Support Companies that Offer Jobs to Technical Writers

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The last forty years have seen the development of small companies that might be called support companies. These support companies produce technical brochures, manuals, and other publications under contract with larger manufacturing firms. They are likely to fall into two groups: those that serve as consultants and help pro-mote company products, and those that act as contractors by doing the actual writing.

One of the most active companies in the consulting field is Hall Industrial Publicity, Inc., of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. When you read the biography of Stuart P. Hall, president of the company, you gain some understanding of what the company does and how you could prepare for similar work.

Mr. Hall, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, eventually discovered that he had a talent for writing. He joined the editorial staff of Product Engineering magazine and later became associate editor. Then, after several other editorial jobs, Mr. Hall formed his own company to handle technical publicity, public relations, and technical catalog production for leading corporations selling their products to industry.

Mr. Hall's company deals in three general commodities: press releases, publicity, and technical articles for such clients as American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, and Bendix Aviation Corporation. He has on his staff a dozen or so people who are technical writers of a highly specialized nature.

Brief mention of a few other consulting and publicity companies will give you an idea of their variety and the opportunities they offer to the person interested in technical writing as a career.

Clark, Channell, Inc., a management consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut, specializes in executive recruitment-helping other companies obtain personnel. As such, this company is primarily involved in recruiting technical writers. A job description from Clark, Channell for an editor-manager began:

A nationally known research-consulting firm, specializing in human engineering and systems research, is expanding its in-house capability for editing and printing its own reports, proposals, and other written materials. Already equipped for this purpose with a small, capable staff and modern equipment, this organization seeks a person who will supervise and further develop this supporting service group.

The role of the technical writer in preparing technical publicity, advertising, and other promotional forms is summed up by John B. Bennet of ITT Laboratories:

The publications engineer-technical writer is trained and experienced in the preparation of publications to provide technical information to engineers, technicians, and administrators. He knows how to explain technical facts. He has good understanding of the company's products and, even more important, he has a feeling for the company's spirit and ways of doing business. He can, therefore, present technical achievements made by the company in the best possible light to the general public and to specific customers.

The line between consulting companies in technical writing and contracting companies is fairly fuzzy at times, but some distinctions can be made.

A contractor is essentially a specialized organization that relieves a larger company of publication responsibility when an assignment is received that is going to overload its publications department. It may not necessarily be an order; it may be a new development in that company that must be described, perhaps in the form of a report.

Suppose that Radio-Electronics Company has received a large order from the government for a fire control system on a line of Navy ships. Radio-Electronics is prepared and able to manufacture the system, but operating and maintenance manuals must be prepared. Rather than overtax its publications department, the company contracts with Roberts Technical Writing Service to prepare the necessary manuals. This outside company now adds Radio-Electronics to its list of clients for this job only. Perhaps it will be the only job on which the two companies will ever work together.

Several such contracting firms are spread over the country. Their existence depends on a number of factors:
  • They are prepared to give specialized services in the preparation of catalogs, brochures, or training manuals.

  • They can stick to prearranged schedules because they are not subjected to the pressures found in manufacturing companies.

  • They can bring in part-time help for peak loads, a practice that a large company is reluctant to undertake.
A contracting writing service will plan the entire publication effort for a particular project, doing all the necessary writing and editing. It will offer a complete illustration and graphics service and will do the printing or see that it is done. It will deliver the final product-the manual, report, or catalog-to its client or distribute it to interested parties. In the long run, the contractor supplies a complete communications package to its client, with little responsibility on the client's part beyond the necessary input and final approval.
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