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.

Posted on October 6, 2013, in Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I agree in this economy it’s so easy to drive yourself to a panic attack with the constant change and demands that it seems every industry is facing. I often have these types of conversations with my parents. They both say how hard it is for “kids” these days trying to get/hold a job and make a life for themselves. Things are so expensive and the job market is so competitive. It seems like we worry about providing value, instead of actually providing value!

    • That is a good point, I think it is easy to get so wrapped up in the need to prove your worth that you can get side-tracked from your actual goals and tasks.

  2. I can definitely relate to being overwhelmed when reading how much the field of technical communication and the demands on us as technical communicators are changing, but on the bright side, I think we are better prepared than we may know. In talking just with our class, I’ve found that many of us already contribute to our organizations in many more skilled areas than are included in the parameters of traditionally defined technical communication. While we will need to continue to gain new skills and pursue additional training, you’re right that we also need to be able to effectively market ourselves and highlight the unique contributions we are already offering.

    • You are probably right, which is super encouraging. I think when faced with a list of things that you should know or be, it is very easy to forget all of the things that you actually are. The skills you already have acquired. It is quite a trick to be able to remember how well trained you are in the face of uncertainty.

  3. evelynmartens13

    I can relate! I was rather panicked myself reading the Spilka chapter because I haven’t been working in the field, so I don’t even have a portfolio yet. Negotiating all of these other challenges on top of the ones described in these readings seems overwhelming.

    And yet…I realize I do already have many of the skills of the symbolic-analytic worker and have spent much time already using many of the skills they describe, such as working collaboratively with others, working in teams, and certainly in making persuasive arguments about why we should value the work that my center is engaged in.

    I suspect you also have many of those skills in place, so it’s probably just a matter of figuring out how to highlight and market them, as you say. It’s a good cautionary tale and something we shouldn’t forget, but I think there’s a lot of room for optimism.

  4. I think you provided an excellent summary of both the readings and also our current situation as technical writers. We need to work to develop our skills so that we can set ourselves apart from other similarly qualified applicants. In addition to any technical skills we acquire, we are also professional communicators. We’ve been taught to carefully study our audience, and then tailor our message an its delivery to achieve our desired outcome.
    It is easy to become intimidated by a rapidly changing technological landscape, but it is also important to realize that we are much more than just the technology we use.

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