This week I attended another very enjoyable and interesting session of the London Content Strategy Meetup, one of two regular content strategy groups that are active in London (the other one is the UK CSA). This week’s event was a series of “lightning talks” given by a variety of different practitioners on their own experiences of trying to implement a strategic approach to content development and management. (Here’s a write up of the second half of the evening by Martin Belam.) According to the organisers over 100 people came to this week’s meeting.
I think I was the only technical writer there.
Curiously, it was the leaders of two STC Chapters who organised the very first Content Strategy Forum in Paris in April 2010. But when I attended the 2011 CS Forum in London last September I struggled to meet another technical writer.
Why don’t technical writers come to events like these? Is it because they don’t know what to say to people who describe themselves as “information architects” or “user experience designers” or “SEO specialists” or “web designers”, or think they have nothing to learn from these people? Is it because they think that people who work in “digital agencies” couldn’t possibly be interested in what technical writers have to say?
I know from my own experience that none of this is true. Everyone who comes to these meetings is a professional involved in the development and dissemination of quality content that serves the needs of specific audiences. Isn’t that what technical writers are doing every day, as well?
We need to part of any conversation about quality content, inside our organisations and in the wider professional community. Haven’t pioneers in our field have been talking about the strategic value of content for years? I know the STC Summit had a “Content Strategy and Design” stream that I am told was very popular, but, apart from some of the speakers, I don’t imagine there were many content strategists there for technical writers to speak to.
Developing and disseminating quality content is a cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental activity. We have an enormous amount of experience and expertise to offer, and we need to get out there and talk to our professional peers in other disciplines, and to our colleagues in other departments. It’s not an easy thing to do, and at times it may even be a bit embarrassing, but no-one else is going to do it for us. We can’t complain that “no-one appreciates the value of technical writing” if we are afraid to be advocates for it ourselves.
The alternative is to get left behind. Again.