How Techcomm-Driven Content Improves Customer Experience

Room 42 is where practitioners and academics meet to share knowledge about breaking research. In this episode, Guiseppe Getto explains how technical communicators can create user-focused, context-driven content to improve customer experience at every point along the customer journey.

Airdate: November 25, 2020

Season 1 Episode 11 | 47 min

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Transcript (Expand to View)

[00:00:13.030] – Liz Fraley

Good morning everyone welcome to Room 42. I’m Liz Fraley from Single-Sourcing Solutions, I’m your moderator. This is Janice Summers, our interviewer. And welcome too Guiseppe Getto, today’s guest in Room 42. Guiseppe is an associate professor of technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. He is president and founder of Content Garden, a digital marketing content strategy and UX firm. His research focuses on using user experience, design, content strategy, and other participatory research methods to help people improve communities and organizations.

[00:00:49.540] – Liz Fraley

He’s been published everywhere. We’ve seen him talk as keynote speaker. He was at TC Camp when we did it back East, and he is extremely well known for being in technical communication, IEEE transactions and professional communication, computers and composition and intercom and boxes and arrows. And he’s the co-editor of Content Strategy and Technical Communication, a book you can get on Amazon. Today, he’s here to help us start answering the question; How Technical Communicators can create user focused, content driven content that improves customer experience.

[00:01:24.280] – Liz Fraley

Welcome Guiseppe.

[00:01:26.080] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:01:28.360] – Janice Summers

Hello Giuseppi, it’s so nice to have you here.

[00:01:31.090] – Guiseppe Getto

Yes, great to be here.

[00:01:32.770] – Janice Summers

So something you said, and I’ve been sitting with this for a while, and for me it was quite inspiring. And it was an interesting picture of the customer, the consumer. And what you were saying was I kind of took that, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but if we look at the consumer journey that there’s three roads, right. You’ve got the Seekers’ and those are the people who are looking for information or researching, reading, watching videos, that type of thing.

[00:02:07.120] – Janice Summers

Then you’ve got the people who are kind of on an automatic path. It’s just like they’re following a trend or they’re just–they’re coming to you because they’re just walking down this path. Not really, I don’t want to say not thinking, but it’s they’re just, it’s an automatic response.

[00:02:22.510] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:02:23.740] – Janice Summers

And then you’ve got the loyalists, right? You’ve got that road of the Loyalists who have a strong relationship, who have built a relationship of trust with you.

[00:02:33.670] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:02:34.090] – Janice Summers

So they keep coming back because of that strengthened relationship.

[00:02:38.620] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:02:39.250] – Janice Summers

Now, Techcomm is strategically located at the crossroads of all these three roads that come in. Did I get that right?

[00:02:51.290] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, I mean, and I think that you can think of those as persona’s meaning that we’re all those people for different products and services, right. So I think the given and what drives a lot of us and content strategy right now is that loyalty is not a given right now.

[00:03:11.450] – Janice Summers


[00:03:11.930] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, if you’ve got consumers out there who have access to more products and services than ever before in human history right. Look at the Internet, you can find, I just ordered some interesting image I’m like into the martial arts right. So I was looking for, you know, a particular image of iconic image of Bruce Lee and his instructor, Ip Man. Couldn’t find it anywhere, but in Greece, there was a guy in Greece who had made that picture.

[00:03:41.150] – Guiseppe Getto

And so I was able to through a simple Google search, right. So you’re not beholden to local business, you’re not beholden to people right across the street from you. So that means that your content needs to be smarter because of that, right. And you need to not only court new customers, new consumers, but you need to keep people loyal to you through continued effort.

[00:04:05.480] – Janice Summers


[00:04:06.260] – Guiseppe Getto

And the customer journey is really interesting because all the data, you know, I’m in education. So a lot of people in the business school I teach in here, I teach their students a lot rather, they’re still teaching this marketing funnel where it’s like, oh, you market enough and then you get your word out there and people find out about your product or service and they buy it and they’re instantly loyal.

[00:04:30.160] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s just not the case anymore, and particularly the post-purchase experience is something that in Techcomm is really key because think about the proprietary services we’re using today to, they’re increasingly complex.

[00:04:44.320] – Janice Summers


[00:04:46.990] – Guiseppe Getto

What if you buy something like an API from a vendor, you know, an Application Programming Interface, a piece of software, a piece of code.

[00:04:55.750] – Liz Fraley


[00:04:56.920] – Guiseppe Getto

You need lots of information to make that product run. And so that post-purchase experience is really where technical communicators can shine because we have all that information and we can make it understandable to people too.

[00:05:12.690] – Janice Summers

And that’s what also helps the technical communicator build loyalty, because I’m just thinking about that, as you’re talking about that and a software pact that I had bought to plug into my website and post-purchase, I had problems and their communication was terrible. So, you know, I shredded them.

[00:05:36.750] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. And that’s what happens, I mean, we’ve all had this experience right where, as a consumer, we’re just trying to get something to work. It’s usually a piece of technology. It doesn’t work, and we go to the manufacturer of the technology and they pass this on to the customer service rep, and nobody is paying attention to our customer experience. Nobody’s in charge of all that.

[00:06:02.490] – Janice Summers


[00:06:03.240] – Guiseppe Getto

And that’s an organization that doesn’t have a content strategist because that’s really what I’m channeling Rockley and Cooper and their book, Managing Enterprise Content, where they say who’s looking out for the customer experience? You know, who’s in the organization looking at the marketing content and the technical content and the stuff that’s going to this internal stakeholders, all that. Who’s looking at all of that, and mining it and making sure it’s going to the right people for the right reasons.

[00:06:36.270] – Guiseppe Getto

And often it’s nobody.

[00:06:38.620] – Liz Fraley


[00:06:39.750] – Guiseppe Getto

It’s different people in different departments working across purposes. And we see that as a consumer because, you know, it doesn’t make sense to us.

[00:06:49.370] – Liz Fraley


[00:06:49.760] – Janice Summers

Isn’t that like… Also, because you said something about consumer focus I think,  user focus, creating your content to be user focused rather than… I don’t know, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like a lot of times people get caught in this trap of… Let me tell you a feature, let me tell you a feature, let me tell you this, let me tell you that, rather than taking it from the perspective of who’s using this, what do they need to know? What do they want to know?

[00:07:16.340] – Guiseppe Getto

Right, and marketers, which I work with and myself sometimes get a bad rep for this. Right, because we’re always saying, hey! Look at this cool stuff that this product or service can do. But, you know, really, the whole, the thing that marketers are talking about now, which is really exciting, is personalization. So they get this, they get that content needs to be user-focused like every user of a product or service is a little bit different.

[00:07:46.400] – Guiseppe Getto

So they want to say, here’s how this can work for you. And, oh, if this doesn’t work for you, maybe we can make a version of it that does work. You know, one of my favorite products/services. It’s a perfect example, this is Evernote. OK, so Evernote is something that a lot of academics use. It’s just a simple note-taking app, but they have a great user-focused content strategy.

[00:08:10.280] – Guiseppe Getto

When you first purchase Evernote, the first thing that happens is they send you a series of emails, they warn you, they say we’re going to send you four emails, but these emails are going to help you onboard to the app. And they’re going to start with the basic experiences and then they’re going to go more advanced. You cannot read them, but you might want to save them for later. You know, they’re very.

[00:08:28.610] – Janice Summers

I like that.

[00:08:29.720] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, they’re very hands-on, but also kind of hands-off.

[00:08:33.440] – Janice Summers


[00:08:34.400] – Guiseppe Getto

But if you read those emails and you look at their blog and all their documentation, there’s tons of information of, hey, are you a Baker? Are you trying to keep recipes on Evernote? Are you a research scientist? Like they have all these different ideas and they have a huge community too, of you know, stuff driven by users where people say, hey, I’m trying to build this whole other thing from Evernote, how can I do that? You know, and they have moderators that go in. So they’re really focused on their content strategy. And that’s why they have my loyalty, because their whole business model is every year I have to let them take it’s like sixty bucks a year for Evernote premium. That’s all they have to get from me. You know, they work hard for that.

[00:09:17.870] – Janice Summers

For that. Yeah, they earn it.

[00:09:22.640] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, and they work harder than some of the things I’ve bought stuff way more expensive than that, and no one has ever helped me or even reached out to me about that purchase.

[00:09:34.130] – Janice Summers


[00:09:37.340] – Janice Summers

I like that it’s still, they’re still marketing and marketing is important. We can’t get away from marketing the professional writer. It’s not all just tech writing,  there is professional writing.

[00:09:49.790] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:09:50.480] – Janice Summers

But I like the fact that they’re looking at things a little different from the user perspective because you still need to explain features to people. But if you take into consideration, like you said, personas, then you can make sure you’re explaining the features appropriately to the right audience. Like I could self-select right, like Liz is a computer whiz and she’s trying to develop something, she can go look at a developer version. I would have to look at the end-user version, you know what I mean? Using this application, you only need this much, right?

[00:10:23.900] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah. And I think–

[00:10:25.670] – Liz Fraley

That’s a hard transition to make, though. I want to get back to you, but I wanna–It was hard, Janice and I are partners and she takes, I would be very–you know, I’m very technical, like, why you can’t quite say it that way because that’s not quite perfectly right accurate this way. Right. It has to say this. And she would then rephrase it in a more accessible way.

[00:10:47.450] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:10:48.720] – Liz Fraley

And then it took a while for me to realize that’s OK.

[00:10:51.930] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:10:55.600] – Guiseppe Getto

It makes me think of my favorite dynamic or my favorite developer, I should say, and the dynamic between us, which his name is Thomas. I won’t use his last name because he probably doesn’t want me to broadcast his whole name, but he works with me through content gardening. And we’re actually working on a new venture right now. But we go through this all the time, right, where he’ll say, well, just tell the customer blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I say, Thomas, I did not understand what you just said, but I guarantee the customer is not going to understand. You know, so we have this back and forth because, he’s like a mathematician, that’s what I think of him. He’s at this realm of like theoretical physics, and I’m here on earth plane trying to say, look, this is the actual need that the customer has. So what can I say to them, you know, that is going to make sense and it’s going to connect with what you need to do as a developer. So that’s a perfect, and you get that a lot in UX, right? This is a common user experience problem is why doesn’t the user just realize that if they did these 15 things, they could make–

[00:12:07.930] – Liz Fraley

–they don’t understand the vocabulary we’re using in the way that we use it?

[00:12:12.760] – Guiseppe Getto

Right. You know, and it’s the same with academia. You know, academia is the same way, like, why can’t this person understand my epistemology of my blah blah blah blah blah blah, you know, well, they don’t have a Ph.D. You know, you need to reach out to them and make this make more sense. And that’s why I’m so excited about ventures like Room 42, because we do need to have more of a touchstone between academic eggheads like myself and, you know, other folks that are out there trying to solve problems. We have great ideas that people can use, but we don’t always explain those in plain enough speech that people could actually use them.

[00:13:00.810] – Liz Fraley

Absolutely, I see it occasionally, sometimes in a different way in the techcomm-marketing dynamic as well. Right? This is the way we do it. This is the way that PM told me to say it. This is the way engineering told me to say it. And Marketing is like, what the–what are you saying here? And half the time the user comes to the health topic and it’s like what is this?

[00:13:23.220] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:13:24.030] – Liz Fraley

Right. We all fall into that in our technical way, in our own little technical world. We all fall into that.

[00:13:29.790] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah. And again, there’s different types of user. So I’ve never done a user research study and found only one type of user. It’s never happened.

[00:13:38.430] – Liz Fraley


[00:13:38.730] – Guiseppe Getto

I’ve never done study and come up with one persona.

[00:13:42.300] – Janice Summers

Because we’re all like snowflakes.

[00:13:44.100] – Guiseppe Getto

Right. And it’s always a spectrum, right. There are people who are like, stop talking down to me. I am a developer. I don’t need the basic introduction. Right. I don’t need to start in search. I need the advanced features. Just give me those. So there’s those impatient users and you have to be you know–I mean, I didn’t read the first several emails from Evernote because they were getting started, which I had already done, and basic features.

[00:14:12.300] – Liz Fraley


[00:14:13.130] – Guiseppe Getto

But I read the second two, which were about more advanced features and especially how to annotate a key and basically build a bibliography, which is what, as an academic I use Evernote for, you know, so you have to cater to those and again, somebody has to look at all that. So that tells me somebody they may not call themselves a content strategist, but somebody at Evernote is thinking about that stuff.

[00:14:33.450] – Janice Summers


[00:14:35.350] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, they’re looking at actual data.

[00:14:39.350] – Liz Fraley

What do you look at?

[00:14:41.840] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s a very good question. And it really depends, so some of the different applications. Well, I’ll just talk about like the one I’m working on right now. So I’m helping to develop this mobile boating app with a partner here at East Carolina University. And it’s a safety app, right. So the big problem on the water right now is that recreational boaters, well, not now because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but in a pre-pandemic world when people are out in the sun trying to boat

[00:15:09.330] – Janice Summers

In post pandemic when we’re back out there.

[00:15:10.710] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. Post pandemic, knock on wood, Uhm… You know, there’s a lot of accidents like the waterways I didn’t notice before getting involved with this application are way less regulated than roadways. Right. There’s way less safety measures, so this app basically would be an active way to see basically and integrate with existing technology and basically warn people of, hey, you’ve got a vessel that’s however many feet you know–

[00:15:41.820] – Liz Fraley

How far away it is yeah.

[00:15:44.940] – Guiseppe Getto

It’s heading this way, It’s this type of vessel. Is it a Kayak? Right. And you’re a big vessel or is it a–what is it? And it’s coming your way and you need to be aware of this and also gather data for people that regulate waterways to say what is happening out there, because we don’t have really that data right now.

[00:16:07.800] – Janice Summers


[00:16:09.510] – Guiseppe Getto

And so when I did this study, I basically interviewed recreational boaters. And that’s where you start. You go to find people who somehow connect with the thing you’re trying to create and the content you’re trying to create. And you say, if you don’t ask me about the app, that’s the last thing. The first thing you say is who are you? You know, so you say, tell me about what you do when you go out on a boat. And I got all these different stories from I-Canoe on a lake that is five miles from where I live to, you know, I was a merchant captain for 15 years and now I have a 42 foot whatever, you know, and you take all those stories and then you try to look for patterns and say, OK, what are the connecting points here that we can build this user experience. What do we have in common?

[00:17:09.720] – Guiseppe Getto

And then at the end of the conversation too, you don’t have to do this depends on where you are. But you know, we kind of knew what we wanted to do. So we said, well, what if you had an app that could do these several things? Which of these would be most valuable? And they all said, well, you know, this thing would be really valuable. That’s good, because that’s what we’re trying to get it to do. There’s a way basic to notify people you’re on the water and file this official report so the Coast Guard can find you. It’s called a float plan. Kind of like a flight plan, right. But then from that, you know, what about these other things and. Oh, well, could it do this and could it do that? You get ideas based on their actual experiences. And, you know, sometimes when I talk to people, I’m like. Don’t forget the experience word of user experience like this is about what people are already doing and it’s supposed to help them.

[00:18:04.120] – Janice Summers


[00:18:04.780] – Liz Fraley

Right, right.

[00:18:05.820] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, it’s not just supposed to suck them into the world of the app. It’s actually supposed to be part of their world and what they’re already doing.

[00:18:12.220] – Janice Summers

Right. You want the app to integrate into their life, not them integrate their life to your app?

[00:18:17.710] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:18:19.360] – Janice Summers

Well, that’s the difference between being user-focused versus product-focused.

[00:18:23.440] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:18:24.620] – Janice Summers


[00:18:25.180] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:18:25.930] – Janice Summers

Yeah, that’s pretty much it in a small story. Yeah. That too often we feel it’s the other way as users.

[00:18:35.790] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:18:36.330] – Liz Fraley

I’ve got a cut my way into like the way you view the world. Fascinating!

[00:18:44.430] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah. And to borrow a term from academia, you know, it’s really about rhetoric at the end of the day, it’s about persuasion because you’re trying to persuade consumers that, hey! This product or service is useful to you. The best way to do that, of course, is to actually make it useful.

[00:19:04.050] – Janice Summers

Kind of sells itself that way.

[00:19:06.120] – Guiseppe Getto

People forget that sometimes, though, right? They try to trick people. They try to say, well, this is really useful to you, hahaha, but then you get it and you start using it and you’re like eh I shouldn’t have bought this, this is actually isn’t useful to me. So that’s why I got so excited about UX when I started to really get into it, you know about 5 or 6 years ago, whenever I started getting really into it because it’s so authentic, right. It’s about actually taking what people need and putting that into the center of the process as opposed to just sort of, you know, what we think of, again, as bad marketing, where you’re just trying to trick people into thinking, no, this is something you really need right now.

[00:19:47.070] – Liz Fraley

Is it hard to get people to participate and do interviews and give you feedback and give you that user experience research?

[00:19:57.440] – Guiseppe Getto

So it tends not to, but to be fair. I have you know, I think it’s harder on the more like broad-based consumer apps, which I don’t intend to work on personally. Like, I tend to work on far more technical apps where you have a lot more excited users, obviously. You know, like recreational boaters are small community, but they love recreational boating and they will talk to anybody about recreational boating. And they all have pain points it turns out about… There are technologies to help them, but they are all not so great. You know, so they all have pain points. So when you’re dealing with a user group like that, that’s really committed to the experience. I think it’s a lot easier from I mean, I’ve talked to people in the more like consumer electronics and broad-based technology world, and it’s a lot harder. It’s harder to get folks because those folks are way less loyal to like a mobile app or something like that but they don’t–just randomly, right? So it’s a lot harder to get feedback. And then I think you need to use incentives. That’s a lot of them do. They’ll actually pay people for participation or say, you know, here’s an Amazon gift card or sometimes to know that their time is respected because this is one small part of all the stuff they’re into.

[00:21:17.760] – Janice Summers

Well, I imagine when you have a broad-based application, broad-based product, your sample of the population has to be significantly higher as well.

[00:21:28.010] – Janice Summers

Yeah. So that adds even more challenge.

[00:21:31.400] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. You will have to somehow control for OK, am I getting like this little sliver of people who are the ones that really want the gift card, you know.

[00:21:41.320] – Liz Fraley

Right, right.

[00:21:42.160] – Janice Summers


[00:21:45.800] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. The smart folks will look at other data. You know, I mean, this is what I encourage. And it’s from talking to other folks as many of my ideas come from. But, you know, they’ll say, OK, what’s our total demographic data look like, you know, and who do we need to talk to within that pie chart? I mean, that’s what a persona is. I always tell my students I’m like a persona is just slice of the pie chart with a face, you know, for you to make sure that you’re actually dealing with a slice of the pie chart that is significant and you’re not dealing with, you know, a tiny little, you know, slice of the pie chart, that is not at all–

[00:22:27.390] – Janice Summers

A selected nibble that you like.

[00:22:30.240] – Liz Fraley

Overly represented.

[00:22:33.240] – Guiseppe Getto

Now, I will say these are the people. These are like high-level folks. Like, you know, Jim Kalbach is somebody I really respect in the UX world. And he’s a rock star and he’s written several books now, and I was fortunate enough to do a workshop with him once. When I talk in sort of the rank & file content strategy folks, some of whom I’ve trained, you know, and the rank & file UX folks. This is a struggle. This is not easy, you know, so I hear stories of like, well, how do you do user testing? I always ask whenever I encounter a content Strategist or UX designer or a technical communicator in the wild, I always ask them all this questions about what they do. It always comes down to, well, we didn’t really have time to talk to any users or I went to the neighborhood Starbucks and I sat my laptop down in front of some people and got and I’m like, wow. And you work at blah blah blah company?

[00:23:26.700] – Guiseppe Getto

So they struggle with this. They struggle to find the time, first of all, that’s the big thing they report to me. In academia, I have a lot of flexibility.

[00:23:41.860] – Janice Summers

Yeah, yeah. You don’t have and that’s true in the commercial world, there’s not a lot of flexibility. And, you know, I mean, when you talk about user experience, you want to pull people, you have to bribe them, that takes budget. So now you’ve got time and budget that you don’t have.

[00:24:00.490] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:24:01.300] – Janice Summers

So what do you do?

[00:24:02.860] – Guiseppe Getto

Well, I actually wrote an article about this very topic, yeah. A big struggle is, you know, this is the struggle of time. And also I have people talking to me like, well, there’s like fifty UX methods out there. There’s like fifty ways to, you know, talk to users. What do I do? You know. So I tried to come up with I mean, the two classic methods are Contextual Inquiry and Usability Testing right. So you interview users about their experiences and then you do usability testing with the prototype, right.

[00:24:43.950] – Guiseppe Getto

So and I’m not the first one to talk about this, but I think in academia I am at least I didn’t find anybody else that was saying the same thing, but I thought, what if we could combine those? And and I also deal with time crunches in academia. Not all the time right, but there’s sometimes where it’s like, hey, we’re submitting for this grant, right, we all have teaching duties like, you know, I don’t have infinite time either. So I thought, wouldn’t it be more efficient to sit down and do as many things as I could when I have a user really pick their brain? So I came up with this thing I called the Story Test Story method.

[00:25:18.810] – Janice Summers

The Story Test Story?

[00:25:20.760] – Guiseppe Getto

Story Test Story. Yeah.

[00:25:22.010] – Janice Summers


[00:25:23.010] – Guiseppe Getto

And it’s I mean, if you go to my website, it’s like a couple of blog posts ago maybe I think it’s the second blog post from the home page that you go to when you click back at the bottom of the page. You’ll find it reference  the article but basically–

[00:25:36.900] – Janice Summers

Well you have a search query on there too that they can just type in

[00:25:41.950] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, use story test story on the search. But the idea is it’s basically what I talked about. You go to a user and you start with a story. So you start by asking them who they are. And then some of the strict usability testing folks will be like no, that will bias them some blah blah. But you’re not talking about the application, so I don’t see how it’s going to bias them. You’re talking about you, about them rather.

[00:26:03.180] – Janice Summers

About them, right.

[00:26:04.330] – Liz Fraley


[00:26:05.080] – Guiseppe Getto

So you get this story about really how they get to the app, like what makes you recreational boater? What makes you whatever you are, right. Then you say, OK, now we’re going to do a usability test. And it’s a little like, oh, OK, you know, and obviously, I mean, I’ve talked to people that are like they’ll do like a 90-minute interview with the user and then their usability test taking hours. So you’re not talking about, this is not that this is a lot leaner than that, you’re like 15-20 minutes interviewing them and then you’re doing like maybe a 25- 30 minutes usability test. Then though, once they have the application in their head and this is very common, you know, they often want to talk about it. This is a very common thing, right. So you let them talk, you say, well, you know, what are your thoughts on this and where do you think, and they always have ideas, some of them are not great. But you’re again, you’re learning more about them. You’re learning about what their preferences are.

[00:27:03.900] – Janice Summers

Well, and you never know. OK, so you never know where an idea is going to come from either, this is the room 42 thing too. It’s like we’re going to have a conversation because you never know what’s going to happen.

[00:27:14.450] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. That’s right.

[00:27:15.330] – Janice Summers

But one of the things you talk about is you talk about the fact that you’re getting to know them as a person.

[00:27:21.210] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:27:22.170] – Guiseppe Getto

Right. Before they ever even, ok now we’re going to go test this app, I don’t know but to me personally, I think that’s a very important step.

[00:27:31.260] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:27:31.830] – Janice Summers

And you’re talking to them about their life and their experience because anyone–so look at anyone who’s going to come to a product or service is a person.

[00:27:41.120] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:27:41.880] – Janice Summers

And they’ve got this whole back story.

[00:27:44.280] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:27:44.970] – Janice Summers

That Influences how they’re going to respond no matter what. And if you’re taking the time to get to know them, they feel heard.

[00:27:52.890] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:27:53.550] – Janice Summers

They feel appreciated.

[00:27:55.380] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:27:56.100] – Janice Summers

So they’ll actually, if they’re testing it, they’re going to spend–I know I would Guiseppe if you were getting to know me, I would spend more time in your app and I would give you more candid feedback.

[00:28:06.330] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah. And that’s what tends to happen in my experience. You know, I’ve used books, I’ve used, tried usability testing with no context. I introduce what we’re going to do, you know, take you through some features while we’re testing the app, not you, but blah, blah, blah.

[00:28:21.210] – Janice Summers


[00:28:21.480] – Guiseppe Getto

You’re getting better responses. You get more thinking you know, because usually you’re doing some sort of talk a lot protocol. Why did you do this, they are way more engaged.

[00:28:30.150] – Janice Summers


[00:28:31.110] – Guiseppe Getto

When you ask them, I mean,  it’s flattering to have someone ask about yourself.

[00:28:36.720] – Janice Summers

Well, yeah, it’s just, it’s you’re acknowledging that I’m a human being because, you know, people do think. Yeah.

[00:28:44.590] – Liz Fraley

When your guard comes down and you’re not so protective when you can be open and somebody recognizes you.

[00:28:53.320] – Janice Summers


[00:28:53.680] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah. And a great book about this, by the way, is Jim Portigal’s interviewing users. That’s where I got a lot of my ideas about how to interview a user correctly. He’s really got a great kind of Zen mojo when it comes to interviewing people that I really love. But it’s everything we’re talking about. It’s validating them. It’s, you know, hearing their stories, being a good listener, not interrupting them, you know, letting them go down this kind of alleyways with their story.

[00:29:23.430] – Janice Summers

Right. And their story, that back story like it doesn’t have to be directly about that app. It’s about them, because then you’ve warmed me up, you’ve established that little thing, that little important thing that every company goes for. And it’s called Relationship.

[00:29:40.110] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. That’s right.

[00:29:41.520] – Janice Summers

And that’s, that’s important.

[00:29:43.770] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, and that’s the way to build a relationship, right, is starting a conversation, like if you’re not willing to converse with somebody, you’re not going to have much of a relationship with them. If your conversation is hi, would you like to buy this? That’s the first thing–

[00:29:59.190] – Janice Summers

Wanna buy a watch?

[00:29:59.340] – Guiseppe Getto

I get these emails all the time and it’s like that guy on the street corner, and he’s you wanna buy a watch, you know, wanna buy this cool app that I just emailed you about. You’ve never heard of? Like no, I don’t. 

[00:30:11.370] – Janice Summers


[00:30:12.630] – Guiseppe Getto

I don’t know who you are. How’d you get my e-mail?

[00:30:15.840] – Liz Fraley

So and this applies because so this is top of mind. I’m working on the STC’s website task force and this is one of the discussions like how do you redesign the website? What goes on the front page? That’s the hi, do you want to talk to me more? Like don’t fill it with everything on the face of the planet because you’re not you don’t have a baby on the first date.

[00:30:36.780] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right, that’s right. And a lot of people this is a great topic for content strategy because a lot of people make that mistake right. I tell people, you know, I love the metaphor of the website is a negative metaphor, it is the website’s brochure, because that’s what most people think of it as.

[00:30:54.600] – Liz Fraley


[00:30:55.050] – Guiseppe Getto

Everything in there. Here’s all the stuff we do. Here’s some photos of us. Here’s us, us, us, everything. I’m like, no, you want to think of it as like a social media post. OK, every page of your website should do one thing. And that’s exactly the home page is an introduction, that’s all it should do. Here’s so your look and it starts with them. So you’re looking for blah, blah, blah. Here’s what you’ve been looking for.

[00:31:25.960] – Janice Summers


[00:31:26.950] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, it’s an introduction to a conversation, and most people miss that they jam so much information onto that home page and every page of their site that, you know, no one’s going to read all that. And they get there and they’re like, oh, this isn’t what I was looking for, and then just abandon it.

[00:31:42.580] – Janice Summers


[00:31:43.900] – Guiseppe Getto

When, it may have been what they’re looking for, but it’s just not organized in a way that makes sense to them at that moment, and that’s, I don’t know, I’ve actually tried to trace this phrase and I can’t find who actually said this first. But somebody said content strategy is about delivering the right content to the right people at the right time for the right reasons.

[00:32:05.920] – Liz Fraley

I’ve heard it said, but not with the content strategy as the beginning part

[00:32:10.230] – Janice Summers

Author Unknown

[00:32:12.940] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, I’ve heard a ton people say that, but they have no trace of who said that exactly as a contest strategist first, but yeah, but it’s a great it’s a great mantra because that’s the whole thing right here. It’s about this timeliness which in again the theoretical academic jargon we call Kairos the opportune moment, like you’ve got to catch people at that opportune moment, and there’s lots of data out there. There’s search engine data. You can see what people are searching for when they find your website. So look at that and say, oh, they were looking for this over here when they found this. What if we, you know, reshaped our content to match more of what they were actually looking for.

[00:32:55.420] – Janice Summers

You know–

[00:32:56.230] – Liz Fraley

 Or not match as it were.

[00:32:58.270] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:32:58.780] – Janice Summers

Interesting point, because there’s also seasonal things. People respond differently in different seasons.

[00:33:04.060] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:33:04.660] – Janice Summers

And in different conditions, like right now we’re in a particular global conditions that won’t be forever right, and there will be a post, but right now I could see where you would want to change your content to help address the here and now and then again, change it again, because websites are never dead. They’re never finished. Anyone who thinks the website’s done is crazy because they’re never done.

[00:33:32.740] – Guiseppe Getto

And people talk about evergreen content, which I talk about, and it’s great. They’re truly evergreen content because what you want is long-lasting content right, you don’t want something that’s going to be out of date tomorrow if you avoid it. But it’s all eventually going to go out of date. I mean, go back to your content you wrote 5 years ago. Is it still relevant?

[00:33:56.020] – Janice Summers

Right. And think about too, the content consumer has evolved and changed. They’ve grown up. There’s new generations coming. So there you can make assumptions now. That you couldn’t have made five to ten years ago. So when you create your content for the user, you create it different.

[00:34:17.820] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:34:18.400] – Janice Summers

You know what I mean? If you’re speaking to a group that is more computer savvy, like the Internet is not brand new.

[00:34:27.170] – Guiseppe Getto

And you look at all the industries that are supposedly being laid waste by the millennials and what are we on generation–

[00:34:40.690] – Liz Fraley

The Zoomers.

[00:34:40.690] – Janice Summers


[00:34:41.530] – Guiseppe Getto

And it’s funny because there’s always articles about the millennials, which is just a group for anybody under 40 now. 12 year olds you know, like someone goes like, hey, I have a mortgage dude, I’m not 12 year old like but you know, it’s like, oh, these people are killing off–what I hear is we didn’t know how to adapt to these folks.

[00:35:09.160] – Liz Fraley


[00:35:09.730] – Guiseppe Getto

We didn’t know how to change and now we’re mad because they don’t want what we’re selling. Well, of course not. They’re coming up in a different world. Like you need to adapt to what they want, you know?

[00:35:22.750] – Janice Summers

Well, and sometimes, too, I think it’s hard when we’ve been doing something for so many years and so long that, you know, and this is true in corporate and technical writing. It’s like, well, we’ve always done it that way.

[00:35:35.830] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:35:36.400] – Janice Summers

And it’s not that we’re intentionally trying to block change or progress, but it’s just one of those human natures that we get caught in that we’ve always done it that way. And we have to catch ourselves and say, OK, that means I should probably reevaluate this if I’m saying we’ve always done it that way.

[00:35:54.080] – Liz Fraley


[00:35:54.310] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:35:55.120] – Janice Summers

Good time to re-evaluate and look at, am I being user-focused? And am I being user-focused to the users of the here and now?

[00:36:04.890] – Guiseppe Getto

Right, when was last time I checked that? When was the last time I talked to an actual user?

[00:36:11.980] – Liz Fraley

Right, right.

[00:36:13.960] – Janice Summers

And even if you’re not, so what do you do if you’re in a situation where you can’t really have contact with your user? I mean, there’s got to be people out there who don’t have contact.

[00:36:24.340] – Guiseppe Getto

Yeah, well, I like to say we make lots of decisions even if we’re working on a project and it’s only taking 3 weeks to develop something. You know, we’re doing these really intense sprints. You can’t–you’re not going to have a user sitting beside you the whole time saying, no, no, no, don’t do that. Put that over there, right?

[00:36:49.810] – Guiseppe Getto

So what you need to do is that’s where I think personas come in you know, you gather as much user information as you can and you use that to craft a persona. So a persona, and here I’m citing Shlomo Goltz article from Smashing magazine and persona’s, which is great just Google Smashing magazine personas and you’ll find it. I think it’s called Persona Non Grata is the name of the title. But he says, you know, this is the cast of characters the designers can use when they’re designing. So then once you’ve got these personas again, it’s like that pie chart, what you have to do is keep in touch with those users, so make sure that you’re still gathering information, refreshing your personas but your personas–and that’s one thing I will say, like I don’t remember the last time I talked to anybody in the corporate world that doesn’t have personas. They all have personas now, which is great. My only question is, when was the last time they refreshed them?

[00:37:51.050] – Janice Summers


[00:37:52.220] – Guiseppe Getto

Because every, I deal with tech writers, of course, through the STC, when I’m teaching there or talking there and I always ask, you know, how long have you been there? Oh, 5 years, and were these the personas when you started out– And of course, they were. So who knows how long those personas have been around those personas are old, they may not represent real people anymore. So that’s the only problem. But you just got to refresh them.

[00:38:14.550] – Janice Summers


[00:38:15.920] – Guiseppe Getto

But unless you’re going to do participatory design, which is the other end of the spectrum, where you really do sit down and design with users, and that’s very hard to do in a lot of cultural contexts. You’ve got to have some stopgap. And that’s something like persona’s or other forms of data that you can get in real time because yeah users are busy and they can’t be bothered to design the thing with you.

[00:38:38.750] – Liz Fraley


[00:38:39.860] – Janice Summers

I’m pretty pro persona. Are there people who are anti persona?

[00:38:44.990] – Guiseppe Getto

There are and it’s interesting. I see, I review this as a common thing in academia, right. You live long enough to see your own ideas critiqued right, so I’m a big fan personas and people know that about me. You know, I wrote an article several years back about persona’s with Kirk St. Amant and we get cited a lot. But there was another article that was written around the same time, I think maybe before that, where somebody did a study of personas and they found, their findings basically were that in this one, and they were very–they were good researchers. They said in this situation, personas were not cited very often. They studied a developer team and they found that personas were not really used much and that wasn’t surprising to me, because you look at the context of it, that it didn’t sound like there was a strong UX team that’s working in this group. That’s what I learnt.

[00:39:36.680] – Liz Fraley


[00:39:36.680] – Guiseppe Getto

But this has turned into in the field. I hear a lot of people say, oh, persona’s, don’t work. There was that one article that sort of showed. And I’m like, you know, we need to replicate that study, first of all, a bunch of times. That was–I mean, the researcher said this is a limited study. This was a case study basically of this one group. You know, I mean, I find it just ridiculous to think that every Fortune 500 company, all of these companies have personas and they do nothing like it would have gone away. People don’t like to waste time and money in the corporate world, like they’ve got to be doing something.

[00:40:13.130] – Janice Summers

Well, and I think yeah, I think this is that key thing when you’re citing articles that you need to use it in the proper context. It’s a case study.

[00:40:23.900] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:40:24.200] – Janice Summers

Then the results of the case study are just a cautionary heads up it might not work all the time and it could be that you have the situation and it does call for maybe more extensive research that should be done, aren’t there, like, varying things? Like when talk about sample size of a population right?

[00:40:45.320] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:40:46.040] – Janice Summers

You have to have an appropriate size to say to blanket apply something I am a firm believer in persona’s. You’re writing for people, people are people, and you, even as a writer, need to have an idea who you’re writing for, because each time you’re starting a new topic and you want to answer one thing and answer it well. Who are you speaking to?

[00:41:10.200] – Guiseppe Getto

Who’s your audience?

[00:41:11.160] – Janice Summers

Who is your audience? And that again comes back to user-focused, right?

[00:41:16.530] – Guiseppe Getto

And it’s so hard to write to a pie chart. That’s what I tell people.

[00:41:20.370] – Janice Summers


[00:41:21.270] – Guiseppe Getto

What’s the alternative to persona’s?

[00:41:23.790] – Janice Summers


[00:41:24.690] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, are you running into like, search algorithms, like what do you fit in, and I don’t mean–I mean, if you can do that, that’s great. If you can look at a bunch of search data and say this is the blog post that is going to match this, I can’t do that. I need a face, I need a living, breathing person that I can envision, that has needs and challenges and goals that I can say here’s what my content is supposed to do.

[00:41:47.880] – Janice Summers

Yes, yeah, I like the whole, I actually will build personas with a whole back story for like when you were interviewing the people for the application that you’re working on, you got to know them as people before they ever got to a boat.

[00:42:03.270] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:42:03.930] – Janice Summers

Right, their whole you know, their life. What do they do? What’s their family life? What’s their social life like? What are their hobbies? You know, they’re into boating, but what are their other hobbies like you’re getting to know them.

[00:42:15.350] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:42:15.650] – Janice Summers

I think it adds a richness for you. And I think people are pretty smart, and they know if they’ve a built a persona that they know that that’s not like a real person that’s like an average.

[00:42:26.400] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:42:27.240] – Janice Summers

Right, which is, again, the reason why you need to update them.

[00:42:30.690] – Guiseppe Getto

Right, the other criticism that comes up, I’ve literally seen this at design conferences where people say, oh, personas to customers are just made up. That was like an actual tweet from the IA summit one year, you know, and what I hear there is, I’m like, well, that means you didn’t talk to actual people.

[00:42:47.990] – Janice Summers


[00:42:48.650] – Guiseppe Getto

You know, if your personas are made up, well, those are called assumption personas and here I’m citing Whitney Quesenbery. She’s like, you can do that, you can come up with some personas when you started, but you eventually have to turn those into real personas by going and talking to real people. And if you don’t, there are always assumptions they’re fictional.

[00:43:09.200] – Janice Summers

So. Yeah, but, you know, I mean, the pushback is yes, so what’s your point? You got assumption ones and you have one based on real interviews there so, so?

[00:43:20.480] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right. I think, you know, I think when I hear that, I just think it’s ignorance. I think there’s a perception out there that no one is ever talking to users like these personas are coming from nothing.

[00:43:28.760] – Janice Summers


[00:43:29.450] – Guiseppe Getto

And again, that’s why I compare them to a pie chart, because no one’s going to argue with a pie chart. No one’s going to say, oh, a pie chart, that’s made up, that’s fictional, you know. Why? Because it’s been around for forever, right. We accept pie charts. I mean, personas are just a form of data visualization.

[00:43:45.560] – Janice Summers


[00:43:47.010] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s really all they are, you know, people forget that.

[00:43:50.460] – Janice Summers


[00:43:52.690] – Liz Fraley

Right. So we had a good question in the chat, but I didn’t want to interrupt because we were going on a good clip, so and we’re right on time. So I will actually offer you the option to also take this and write up a blog post and I’ll send it to people afterwards, because it’s actually a really good question. It’s sort of a you know, do we instead of know your audience, we should list what we assume about the audience, who they are and what they know, and does that get you off the hook from context and use cases? And I think that it contributes to them in a way. So the big question, though, right. So and we could go another half hour.

[00:44:32.670] – Guiseppe Getto

That’s right.

[00:44:33.550] – Janice Summers


[00:44:34.960] – Guiseppe Getto

And I would say really quickly that it does not take you off the hook, but it is very helpful and that’s where I really talk about assumption personas. I always start that way with students and even first time developers like we’re starting about now because they often have knowledge.

[00:44:54.410] – Liz Fraley


[00:44:55.090] – Guiseppe Getto

They say, oh, I talked to so-and-so about this the other day. You know, there’s always anecdotal knowledge. So before you do the user study and it’s good also to see what your biases are.

[00:45:05.950] – Liz Fraley


[00:45:07.060] – Guiseppe Getto

It’s good to see what you think the personas are and then go build some actual personas and then compare the two.

[00:45:13.840] – Liz Fraley

That’s a great idea.

[00:45:15.010] – Janice Summers

Yeah that is a good idea.

[00:45:17.050] – Guiseppe Getto

Well, what I often find when I do that is that one of your personas was pretty close, like you had a user group in mind, but there were these three other user groups that you didn’t even think about.

[00:45:27.520] – Janice Summers


[00:45:28.260] – Liz Fraley


[00:45:28.960] – Guiseppe Getto

And you wouldn’t have discovered them had you not talked to actual people in a systematic way.

[00:45:35.230] – Janice Summers


[00:45:36.400] – Liz Fraley

Yeah, that’s great, and that exposes bias and other things that we are not aware of, yeah that’s huge

[00:45:41.660] – Guiseppe Getto

This is a great topic for a blog post. I will write that blog

[00:45:44.080] – Liz Fraley

It is.

[00:45:45.670] – Janice Summers

And then we’ll have you back at room 42.

[00:45:48.040] – Liz Fraley

Write it up, send it back it will be on the event page.

[00:45:50.440] – Guiseppe Getto

Keep the conversation going.

[00:45:52.540] – Liz Fraley

Guiseppe Getto is an Associate Professor of Technical and Professional Communication at East Carolina University and is President and Founder of Content Garden, Inc., a digital marketing, content strategy, and UX firm: His research focuses on utilizing user experience (UX) design, content strategy, and other participatory research methods to help people improve their communities and organizations. He has published a co-edited collection, Content Strategy in Technical Communication, with Routledge. The findings of his research have been published in many peer-reviewed journals such as IEEE Transactions on Professional CommunicationTechnical Communication; and Computers and Composition. His work has also appeared in industry-based publications such as Intercom and Boxes and Arrows.

Technical content is increasingly valuable to organizations as savvy consumers search for reviews, tutorials, and technical specifications for their favorite products and services. Technical communicators exist at the crossroads of the customer journey, where information gathering, buying habits, and loyalty coalesce. But in many organizations, no one is truly in charge of improving the customer experience across all content channels. Someone needs to be. 

In this Room 42, join Guiseppe Getto to discuss how technical communicators can create user-focused, context-driven content to improve the customer experience. So that maybe that someone to take charge can be you!

I’ve got several things I’ve got to follow up with you on, so there we go.

[00:45:56.990] – Guiseppe Getto


[00:45:57.310] – Liz Fraley

You never know what’ll come out in conversation or what will happen or what idea will spark, and we really appreciate you being here and giving us so many great ideas to build from.

[00:46:07.410] – Janice Summers

It has been an absolute pleasure it always is delightful to talk to you though.

[00:46:11.080] – Guiseppe Getto

Well, thanks for inviting me, it has been a lot of fun and I hope everyone a safe and happy holiday.

[00:46:16.810] – Liz Fraley

Awesome. All right. Thanks everybody and we see a great topic, everybody loves it. Good job!

[00:46:25.030] – Janice Summers

Awesome, Thanks, let’s keep the conversations going.

[00:46:27.410] – Janice Summers


[00:46:27.820] – Liz Fraley

We’ll see you next time. We’ll have you back. Thanks, everyone.

[00:46:30.520] – Guiseppe Getto

All right. Thanks.

In this episode

Guiseppe Getto is an Associate Professor of Technical and Professional Communication at East Carolina University and is President and Founder of Content Garden, Inc., a digital marketing, content strategy, and UX firm: His research focuses on utilizing user experience (UX) design, content strategy, and other participatory research methods to help people improve their communities and organizations. He has published a co-edited collection, Content Strategy in Technical Communication, with Routledge. The findings of his research have been published in many peer-reviewed journals such as IEEE Transactions on Professional CommunicationTechnical Communication; and Computers and Composition. His work has also appeared in industry-based publications such as Intercom and Boxes and Arrows.

Technical content is increasingly valuable to organizations as savvy consumers search for reviews, tutorials, and technical specifications for their favorite products and services. Technical communicators exist at the crossroads of the customer journey, where information gathering, buying habits, and loyalty coalesce. But in many organizations, no one is truly in charge of improving the customer experience across all content channels. Someone needs to be.

In this Room 42, join Guiseppe Getto to discuss how technical communicators can create user-focused, context-driven content to improve the customer experience. So that maybe that someone to take charge can be you!


His website:

Faculty Page:


Twitter: @guiseppegetto

His book: Content Strategy in Technical Communication

His article on the Story/Test/Story Method

James Kalbach’s Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams

Steve Portigal’s Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights

The article about A Closer Look at Personas

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