We’ve all been there; you need to write a piece of content about a complex subject, and it seems like an impossible task.
It could be for a blog, press release, industry publication, or something else, but the challenges of converting a technical topic into something readable are universal.
You might think that detailed subject matter and reader engagement are mutually exclusive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can create compelling content on technical subjects without you or your audience getting bogged down (or bored!) in the detail.
Here are some simple guidelines which can take the pain out of writing about technical subjects, and which you can apply across all your content writing.
Know Your Purpose
What do you want to achieve?
Are you writing about a new product or service, and want your reader to buy? Are you showcasing a piece of work your business has completed to build your reputation? Perhaps you’re providing comment and opinion about a current industry trend or issue.
A lot of the time your content has several goals. You want to communicate information, but you also probably want to establish brand authority, build an audience, and support your sales process organically through your comms.
Whatever it is, you need to understand your goal at the outset of your writing, otherwise you risk your focus becoming muddled. When your purpose is unclear, your writing will be too.
Know Your Subject
You might not be an expert on the topic you’re covering, but a bit of preparation and research can make a big difference.
If you select a number of related articles and pull elements from each of them piecemeal, it can lead to a disjointed writing style without a coherent direction.
Instead, do some wider reading about the subject so you understand the context and landscape. You can still draw from other useful sources, but you will be less likely to use them as a crutch.
If you have colleagues who are specialists in this area, ask them to bring you up to speed, as they may have a better understanding of which points are particularly noteworthy.
This will free you to take your own approach, resulting in more fluid, insightful content which allows you to write at your best.
If you are an expert in the subject and know it inside out, then the next section needs your particular attention...
Know Your Audience
Who do you want to be reading this piece of content? Are they technically savvy or will they get lost with the smallest amount of technical information? What platform will they be reading it on?
Creating a reader persona will help you understand the audience, and gives you a useful tool to refer back to while you’re writing your piece so you can keep your writing focused throughout the process.
If you don’t go through this process, you risk not understanding your reader, or their problems and motivations. And if that happens, what you write is less likely to be useful to them.
Remember; you’re writing for them, not you.
Keep It Simple — Less Is More
When you’ve got a complex subject to convey, the temptation is to go into great detail about the features and specifications.
You’re not writing a scientific paper (and if you are, this probably isn’t the article for you). The reader probably doesn’t care about the minutiae; your role as a writer is to convince them why they should care, so focus on explaining the value of your subject. What are the pains it will eradicate and the gains it will provide?
Identify the key points you’re trying to make, plan your sections out using headings, then keep each section to a maximum of 5-6 paragraphs; any longer than this and you risk losing your audience’s attention.
By keeping your points concise and punchy, you maximise their effect and decrease the chances they will be ‘lost’ within the larger piece.
Tell the Story
Everybody loves a good story.
We remember stories better than cold, hard facts, and they help generate an emotional response in readers. They also help humanise dry, fact-heavy subjects. Paul Smith’s book ‘Sell With A Story’ offers some great insight into the benefits of storytelling.
Hearts often rule over heads when it comes to decision-making, so eliciting an emotional response is a better way of prompting your audience to take action than bombarding them with detail and features.
There will be a story related to your subject. It could be the story of its creation, the obstacles somebody overcame during its discovery, or the way it has changed someone’s business already.
It doesn’t even have to be a true story! Start your story with ‘Imagine you…’ and you have carte blanche to create a story that you can hang your subject on, and that the reader can place themselves into.
Think about how you can apply storytelling to your own subject, and with a little planning you can make it more personal and appealing to readers.
So you’ve written the bulk of your piece of writing. You’ve got your main points across clearly, created an engaging narrative, and humanised your subject matter. Congratulations!
This is the time to capitalise on all your hard work with a compelling call to action, which acts as the springboard for the next step of the reader’s journey.
Prompt them to get in touch, direct them to your product page, or give them a link to download some helpful resources. Just make sure you remind them how they will benefit or have their pain eased by taking that step.
Over to You...
And that’s it! You now have a toolkit for taking a complex, technical subject and turning it into a piece of content that will engage readers and leave them wanting more.
For more advice and tips on how to make your content marketing hit the spot, visit our blog.
If you want to find out how we can help you tell your story, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.