If pre-Digital Age product development were a wheel, content writing was the spoke that connected the hub (product life cycle) to the rim (target user). But with the advent of the technical revolution, all industries have been subject to a level of scrutiny rarely – if ever – experienced before. Like retail shopping, television programming and academia, the momentum of disruptive innovation has forced the content marketing industry either to evolve and flourish or to stagnate and die.
While its primary purposes of engaging, educating and assisting the end user remain unchanged, the degree of separation from Product Expert to End User necessarily must be reduced to support the rapid pace of innovation. Further, as products themselves increase in complexity, it is imperative that the communication maintains its clarity without sacrificing accuracy due to translational interpretation from Engineer to Content Writer to End User.
The field itself has evolved from Technical Content “Writing” to Technical Content “Communication.” This encompasses new, expanded roles for the writers including illustrator, layout designer and SEO specialist. In-depth research writing has been augmented by the increased demand for blog writing, which mandates a high frequency of short articles that are meant to be mentally rented by the reader. These are ingested quickly, then discarded as obsolete weeks or days after their creation.
Why hire engineers as content writers?
How do writers adapt to the changing times? And, what skill sets will be needed for the next generation of tech-savvy content creators? The somewhat surprising hypothesis made by ASME is that engineers are uniquely suited to respond to this challenge. Engineers have historically struggled with communicating technical information to an audience with a broad range of technical backgrounds. However, the disruptive technology revolution enveloping the current engineering climate is teaching younger engineers the that good ideas simply aren’t worth anything unless they can be explained to key decision makers and consumers.
Two prime examples of how writing can improve the value of a product are the every-day digital camera (1975) and Microsoft’s SPOT smart watch (2004). Its inventors were not able to effectively communicate the technical advantages of the products, thus leading to decisions to either hibernate or shelf the products.
As a result, engineers have begun to marry their technical horsepower with business, writing, speaking and interpersonal skills. This expansion of talents is creating much more robustly-skilled engineers than those of past generations. Having already invested time and energy into learning the complex subject matter, they can now hone their communication skills through daily tasks, such as writing emails and creating presentations. This makes hiring engineers as content writers a cost effective and time efficient proposition.
After hiring employees who have navigated the waters of a rigorous and comprehensive undergraduate engineering curriculum, companies are learning that it is far easier to teach the engineer to write than it is to teach the writer to engineer. This realization enables a reduced cycle time in educating the consumer base about a new product by reducing the time required to educate the writer about the product. Using an engineer to communicate to the end user can also increase the value the writer adds to the product documentation through the science-backed assessment they provide when learning about the product. Engineers process new information quickly, decreasing the amount of iterations and time needed to educate the writer about the product. Their inquisitive, pragmatic approach to both tasks and the motives behind them ensures appropriate amounts of detail will be shown to each assigned project.
Technical communication will certainly be in demand for the foreseeable future. Hiring engineers as technical content writers can be a huge asset to organizations supplying technical products to a consumer base hungry for innovation and clear, simple, instantaneous solutions to their most pressing challenges.