Content generation and public relations have changed a lot since I joined the challenging world of marketing for deeply technical businesses 16 years ago. Back then, technical articles – the term ‘content’ came along much later – were predominantly created for editorial use. Now they are more likely to be used on a website or used as a marketing campaign deliverable. Sure, contributed technical articles are still an essential aspect of a balanced and integrated marketing communications programme, but the emphasis on their creation for the sole use of the media is significantly less.

Even though there has been a fundamental shift in marketing methods, the audience remains the same. Engineers of all types continue to be the primary readership that Publitek’s clients wish to reach. Engineering management, new product designers, procurement, and supply chain professionals all represent influential additional audiences too.

As an electronics engineer, and an experienced marketer and content creator, I’m well placed to write technically focused, yet engaging and informative content. But, the task of getting engineers to read it used to be an editorial decision. When you write an article for editorial placement, it has to adhere to the media outlet’s editorial guidelines and to meet the specification and needs of the editor. Is it informative? Does it tackle a real engineering challenge? Does it simply explain an established engineering practice that engineering students often struggle to understand? Will the article be relevant to the magazine’s readers? These are just some of the questions an editor asks themselves when reviewing a contributed article. Going through this process isn’t a ploy by the editor to delay things or be picky. It is done for solid business reasons. If the magazine’s readers detect that the content of the publication is becoming less relevant for them, becoming more advertorial-based rather than addressing relevant engineering topics, they will unsubscribe. Magazines need quality readers; that way, they are a more attractive proposition for advertisers. Publishers and editors have always been adept at keeping the right balance between informative content and advertisements. Get it wrong, and the readership numbers fall away.

When content is created for marketing purposes, the restrictions imposed by editorial constraints disappear. At first, that appears to make life easier for the technical business that creates that content. They don’t have to be so diligent about meeting the needs of a third party when creating technical content and can make it blatantly promotional if they so choose. Oddly, one trend we have noticed is that without the editorial filter to pass through the depth of technical information tends to reduce too, with topics being covered at a superficial level using marketing superlatives. For engineers, and I’m one of them, some content I see provides me with so little technical information as to be useless. Additionally, this reduction in the value of content to engineers might not be easily measured when it comes to marketing engagement numbers but will have a definite effect on the number and quality of any inbound leads that are being created. Sound familiar?

So, it’s worth asking the questions: ‘Who in your team is playing the role of the editor for you and reviewing the content you create?’; ‘If you suspect that through your content you are losing the hearts and minds of the engineers that specify and buy your products do you know how to address this problem?’