After eight years working in journalism, I pivoted to a career in communications in 2016, joining Rowan University as the Assistant Director of Communications for Information Resources & Technology. I’ve learned a lot about how to effectively communicate technical concepts to a general audience since I started in my current role, but there are several journalistic approaches to writing and communicating I still rely on in my day-to-day work.
Here are the top three journalistic tools I use as a technical communicator.
There’s a saying in journalism that you are only as good as your sources. If you don’t have access to people with information, you can’t report that information. The same is true in communications. You need to build relationships with the people who know what’s going on, so you can quickly get the information you need when you need it.
Fight the Jargon
Information technology is full of industry-specific terms that are critical when talking about how systems and services operate. Like a reporter, it’s important for me to gain an understanding of these terms, so I can participate in conversations with my sources, but not reuse them when communicating to a general audience.
List Key Points First
Whether you are writing a story on deadline or sending an email to an internal audience, you want to get the most important information across first. This is where the inverted pyramid style of writing — a common method used in journalism — serves me well. The inverted pyramid style ensures the most salient points are at the top of your article (or your email), and you can include information that’s nice to know, but not critical, toward the bottom.
That way, if your article gets cut for space or if someone stops reading your email after the first paragraph, they still had the chance to read your key points.