Have you ever heard the terms wheel, loader, crane, bucket, arm, and boom? For the people who work around heavy equipment, those words will ring a bell. However, to those who, like me, do not work in the industry, they may sound unfamiliar. This is the challenge faced by a content writer: writing about unfamiliar topics.

In this piece, I would like to share my experience writing about an unfamiliar industry, from the interview process, on-site research, writing technique, to preparation.

A few months ago, I was assigned to write articles for an Indonesian heavy equipment distributor. For the assignment, I had to visit unfamiliar sites, from Duri, Pekanbaru, Bipolo, to Kupang.

During my visits, the biggest challenge was interviewing the workers, who were mostly locals. Most of them speak in their local dialects, so many local words were used in the interviews. For example, one of them used the word “bango” – which literally translates to “crane”, the bird not the equipment, to refer to the equipment. To a certain extent, this kind of language barrier got in the way of writing an accurate content.

I had to find a way to solve this issue. I tried to talk to the on-site workers to get more information. Another trick I used was to listen to the recordings of the interview for clarity if needed. That way, I would understand the interview and get additional data for the article.

Once I get the data on hand, what should I write? Considering the extent of my knowledge on the heavy equipment industry, bare minimum, that is, I had to explore information about the industry to get the basic picture. This is where research comes in. With a strong research, I could understand the context of the story and add information to strengthen the article. I also had to create an outline based on the angle that has been chosen as per the client’s brief.

The next step is to compile all the information I have collected, including the information I got from the interview, to create a coherent article. At this stage, a number of factors such as data accuracy and the interviewee’s direct quotations must be considered. Making sure that I was using the right terms was also a challenge at the time. I had to manoeuvre my way around the complexity of heavy equipment types and specifications through further research. I also had to double check all the information in the article to make sure that they are accurate and not misleading.

It is indeed a long and complicated process. Writing an article will never be boring if you consider the fun new challenges in the process. When writing about unfamiliar topics, these challenges are multiplied as I found out. However, the bigger the challenge, the more you learn. From this experience, I gained knowledge on the heavy equipment industry, learned to adapt to the conditions on site, and had the chance to explore the more remote parts of Indonesia.

by Dimas Anggara