Do you do PR?

      4 Comments on Do you do PR?

Chattering teeth

I’m writing this whilst it is still fairly fresh (and only addled by a couple, ok ok, three pints of Guinness)…

At the ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting last night talk turned to the fairly common topic of “no-one knows what we do”. There was some chat about the value we can bring but, frequently, documentation is still seen as a “tick in the box”, a necessary evil or, even worse, an apathetic acceptance even though no-one else in the company quite knows why we exist other than the fact that we do.

I had made a point earlier about selling ourselves, marketing our services and capabilities and once again it seems obvious that, and I acknowledge that I’m no better than anyone else in this respect, we must do a better job of raising our profiles as professionals within our organisation, and of the profession itself.

Talk of past redundancies confirms this, documentation can easily be seen as an expensive cost, something which, surely, could be cheaper to create or be created by cheaper individuals or perhaps be done away with altogether? After all, no-one reads the documentation and everyone can write, how hard could it be?

But how?

Alas we didn’t get to that during our discussions, but I have a few ideas. For starters, we need to:

  • Identify champions, people within our organisation who understand the value we add to the product, and ask them for help.
  • Confirm our main customers are getting what they need from us (what they really need, not just the tick-the-box documents they’ve always received).
  • Communicate with our areas of the company more regularly so they know what we do

Nothing startlingly original there but one thing we all agreed on last night was that it was very easy to get into ‘head down’ mode, when you come into the office and work hard at to produce documentation, help systems, training guides, whitepapers, instructional videos, and more.

We need to, as a profession and as individuals, try to break out of those habits.

Yes, it’s hard, very hard in some situations, but most companies should be receptive to ideas which help make things better. It may be that your first port of call is to your boss to discuss why it would be a good idea to spend more time talking to the customers of your documentation, or it may be that another department is struggling and would welcome some helpful tips and a bit of direction.

We are professionals, and have much more to offer an organisation than information products alone. It’s just that sometimes we need to remind people of that, including ourselves.

Have you successfully conquered this? Do you indulge in PR and Marketing of your services, or the services of the team you are in? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this one.

4 thoughts on “Do you do PR?

  1. Charles Addison

    Totally, unfair version of events! I distinctly remember that we set the Tech Pubs world to rights AND solved the economic crisis before we left. I suspect the Guinness has clouded your memory.

    Self promotion is simply self preservation! Identifying or grooming members of the management team to ensure a better understanding of what we bring to the party is vital if we hope to develop our offerings and secure increasingly scarce resources. It also helps in securing those vital SLAs with other departments and process stakeholders.

    One area we did discuss is the extent to which Tech Authors should become involved in supporting other departments with their internal and external comms as a way of raising your profile. However, getting the balance right between self-promotion and over committing is a tricky one but I have found that people understand and value your input more when they have had a chance to work with you.

    Enjoying your blog Gordon!

  2. Gordon McLean Post author

    Good points Charles (by the way, did you take notes for the economic crisis discussions? or have we lost our solution to a beermat somewhere??).

    Your point on acting as a service in support of other departments is a good one, and we have good relationships with our PreSales team on that basis.

  3. George Osbourne

    If you find that beer mat, could you send it to me? It might just prove useful.

    OK so it may not be George! I liked Charles point about supporting other departments also. It is a tricky balance but one well worth trying to achieve.

  4. Pingback: How technical writers can make themselves heard « ffeathers — a technical writer’s blog

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