Role of marketing in technical writing

Subject: Role of marketing in technical writing
From: Warren_Singer -at- vocaltec -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 12:38:47 +0200

In the company that I work for, the marketing department is divided into
two groups: Product Management and Marketing Management. Product
Management concerns itself with managing anything related to the products,
including user manuals , white papers and product brochures. Marketing
Management is responsible for product positioning and general strategy,
and also has a strong say in white papers, solution or service brochures
and success stories.

Currently I manage (gather information, write, coordinate with graphic
artists or external contractors and print) the production of all end-user
documentation that's going through the company, including user manuals,
brochures, white papers and presentations. We are a middle-sized company
(300+ workers), with the main research center in Israel, a large marketing
presence in the US and several subsidiary branches scattered around the

For nearly a year we lacked both a Vice President (VP) of Marketing
Communications (Marcom) and a VP of Marketing. We were like chickens
running around with our heads cut off. No consistent decisions could be
made, no long term strategies were in place and people were dropping out
like flies abandoning a sinking ship. Those that stayed tried to fill in
the missing gaps.

I found myself being in a position of a jack-of-all trades, coordinating
tasks that were pure Marcom, such as product branding and labelling, icon
design, preparation of Web site material and design, CD demos and
advertising pieces for magazines and trade shows - all this in addition to
my duties managing end-user and marketing documentation. It was great - I
was finally making use of all the education and skills I had and making a
real contribution to the company. I had no real boss and could basically
dictate what I was doing. At the time, I was situated under the Marketing
Management group and attended all their meetings, which gave me a unique
opportunity to be involved in (or at least aware of) many of the
decision-making processes that were going through the company.

A situation such as this could not last indefinitely. The downside of
course was that we had no clear message and direction and we weren't
receiving consistent and sufficient feedback on the material we were
producing. At the same time, I didn't have the official authority or
resources to change things and do things as they should have been done. As
a result, there were many compromises and last-minute rush jobs. All this
was reflected in the end-result.

A few months back, the new VP of Marketing Communications arrived and
gradually took over control. I was moved from Marketing Management back to
Marcom. I still retained some of the Marcom-related duties, mainly because
there was no-one available with the skills needed to do this. The
restructuring was good for the company, providing a clear definition of
task, so I had nothing to quibble about. But I was no longer involved in
or aware of any of the decision-making.

Recently, they hired a new VP of Marketing, a very aggressive woman, based
in the US, who "happened" to have been a technical writer somewhere along
the line in her career. She wasn't happy with any of the literature we'd
prepared. She went to the new VP Marcom and complained, but not directly
to me. When I heard about this, I sent her a polite email, asking
clarification and received an indirect "apology" via my boss.

She has started rewriting and producing material on her own, without
involving me or Marcom and at one stage threatened to bypass us completely
and hire her own writer. I find all this kind of insulting to me and a
slap in the face for the last several months of effort we put into
preparing this literature. I wouldn't take too much notice of it , other
than the fact that this is undermining my standing in the company.

For me, close involvement and collaboration with Marketing is a big
advantage in many ways. The more marketing is involved, the better it is.
Problems arise, not when marketing is involved, but when marketing refuses
to become involved or decides to go its own way and bypass the services we
as writers have to offer.

If you have any suggestions or comments, I'd welcome you're feedback.

Warren Singer
Documentation Manager
VocalTec Communications Ltd.
Phone: (direct) 972-9-9707773
Fax: 972-9-9543639
Email: warren_singer -at- vocaltec -dot- com

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