Tag: <span>PR</span>

I don’t know about you but I’m getting fed up trying to make everyone realise the value of what we do. Technical Communicators of the world unite!

Why is it so darn hard? Isn’t it obvious? We live in a so-called “information age” after all, so why is it such a struggle to get the message across?

So, for the meantime, I’ve stopped.

My team currently has a separate stream of work looking at how we get better at PR and whilst that runs its course I’ve decided to deploy a different tactic, one which has fallen into my lap. No more will I go cap in hand to department heads, no more will I try to coax, nudge and cajole others into understanding why product information is so important. I won’t roll out the usual reasons, and I will save my “part of the product life-cycle” spiel.

You see, we’ve been receiving requests from different parts of the organisation, based on some work we did in the past. Lots of people are looking for help. At the moment, all of the team are busy but I’m going to pick one of the requests and find a way to get it actioned. That way we will get a quick win and increase our profile a little (it really is great to be part of such a good team, their work speaks for itself) and it should give us an ‘in’, an opportunity to build a relationship with a different part of the business, learn how they work and in time expand what we do as part of our service to them.

Land and expand. Simple really.

At present I know there are many areas of the company producing content. I also know that many of them would benefit from our input, just as I know we don’t currently have the resource and, without a lot of up front research I’m not sure I would be able to guess at what resource would be required to cover the current requirements. Creating the business case to expand operations would take time, and even then a lot of the effort goes into educating people as to why consistent, reliable, re-usable product information is a “good thing”.

With that in mind, getting a foot in the door (landing) before getting involved and agreeing a level of delivery for the future (expanding) seems the most sensible way forward. It allows us to get a feel for where we can best be involved and over time we can increase our influence, and standing, within the company.

Now, where I can buy some ninja costumes?

Work

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.

Work

I was recently asked to write an article about blogging for inclusion in a piece focussed on social media and how it will both challenge and change our profession as a whole and the more I wrote the more it helped me sort out my own thoughts on the matter.

One thing I’ve realised is that even if you don’t think social media will impact your own professional circumstances, I have no doubts that it will change the way our profession is perceived.

I’ve also come to realise that I’ve done a fair bit of talking about a lot of this stuff, yet continue to be stalled on actually doing it. So, with a new year stretching ahead of me I guess it’s time to put up or shut up.

As I have control of our developer community website the most obvious place to start is with a blog. Using the blog to publish short articles, and allowing people to comment on them seems to be a straightforward approach and with some encouragement I know some of the developers will contribute short articles as well.

The challenge will come in how we seed the community. At present it’s telling that with a little bit of PR, the number of people visiting the community website rises, so for now I’ll continue with the old school methods to drive traffic to the website (mainly through ‘update’ emails). Hopefully, if we provide enough interaction opportunities on the website, that need will drop away and the community well start to sustain itself.

Social media is a strange beast at times. There is always a lot of noise at first and, when it dies away it can seem like there isn’t much substance left. However, the people who are succeeding at using social media services, the people at the cutting edge of such things, the people who adopt new ideas and technology and are ready and willing to try them out to see if they work, are finding that there is a much richer set of capabilities than may be obvious, and the real value in your use of social media isn’t the technology but the people who use it, the community.

Your circumstances may mean that, for reasons outwith your control, social media just cannot be considered. However for everyone else, surely it’s time you took a step back and thought about the information you produce, the community of people who use it, and how best to meet their needs.

Maybe it’s time to make some brave choices.

And if you’ve come this far it’s about now that the reality of social media hits home.

You see for all the strengths and possibilities that the myriad of social media services offer, the one thing that no-one else can tell you is what choice to make. The direction you take depends on too many variables that only you know but, at this point, there is only one thing worse than making the wrong decision.

Not making a decision at all.

The information platform is changing, it is evolving and will continually evolve over the coming few years. You can’t afford to wait until the evolution is finished, you need to jump aboard now. You’ll need to learn fast, figure things out as you go, plan as best you can, and concede defeat at times but if you don’t then you’ll be left where you are now.

Except it’ll be 3 years further down the line and the rest of the world will have moved on.

Work

I’ve spent the last couple of days writing an article for an industry magazine. It’s not something I’ve done before and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It was aimed at CEO/CFO level, so was heavy on business aspects and lingo, not something I’m comfortable writing to be honest, I prefer plain english.

However, what really surprised me was how quickly I got into the mindset and soon I was “dynamically leveraging” and “interactively promoting” all sorts of things. Now I need shake myself to make sure it doesn’t creep into my normal technical writing.

Still, it was an interesting exercise and the skillset is the same, it’s only the language that differs. I still needed to write with the correct user in mind, needed to phrase and structure the information in a way that makes sense to them, and I needed to pitch the technical level of the article correctly.

Of course, as the article is for a magazine, the tone could be a little lighter and it was fun to experiment with this. For example, I opened the article with a first-person scenario which although I’ve been writing a blog for a few years now was still a challenge, for this humble technical writer!

I’m waiting on feedback from the PR company, but hopefully it’ll get published. Fingers crossed.

Work

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