Our latest webinar, “The Power of Many: The STC in the Age of Social Media” was a discussion between Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler and Society for Technical Communication’s Vice President, Alan Houser. The two discussed options for plugging into social networks and professional societies in the field of technical communication, how to make the best choices among the available options, and how to use these relationships to advance your career and contribute to the profession of technical communication.
The webinar was an action-packed 60 minutes! The recording and Q&A are now available below. Enjoy!
I’ve heard Scott Abel (and a few others) spell it out clearly at our annual conferences, in articles and even on this webinar series. He says we have to learn new skills. He tells us without mincing words that the old days are gone, that we are not as valuable as we think we might be just because we have a command of the English language (in English-speaking nations, at least) and that our old ideas are not supporting business goals. That said, it seems few people actually seem to “hear” what he’s saying. What can STC do to help members understand they have to learn new skills, break old habits, and become part of the businesses they work for….not just writers?
I believe our membership is pretty smart. I think the STC is doing a great job at publicizing the need for writers to expand their skill sets, and offers many very good resources for learning new skills and new technologies. And I’ve been thrilled to see many of our members take on new roles and provide new value for their organizations.
On the other hand, as professionals, we must be vigilant about hype. Many of the new technology solutions are very expensive to implement, and may be wildly inappropriate for particular situations. Nor should we ignore the core skills that are continually important to the field of technical communication.
Each of us can and should make individual choices based on our interests, professional environment, and personal situation. These choices should be based on how we can provide value in that context.
Can you speak to the movement from techcomm as content *creators* to content *curators*?
Many organizations are struggling to manage and deliver an increasing amount of technical content, from more and different sources (including social media and user-generated content). As the amount of content increases, the job of providing the “right content, to the right user, in the right context, on the right device, at the right time” becomes increasingly challenging. Many technical communicators are stepping into the role of content curators, to appropriately manage this problem.
How do we let people outside our profession know about the importance of what we do?
The STC can do this as a voice of the profession. For example, the Society recently worked with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to define a new labor category specifically for technical writers. (You can see the results of this effort at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos319.htm). The STC can also publicize the importance of our profession through its publications, educational programs, and other professional offerings, including certification.
Related fields — web design, user experience, usability, content strategy, to name a few — are increasingly talking about the importance of content. We as technical communicators can and should do the same, in our individual interactions in the workplace, and as a profession. And now, for perhaps the first time in history, we are not alone in evangelizing about the value of high-quality content.
Can you provide some groups that conduct webinars on Adobe Products like FrameMaker, Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash and Indesign other than Adobe……?
In full disclosure, I am an Adobe-certified instructor, and am currently presenting several webinars for Adobe.
Many of the Adobe webinars are conducted by independent professionals such as myself. We are not paid by Adobe, and (in my opinion) are able to do a pretty good job of providing value for webinar attendees while maintaining our independent perspectives.
Some STC communities and SIGs are broadcasting meetings via webinar or holding webinar events. These might provide an alternate source for tools education. Other tools vendors also provide high-quality webinars, focused on tools, technologies, and best practices.
Is it enough to keep an institution alive if the main reason for joining it is to be active in organizing it? Or do we need additional demonstrable added value?
Everybody’s experience with the STC is personal, and the value proposition varies widely among different individuals. I’ve probably met several hundred STC members who are active as STC volunteers, from the local to the international levels. Many of these volunteers (myself included) have grown personally and professionally from their STC volunteer experience. I’m also aware that there are several thousand STC members whom I haven’t met, who may attend some meetings, participate in webinars, learn from the publications, and generally want to support and promote the profession. The STC needs to support all members, and provide many different avenues for professional growth and support.
The mission of STC is to serve the profession, not just to serve members. Could Alan talk about some of the things that STC does to promote the profession, which benefit the members more indirectly?
I can name several STC programs and initiatives that benefit the profession:
- STC publications provide a home for applied research and professional-oriented content.
- STC recently worked with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to define a new, appropriate, labor category for technical writers.
- The STC Salary Database aggregates and analyzes US salary data, and provides a resource for both technical communication professionals and hiring managers. (Note: the STC Salary Database will be free to members who join or renew before January 2012).
- The STC Certification Program provides a means for professional accreditation of technical communicators, which did not previously exist outside academic programs.
- STC scholarships and awards acknowledge key contributors in the field.
- STC competitions accept entries from all who wish to enter, provide coaching (in the form of judging feedback), and highlight the best examples of technical publishing.
I think people agree that there’s a role for paid professional association. But I’m hearing that people don’t join because the cost is too high. Can STC do something about bring the rates down again?
The Society Board of Directors and staff regularly assess the mix of Society programs, sources of revenue, and expenses. We are aware of the issue of cost, and are pursuing a long-term strategy of expanding our revenue base beyond membership dues. Of course, new revenue can support programs that benefit members.
For the 2012 membership year, dues will generally remain at the same level as for 2011. The Society is also introducing a new lower-cost dues category for recent student members who are entering the profession. We hope to continue to maintain and improve Society value while keeping membership dues under control.
With members in 50 countries, why isn’t STC leveraging its international nature to have an international profile and represent the profession worldwide?
This is a continually challenging issue for the Society. Our desire to be the international voice of the profession sometimes encounters real-world constraints. STC values and supports members around the globe, and STC has active communities in several countries. However, there are legal and financial issues that complicate formation of new international communities. There are also other similar professional societies (ISTC in the UK, Tekom in Germany, ASTC in Australia, TCANZ in New Zealand, to name some of many) that may be better able to support local communities outside North America.
Instead of competing with these organizations, STC may be more likely to partner with them, and offer to their members the things that we do best, such as education and social media networking.
Interested in attending our next webinar?
Tune in with Scott Abel and Cheryl Landes Friday, September 30, 2011 in “Is search the solution for findability?”. Sign up Now!