31 May Thought leadership or afterthought? Six tips for successful technical writing
At Ronin we are often asked to produce technical writing and thought-leadership content for customers in the form of ‘white papers’. These provide great ROI because they not only deliver really useful information in their own right for customers and prospects, but the content can also be repurposed and reused for many years to come for blogs, press and social media. Here are some pointers to help you get good results.
1. Know your subject
The challenge is always to make what is often quite dry and/or technical information accessible and interesting. This means Ronin’s writers have to fully understand the client’s business, the subject matter and the target audience, as well as the intended message and anticipated response. It’s something we’ve proved very successful at over the past 22 years. Indeed, our work has often been published unedited in renowned business and consumer publications. It also makes our team very good dinner party guests because they can converse on the widest range of subjects from luxury kitchens and global business planning to industrial gas meters and online music examinations. Yes, really!
2. Plan properly
The process begins with planning the subjects that will most benefit the client’s business and profile, but also those that will be of the most interest and relevance to their potential customer. This typically involves researching Google search terms and dovetailing the results with what the client wants to say.
3. Keep it simple
People almost always find it easier to talk about a subject than to write about it, so the most efficient way for us to get the raw information for the paper is to record an interview with the person at the client company who has the best specialist knowledge. We can then draft the copy from a transcription of the conversation. If the paper has more than one ‘author’, it’s best to interview both at the same time to ensure consistency of message.
4. Provide a structure
It’s crucial though that the conversation is structured; not everybody who has great knowledge can articulate it well and, without some guidelines, the output of the interview can sometimes be a chaotic stream of consciousness. To prevent this, we always work on an outline brief or script for the interviewee, so they can do some preparation in advance and the intended message, direction and purpose of the paper are clear to all from the outset.
5. Add some excitement.
The real skill then is to turn the material into something authoritative, readable, informative and inspiring, even fun. That’s not something many people can do, but the Ronin team have the necessary aptitude and experience in abundance.
6. Make it look great.
Finally, something that is fundamental to the readability of the paper, is its design. All the individual graphic components are carefully considered and based on a cohesive theme, so they contribute individually and collectively to the appeal and accessibility of the material – as well as following house style guidelines, of course. This includes everything from pull quotes and box-outs, to typography, photography and headlines. Our writers work with our designers to ensure the finished item really packs a punch. It’s important to put the effort in. If I had a pound for every white paper I’ve seen with a random collection of stock images with models pretending to look at papers on a desk, upward moving graphs, cogs and handshakes, I’d be writing this blog from a villa in the Bahamas. Avoid.