I didn’t even KNOW I was a Technical Writer.
You see, back in 1995, I’d been brought on as a TEMP to answer merger-related email for a bank. When the bank’s Online Customer Service department suddenly faced an external audit, they asked me to document all the internal procedures.
A few weeks later, as that stormed passed, the Vice President took me aside. She said to me:
“Great job clarifying things for everyone: We’d like to keep you here. Find out what other Technical Writers make in Silicon Valley and let me know.”
At that moment, I learned that:
A technical writer is a CLARIFIER. We take the complex and make it easy to understand. That’s what we do. That’s who we are.
Much has been written of late about the future of Technical Communications. Some speculate that the future is grim – that the profession is fading into the past. While it’s absolutely true that our traditions will have to give way to new methods, I believe our unique skills and abilities matter more today than ever before.
I suspect that the manuals we’ve been making matter less every month. But I believe that who we ARE matters more than ever before.
We are clarifiers. We receive confusion and deliver understanding. We translate like a protocol droid, from programming languages to basic human communication. We take a tornado of text and turn it into a focussed stream of knowledge.
You can dismiss my mumblings as fluffy affirmations if you like. But the latest industry research shows the INCREASING value of those who CLARIFY, within the business world. For example, Forrester recently released their Top 10 Trends For Customer Service In 2011. The top predicted trend states the following:
In 2011 and beyond, customer service management professionals will continue to work on standardizing the resolution process and customer service experience across communication channels (e.g., web self-service, chat, email, Twitter, phone).
Forrester lists five examples of technical support channels. Of these, four require strong written communication skills. Clear, concise, accurate writing chops are needed to execute all four text-based service channels. What percentage of the people in your company write more effectively, under pressure, than you? Isn’t it fewer than 5%? Even 1%? Don’t be modest. You are amazing at taking complexity, paring it down to what matters, restating it clearly – and in a hurry!
Your value isn’t fading. But you need to turn your attention away from the familiar and toward the battle that is actually taking place. You have super powers. You CAN use your powers to address the reality of today’s communication landscape.
You see that purple pie slice labeled “self-service” support? That’s YOUR content, today, if you make it available as Search Engine Optimized web topics. Those other text-based channels? They need your skills. I am working with some amazing Information Development teams that are sharing their CLARIFIER super powers with those that own these channels.
It won’t be long until budgets shift to reflect the reality of customer channel preferences. Ragsdale notably writes that:
While most of the attention, training and funding goes toward phone incidents, these represent less than half of total customer interactions today.
The money WILL follow the customers. That’s how things work.
In closing, I leave you with these thoughts:
- Don’t lose heart: Find purpose.
- Don’t look back: Look up and out.
- You have mad skills. Apply them.
- You make things make sense: Make that known.
- Clarify: Help your brand, wherever you can.