Inside this issue:
Dear communicators of Orlando and beyond,
Welcome to our 2016–2017 chapter year! I don’t say it lightly, but this year may be the most groundbreaking yet for our Floridian technical communication community. Our recent merger with the Suncoast chapter opens up several new avenues through which we intend to best serve you, our beloved readers and chapter contributors.
Let’s get right to it! Our first meeting topic of the year will be a watch party for the webinar titled Global Content Strategy: Delivery is Critical to Success. This emphasis on globalization in tech comm comes at a time when our chapter also looks outwards, planning to take on a greater role throughout the entire state of Florida.
Chair, Communications Committee
By: Alex Garcia
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
Hello, and welcome to my first column as President of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC. My presidency is the pinnacle of over 12 years of service to the chapter. A little professional history: I started college as an aerospace engineering technology major who always felt comfortable writing. I took my first Technical Writing class under UCF Professor Mary Ellen Gomrad and soon after declared a minor. Eventually, I took on Technical Communication as a double degree.
I spent my formative professional years as an engineer on the ground systems of the Space Shuttle program at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). In the back of my mind, I always knew my time at KSC would be short-lived (President Bush had already announced the Space Shuttles would retire in 2011). Throughout my entire tenure at KSC, I stayed active in STC Orlando, and worked it into my five-year plan. I knew that if I put in the work and grew my professional network, it would be easier to transition from engineering into a full-time career in Technical Communication.
So, between 2006 and 2011, I served in the following roles within the chapter: Mentorship Co-chair (mentees), Hospitality, Mentorship Co-chair (mentors), Jaffe Award Chair, and finally, your editor here at Memo to Members. My plan worked when in April 2011, I badged out of KSC for the last time, and 12 calendar days later, I reported to work at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control as a Sr. Contract Proposal Editor. I worked contracts for Lockheed Martin for about the next year or so, which led to a full time, direct, position I enjoy to this day. All thanks to my network here at STC.
So, Alex: What’s your point?
As with any organization, you get out what you put in. I hope to see you at meetings and socials, developing your network and helping to grow this great organization.
A little teaser for next month: Over the summer, the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC graciously accepted the Suncoast Chapter’s (Tampa Bay Area) decision to fold and merge into our community. This is bringing a lot of changes: some awesome, some challenging. There is a lot of work behind the scenes to make this merger as smooth as possible. I know in my heart that this chapter (whatever shape and name it takes on) will be stronger than ever.
Until next time,
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the STC Orlando Central Florida chapter held their annual end-of-the-year celebration at Liam Fitzpatrick’s Irish Pub.
The celebration is a time when STC members can socialize, network, and acknowledge each other’s activity within the chapter. Awards are given to those active members for their contributions for that year.
One of the more prestigious awards is based on active member points. When a member accrues enough points within a chapter year, they are rewarded with an STC active member shirt. Members are always excited to find out what the color of the shirt will be each year, and it isn’t until the night of the celebration that the color is revealed.
Appreciation towards members who have served the society and local chapter does not go unnoticed. Other special awards were presented, including Mike Murray’s society-level Fellowship certificate, webmaster Jon Kessler’s service award, and various President’s Awards in the form of colorful crystals.
Nearing the end of the celebration, if a new or different president has been elected for the upcoming year, the “passing of the gavel” takes place between the current and newly elected chapter President. This year, current chapter President Debra Johnson passed the gavel onto newly elected chapter President for 2016-2017, Alex Garcia.
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Saturday August 27, 2016, the STC Orlando Central Florida Leadership Retreat was held at the UCF Technical Communication Lab.
The meeting covered the next year of the STC chapter: tentative programs, membership, active membership, social media/communication, mentorship, the Pellegrin scholarship, and the next Summit in Washington D.C.
The biggest topic at the Retreat was the merger of the Suncoast and the Orlando Central Florida chapters. The Society approved the merger, and renaming discussions got right underway. New committees such as the Membership, Equipment, Treasury, Communications, and Website committees will help guide the merger.
It will be interesting seeing our chapter grow over the next year. I think it will be a very active year for members as we work to incorporate all the necessary changes to make the merger run smoothly.
By: Debra Johnson
Immediate Past President —
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
Manager, Technical Communication —
SunGard Public Sector
If you take a look back… into the past when companies, especially product companies, competed mainly on their features, functionalities, and price. Compare this to today, where the situation is much different. When you look at most large corporations today, you see that the differences are small. In a globalized world, many corporations buy companies and add them to their portfolio… resulting in numerous corporations offering many of the same products, with similar features, and most often, a very similar price tag.
This customer experience can truly become a differentiating factor.
According to Gartner®, in 2016, more than 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on customer experience. To that end, more than 50% of budgets that were supposed to go into product improvements are being reshuffled into improved customer experience initiatives. Add to this… Forrester® Research found 93% of corporate executives give higher priority to customer experience improvements over product enhancements or better training.
So, how can we as Technical Communicators help leverage our company’s content assets to improve customer experience?
Traditionally, content and customer experience have generally been viewed as separate things…and because of this “either/or” dichotomy – content in one bucket, customer experience in another — we have been told to focus on one vs. the other.
Our answer in Technical Communication, is to not join this debate (or the battle) at all – we believe this dichotomy between content and customer experience doesn’t really exist! For us, content and customer experience are and always will be integrated – because in reality, that’s how customers see things.
It is our belief that all content-producing areas, such as Marketing, Professional Services, Sales, Support, Proposals Training, blog contributors, etc., should be working together to strategize on how to use the content each other produces to get closer to the customers, to collaborate with each other, and to create a positive experience that will resonate long into the future.
In my Technical Communication group at my company, we are implementing a new philosophy. We are shifting away from “a world of documents” to “a world of answers.” This new way of thinking would extend the reach of company content by providing customers with easy, personalized access to the information and answers they need from any device. We have not done this in the past … but we in TechComm are definitely moving in that direction!
So how do we accomplish this?
Well…we want to help our customers help themselves…
Stay tuned for Content and Customer Experience – Part 2, where I will talk about how to move from just having productivity value… to having customer value as well…
Source: Private PowerPoint presentation and Blog article sent from Gal Oron, CEO – Zoomin Software, 2016
Tech comm writers, do not become hidden in the background, increase your organization’s web traffic, get noticed by Google, and become and asset to your organization by effectively generating SEO-enhanced technical documentation.
A technical communicator’s contribution to an organization is often hidden in the background of business operations and goes unrecognized by both the employer and even the end-user – the specific target audience of the business and technical documentation. Some organizations still live in ancient times and merely send out user guides and training materials as a Standard Operating Procedure rather than optimizing on the rich and functional content that comprises technical communicators’ creations. The accessibility and connectivity afforded by the Internet today increases the visibility of technical communicators’ creations and the role that they serve in an organization. Not only do company websites liberate technical documents, but technical communicators now have the ability to truly make an impact on their organizations’ growth and profits. How can technical communicators optimize their technical documentation search engine rankings and get noticed by Google? SEO the crap out of content, generate referral traffic, and increase traffic time on the site.
Whether you upload your technical documents to your site as PDFs or actually create pages within your site, you do not have to be a “SEO specialist” to create a few links to similar pages or those that enhance and expand on the topic of your content. Link building is one of the most effective methods to increase your SEO organically. For example, you create a series of training manuals for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of your company’s product. If there are webpages that describe who are considered to be beginner users, intermediate users, and advanced users, inserting hyperlinks to the keywords to and from the documents would effectively increase the number of internal links within your site and enhance Google’s indexing for search engine ranking. Even if your company does not provide support guides, training materials, or other documentation online, putting hyperlinks in your technical documents will at least create an opportunity for users to click on the document link to the website, thus, mounting referral traffic.
Technical communicators who are able to actually create pages of online documentation have the enhanced ability to increase SEO (and also fulfill a marketing role). First, create titles and headings that regard and describe the content of the page. Make sure that your title and headings contain at least one keyword that is used within the body content. This keyword should also be able to be linked to your flagship content—in other words, the main topic of your entire website. What is your organizations key function, product, or service? In most instances, the best page to find this information (if you are too afraid to call your CEO) is the home page of your organization’s website. Whether you are copying and pasting from a text file or Word document or are creating the content “on the fly,” keep in mind the target audience, the way they will be interacting with the content, and the focus of the page. Lastly, always write clear and concise statements that are easy to read. Remember, even though it is a “robot” that crawls website pages for content, it is still in elementary school when it comes to reading; therefore, the “easier to read, the easier to crawl” becomes the SEO motto.
Images are a technical communicator’s best friend when it comes to SEO because not only do they save on the amount of writing or content that must be created, they actually get crawled and indexed just like a keyword would according to Google. Simply upload explanatory and informational images, give them a descriptive filename and title, and embed them within the body of your page, and you will have resourcefully increased the SEO of the page. Consider this, one mistake beginner SEO specialists or SEO content writers make is inserting a ton of links to everywhere (and nowhere valuable) on the website. Focus on inserting links to the keyword and perhaps other words to other website pages where the content is genuinely relevant to the keyword. Google picks up on this practice of “keyword stuffing” and will not index the page. Lastly, add a few tags to your page regarding the content and publish. For instance, effective tags for this article include: SEO, search engine optimization, technical communication, and web content.
While your main role is to create user guides, training, and other educational documentation, you can also support your company’s SEO efforts by creating fresh blog content that includes links to keywords within the main pages of your website. By strategically composing content around a specific target key word and linking it with the same word on other webpages or even in downloadable technical documents, Google’s search engine is more likely to rank it high on its search engine results. Jump from Google’s third page of search results to its first page with minimal effort – all you have to do is write interesting content about the topics you already write about in your technical documentation.
Lastly, and arguably the easiest method of increasing your website’s organic SEO is to create a forum where your users or audience can post questions, comments, best use scenarios, and other information that regards your business or industry. This builds a database of knowledge, which is a huge SEO-intense resource. In forums, individual users can create their own topic categories and include their own tags, which get indexed in search engines. This acts in a technical communicator’s benefit in three chief ways. First, you do not have to perform any additional work besides creating the forum and perhaps answering a question or two as a moderator. Second, when one keyword is searched for, similarly tagged content will also appear in search results, which increases users’ time on the website and likelihood that they will post more content. Third, not only Google, but all search engines eat up forum content because it is all original and completely organic, which eliminates the event that your content will be blacklisted from search engines.
Publishing online or downloadable technical documentation that incorporates targeted keyword linking to other website content, along with creating stimulating blogs and user forums are all effective methods to increasing a website’s SEO. Technical communicators no longer have to remain in the back office of their company, they can create more value from their content and significantly impact the organization’s growth and profits.
About the Authors
Jessica Lynn Campbell is Marketing Executive and Content Writer for Web Benefits Design. She has a Master’s in English-Technical Communication, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and is currently obtaining a PH.D in Texts and Technology. Jessica is an expert and experienced technical communicator, author, and multi-media manager having been published on multiple media platforms including print and online. She is skilled in APA, MLA, Chicago, and Bluebook citation styles. Jessica can be reached at email@example.com or 407-810-7542.
Amber Lorynne Allman is a graduate from the University of Central Florida with Bachelor’s in English-Creative Writing with a minor in English-Technical Communication. She is skilled with translating beginner documents that are in German or Pinyin (Simplified) and her main passion is creative script writing and editing. She currently works at Universal Studios Orlando Resort. Amber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The month of June is a time of celebration for our chapter. We hold our annual awards banquet to recognize peoples’ accomplishments over the past year, and to usher in our new elected leadership.
…I guess this June is just a little peculiar. We do have several things to celebrate as a chapter. But, our greater Orlando community is also still in mourning of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. There is nothing I could possibly say, especially in a few short paragraphs, to make the pain go away or to speed up the healing process. An act of hate ended 49 lives, harmed 53 more, endangered over 300, and broke countless hearts. Some of us know someone who was directly affected. Some of us, myself included, were faced with the grim realization, “that could have been me who was targeted.”
Yet, just as I cannot ignore this single senseless act of evil and its far-reaching repercussions, I must also acknowledge the several million acts of love and kindness that have resulted. Orlando (and our state, our nation, our entire world) has united together to face the horror head-on. We have held our vigils, donated our time and money and blood, and worked tirelessly to figure out the hows and whys. We have tried to carry on and resume our lives, lest we allow hate and fear to rule over us.
It is through our common, enduring humanity that we all now prepare to come together and celebrate, despite the lingering heartbreak. The Orlando Central Florida chapter of the Society for Technical Communication has accomplished so much over the past 12 months! Now the time has come for us to honor those accomplishments. In doing so, perhaps we can also passively honor all those ever affected by violence and hate. Perhaps we can show that love perseveres—that love wins.
As usual, Memo to Members will be taking a break for the summer. I suspect our next issue will be in September.
Editor, Memo to Members
By: Debra Johnson
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
It is with mixed feelings that I write my last message as President. I know it’s time to pass the gavel to the next generation, however, it’s just a little bittersweet. I’ve really enjoyed my time in such a key role for a chapter that has accomplished so much.
Added to the three years as Vice President, the last three years as President have been very rewarding ones for me. I have learned exactly what goes into leading a chapter of such committed and gifted professionals and students. Everyone has taught me so much about dedication, support, commitment, and the importance of volunteering.
It’s been an interesting reign. We have had our challenges: operational, logistical, technological, and membership. We have merged with one chapter and anticipate merging with another shortly. We have seen changes to our Community Achievement Award process. I can say for sure…we are resilient.
In the past six years that I have been a member, the STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter has been recognized for its contributions to the Society’s goal of providing high-quality programming, resources, and networking opportunities for technical communicators multiple times.
Because of the concerted effort of all and the determination and hard work of certain key members, I am proud to say we have earned the international society’s top honor of Chapter of Distinction, four times. We have earned the Pacesetter Award twice and earned Community of the Year twice. We submitted and received nominations for Associate Fellow Karen Lane and Fellow Mike Murray.
My service to this community has brought me more than words can express…It has brought me many friends, abundant networking opportunities, a job, wisdom, joy, and a deep sense of satisfaction.
I salute all of you…for it is you who make the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter such an outstanding community. It is you who have been instrumental in my tenure as president. THANK YOU!
While I will be personally thanking individuals at our banquet who have supported me as President, as well as those who have guided me with their wisdom and experience over the years, it is in this setting I want to say thank you to everyone. Thank you to all who ever attended a chapter meeting, helped with setup or cleanup, wrote articles for the Memo to Members newsletter, anyone who contributed ideas and asked questions, everyone who offered to search for information, or whose questions inspired others to think in new directions about common practices and generally accepted knowledge.
If you are a chapter member, thank you for your continued support of the chapter; support that enables the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter to provide services to the community of technical communicators in our local area and even world-wide. If you are not a chapter member, but you attend our meetings, thank you for providing us ideas for programs as well as an attentive audience.
I want to welcome the new Officers. These members will direct the operation of the chapter through their insight and discussion. They will determine the initiatives considered each month, not only at our Administrative Council (AdCo) meetings, but also during the intervening weeks as we consider various topics of chapter governance via our online discussion list.
The members of the new board will be:
Alex Garcia (President-Elect), David Coe (Vice President-Elect), RD Sharninghouse (Incumbent Secretary – Re-elected), Bethany Aguad (Treasurer-elect), David Coverston (Incumbent Director – Re-elected, membership manager, and recognitions manager), Karen Lane (Director-elect), and myself (Immediate Past President). Good Luck to all of you!
In addition to these positions, we have a few other committee heads and managers who deserve our appreciation. Thank you to W.C. Wiese (Active Member chair), Dan Voss (Education Chair and Mentoring co-chair), Nick Ducharme (Memo to Members editor), Jon Kessler (webmaster), and Loretta Lott (employment chair).
At our June end-of-year banquet, we will be reviewing our accomplishments and celebrating our successes. It is at that meeting that I pass the gavel to our new president, Alex Garcia, and welcome our new officers to their 2016–2017 positions.
I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all who have served the chapter, and I wish our incoming officeholders all success as they lead our chapter to even greater heights.
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Thursday, May 19th at the IHOP on University, the Orlando Central Florida chapter of the STC held its monthly meeting. The evening’s lecture was led by our chapter President, Debra Johnson. Debra is currently the manager of Technical Communication/Documentation for SunGard Public Sector, an FIS company.
The presentation was about “Standardized and Documented instructions.”
A portion of the evening was spent showing an example of how differently people do things and just how differently people can take/give instructions. A demonstration of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made a great point. Different instructions were given on how to make the sandwich. One said “to put peanut butter on a slice of bread,” and the result was a full, unopened jar of peanut butter being placed directly onto the slice of bread.
We all have our own way of doing things and our own way of instructing how to do things. These variations can have an influence on processes/instructions in documentation. This activity proved the importance of providing detailed, specific, sequential information that is needed to carry out an action.
Why is Excellence Important?
By: Mike Murray and Dan Voss
“Excellence can be achieved if you risk more than others think is safe, love more than others think is wise, dreammore than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.” —Anonymous
Whether the topic is personal excellence or organizational excellence, the principle is the same. When you focus on excelling at whatever you do, your name (or your organization’s name) is always part of the discussion for the next big thing.
A favorite story of mine is Sylvester Stallone’s rags-to-riches saga of how he overcame overwhelming odds in his life to be the international movie star we know him to be today. When he was a baby, he was born with a half-paralyzed face due to birth complications, which led to a slurred speech. This was the key reason why he was rejected thousands of times by casting agents. Because he never gave up, he finally got his big break as the star of Rocky one day—and this came after years and years of relentlessly trying.
I have often heard various versions of the expression, “If you’re going to be a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger in the world.” Oprah Winfrey says it this way: “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” Through many years of my life, I’ve learned that pursuing excellence in everything I do is infinitely better than settling for mediocrity. It should seem obvious that the pursuit of excellence in everything you do would be the surest road to maximizing your potential, yet so few of us strive to do just that. You will never be disappointed in your pursuit of excellence, for there are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Everything…everything can be done either horribly, somewhat well, very well, or excellently. This applies to jobs, relationships, hobbies, speaking, writing…everything. If you’re willing to settle for “horribly” or “somewhat well,” be ready to accept the rewards of having something that’s less than what other people are willing to accept. But if you strive for “very well” or “excellently,” you’ll reap a bigger reward and your legacy will be that of someone who tried to “do it better” and succeeded. Someone who does things excellently will be remembered well. Someone who slides by and settles for less will be remembered as a slacker. It’s completely up to us whether we strive for excellence or whether we’re willing to just let life pass by without putting out the extra effort.
My entire philosophy of excellence is predicated on the hypothesis that the essence of excellence lies in the quality of the individual’s performance. The key, then, is to build and sustain a culture in which each individual contributor is inspired to passionately and voluntarily give his or her best every day. Whether it’s in an STC chapter or in a huge international corporation, this philosophy holds true. An organization cannot achieve a level of excellence without individual members or employees who are themselves committed to excellence.
Every human being wants to be valued and appreciated. Employees and volunteers respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work.
In my tenure as chapter president, I realized the importance of getting to know the members individually and to identify the skills of each that were a fit for a specific position, thereby increasing their probability of achieving success. Once, a member stepped in without being asked and took over the responsibilities of a suddenly departing volunteer in addition to her own commitments to our community. She was a real hero in my eyes, and I took the opportunity to create the Chapter Hero award—a simple, inexpensive piece of round Lucite that included the person’s name, date, and the words “Chapter Hero.” Another time, a volunteer committed to making a presentation at the STC annual conference in spite of feeling so nervous at the thought of public speaking that she worried about the possibility of freezing up or even fainting on the stage. Because she gave it her best in spite of her fears, I created the G.U.T.S. certificate because she “Gave Up The ’Scuses,” overcame her trepidation, and delivered an excellent presentation.
There has never been a volunteer who has been thanked too often! To paraphrase STC Fellow W.C. Wiese, “You can never have too many awards.” Recognition before peers can be a powerful tool in developing a growing sense of excellence. People within an organization want to keep feeling that sense of pride and fulfillment and encourage others to “bask in the sunshine” along with them. They feel valued and needed, thereby encouraging them to continue on the road to excellence that the entire organization will share. It only takes a few such volunteers or employees to create an excellent organization, but every one of them is needed. After all, that ditch isn’t going to dig itself!
U.S. women’s soccer star Michele Akers personified commitment to excellence. Akers, an aggressive attacking center midfielder regarded as one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) in 1991 just as she was reaching the peak of her game. (Voss, 2003).
In her acclaimed book The Game and the Glory, Michele explained: “I get what they term ‘shocky’—my body starts going into shock as my blood goes to my vital organs instead of into my arms and legs. As my blood pressure drops, the blood flow to my brain diminishes, my mind gets mushy, and I lose concentration. A tornado roars in my head, my thoughts scatter, and my body feels weighted down and as slow as molasses. Sometimes I’ve actually gotten delirious on the field and had to be led to the bench by my teammates or the trainers.” (Akers, 1999, p. 27)
Michele refused to give in to the CFIDS and remained a key player on the U.S. women’s national soccer team. However, her disability reared its ugly head as the U.S. was playing China for the World Cup in 1999. As center mid, Michele’s job that day was to contain China’s high-scoring striker Sun Wen, their greatest weapon and, as such, the biggest threat to the U.S. team’s bid for the Cup. In so doing, there was no time for her disability.
“I can’t afford that this afternoon. If I’m tracking Sun Wen, I gotta be on. One half-second of distraction or a single mistake in judgment could cost a goal, or the game, and a world championship.” (p. 27)
As it turns out, Michelle did shut out Sun Wen that day. She gave it everything she had for 90 excruciating minutes, only to topple, nearly unconscious, to the turf after a collision with U.S. goalie Briana Scurry while helping to prevent China from netting the winning goal just as regulation time was about to expire.
Michelle was carried from the field and rushed to the triage unit, where she gradually regained consciousness as IV fluids coursed into her veins. She recalls being vaguely conscious of the din of the crowd rocking the stadium above her, at first wondering what the score was during the overtime session—then awakening to the realization that the score had to be 0-0 … until either the “golden goal” or penalty kicks resolved the outcome.
No, Michelle was not physically on the field as Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal on the fifth and final penalty kick, ripped off her jersey, and fell to her knees waving the jersey like a victory flag as her teammates mobbed her—an image that will live in sports history. But you can bet that Michelle’s spirit was on that field every step of the way during those two overtimes, during those five PKs, inspiring her teammates to victory.
NEXT TIME: What must we do to reach it?
Akers, Michelle, 1999. The Game and the Glory, an Autobiography. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. ISBN: 0-310-23529-4 (hard)
Voss, Dan, 2003. “In World Cup Soccer and in Overcoming Disabilities, ‘Impossible’ is Just Another Word for ‘Work Harder,’” Proceedings to the 50th Annual International STC Conference, Dallas, TX.