, which I can use to build app-specific content, particularly if there are any common complaints or frequent issues to explore. Customer support teams also know what types of questions customers are asking and how they’re using our product, which can also lead to some really interesting content.
3. Use the simplest words.
Yes, I’m stealing this from the famous E.B. White, whose top writer tip is, “Use fewer words.” This is really important in technical writing because it can be tempting to add in buzzwords, jargon, or vendor-specific terms when you’re covering a particular technology. If you understand a technology, you’ll be able to write about it in a simple, direct, and meaningful way. (If you can’t explain the technology in simple terms, go back and do some more research.)
So, for example, instead of “Purpose-built, best-of-breed technology is currently the market leader in the SD-WAN space,” try something like, “You’ll need to pick and choose from different vendors to build an SD-WAN product that works for you.” When you write content, use everyday words that anyone could understand. Adding jargon or buzzwords doesn’t add credibility or usefulness to a piece of technical content. Short sentences and simple words are the best way to describe complex technologies, and that kind of writing will stand the test of time and the many buzzwords that come and go.
4. Research constantly.
Get to know the analysts and news sources in whatever technology area you work in. You’ll start to get a sense of which technologies are important and interesting and which won’t last the year. Keep an eye out for any acquisitions in your industry of note. It’s also important to read stories with a skeptical eye. Note who sponsored a given blog post or even wrote a given blog post to see the potential influence on the content or the conclusions it makes. Sponsored content is very often educational and useful, so don’t discount it. But you can learn a lot from seeing how a vendor positions its offerings.
Noting acquisitions in particular industries can also give you an understanding of the maturity of a market. Those big shifts in the tech industry will eventually affect the readers of your blog posts or white papers, even if they seem esoteric at first glance. Suppose you chart the journey of something like containers, though. In that case, you’ll have the background you need to now write about how IT professionals are incorporating the technology into their environments—and why.
Final Thoughts About How to Write Content For Tech Audiences
Building a stable of good technical content to attract readers is a long game. Ideally, you’ll start hearing from your audience when you write content that educates, entertains, or interests them. Then you can make that part of your content-building process too. The best part, for me, of writing about technology is that there’s no end to what you can learn from the many IT experts practicing around the world. Reflecting that knowledge back is job #1 for all of us content writers and editors.
Editors note: This post was written by nDash.com customer Christine Cignoli at AppNeta. Over the past decade-plus, Christine has written about all kinds of enterprise technology in the B2B vertical and has a master’s in publishing and writing from Emerson College. You can find Christine on LinkedIn and AppNeta on our customer case study page.