When technical content contradicts marketing


If your technical content contradicts your intended marketing message, you are in good company. Many organizations have this problem, often because of these factors:

  • Marketing and technical communication groups are in different parts of the organization.
  • Marcom and tech comm do not coordinate their efforts.
  • Marcom and tech comm staff do not respect each others’ work. (Marcom tends to view tech comm as a bunch of introverted nerds who can’t communicate normally; tech comm thinks that marcom is full of liars who don’t understand technology. Neither stereotype is completely incorrect.)
  • Executive management does not believe that technical content is relevant to market positioning.
  • Technical content creators cling to outdated but familiar ways of delivering content.
In this situation, you need to align the technical content with the marketing message by changing the message, changing the content, or both. Until this happens, your marketing efforts will be undermined.

Table 1. Aligning technical content with the marketing message
Marketing message Misaligned content Aligned content
Easy to use User documentation is convoluted and full of obscure jargon User documentation is easy to understand
Easy to install Installation guide is 100 pages Installation process and guide are short
Cutting edge Technical content is delivered in a three-ring binder Technical content is delivered in lots of different formats (text, audio, video, mobile, ebooks)
Personalized Technical content is generic Technical content is customized for different readers
Powerful No advanced information in the technical content Detailed technical content, customization scenarios, software API documentation
Fun Content is ugly (or uses default templates), boring, and has no visual appeal Creative delivery of technical content, such as comics, interesting visuals, entertaining examples, or edgy graphic design
Global audience Technical content is available in only one language Technical content is available in customer languages



1 comment

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  • Good post, but I’ve more often seen contradictions based on the purposes of marcomm and techcomm and our respective shortsightedness. As intended, marcomm tends to prioritize advertising features, and techcomm prioritizes accuracy and usability. We could both do better at meeting halfway.

    Techcomm folks should realize that users benefit from knowing what features you actually have (you can even reduce support calls this way). A little “advertisement” of real features — often via navigation, search, or related links, can go a long way.

    Marcomm folks should realize the damage they can do to your reputation by hard-selling features that either don’t exist or that don’t really work as promised. Like techcomm, they should know better than to rely absolutely on the say-so of SMEs, and verify for themselves the features they advertise.