Whenever you communicate, you are somebody. It’s unavoidable. In technical communications—in documentation or marketing communication—establishing an ethos is unavoidable. If you don’t control this issue, it will control you.
Some companies believe that their technology will speak for itself. This is the “too smart to fail” syndrome. How you communicate your company processes, your products’ and services’ use and their value will ultimately establish your company ethos. Brand, reputation, messaging, internal processes, morale, customer experience with your products and services, your mistakes and your good works—all establish and reflect and who you are and who you become.
Twenty years after IBM’s 1981 introduction of their PC, I was working as a technical marketing writer at for that company. One day I was lucky enough to attend an anniversary talk by Dave Bradley, the inventor of the “three fingered salute”: Ctrl+Alt+Delete, which we all know triggers a “soft reboot” on any DOS-based PC. About this design breakthrough, Bradley said “I may have invented it, but Bill [Gates] made it famous.”
Most people find this quip funny. Why? For all of Microsoft’s success in becoming and remaining the desktop-software provider, they have an ethos/image problem that never seems to go away. A part of this inherent in being a dominant force in the market. Call it the Yankee-GM-Dow Chemical problem. People have a love-hate relationship with “big players.” Of course, you want to grow your business, to become “the next big thing.” But people also despise hubris, and you know you have a big problem when people say about you “Who do they think they are?”
The phrasing of that question shows you the importance of thinking about and being careful about who you are when you go to your market with your technolgy.