How to Create Engaging Content for Technical or "Boring" Industries
April 12, 2019
So, you’ve been hired as the in-house talent for a company specializing in dental mouthguards or a brand known for its award-winning supply chain software. Congrats on the gig! However, if you’re already experiencing night sweats wondering how you’re going to write day in and day out about the world’s most technical or boring industry, I promise you, it will be OK.
As someone who has written about nuts and bolts (literally!), corporate training, real estate software, genetic data analysis, and end-of-life IT asset handling, I’ve had plenty of moments when panic set in and I wondered if I was cut out for the copywriting industry. Sometimes, I just want to be writing about the hottest travel trends for millennials or “7 Ways to Procrastinate Better” because it’s lively and sexy and interesting.
Many of us have worked for a company that seemed too technical or dry for the written word, but we’re in this together! The thing I’ve learned about writing technical content? The professionals who work in what may be considered the most boring industries are some of the most passionate people—and they’re some of my most favorite to talk to! They have a great sense of humor and an unmatched excitement about the products or services they’re offering.
So how do you get started writing about these topics? Here are six of my go-to tips:
Tip 1: Do an SME Interview
If you’re writing technical content and the blog topic stumps you, start by talking to a subject matter expert (SME) who knows your industry inside and out. You’ll walk away with bucketloads of information to create content well beyond the single blog article or e-book you’re currently crafting.
On top of that, an SME interview can help you work out industry lingo, jargon, processes, procedures, and insider knowledge that you may not understand yet. When you hear about insurance adjusting from the SME’s mouth, you can ask the right questions and get the answers you need to craft compelling copy that sells. Slowly but surely, you’ll become the SME!
Tip 2: Change Your State of Mind
This probably should have been Tip 1: You must get out of the mindset of thinking there is such a thing as a boring industry. Coffee cups, rat traps, hubcaps, hardware disposal services, coat racks, the aforementioned dental mouthguards … they’re all interesting to someone. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t exist as industries with customers and salespeople and an actual, literal product or service offering.
This is where your marketing team’s persona research will come in handy. When writing technical content or covering the topics you once thought were boring, you’ll need plenty of background into what makes your company’s customers tick. What are their pain points? Where do they get their information? What are their needs?
Tip 3: Be Helpful
There is truly something—products, services, you name it—for everyone, which means that people online are talking about your topic. Put on your research beanie and head to Reddit, Quora, and other sites, start digging into what people are saying and asking, and then write about that.
Let’s look at toilet paper. Pretty boring, right? We all use it every day, and that’s that! Or is it? Start by asking the right questions:
- Who invented toilet paper?
- What did we do before we used toilet paper? (And do we want to know?)
- What’s the deal with the cardboard tube in the middle?
- When did the multi-ply thing crop up?
- Why do some people roll the toilet paper over the top and others around the bottom?
- How many miles of toilet paper are produced every year?
- What’s the deal with those Charmin bears?
See? Even toilet paper is interesting!
Tip 4: Peruse Industry Publications
Don’t forget that there are people who write and talk about your technical/boring industry all day, every day, for a living. Find them, find their magazines and blogs, follow them on social media, start networking, and get inspired.
Tip 5: Look at the Numbers
Talking about nuts, bolts, and washers might not be as thrilling as new ways to mix up avocado toast, but talking about the number of nuts and bolts that go into a single product we all use regularly or the amount of bits and bobbles that are produced every year can be a big motivator to get a piece of content rolling.
People like numbers, figures, data, stats, and relatable references to what might seem like an obscure or distant subject. Use data as a launchpad for a larger discussion.
Tip 6: Be Human
If you do an SME interview, keep your ears peeled for something that might spark your interest—and write about that! Whether it’s medical supplies (bedpans, anyone?) or probiotics for farm animals, prioritize interest over expertise and tell your readers a story that is relatable and makes people care about what you have to say.
Remember: There’s no such thing as a boring industry, and writing about a technical topic doesn’t mean using tons of multisyllabic words and explaining complex topics in ways that only the triple PhDs reading will understand. Do your research, talk to your industry insiders, and find an angle that interests you—the rest is gravy (which, by the way, happens to be a fascinating topic to write about).
About the author
Chaviva Gordon-Bennett was formerly a Senior Copywriter for SmartBug Media. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in journalism. As a Senior Copywriter, Chaviva writes inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Chaviva Gordon-Bennett.