From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Dear communicators of Orlando and beyond,

Welcome to our 20162017 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.

Please join us this Thursday, September 22nd, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

Thank you,

Nick Ducharme
Chair, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

A promo for the webinar! Please note that our viewing will be on a different day and at a different time.

A promo for the webinar! Please note that our viewing will be on a different day and at a different time.

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

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,

Alex Garcia

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If You Missed June’s Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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R.D. Sharninghouse

Secretary

rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

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If You Missed August’s Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

On Saturday August 27, 2016, the STC Orlando Central Florida Leadership Retreat was held at the UCF Technical Communication Lab.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Content and Customer Experience – Part 1

DebraPhoto

Debra Johnson

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.

Companies are no longer competing on just price and features; they are competing on the “customer experience.”  contentandcustomerexperience2

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.contentandcustomerexperience1

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.

There are SIX key factors we believe in Technical Communication:

  • Content and user experience are interconnected
  • We should be using content to get closer to Customers
  • We need to strategize and manage content as an asset, just like our “code”
  • Content professionals and user experience professionals are allies – not enemies
  • Content is everything product-related
  • Content is dynamic–-not static

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

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Tech Comm Writers, Ensure Google Notices You: Capitalize on Organic SEO

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STC Mentor and Mentee, 20152016
Please click here for a link to the original publication.

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 AuthorsJessica Lynn Campbell

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 jessica.campbell@wbdcorp.com or 407-810-7542.

Amber Lorynne AllmanAmber 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 allman_a13@yahoo.com.

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