Marketing in this Shiny New World
Sometimes when I read things for class, I start to panic as I realize how woefully inadequate I am to the task of being the perfect technical communicator. When I read about all the ways that I need to market myself and all the areas in which I need to be competent in order to be competitive, I begin to have a minor panic attack. Okay, I am using the tiniest bit of hyperbole. Just a little.
But nonetheless, it can be a bit overwhelming to read things like R. Stanley Dicks’ “The Effects of Digital Literacy on the Nature of Technical Communication Work in Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. The chapter focuses on describing the way that digital literacy has impacted the work lives of technical communicators, which seems innocuous; however the chapter also reads as a cautionary tale of how one must be awesome in order to save their job from being outsourced or seen as unimportant. We must change as the technology and the economy and the markets change.
It is the only way to keep technical communicators marketable. Likewise, Qualman points out in Chapter 6 of Socialnomics that corporations are also having to change for the same reasons. It is interesting, though, that while Spilka promotes adding a variety of things to a technical communicator’s skill set, Qualman’s advice to corporations is the rather the opposite. Qualman contends that the marketability of organizations rests in their ability to pare down their message from claiming to be the best at everything to being the best at something specific.
It is strange to see such seemingly different recommendations in reaction to the same changes. However, I think that below the surface, both Qualman and Dicks are attempting to get at the same point. Because of changes in technology, we have to be smarter and more strategic about how we do our work, whether as an individual or as a corporation.
As a technical communicator, we may have to add skills, yes. But more importantly we need to know how to market them to the organizations for which we work, to help them see that there is one area that we meet a need in the corporation that can’t be met by someone who has not had the same training. So while we may in fact have to supplement our skills, this too is following Qualman’s advice, because even on an individual basis, we need to be able to show our worth in 140 characters, so that managers and organizations at large can’t overlook our contributions.
It is really just a change in marketing for us all. We, as usual, have to know our audience and speak to it in a way that is easily understandable. I think that means that a technical communicator needs to understand how technology and social media has changed not only how customers approach a corporation or a corporation approaches its customers, but also how a corporation understands its employees. Because, let’s face it, we all know that the changes in technology have fundamentally changed how we understand and interact with the world. We can expect that it has likewise affected every relationship we have as well, even if it is between a technical communicator and an organization.