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Subject:Re: pc-manmonth - I had to say it From:Thom Randolph <thom -at- HALCYON -dot- COM> Date:Sat, 1 May 1999 09:06:12 -0700
At 11:41 AM 5/1/99 +0100, you wrote:
>"In this way, document design is different from advertising in that
>advertising focusses on writing and visualising in order to promote the
>goals and values of organisations rather than to promote the goals and
>values of readers."
>K A Shriver; Dynamics in Document Design, p11
I disagree here. Having been one of those dreaded Marketing Types,
and now a Technical Writer, I believe the design of the document
is definitely just as much part of the corporate "image" and product
positioning as any advertisement. We all constantly complain that
management doesn't regard documentation as an integral part of the
product; that it's not important to the company. For poorly executed
marketing/business plans, that may be the case. But when a company
has talented Marketing people and talented writers, the form, layout,
design and to a certain extent the content of the documentation is
wisely used to strongly reinforce the desired image of the company
in the users' minds.
The old Marketing maxim says that it costs 10 times as much to make
a new customer as to get repeat sales from existing ones. Documentation
is often seen only by those who ARE now customers. The quality of
the documentation as much as the product reflect directly on the
company. Accurate, informative, helpful, attractive documentation
is key to convincing the customer to invest a small amount of loyalty.
Don't get me wrong. The above is NOT to the exclusion of customer
issues, audience-centric design, etc. We all fight long and hard
to make sure we know what the customer needs, and so we can get the
information they need and provide it to them.
I'm only saying that SUCCESSFULLY molding a corporate image extends
to the documentation as much as to the advertising, product packaging,
product design, and the sign outside the door. Advertising agencies
come and go; some days they have brilliant ideas, sometimes they
produce flops for months at a time. Potential customers can always
turn off the Television, close the magazine, or even tear the page
out and burn it in their fireplaces. But, product documentation stays
with the customer from day one until the company manages to get new
ones into their hands. Customers have to live with your design decisions
and the "image" we project.
Assuming competent people on both sides, I always advocate healthy
TWO-way communication between Marketing and Technical Publications
(or whatever you call it in your company). And, for you smaller
companies, if the writers aren't blessed with an audience analysis
budget, marketing may be the only source of demographic and customer
profiles available to you. And we all know about marketing budgets!