And why should we care about technical communication?

Yesterday, I expanded on some of the reasons why the world needs technical communicators that were proposed by Ben Minson.

My latest challenge from Problogger is about promoting yesterday’s blog post. One of his suggested ways to promote yesterday’s post – do a follow-up post – made me think of something that has bugged me for a long, long time.

Why should we care about technical communication?

In some cases, the phrase reads

What is technical communication?

Oh, these questions don’t come from my head. They are questions I pick up from people I meet or articles I read or topics I encounter on discussion lists.

Those of us in the field of technical communication know that it is constantly changing and expanding and moving in new directions.

Those outside the field – well, do they even know what the field is and what it entails? Blog posts that list the benefits of technical communication don’t get read by those who don’t know they need a technical communicator!

I think we all need to do some more promotion.

  1. Tell your workplace when you attend a technical communication event – webinar, conference, or even a casual gathering where the main topic is technical communication. Maybe your colleagues or your boss know that you attended these events, but offer to make a presentation in your company to a larger group of people. I know of companies who hold lunchtime meetings just for this purpose.
  2. Include your job title in your communication with people outside work and introduce yourself as a technical communicator when you meet people (I tend to ooze anonymity, so this is something I need to work on much more.)
  3. Flaunt your membership in STC, IEEEPCS, or other organizations for technical communication. T-shirts, bookbags, or just the name-dropping in a conversation can kick-start a discussion – and it’s up to you to keep the conversation alive! 🙂

Before I end up with another list, I think I know many people who do this sort of thing. The reason the “Why” and “What is” questions appear on my list of “puzzlements” is because I live outside the US.

Here in Denmark, I have met many people who had no clue there was such a field. Good writing skills are somewhat incorporated into many other fields. I have met many Danish engineers who were quite good at explaining complex information. I did less re-writing of their work and more straightforward editing. Or sometimes translation. I have also met people who “wrote manuals” as one of many items in their job description.

Being an invisible field means less recognition and less awareness about its value. Five years ago, the variations of the title “technical writer” did not even exist in the job bank run by the labor market authority under the Danish ministry of labor. I know because I helped to put it there. I had been laid off and could not find an appropriate job title in the online database where I had to register and add my CV (résumé). I had several English and Danish variations added to the database and wondered how people had fared before then.

My point is that we need to be much better at promoting our field of technical communication in every way we can.

My action plans? One tiny thing I can do at work is to explain exactly why I am out of the office when I prepare my out-of-office message before leaving for the STC Technical Summit in Atlanta. I will also blog about technical communication in Danish on the Webgrrls blog. (Yes, Lisa, I have not forgotten that I am way overdue to blog there! 🙂 )