RE: Caught between tech writing and marketing

Subject: RE: Caught between tech writing and marketing
From: Curtis Matthews <cmatthews -at- cpcus -dot- com>
To: Emily_Cotlier -at- cardlink -dot- co -dot- nz, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 08:31:31 -0500

I, too, started at my current company working as a technical writer under
the marketing department. My primary responsibility at the time was
preparing technical documentation, and secondarily I was writing marketing
copy, overseeing the publication of brochures and newsletters, and generally
the keeper of everything related to technical and marketing graphics (like
business cards, logos, the web site, etc.)

Back in 1996, when I started this job, that was exactly what this company
needed; it was a small company, and consisted of a few outstanding people
who pulled their own weight however they could. Since then, they've grown
almost 50% and tripled the number of products offered. As new projects came
down the pipe, I realized that I was being spread doubly thin -- new
products had a great deal of documents attached to them (manuals, brochures,
advertisements), all of which I was responsible for. What's more, the need
for better, more usable documentation began to grow, since our products were
becoming more complex.

Fortunately, other departments in the company began to realize this at the
same time. The solution we came up with was to move me and my employees to
Engineering, and divorce myself from everything marketing related.
Thankfully, there was someone in place in the Marketing department already
who was qualified to take on my management duties. My new focus is now on
documentation and communication, both the kind that helps the end user and
the kind that helps employees do their job better (mostly by working on
engineering documentation standards).

So far, it's been a very positive experience. I didn't realize just how much
time I spent on the marketing end of communication until I stopped being
responsible for it. I am now able to do a lot more in terms of project
management and the researching of new processes. Furthermore, now that I'm
considered part of the engineering team, communication with SMEs is 500%
better than it was (I actually get invited to project status meetings!

Hope this broadens your perspective on your own situation. Good luck!

Curtis Matthews

-----Original Message-----
From: Emily_Cotlier -at- cardlink -dot- co -dot- nz [mailto:Emily_Cotlier -at- cardlink -dot- co -dot- nz]
Sent: Monday, November 22, 1999 6:40 PM
Subject: Caught between tech writing and marketing

I am a technical writer who is working under the aegis of a marketing
department, all of 3 people including me, at a small company of 60 people.
This happened because of internal politics (and my own self interest, since
the Marketing manager is that precious rarity, a good manager). As time
goes on, though, and our IT division improves in management, I am starting
to feel a conflict between involvement in IT and involvement in marketing
projects. I'm working on it from my end, but I'm wondering; are other tech
writers working in both the tech writing and marketing areas of their
companies? And do they feel torn?

For the marketing, I work a lot on proposals, proofread and edit in
general, and write product overviews. In collaboration, I've written 2/3 of
our web site content and our current Company Profile. Frequently technical
documents are commissioned specifically for marketing purposes, i.e., to
win us new clients, but at the same time requiring extensive work with the
SMEs. Based on our manuals, I've created detailed product overviews to
explain our programs and the related business processes to potential and
current clients. All in all, a lot of marketing/tech writing overlap,
varied and as interesting as credit card management programs get.

The bad part is that I have to struggle to be involved in areas I see other
tech writers working in, like QA, product interface/navigation reviews,
user training, and tech document management--basically things that fall
outside of the marketing/tech writing overlap.

Curious to hear others' experiences....

Emily Cotlier
Technical Writer
Cardlink Systems Limited
Auckland, New Zealand
(alumnus of Drexel tech writing graduate program)

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