What Do They Really Think of Us? Results of a Study of Perceptions Held by "Clients" of Technical Communication


Saul Carliner


November 3, 2021 - 1:00 PM


November 3, 2021 - 2:00 PM

What Do They Really Think of Us? Results of a Study of Perceptions Held by “Clients” of Technical Communication

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 at 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern time (GMT-4)

Although technical communicators typically focus on their readers or users, in nearly all cases, the readers or users do not hire technical communicators, fire us, fund us, or conduct performance evaluations of our work. Readers or users do not outsource our work or determine that programmers, engineers, and other technical professionals are just as capable of producing documentation as professional technical communicators.

Our “customers” do.

That seems obvious to the 20 to 25% of technical communicators who work for service firms or as independent contractors.

But even those technical communicators working internally have “customers.” These customers include:

  • The executive of the group that funds the technical communication group, known as the sponsor. This person not only authorizes the budget for technical communication, but can also authorize cuts and introduce outsourcing of the function.
  • Ombudsperson, a person in the sponsor’s organization who acts as the liaison between the technical communicators and the subject matter experts who review the materials
  • Subject matter experts, including engineers, programmers, scientists, business analysts, product managers, legal specialists, quality assurance engineers, and others who have technical expertise and assist technical communicators in preparing their work

Despite the centrality of the “customer” and the people who work for them to our work, technical communicators rarely systematically explore their perceptions of us. Although our literature has case studies of particular projects and studies of what employers seek when hiring technical communicators, it is light on general perceptions of technical communicators held by these “customers” across geography, organizations, and industries.

This project—originally published as the December 2020 issue of Intercom—is intended to address that gap. This webinar shares the results and provides participants with an opportunity to ask questions about the research.

Specifically, this webinar prepares participants to:

  • Name the expectations that SMEs have of technical communicators
  • Describe how SMEs perceive technical communicators
  • Learn the best and worst experiences of working with us
  • Determine which findings apply to their own situations

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