Treasure your tech language translators

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When Jim Cahill started a blog at Emerson Process Management six years ago, he took to walking the halls looking for good stories. Cahill's background is in marketing communications, but he's been at the company long enough to tackle topics like “Large capacity coriolis flow and density measurement” with confidence and clarity. “When I pass people in the hall, I ask about interesting customer interactions,” he said. “The language the engineers use is the language our customers use, and it's rich in the keywords of our field.” For Emerson, that's translated into good things—like 70,000 monthly visitors to the Emerson Process Experts blog and invitations to bid on massive contracts. Last year it netted the company a BtoB Social Media Marketing Award. Cahill is a translator, a role that is growing in importance as b-to-b companies unlock troves of intellectual assets in an effort to attract search engines and links. Marketers often ask me how they can teach their programmers and engineers to create content for the blogs, white papers and other long-form media that are increasingly critical to lead generation. My advice: In most cases, don't bother. While some techies have a gift for communications, they're pretty hard to find. I'll never forget watching an engineer deliver an hourlong presentation without once taking his eyes off the screen behind him. The knowledge was there, but not the audience connection. Take a lesson from trade publishers, which long ago learned that it's cheaper and easier to teach technology to professional communicators than it is to teach technologists how to write. Your marketing staff and knowledgeable freelancers are more valuable to you today than ever; but the nature of their work has changed. Increasingly, they need to draw keyword-laden insights out of your specialists. Sybase built its Uber Mobile blog last year by hiring seasoned technology journalist Eric Lai to develop a unique voice and angle on enterprise mobility. Lai combines a journalist's nose for news with enough technical depth to know the right questions to ask experts. With 150,000 monthly page views through and its syndication partners, the blog delivered a lot of visibility for his employer. Success like this isn't free, but it's a lot cheaper than putting your highly paid technical talent through hours of training in something they don't want to do. Technical people love to share, but their language is full of shorthand and technical jargon. Marketing communicators can capture and organize their stories and insights into something others want to read. Send your marketers to ask for stories. Your company is rich in them. You just need to ask.
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