STC Introduces the New Content Strategy SIG

The following is from the STC Office on 16 September 2009

The following information has been provided by SIG Manager Rahel Anne Bailie of the Content Strategy SIG. Please direct all questions to the SIG's leaders; contact information is at the bottom of the article.

The STC has a new Special Interest Group, the Content Strategy SIG. The momentum in the content strategy field of practice has been building during 2009, and a proliferation of communities has sprung up on the web. It seems that the business world has woken up to the conundrum of messiness of content, and realizes the need to get the situation under control. It could be that previous projects failed, or perhaps that there have been outside pressures to get their content fixed up. Whatever the impetus to adopt a content strategy, it is encouraging that there is an awareness building that content is a valuable corporate asset, and deserves to be managed with care.

The STC has responded quickly, providing its members with a valuable forum to build up the practice of content strategy. This will help members in several ways. Line staff can develop tactics to implement whatever strategy has been developed, or know that they can reasonably demand a strategy be developed and why, plus what the benefits are. Management can learn what benefits can be expected from a content strategy and figure out how to budget and plan for a strategy to be included. And content strategists can share the good, bad, and ugly of content strategies and work together to build a body of knowledge that can be used as a resource for each other and those who follow in their footsteps.

Interested STC members are invited to join this new SIG that promises to be vibrant, interesting, and useful. To add the Content Strategy SIG to your current membership, complete the Membership Upgrade Change Form (.pdf) and return it to STC, or simply check the SIG when you renew your membership.

Leaders are also looking for help with administering the SIG. Currently, the SIG Manager is Rahel Anne Bailie, and the Webmaster is Will Sansbury. Bailie states that an Assistant Manager and a Knowledge Base Manager would be appreciated and asks that members who have some time and want to be part of this exciting venture, please come forward.

Hillary Hart announces her candidacy for 2nd Vice-President, Society for Technical Communication

Hillary Hart
Hillary Hart

by Hillary Hart
Candidate for 2009 2nd Vice-President, STC
E-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Phone: 512-471-4635

I am a candidate for STC 2nd vice-president in the upcoming election (voting starts March 9, 2009). Here is why I am running.

As an active participant in STC at the local and international level for 21 years, and currently as Director-at-large, I can see that STC has made some great strides in the past couple of years:

  • extending its global reach and mission through a stronger presence in several international standards groups such as OASIS, W3C, and ISO
  • providing more services to member communities, including the Leadership Community Resource to help communities train new community leaders
  • advancing the profession by sponsoring the industry-academic partnership that is defining a body of knowledge for technical communication
  • developing a new section of with concrete examples of the value of technical communication

STC is now a more transparent organization that has learned to evaluate its programs and goals through strategic planning and processes such as the Strategic Program Analysis.

On the other hand, STC must continue to evolve … and do so rapidly. The Society must adjust services and processes quickly to keep pace with international economic and technological developments while at the same time maintaining a long-range vision of the value of technical communication. And STC is still not as relevant to all technical communicators, particularly younger ones, as it should be.

I would work to enact these specific improvements to STC’s benefit to members and the profession:

  1. Continue to provide services to members who cannot rejoin because they are unemployed.
  2. Increase the number of free or low-fee webinars geared to professional development.
  3. Target even more resources to the Body of Knowledge Portal project to give members the knowledge they need to retune or refit their skills for changing economic and business conditions.
  4. Plan a Summit to be held outside the United States.
  5. Target more services and information to technical communicators under forty. They are the future of the profession.

As an educational association, STC can best serve its membership by providing access to knowledge and by educating the public and employers about what technical communicators really do. As an educator, I know something about reaching out to diverse audiences on a daily basis. And as co-chair of the STC Body of Knowledge (BOK) task force, I am working with a terrific team of academic and industry professionals to build a web-based portal that will make accessible the body of technical-communication knowledge.

Knowledge is power. With job layoffs, cutbacks in institutional budgets, and disappearance of companies, the one constant that cannot be reduced is our individual and collective knowledge.

Help me empower our membership. Thanks so very much for your support.

Defining a Body of Knowledge

by Hillary Hart
STC Director at Large
Candidate for 2009 2nd Vice-President
E-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required

STC has meant a lot to my professional growth over the past 20+ years as a teacher and practitioner of technical communication, and I want to help STC expand its educational mission for all technical communicators.

It is time our profession had a defined body of knowledge. Why?

  1. Technical communication cannot be a profession without a defined body of knowledge (BOK).
  2. We cannot define our value, to business and to society, without a BOK. The data I and others have collected show that communicators seem to be spending about the same amount of time on communication processes as they are on creating end-user documents or products. If we want to maximize our value to the business functions of corporations and agencies, we need a body of knowledge that will make that value clear to employers.

The BOK task force that I co-chair with Mark Hanigan is working hard to develop a Knowledge Portal that will make accessible, in one easy-to-navigate web-based portal, the body of technical-communication knowledge that has evolved over time.

The Knowledge Portal will fill these critical needs:

  • New practitioners need to see their professional development pathways spelled out, along with concomitant educational/training opportunities.
  • Veteran practitioners need a means for assessing their progress and determining what additional training they may need.
  • Academic and training professionals need a source of assessment criteria for their programs.
  • Executives, who may never have heard of technical communication, need a place to find out what it is that technical communicators can do for their company.

For me, the most amazing aspect of the BOK project has been seeing how productively STC members collaborate over time and distance. The BOK “map” of domains and skills received hundreds of helpful suggestions last June at the Summit in Philadelphia. And last September, when the proposed site map for this portal was posted on the STC website, over 150 STC members from all over the globe provided comments. Now we are populating the map nodes with content and will showcase our progress at the upcoming Summit in Atlanta, where we hope to gain more contributors. Such collective knowledge making is powerful indeed – imagine all 13,000 STC members worldwide contributing their piece of the knowledge puzzle.

With job layoffs, cutbacks in institutional budgets, and disappearance of companies, the one constant that cannot be reduced is your knowledge – knowledge of how to do many things in addition to writing clear documentation.

  • Knowledge of what it takes to create, manage distribute, and archive information in specific media for specific users.
  • Knowledge of the processes that enhance business development because they enhance internal as well as external communication.
  • Knowledge of the social, cultural, and even health impacts of the technologies being marketed under the name of progress.
  • Knowledge of how to help people use technologies safely and wisely.

Your knowledge is your power, in any economic climate. Stay tuned for BOK updates.