Technical Writer in Public Relations

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What Is a Technical Writer?

During the holidays when that favorite child got a shiny red bicycle did it come assembled? If the shiny bike had to be assembled who did the awesome job? Do you remember thinking, ''This will be easy; there are instructions. How hard can it be?'' Remember staying up until 4 am the night before putting it together? Who wrote those instructions? A technical writer. A technical writer also wrote the instructions for installing the computer software and the instructions used in assembling the last bookshelf for the office. They are adept at preparing this type of documentation.

Technical writer jobs are found largely in the technology industry. Technical writer jobs can be found as a team member with engineers conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is still a prototype. They edit technical documentation and monitor the illustrations, diagrams, or photographs that are placed in the instructions.

What Is Public Relations?

Public Relations (PR) is necessary when businesses need to show their best side to the public. PR workers serve as advocates for businesses, non-profit associations, universities, hospitals, and other organizations. A positive relationship is built and continually maintained with the public. As managers recognize the importance of good public relations to their success, they depend on public relations for advice on the strategy for their programs. PR specialists represent the company to media, community, and the consumers. They can also be found on the government level building relationships with politicians for interest groups and doing conflict mediation. Public Relations does more than represent their company's story to the public; they assess attitudes and concerns of community, consumers, employees, and public interest groups, and they will try to establish a relationship with journalists for newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.

How Does Technical Writing Combine with Public Relations?

How do these two professions go together? Do they ever over lap? They are so different. Here are observations by Dennis G. Jerz: ''A public relations writer delivers a compelling message to influence the behavior or opinions of a broad, general audience. A technical writer provides concise answers to specific problems faced by a small, specialized audience.''

A technical writer typically writes for people in a company and for consumers who buy the company's products. A PR person writes to the public, usually to persuade them to vote for the man/woman represented or to persuade them to vote for a specific action. Many organizations employ PR specialists for worthwhile causes like churches, non-profit companies, and charities. The difference between technical writers and workers in public relations is that PR workers distort the facts to the employer's advantage. However, technical writing is all about explaining something clearly and precisely to the reader.

Sometimes it is the hope of a technical writer to persuade the public by using facts about a bridge that is seriously in need of replacement. But if the facts alone fail to persuade the public, then a PR representative uses the same facts and turns the opinion around in favor of rebuilding the bridge. By contrast, a technical writer is accurate and complete even to the point that a technical document can be boring to the average reader and has no persuasive power in its presented information.

Technical writing can even be done on line to act as a PR exercise in drawing an audience to a website. There are companies which provide technical writers to businesses. A new line of the technical writing business helps companies locate and hire a professional Web content writer whose methods can improve results within content to attract users through search engines. Companies like this may specialize in technical writing, copy writing, and training development. One such company, Writing Assistance, has announced the beginning of a new program which helps companies find a writer with both Web copy writing experience and editing experience.

Writing good Web content has become important as the writing outsourcing industry uses search engines and can provide fresh content to websites. Search-engine rankings are based largely on the relevance of a website's content.

''Content is now the most important force in driving traffic to a website,'' said Scott Hartmann, President of Writing Assistance. ''A few years ago a website relied on design and graphics to grab user attention, but knowing how to write content that will be found by search engines is now the best method for attracting an audience. Writing Assistance believes that a website has just seconds to grab attention, build interest, create desire, and motivate action.''

This is where the two cross paths online—Public Relations and Technical Writing. It is not a matter of showmanship done best by public relations, but it is now all about the keywords used in content writing to drive traffic to the company's website. It is the choice and use of these keywords that bring hits to a website. Content writers can do this best.

How Is the Outlook?

While the outlook is great for technical writers with a faster-than-normal increase over the next five years, the outlook for PR specialists will be competitive and outlooks say these graduates will do best to take an internship and gain some experience before graduating.

What Is the Outlook for Technical Writing in Public Relations?

The outlook of this new use of technical writing to bring in traffic from the Web is just another turn that makes technical writing even better as an occupation over the years to come. Basically the technical writers continue to do what they do best: present the facts using the right keywords. As PR writers make the transition we could possibly see more of a slant in Web page content. After all, businesses still want to sway their public.

Salaries for technical writers average $23,000 to $48,000. This new branch for technical writing could demand more for their services, but that is to be seen. Content writers usually produce a great amount of writing used on websites. It now means the work will continue to come in. Will PR specialists put themselves to the keyboards and pound out the content for their companies? If they can adapt, it could make them more valuable to their employers.
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