Re: STC is broken

Subject: Re: STC is broken
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: Michael West <WestM -at- conwag -dot- com>, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2008 05:33:10 -0400

Thanks, Mike. Rather than just a communications forum or a social
organization, I'd like to see the STC do for us something along the
lines of what the International Association of Business Communicators
(IABC) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) do for their
members. While I have never felt unrecognized nor unappreciated in any
of the jobs I've had either, I have certainly encountered employers and
clients who did not fully understand my skills nor what I could do for
their organization. Our professional society needs to be better at
public relations itself, as well as advocacy and outreach. I believe
that's its stated mandate; it just hasn't been doing a very good job of
achieving it.

Every time there's a news item about poor documentation causing a
problem, the STC should be out there saying "You know, if you'd had a
technical communicator involved in that, it probably wouldn't have
happened. Here's why..." We're great at giving awards to our own
members, but we should be making awards to big name companies that get
technical communication right -- and leveraging that publicity value.

When people go to create a website, shouldn't a content professional
(i.e., a technical communicator) be the person who springs to mind as
the right resource to head that project, rather than a graphic designer
(artist) or web developer (programmer)? Instead, I'm frequently called
last, to copy edit content that a web design firm (which employs no
techwriters) has stuffed into a beautiful but unusable design. And when
I start asking the client questions such as who is the audience, what
are you trying to achieve with the site, what action do you want
visitors to take when they come to your site -- all questions the web
developers never raised -- and then I have to tell the client that
neither the design nor the content work for what they're trying to do,
well, that's when the screaming starts. Simply because they've never
heard of the existence of professionals who specialize in shaping
information to meet the needs of the user, no matter what the medium.

Yes, we need to establish our own credibility with our clients and
employers, but we also need a professional organization that backs us up
and gets the word out about all the many places we can add value.

Michael West wrote:
> Beth wrote
>> What other professions do you know of that have
>> such a direct impact on
>> daily life in so many industries,
>> but where the public at large, not to
>> mention those employing us, have so
>> little concept of what we do? Our
>> exact role in projects is supposed
>> to be relatively transparent to the
>> user, but our presence in the workforce
>> should not be.
> Beth always makes a good deal of sense around here, but I don't think I
> agree with this. Perhaps I should say rather that my own experience
> (covering over 2 decades in tech comms now) doesn't really accord with
> hers. I think I've had only one or two jobs (out of at least ten) where I
> felt unrecognised or unappreciated as a contributer to the success of the
> enterprise. (And it sure is an awful feeling!)
> I don't see how STC as an organization could possibly win "recognition"
> for tech communicators. We have to carry this torch ourselves,
> individually. At best, an org like STC can provide a local forum for
> exchanging ideas and technical understanding, or for "networking" if one
> is inclined toward that sort of thing.
> I'd submit that the usefulness of STC as a communications forum has been
> largely superceded by the Internet. But I've had a low opinion of the
> national organization since the 1980s, when it had one of the dullest,
> ugliest and worst-edited journals ever to clutter my mailbox.

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Re: STC is broken: From: Michael West

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