It’s time once again for the annual MindTouch list of top influencers in techcomm, customer service, customer experience, and knowledge management! As in years past, our goal is to give back to the community based on tools we use to make our business better. We used the nifty Twitter search and reporting service Little Bird to compile lists of the 100 most engaged and connected people in each of the four categories.
Our lists go beyond the influencers you might already know and direct you to the ones you should know. Little Bird calls these influencers the most emergent — they may not be on your radar screen yet, but they will be soon.
We’ll announce the top 100 influencers in customer service, customer experience, and knowledge management in the next few days but let’s get started right now with the top influencers in #techcomm. Here’s the first 25:
- Tom Johnson
- Sarah O’Keefe
- Scott Abel
- Bill Swallow
- Alan Houser
- Anne Gentle
- Ellis Pratt
- Catherine Hibbard
- David Farbey
- Thomas M. Aldous
- Char James-Tanny
- Sharon Burton
- Larry Kunz
- Matt Sullivan
- Arnold Burian
- Rahel Anne Bailie
- STC Summit
- Michelle Sander
- Jack Molisani
- Tech Comms
- Ivan Walsh
- Ben Woelk
- Ankur Jain
Now go check out the full list of the top 100 influencers in #techcomm. Because we want to make your life easier, we’ve also compiled a Twitter list so you can follow all of these amazing folks with one click.
Are you on our influencer list? Congratulations, here’s your badge! You’ve earned it for your work in pushing the edges of your field. You’re an innovator who’s elevating and promoting your field. Thank you. Grab the code below and display your badge with pride. You’re in excellent company.
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Check back to find out who made the list of top 100 influencers in content strategy, customer experience, and knowledge management, or follow us on Twitter to find out right away when we post the next list.
Unless you work for a technical communications boutique that specializes in providing technical information solutions to other companies, there’s a decent chance that your boss’s boss doesn’t really understand what you do.
I think that tech writers in most companies are kind of like the IT guy at the dentist’s office: the rest of the folks are smart and capable, but their expertise doesn’t even overlap. The dentists and dental hygienists think IT is probably necessary, but they’re content to just trust the IT guy to take care of it so long as nothing goes wrong.
Some technical writers like it this way. When people are willing to just let you take care of things, they just take your word for what needs to be done and don’t bug you. Plus, there’s the more nefarious notion that keeping your job and job skills a secret gives you job security because no one else will know how to do what you do.
But that only works for as long as people think that what you produce is necessary, which isn’t going to be as long if they don’t understand your contribution. Besides, when people don’t understand what you do, they can’t imagine new and creative ways to utilize your skills. If you can’t capture your boss’s boss’s imagination with all the cool things you have to offer the organization, then opportunities for exciting new projects can be few and far between.
I say it’s better for your career and esteem not to hoard your tech comm knowledge. Instead, you should share your knowledge freely so that people can have a deeper appreciation for why what you do is so difficult and special and ultimately beneficial to everyone. Here are some methods I use to try to make people around me understand the product documentation effort:
#1 – Internal marketing
Well this one’s obvious: if you want people to know what you do, tell them. We are, after all, professional communicators. This ought to be right up our alley.
Speaking for myself, I try to use lots of interesting channels to make people aware of what’s going on in the Doc team. Read more…
Many people want to be good writers. It is a central skill because so much of our communication is done through written channels. Everything from technical documents to emails to tweets requires writing.
Unfortunately, some regard writing as an almost mystical process where inspiration flows from your soul onto the paper where it emerges whole, perfect, and sacred. Thinking about writing this way is convenient, because then your crappy writing is the muse’s fault. But it’s more effective to realize that good writing is rarely beautiful at first. Writing is more like making a sculpture out of clay: you start with a big pile of mucky dirt (the first draft) that you have to mash all around (in a text editor) to get it to look like what you want it to look like.
Like the sculptor, the writer must master the tools—-in this case, words. But mastering words is more abstract than mastering sculpting tools, leading some people to think that mastering words must be an in-born talent that can’t be otherwise learned.
Effective use of words can be learned, though, if the aspiring writer is dedicated, disciplined, and willing to make a whole lot of ugly sculptures en route to making a beautiful one. The fact that you created many unrecognizable blobs when learning the medium might not be romantic, but it doesn’t detract from the artfulness of your eventual works of art.
Skill #1: reducing word count
You know the goal of good technical communication is to make the user successful with your product, and your higher-ups probably know that too. But “making the user successful” is hard to measure, and execs like numbers, so chances are, they’re going to be impressed by your page count. Read more…
One of our own, Corey Ganser, presented “Who Cares about Your Content?” at LavaCon this year. An interview with Corey was recently published on TechWhirl. In it, he stresses the steps content strategists and technical communicators must take in order to prove their worth and get the recognition they deserve. Here’s an excerpt from Corey’s TechWhirl interview: “Building the Business Case for Technical Communicators by Leveraging Talent, Skills and Passion”
Use Analytic Data of Content to Prove your Worth
Demonstrating value is crucial in the field of technical documentation. Corey suggests Tech communicators push project managers to include a content plan alongside their technology plan, financial plan, and product development plan… Backed by the data, “technical communicators can sit at the big table with the managers,” Corey says, and prove themselves as valuable resources for the company. As a result, a technical communicator can quantify the value of wearing multiple hats, and demonstrate how that their time, money, and energy are effectively being spent to benefit the company’s bottom line.
Corey continued by recommending that technical communicators prove their value to the company in various aspects. “People need to re-define their contribution to a company as a technical communicator. For example [technical communicators] often get caught up with buzzwords and instead need to think strategically as a content strategist about how users can interact with the company who produces the product.”
Documentation Should Help, Not Function as an Afterthought
In our interview, Corey focused on how documentation is often perceived as an afterthought. Read more…
Recently I read a discussion thread at a LinkedIn Tech Comm group in which Aaron, my CEO, claimed MindTouch didn’t support single sourcing. He was promptly contradicted by a MindTouch customer, Amanda Cross of ExactTarget, and prominent Tech Comm leader who just kicked off a guest blog series here at the MindTouch blog. Later on another MindTouch customer from EMC echoed Amanda’s call that they too use MindTouch for single sourcing.
It’s time for a little quiz. I’m going to run 5 terms by you quickly, you have to tell me what they mean. Ready?
- “customer experience”
- “social business”
- “content is king”
- “customer is king”
- “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”
How did you do? Not so great I bet. If you are a business trying to sell your product or service, you probably don’t really care about all these terms marketers are throwing around. You just want to know how to give your customers and prospects the information they need to make the decision to buy from you and/or be happy in the decision they did make to buy from you.
We seem to finally be settling into a world where the customer has most of the power. What this means is that you can have all the fancy websites and marketing brochures you want, but if you aren’t thinking about what your customers need to make decisions, then you’re wasting a tidy sum. And these decisions, by the way, should be in your favor — that’s kind of important.
More Information Than You Know
The online world has become a place where people can quickly find information. But it’s not the only place they look. So you need to be sure you are consistent in your approach to providing that information. Content is the tie that binds all your marketing and support channels together. But it’s about more than great content. You have to offer that content in the right context.
I’m excited to announce that MindTouch is being honored with a regular guest blog series here at the MindTouch blog titled “Let’s Talk Tech Comm.” Amanda Cross, the Documentation Manager at ExactTarget, will be writing a regular column bringing to us her wealth of experience and an admirable depth of knowledge in the space. She has twelve years of experience in technical communications, holds a BA in Technical Communications from Purdue University and an MBA from the Kelley School at Indiana University.
I met Amanda last year and she is my kind of person, which is to say that she is intensely passionate about her field and the end user. Also, I’ve been amazed by how bleeding edge her team is at ExactTarget in delivering automation and social interactions across their product documentation.
Throughout 2011 I had the privilege of working with Scott Abel off and on. We spoke at some of the same conferences. I helped him get access to some of our amazing customers for use in articles he’s written that are redefining the field and strategic importance of techcomm. Also, his regular webinar series is superlative. His writing is regularly featured as cover stories in online and print journals in and outside the field of Technical Communications. He has done a monumental amount of work to advance the field of Technical Communications and helped in defining the field of Content Strategy. Moreover, he’s been busying unifying the fields of Customer Support / Success and Technical Communications. Also, he’s been busy helping to create a new future for the eBook.
Scott is an energetic innovator and promoter of the techcomm space and he has benefited everyone in the field. Thanks Scott. Your contributions are so profound I felt it’s appropriate to highlight you separately from the 400 Most Influential List.
Here is your badge Scott:
By the way, you actually ranked in the top 5. I’m sure the 400th most influential thanks you for being honored separately.