Develop Your Own Powerful Story

When (or if) you tell somebody that you’re a technical writer, do their eyes glaze over? Do they look at you quizzically and say, “So, what does that mean? Do you actually write ‘Click here and press Enter’ all day long? What do you actually do?”

You can answer questions like that by articulating what STC Executive Director Susan Burton calls “our powerful story” about technical communication. In my Spring president’s message to the SWO chapter, I encourage chapter members to follow Susan’s lead and remember their powerful personal stories:

Believe it or not, you have a story.
Your past and present professional activities have made and continue to make a difference. Your communication skills improve your company’s bottom line. Your manuals make the company’s products easier to use. Your safety guidelines save lives. Your procedures keep company officers out of jail. You have an impact.

Actually, we all have many stories. Here’s one of mine (in the words of an appreciative customer):

To help us fix a not-very-good website, Judy came up with a website that is well organized, comprehensive and easy to use… much better. It can now be used by customers to research and understand the service offering AND it can used as an online “manual” for our service personnel. This site is the best example of this type of technical documentation resource that I’ve ever seen.

The story behind the story? Hours spent trying to:

  • Unravel the convoluted workflow procedures that were kinda sorta in place
  • Locate authoritative versions of forms and approval documents that had to be completed and filed
  • Find answers to the unanswered questions that came up every time a customer tried to work with the service, and
  • Organize all the customer-required information online in a clean, uncluttered, easily accessible format.

So what do I do … in thirty seconds or less, I verify and streamline company procedures to make sure that employees can execute them and customers can understand them.

What about you? What are your stories? Dredge them up and distill them into a paragraph or two. They’re bound to be fascinating. So … Tom Johnson, Monkey Pi, Holly Harkness, Mike Hughes, Frank Girolami… all you techwriting bloggers out there –I read your blogs and I want to know: what are your powerful stories?

[tags]STC, Susan Burton, technical writing,stories,marketing[/tags]