3 Tips for Disgruntled Technical Communicators

rodney dangerfield2

Feeling under-appreciated? You’re not alone. If you spend time on technical communicators’ Internet groups, you can’t help but notice frequent complaints that upper management doesn’t acknowledge the value of documentation or give those who create it the respect they deserve.

These complaints come from writers at all stages of their careers, within every industry. They’re posted by developers of SOPs, technical documentation, policies and procedures, work instructions, online help, and user guides. The particulars vary, but the message is always the same: documentation, and the people who write it, are held in low esteem.

What Can You Do About It?

It’s easy to conclude that documentation is always under-appreciated, and aside from blowing off steam on the Internet there’s nothing you can do to make things better. But that’s just a cop-out. If you bring real value to your organization, you should be able to prove it.

Three tips for improving your “value proposition”

Here are 3 things you can do to improve your profession’s “value proposition” and gain management’s respect.

1. Start Measuring Outcomes

If you aren’t already thinking about your work in terms of hard numbers, you’d better begin—because your bosses certainly do.

  • Do you know how many help desk calls result from inaccessible, inaccurate or unclear content?
  • How about product returns or customer complaints?
  • Errors or misunderstandings that impact employee productivity or safety?

Find out what those numbers are, and make it your mission to drive them down.

2. Stop Committing to Unrealistic Deadlines

We all know the value of robust editing and user review processes—so why do writers routinely accept project schedules that short-change or even eliminate these vital steps? If you want to create respect-worthy documents, fight for the time you need for editing and review. Make it clear to your bosses that the price tag for hastily improvised documentation is too high for them to pay.

This may not be easy, but sometimes you don’t get respect until you insist on it.

3. Keep Believing in the Value of What You Do

As a business communications professional you can be confident that better times are just ahead. The amount of information that organizations need to manage is rapidly outgrowing their ability to manage it. They’re challenged by the complexities of publishing in multiple formats. They’re investing in new content creation, storage, and distribution technologies. Things are on the upswing for people who have the skills to turn all that information into agile, adaptable content.

Keep believing in the value of what you do. It won’t be long until management does too.

Nobody wants to read what you write!
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