Blogging: A New Role for Technical Communicators

Attention Technical Writers: Through Summit at a Click, The Society for Technical Communication is making the content—both the audio and visuals—of more than 90 sessions, available from the 2009 Summit in Atlanta. (Only progressions, keynote, and workshop sessions were excluded.)

Note: According to the STC site, “If you paid the conference registration fee, SUMMIT@aClick was included. STC Members who did not attend the Summit may purchase SUMMIT@aClick at an introductory price of $595. Nonmembers may purchase it for $895.”

Of special relevance here is Tom Johnson’s session, Blogging: A New Role for Technical Communicators, which the STC has made available for free to demonstrate SUMMIT@aClick.

In his session, Johnson, the well-known blogger at I’d Rather Be Writing: A Blog about the Latest Trends in Technical Communication, makes the following case for technical communicators, as natural corporate bloggers:

  • Technical communicators often possess literary and creative writing skills, in addition to traditional technical communication skills. Most technical communicators are writing specialists.
  • Typically, technical communicators focus on information, not hype. Information is what many searchers are looking for on the social web.
  • Technical communicators have direct access to projects, including project managers, product managers, and technical subject matter experts.
  • Technical communicators are well-accustomed to working reporter-style, already gathering and synthesizing information, as part of their day-to-day jobs.
  • Through indexing documentation deliverables and their attention to consistent terminology, technical communicators are used to paying attention to keywords, and are able to come up to speed quickly on SEO basics.
  • Again, natural writers at heart, many technical communicators would be easily incentivized to blog and to diversify their writing deliverables.

Reporting on the results of an informal survey on Twitter, Johnson noted that the #1 perceived value of blogging is increased visibility for your brand, whether that brand is corporate or personal. From there, he provides a nice overview of basic search engine optimization techniques, including using the keywords people are searching for in the first few words of your title and first paragraph. Johnson further explains the importance of backlinks, and how Google trusts other people’s opinions of your site, more than your site’s own content.

For me, Johnson’s tips on using your own personal voice and transparency to tell the story of your brand were particularly helpful…”It’s the story that makes blogging appealing,” Johnson explains, citing as an example, a technical writing blog, where the author shares professional wisdom, via a series of stories drawn from his own career.

Like Johnson, I agree that technical communicators are ideally positioned on cross functional teams to be highly effective bloggers, especially given their strong writing abilities, access to information, and reporter-like ability to synthesize content from a variety of sources. Where I believe technical communicators can learn a great deal from their more customer-facing and management colleagues, is from the relationship-building, and yes, business strategy, that we sometimes lose sight of, in the pure pursuit of information.

In my opinion, the blogger who can bring all those ingredients together—information, relationship-building, and strategy—within the framework of a story that represents what your brand is all about, in an engaging way—that’s who should be blogging for your company, no matter what the discipline. In all likelihood, “that person” is probably a combination of a few people in your company, who could work together collaboratively in a group blog format, which to me seems the most sustainable format, in a corporate setting.

Related Links: Technical Writing Blogs

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