We’ve been writing a lot about the future of technical communication and alternative techcomm career paths this year. A move into marketing is a definite option for technical writers looking for more work opportunities in the field of digital communication. This month we hear from someone who has successfully made this transition via bringing content strategy to the organization she works for.
Here is marketing leader and content strategist Alyssa Fox to explain how and why she made the career transition from techcomm, and how the two roles have more in common than you might think.
From techcomm to marketing
Working as a technical communicator gives you foundational skills that serve you well in a myriad of careers. The underpinning of the role is clear communication, which is essential across multiple industries and roles. All you have to do is determine the role you want, map your skills and market yourself in that direction. Here’s how I did it…
‘I needed a new challenge’
When I started thinking about moving from tech comm to another role, it was mainly because I needed a new challenge. Our information development teams were doing well: creating technical content in a targeted way, tailoring that content to meet the needs of our users, building how-to videos, and learning and applying new skills in user experience. The managers on my team were synchronized and guiding the team in the direction we all agreed was the way to go. Basically, things were running smoothly enough for me to see how else I could make a positive impact on the business.
What I do best is working with content (and everything that surrounds it) and leading people. So I started looking at how to align content across the business, expanding my focus beyond technical content and thinking about using content as a more strategic asset.
One issue I’d been thinking about a lot was how to ensure the story we were telling with the technical content aligned with the story our marketing team was telling about how we’d help people solve their problems with our solutions.
‘It started with a simple product description’
My career transition actually all started with a simple product description. We had multiple versions of product descriptions introducing the various technical content we had for a product. I had the idea to just use the one marketing had so we were all on the same page.
But as I talked to our vice president of product marketing, it became clear that they had even more versions of a single product description than my team did. Our conversation quickly expanded to a discussion about a messaging framework and hierarchy, and how aligned (or misaligned) our various pieces of content were, and I realised we needed an enterprise content strategy.
‘We needed more streamlined content and processes’
The larger your organisation, the more opportunity there is for misalignment, confusion, inconsistency, and waste in your content and content processes. At the time I made this change, it was in a large public company with more than 10,000 employees, 15 product portfolios and 250 products. So you can imagine the need we had for more streamlined content and processes.
As I talked with my marketing counterpart, it quickly became apparent that the marketing team had virtually no consistency in its content creation, management or delivery processes.
Our information development team, however, had been using multiple types of content management systems for years, including a component content management system. It also had sophisticated content delivery and automation processes and dedicated content engineers. We had structured review processes in place and had just started measuring the effectiveness of our content as well. I saw that we could apply these same principles to our marketing team and others – and that I could be the one to teach them.
‘Building a business case for content strategy’
Both my marketing counterpart and I were very excited at the possibility of bringing together content from across the organisation to be more consistent, less confusing for our prospects and customers, and save money in the process.
We took the idea to our respective managers, the Chief Product Officer (CPO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). We explained the need we saw and how applying content strategy could help with this vast challenge.
The CPO and CMO asked me to build a business case for implementing a content strategy, including information around the time, money, people and tools required. Writing the business case started a year-long journey from that point to when I moved to the marketing team to lead the content strategy effort for the company.
Along the way, I had to draw on the skills I’d learned from technical communication and leadership to make this journey work.
‘Securing buy-in led to a move into marketing’
To get buy-in at C-suite level, it was important to be clear and concise about what content strategy is and why it is important to businesses. I had to persuade them that content was a strategic business asset that was worth investing in. And I had to use my knowledge of budget management and content tools to estimate costs and savings for the business case. Having a background in techcomm was very useful for discussing the tools and technology that could help us with this effort, as well as how we would use content planning, creation, delivery and measurement to show other teams how to improve processes and save money as well.
After running a six-month pilot project and building plans for a content strategy, the CMO moved me into a content strategy leadership position on the marketing team – thus beginning my marketing career.
‘Techcomm and marketing roles have a lot in common’
Having now been in marketing ‘officially’ for three-and-a-half years, the similarities between working in techcomm and marketing continue to take me by surprise.
The number one rule is still to know your audience. You’re still dealing with stakeholders who sometimes want you to ‘write it all’ instead of writing focused and actionable content. You still need a solid process for creating and delivering content that’s scalable and efficient. And you still need to measure that content to see what’s most effective so you can repeat it.
If you’re thinking about making a switch to another career from techcomm, it’s not as hard as you might think. Map what you’ve learned in techcomm to how it’s beneficial in a new role. Use your communication skills to present yourself with confidence and clarity to those hiring. And keep learning and exploring new possibilities as the field of digital communications continues to develop and change.
A career transition could be just around the corner…
Alyssa Fox is currently Senior Director of Partner Marketing at Alert Logic, a leading cybersecurity managed detection and response company. She is a marketing leader and content strategist who thrives on improving customer and partner experience through strong relationships and tailored marketing strategies. With extensive experience in technical and marketing content, Alyssa has a passion for leveraging content as a business asset to drive demand, revenue, and customer retention.
Alyssa is a member of the American Marketing Association and past president of the Society for Technical Communication. She speaks at conferences around the world about various leadership, strategy, marketing and content topics.
Featured image (CC): Gerd Altmann/Pixabay