How to Get Your Developer (Even Your CTO) To Start Blogging

With no events in sight due to COVID-19, we need our fellow techies to start creating digital content – blog posts in particular – for employer branding or thought leadership. Time for your developers to start blogging.

You’ve talked about it many times. It might have started out as one of the ideas of how to attract new seniors to your team, or maybe how to pitch your technology to another company. 

Developers trust developers, after all. Developer relations isn’t a buzzword for no reason.

While you both agree that they should write, it’s not happening. 

And it has to happen. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and the lack of conferences, job fairs and other events, going to events to pitch a B2B technology platform or talk in front of potential hires isn’t really an option.

Events will be coming back bit by bit, which does ease my worries as someone who has organizes dozens of ecommerce, technology and startup events in Europe. But they’re not coming back soon.

We need an alternative.

Fewer Events? More Consumption of Digital Content!

On the bright side, we’re are consuming more content. Not just Netflix that grew by 16 million subscribers during the first weeks of lockdown, but also books – with sales of fiction rising by a third just in the UK.

Podcast listening is up 42% globally!*

Saying that it’s the right time to create content is nothing new.

Los Angeles musician and actor Finneas O’Connell told the LA Times that he and his  his girlfriend talked about making a podcast about their lives but could never find the time. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic: 

As soon as we realized that most of the rest of our lives was going to be put on hold, we were like, ‘You know what? It would be great to have a podcast right now,’” said 22-year-old O’Connell, who created the “We Bought A House” podcast with his 24-year-old girlfriend, YouTube vlogger Claudia Sulewski.

Great for Finneas and Claudia. Just great.

I’m guessing that the developer, or your CTO, who you’d like to create content – hasn’t been waiting for months to start blogging.

In fact, you know that they have been dreading the moment to start writing and asking themselves: Does it really have to be them?

The Best Copywriter Won’t Beat a Really Good Developer-Writer

If you’re doing any of the following:

  • Trying to hire really good developers;
  • Promoting your technology to other developers;
  • Selling technology products or services to C-level executives. 

…your developers, team leaders, maybe even your CTO – need to start creating content to both grab the prospects attention as well as create trust. 

“But can’t we hire a content marketing agency? Maybe a copywriter?” – you ask.

Sure you can. There are great content marketing agencies out there specialized for tech that can help you create world-class inbound content. Case studies, guides, lead magnets. You name it – they can sell it to you!

For some companies that might be good enough.

Unfortunately, for a lot of them – I’m guessing even you – it doesn’t fix the problem.

No agency or copywriter can create really authentic content aimed at developers without the participation of your own technical team. 

Believe me, I’ve tried. For 11 (eleven!) years my team at Netokracija and I have been helping technology-first companies present themselves through content; articles, guides, interviews, podcasts. You name it – we’ve created it. 

For example, I wrote this interview with the CTO of Sofa Score, the sport results platform with over 20 million users:

Screenshot Sofa Score

My experience mirrors that of my mom, who in the 90s was a full time editor in one of Croatia’s largest daily newspapers. One key insight I learnt from her is that even the best journalist can’t create better specialized, technical content than an engineer who is a solid writer.

That’s the philosophy I’ve been working with on Netokracija and other projects ever since. Help technical people express themselves through content and you’ll attract technical people.

In a blog post, Google’s own developer advocate Reto Meyer, might have put it best:

Developer Relations are the canonical source of truth…

No, seriously. That’s how serious developers are about authenticity.

And no one can communicate more truthfully than a developer can to another developer.

Engineers trust engineers. Developers trust developers.

It’s my job as an editor, and yours as an HR, PR or marketing professional, founder or CEO, to help facilitate them to create that trusted tech content.

Why Bonuses for Writing Blog Posts (And Most Other Incentives) Don’t Really Work

While everyone has their reason for writing, a bonus – a day off or even a financial one – is not at the top of most developer’s radars.

Let’s be honest: Most developers make a good enough living. The average salary of a developer in the US is $106,000.

Compare that to a journalist: $49,987.

A small financial incentive isn’t a good enough reason to go through the discomfort of writing a blog post and putting themselves out there for people to comment or judge.

Making them create content as a KPI might work for a little while, but it’s counterproductive in the long run. Developers have enough choices than to work in a company that makes them write blog posts or records podcasts that they don’t want to do. Would you?

Neither will you get good content.

You’ll get content that someone created because they had to.

How to Get Your Developers To Create Content: 5 Options

Work with Them Personally

If you have any experience in creating content, you might be able to work with them 1-on-1 and get the blog post written. 

  • Good: Gets the job done, personal, you have more control
  • Bad: Not scalable, depends on your content experience

Hire a Content Marketing Agency 

If you have the budget, you can hire a specialized agency that has experience in creating content. Some might even have really good experience with creating marketing content for tech companies. However, even if they work with your developers, the content might end up being good enough for marketing, but not authentic enough for the target audience of developers. It’s an ideal option for creating non-technical marketing material for your tech company, though!

  • Good: Delegate the work, Experience in creating content
  • Bad: Expensive, Doesn’t produce authentic content

Hire a Copywriter or Ghostwriters

A more affordable option than a whole agency might be a really good copywriter. Don’t get me wrong: Really good copywriters are worth their weight in gold but compared to most agencies they can be end up being a more reasonable choice. 

Unfortunately, even copywriters that write technical marketing copy don’t really know how to work with developers. Neither do most ghostwriters that tend to work better for business-related content.

  • Good: Delegate the work, Have a dedicated person
  • Bad: Don’t know how to work with developers

Create Native Content with a Technology Magazine/Blog

Because the shift in advertising from bothersome ads to native advertising and sponsored content, some specialized magazines such as The Next Web, Skift and even my own company – Netokracija – offer content creation and publishing on our platforms.

Because of our experience in the industry (tourism for Skift, technology for The Next Web and Netokracija) and editorial experience, we can work with industry professionals to create the content. Additionally, since we cover the industry, we know what topics are hot! 

The article I mentioned earlier about Sofa Score’s CTO, was created as native content for Netokracija’s audience of senior developers. (if you are interested in how we made it happen, feel free to email me)

Working with tech industry publications or podcasters is great in order to create content for their audience. However, if you want to use them for your owned channels, you’ll need to make that clear:

  • Good: Know how to work with developers, Editorial experience
  • Bad: Content is usually produced for the magazine/blog, not your owned channels

Use a Content Workshop (Such as Writing for Geeks)

One way that I personally found works quite well is to organize a workshop for your developers in which they will learn how to write from someone who is not just a writer, but an editor with experience in technical content. 

This is actually why I created the Writing for Geeks workshop – it not only gets developers started in writing but also produced 10x the content in a couple of days that their PR, marketing or HR can use for sales, through leadership, employer branding… And because the developers are the ones creating the content – it’s authentic.

  • Good: Scalable (more devs at the same time), Fast content turnaround, Authentic
  • Bad: Limited availability of tech-experienced editors who are good facilitators

How to Get Your Developers To Actually Start Creating Content (And Enjoy It)

Okay, so I tried to give you all the possible options, but want to know what I really think based on more than 10 years of experience as an editor working with tech companies to create content?

While hiring an agency or copywriter might be a good short term solution, you’re going to be outsourcing one of your core activities – and learning nothing throught the process. In a lot of cases, you’ll spend a lot of money and get okay, but inauthentic content that a technical audience won’t trust. 

Don’t just hire an agency or copywriter to create “developer content”. It’s not their job. Use them to create great inbound content, landing pages and resources that sell to non-developers. You can’t fake developer content.

Developers, including your CTO, don’t like marketing. They do like great content.

They’ve read top developer bloggers like Joel Spolsky and Matt Mullenweg for years and their essays such as the Duct Tape Programmer or Five levels of Autonomy.

Your developers aren’t hacks in programming and they don’t want to be hacks in blogging either.

Remember what Reto wrote?

Developer Relations are the canonical source of truth…

That’s how serious developers are about the authenticity of the content they consume.

A Few Better Options

One option is to hire an experienced editor who can write about technical topics (just make sure they don’t publish a tell-all book afterwords) – and trust them to help your team create the content. They can create the content through ghostwriting or interviews – but it will be as authentic as it can be.

Don’t plan bonuses and incentives that don’t fix the main problem your developers have: They have no experience creating content. If they’ve never done it why do you excerpt them just to start now? Even if some of them have blogs, it doesn’t mean they know how to create a good story.

Instead, help them learn. Create a way of:

  • Getting your developers comfortable to create good, developer-friendly content in order to help them learn and improve their skills. This will not only create better content but also make it easier for the rest of your team – PR, marketing, HR – to get the content they need. Use a workshop like Writing for Geeks or create your own writing workshop tailored for developers;
  • Create “Writing time” for your developers: because even if they learn how to write, it doesn’t mean they’ll have time to write in their spear time. Neither should they. Paul Graham wrote about a Maker’s schedule 10 years ago for a reason, so help your developers put content creation in their schedule. An easy hack is to create regular content sprints with a facilitator, ideally an editor with experience with technical content that can give fast and quality feedback. 3-4 hours every couple of weeks is more than enough;
  • Start with a select developer content team: A client of mine had a great idea: He chose the 10 potentially best developers to write content. Some were senior developers that worked on important projects, other were just natural storytellers. We worked closely with them in order to create a “developer content team”. Another client published an open call to all her developers and then we got 10 of the most motivated people, with a waiting list to boot for additional content workshops! Whatever your method, start small!

The question you need to answer in order to get your developer to create content is:

  • What content formats are they most comfortable with?
  • What topics do they want to write about that are also of strategic importance to your company – and are interesting to your audience?
  • Do they have any experience in writing articles, blog posts, etc?
  • What part of the writing/blogging process do they want to improve?
  • What is the voice they can use in their blogging?

But these are topics for another time.

I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to get started. Feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions – I’d be glad to help.

Thankfully, creating content is also one of the ways we can all still keep sane and express ourselves even in these very weird, pandemic times.

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About IBB

Ivan Brezak Brkan (IBB) is an employer branding consultant, writer, and speaker. He's also the founder of the largest technology-business media brand in Southeastern Europe who has consulted and trained brands like T-Mobile, A1 , Raiffeisen bank, Sberbank and HBO on how to communicate with digital natives. Forbes has called him "The aristocrat of the Internet"