This entry is being posted on behalf of Alan Porter, candidate for Vice President in the 2019 STC election. More information about Alan can be found on his STC election page. You can ask questions of the candidates on the STC Election Forum. The election begins 25 February and runs through 11 March.
We’ve failed, and we need to take the blinkers off.
I believe that we have failed the Technical Communications profession.
Why? Because we’ve become myopic in the way we see ourselves. We tend to talk about nothing but writing technical manuals and on-line help files. And while that is an essential part of what we do, it isn’t everything, in fact I’d argue it’s a minor part of what we should be doing.
Our professional body isn’t the STMW – Society for Technical Manual Writers – it’s the STC – Society for Technical Communicators. The key to our future, and the future of those entering the profession is in the last word of that title, and it’s the one word we seem to have forgotten – COMMUNICATIONS.
Our job, at its core, is a simple one:
We take the technically complex and make it simple, and then communicate that knowledge to the people who need it.
The way that those in need want to access and consume that knowledge is changing, and we need to change with it. Some text accompanied by an occasional illustration, photo, or screenshot, is no longer sufficient.
The world of content is transforming at an unprecedented rate, and we as both practitioners, and a professional body, need to transform along with it. Our role has evolved to being all round communicators who need to deliver information in many forms, and we need to fully embrace the word “Communications” in the STC title. We need to reach out and include other communication professionals from aligned activities in visual, audio, and digital design to ensure that we are positioned to deliver the best experience to those who rely on us to transform the complex into the messages they need to achieve their own objectives.
As existing members we also need to embrace the new thought processes and skills, build our own areas of knowledge and expertise and change the way we think about what we do, and how we can do it in the future, but taking a more holistic customer driven view of the way that we communicate. By doing so we can uniquely position ourselves to be the driving force of the new customer experience that many organizations are driving towards.
It’s no good understanding standards like DITA and Schema.org, or how to mark up content in XML or Mark Down, or the underpinnings of online help systems or wikis, if we don’t also have a basic understanding of color theory, audio production, framing, storytelling and more. We don’t all need to be experts in all aspects of communication but we should be building teams that reflect those different disciplines and can work together to deliver the experience our customers want and deserve.
Our customers don’t care where the content they need comes from, and we in the industry need to be aware of that. We need to look beyond our traditional departments and content production pipelines and search across the enterprise for the content to answer our customer’s questions.
There is a convergence happening with the skills needed to find, curate, develop, combine, manage, and deliver that content. We as a profession need to recognize that.
It’s time to take the blinkers off, and become the catalysts for changing what it means to be a Technical Communicator.
I like to consider myself as driven to educate, inform, and entertain through content. As Vice-President I would encourage the STC membership to join me on that journey.
Let’s have that discussion.
Alan J. Porter