By Trish Holder
“Trish, what is your process?”
That was the question posed to me recently by a potential client.
I was kind of delighted to receive it. After all, I don’t get to talk about it that much. When people ask me what I do, I typically say, “I’m a writer for the commercial HVAC industry.” I have them at “I’m a writer,” but then I lose them right after the “for” part. I usually change the subject just to spare them the agony of how to respond.
I’m not sure anyone (even longtime clients) has ever actually asked me what my process was, at least not in this straightforward manner. I kind of wished I’d been more practiced at answering the question because it’s such a valid one -- and a bit more complex than the four simple words might convey.
Here's what I suspect this gentleman was really asking:
“How do you propose to absorb what I know about this highly technical product and application, when I don’t have the time or resources to explain it to you, and THEN take what you’ve learned and fashion it into a message that not only does justice to the product itself, but intrigues an audience of highly critical mechanical engineers, facility professionals, and contractors?”
Like I said, it’s a valid question.
I think many marketing directors for HVAC companies get overwhelmed by the prospect of getting a new writer or PR firm up-to-speed on a product. And understandably so! After all, we’re not talking about shampoo or condiments here. Developing marketing content about even the most basic HVAC equipment requires a certain knowledge about heating and cooling systems as a whole. How can one discuss say, flow balancing, if they don’t have a basic understanding of how a chilled or hot water pumping system works?
As far as all that is concerned, it helps that I’ve been writing about these systems for over 20 years. I’ve picked up a thing or two. But every product is different, and every project involves some degree of learning – sometimes a lot.
It’s the HARD that Makes It Great
My own process is to simply dig in. I like to learn more than I need to know so I know what I can afford to disregard for a given project. I start with what I do know and build a path from there, adding little stepping stones of new information that eventually get me to the banks of a whole new technology. I go over documentation that the manufacture provides or already has online. I supplement with extra online research to get a feel for how a specific product fits into the current landscape of problems and solutions. Along the way, I form a lot of questions, most of which I discover the answers to on my own without burdening the manufacturer.
Basically I immerse myself in the topic and stay under until the water starts to clear. It ain’t easy, but to quote Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own (because I like to quote Tom as often as I possibly can) “If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
If anyone tells you differently, prepare yourself for a boatload of revisions.
So that’s it. That’s my process.
Glad someone finally asked.