Selling ourselves

Like many, I struggle at times with a common perception, one which was highlighted to me yesterday by a colleague.

Like most team leads/managers, I have a lot of tasks that aren’t purely focussed on the creation of information. I don’t do much technical writing, instead letting the guys in my team focus on that (they are better at it than me anyway) whilst I work around the edges of what they do, things like taking a document through a review with some SMEs and processing the output, or building a new output template, or proof reading some of their work.

My team and I have a good idea of what I do, even though I also get dragged into chats about other information related initiatives (document management systems being the latest). But as far as everyone else in the organisation goes, I am obviously not doing a good enough job communicating that out.

So my colleague was asking how my team were doing as we are approaching the last few weeks of this current release cycle. When I said that it was a bit tight and we were probably going to have to move some of the ‘could have’ information, he asked why and then asked what I was working on myself.

Thankfully, to answer his question I have a whiteboard directly behind me that holds all the ‘other’ stuff that technical writing teams need to think about; Product Glossary updates, creation of a Knowledge Centre, Release Notes and so on.

However the point here is that, whilst we all struggle to convey the importance of what we do (until people get to that “ahhhhh” point which most do eventually), it is in all our interests to evangelise our services. Yes this will only have direct impact within your current organisation but the ripple effect over the coming years will start to grow as people move on and take your messages with them.

It may mean that you, and your team, need to stand up in front of the whole company to ‘introduce’ themselves and what they do (same applies for lone writers!), as well as backing that up with updates and conversations with people you may not normally chat to, and I realise it’s probably not something that comes naturally to many people.

So to give you a kick start, as soon as I’ve finished it, I’ll be sharing a sanitised version of that very presentation. It’ll be focussed on a software company which is being re-introduced to that wee team they all know of, but don’t know much about. I hope it might be of some use.

One comment

  1. Very true – though the remedy is a little daunting too.

    Our marketing department recently did a user survey for one of our products. Three questions about help and documentation were carefully crafted, but all were dropped at the last minute because the survey was too long! To my mind, asking users’ views of the product and related services with NO mention of doc implies we (as a company) don’t care about it, or at least don’t think about it. Grr.

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