20 February 2023

Writing, Code

Written piece published by a third party, whether that's a website (like a developer portal) or a print publication (the few that are left). Intended to be a standalone entity without referencing liberally elsewhere (although multi-part articles are certainly doable and can reference each other).

Problem: Certain developers are in a market that you don't reach--if your company is known for .NET yet you want to reach JavaScript developers, for example, or vice versa--and you need a way to reach them with a written piece that will have some "stickiness" to people.

Context: You want to use the opportunity to present something in a longer-form writing piece, reaching an audience that doesn't come to your website or your other activities already either because they don't know about your company or your product/service. You're looking for high reach from a single work effort (that of writing the article). You want code to be able to accompany the article, often in the form of a Sample/Example, but the main effort is in the written prose, with code providing clarity to certain points, rather than laying out all the code and leaving developers to understand it on their own.

Solution: Write an article (generally 1500 words minimum, 4000 words maximum) that addresses the needs of that audience in a semi-direct, if abstract, fashion, submitted to a third-party publisher who will distribute it to their audience. When the article is published, make sure to provide traffic to the publisher's site by using Social Media to advertise its publication to your known audience, as they may have interests in that area as well.

Consequences: Articles will often require some amount of editing and copyediting, which are not skills the typical DevRel team holds; work with an external editing/copyediting service might be required, if the publisher doesn't provide them. Note also that the publisher will often want either exclusive ownership or shared ownership (with an exclusivity clause) that could prevent the use of the article in other scenarios, such as a Blog post or Book. Some publishers will provide a clause that allows the company to re-publish the article on their own web properties after a certain period of time has passed (1-3 months is common), but often will not provide this unless asked. Most publishers will also look for some form of contract to be signed, which may require legal review.

Once written, the article may atrophy over time as the product/service deviates from what was written about it at the time of the article's publication; ideally, the publisher will be willing to allow for edits to the article to bring it up to date, but this will be effort that is entirely up to the company to provide. Because of this atrophy risk, articles should always be prominently dated so readers can get a sense of how "stale" the code or details described in the article are. Blog posts can also often be used to describe the changes between the article's publication and current-state, although finding ways to get the article and the blog post "connected" can be tricky.

The topic, if large enough, can often be the centerpiece of a Conference Session, though typically an article will be too short to fill a 45-50 minute session, and will need expansion.


Tags: devrel   patterns