As we wind down the year 2021, I wanted to write up a recap on how the chapter’s doing in terms of the Strategic Plan that we shared earlier, as well as get our community’s input on the year ahead. First off, let me start by thanking our dedicated council, Bridget, Guiseppe, Michael, Samantha, Amy, Kevin, Marcia, Landra, Dave, and Matt. (And special shoutout to Matt for figuring out a tricky certificate issue we recently had with the website; we couldn’t read this post without you!) I also appreciate the people in our community who turn out to events, help out with special programs like the competitions, and respond to the chapter’s initiatives over social media….too many to name, because we are a very fortunate chapter with so many impactful members.

Strategic Plan Progress

Without going into exhaustive detail, I wanted to provide an update for our top overall goals, as shown in the following tabbed table.

Goal: Stabilize membership numbers from 2021 to 2022.

I was so encouraged by Marcia’s recent report that we are now up to 95 members…that is almost back to our pre-pandemic numbers where we averaged between 100-120. It also represents an increase from the 2020-2021 year. If you haven’t renewed your membership, try to do so before the new year so that you are eligible to vote in the society-level STC elections. Want to help us? Share STC communications with your coworkers, or give us feedback on how you think we can engage current members more.

Goal: Enhance the weekly communications strategy with more contributed content that celebrates our members, with an aim of 1 sort of spotlight per month.

Samantha has been doing a wonderful job sending out the weekly announcements, as well as providing a mix of content. Each week, I learn something new about what’s going on in tech comm or see resources that I can share. Know someone or some company/team that’s doing cool work? Suggest them for a spotlight via email.

Goal: Streamline programs by focusing efforts around a monthly goal, developing a backlog of industry speakers, and reevaluating the pricing model. 

As I’m sure we all recall, last year brought many challenges to virtual work and professional development. Michael tried out so many different formats, styles, and types of content for the Events, such as paid three-part series and pre/post event socials. This year, we wanted to synchronize the events more with regular cadence of STC Carolina activities, such as student orientations and the competitions in the Fall, as part of a way to reduce the duplication of effort amongst council members. As part of this, we experimented with asynchronous, virtual social sharing (more on this later), and offered mostly free events this fall.

Goal: Continue the annual competition, including the return of the Awards Banquet.

THANK YOU to all our many judges and submitters to the annual competition. Entry numbers were slightly down this year from last, but entries are often cyclical, and to be honest I think many of us our experiencing burnout at work. However, I am pleased to report that the QUALITY of submissions is shaping up to be just as spectacular as in years past. Please save the date for annual BEST OF SHOW, this year to be held virtually on Thursday, January 20, 2022 to kick off the new year on a high note.

Amy, what a truly wonderful job you have done taking the reins on the competition from Christina, and doing so entirely remote from New Jersey no less. For a while, we were not sure who would take the lead on the competition, and I think it is one of our signature programs that highlights what is so special about the community and skills we have. So thank you!

In terms of the awards banquet, I was so excited to see so many familiar and new faces at the IN PERSON awards banquet at the end of August this past year, and in such a fun venue at the Durham Hotel, to boot. We hope to host another in-person banquet in the new year, while keeping most of our other events virtual.

Goal: Develop a content strategy, including a repository of templates for content reuse to streamline efforts especially across outreach, communications, business/jobs, and programs.

Oddly for a technical communication organization, we do not have the most consistent of a content strategy. Related to the events goal of streamlining efforts, we were hoping that this goal would reduce duplication of effort for our council members and volunteers. Special thanks to Samantha and Michael for coordinating so much with the other council members, and for Kevin for working on our Education Outreach.

Our next area of focus I am hoping to be on business and jobs. If you have ideas or leads for things such as business outreach packets, guides like “What is a technical writer and how to hire one,” internship or job shadowing opportunities, or other things that come to mind, please let me know. I will share that sometimes, as a technical writer, I feel a little helpless in this area, thinking something like, “Well, I am not a director or hiring manager, so how could I help do an internship program.” Yet I have seen technical writers take a pivotal role in shaping the outreach and recruiting strategies at multiple companies, from large enterprises like IBM to startups. Many of you might know Chris Dawson, formerly at IBM and now at Red Hat, who for example still works on a wonderful Pathfinder program between IBM and NC State. I have also been pleasantly surprised in my role as a chapter president how many CEOs, CTOs, and recruiters I’ve been able to introduce technical writing as a discipline to. I share this because, as people with unique gifts in communication, we have the power to shape strategies, change the conversation, and touch people around us in so many ways. If you have any creative ideas or care to share your experience doing so in more structural, repeatable ways, please let me know!

Goal: Continue mentorship program, ending it with the return of Career Day.

Sometimes, a strategy includes when not to do something. Historically, we offered the mentorship program in-person and twice a year. We decided this year to forego the Fall cohort and offer only a Spring 2022 cohort, to help streamline our efforts. I hope that you will consider being a mentor in the upcoming ~March cohort, as we already have a number of people expressing interest in being a mentee.

#TechCommTips: November Async Event Recap

As shared on Facebook, we tried our an asynchronous, virtual sharing of your #TechCommTips each day in the week of November 15th, and I wanted to compile some of the highlights here.

Day 1: It’s Monday, so what issues are you planning to tackle this week? How do you organize and prioritize your work? Do you apply any principles of technical writing to how you manage your projects?

Day 2: If you had to pick your favorite technical communication sources to recommend people when they ask, “What is <insert tech comm subject like accessibility>?”, would it be…? Respondents shared a variety of resources, including:

  • STC’s practitioner magazine, Intercom, which you as a member have FREE access to.
  • Tech Comm is Teaching Patients With Low Literacy Skills, 2nd Ed. by Cecilia Doak
  • Articles, presentations, and chats provided by STC chapters and SIGs; conferences like Lavacon, Write the Docs, and STC Summit.

Day 3: Writers gonna write…but with what? Share your favorite writing medium, tool, plug-in, utensil and why. 

Responses were nearly evenly split between “docs-as-code” style tools and editors like Atom or VScode, and office productivity tools like Microsoft Word. It’s a low sample size, but I was surprised by how few responded that they were using a vendor-provided, off-the-shelf solution specifically for technical communication like MadCap Flare.

Day 4: We do more than write! What’s your favorite related discipline to draw from to improve your content?

Day 5: We spend a lot of time writing error messages to help users move forward, but can you think of an especially memorable time where you encountered an #error? Responses included:

  • Considering accessibility and the expectations of your audience. For example, don’t put a success message in big red text, which is usually associated with failure.
  • Double-checking the order of the steps that you provide (or if steps aren’t in order, putting them in order). Sometimes just switching steps 1 and 2 could save someone hours of troubleshooting.
  • Removing blame from the situation so that you don’t make a bad situation worse.

Help us move forward

As we close out 2021, I’m interested in getting feedback from our council and community members about how on track we are. Please fill out this anonymous Google Form. You can leave your name and email if you’d like to chat about anything, too! Thanks in advance.

We use a kanban board of #GitHub issues at work, with weekly triaging and prioritization. I also use a #paper journal because writing out my top three tasks for the day and checking it off, along with drawing out my #calendar helps me stay focused.

Art Berger

Technical Writer,

Day 4 responses

  • Content Strategy 10% 10%
  • Instructional Design 10% 10%
  • Project Management 0% 0%
  • User Experience 80% 80%
Art Berger

Art Berger

President, STC Carolina