Getting a Little Respect for Technical Writing

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Suzanne Mescan, Vasont Systems
Reprinted with permission from Suzanne Mescan, Vasont Systems

Technical writers sometimes feel like the ugly step-child. They have too much work, and there’s never enough staff to do everything that must be done. And, the work was needed yesterday! In some organizations, the focus is placed on the engineering and marketing of the product, but the technical documentation is merely perceived as an afterthought. Since technical documentation is a cost of doing business rather than a revenue generator, it tends to get the small end of the budget stick.

But you can raise awareness for the importance of having clear, accurate documentation and eliminate the disrespect for technical communications by making sure that your documentation is indeed up to snuff. Tools like content management systems (CMSs) can help to improve the quality and consistency of your documentation by single sourcing and reusing content. Then, you can work on building metrics that prove the value of good documentation. Use these metrics to change the perceptions about technical documentation and the writers who work hard to perfect it. Here’s what you can do to show your technical documentation team‘s worth:

Count your calls.
Quality documentation allows consumers to understand how to use your products. If the documentation is clear and accurate, then the volume of calls to your help center will diminish, saving the organization money in the support department. Track the number of complaints that result from poor documentation. One of our clients saved over $1 million/year in support efforts after implementing a CMS and polishing their documentation.

Measure your brand.
Is your brand considered top tier? Or are you lingering lower on the list with the average brands? There is a direct correlation between quality documentation and the amount of trust a user has in a company’s brand. If the documentation is poor, consumers might assume the brand is of lesser quality, too. Once consumers think your brand is inadequate, this perception will spread like wildfire through word of mouth. With the help of a CMS, good documentation can build trust with your consumers and improve your branding.

Monitor the sales.
Is your messaging to the consumer clear and consistent? If your labeling or advertising says one thing about your product, but the documentation says something different, then consumers might become confused and simply return (or never purchase) your product. Inconsistent messaging can push consumers away, and result in increased sales—for your competition. A CMS can manage your entire content base to ensure your messaging is consistent across the board and increase your sales.

Call us at 717-764-9720 or email us for help in getting started with your content management strategy.

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