From the Hart: A Midterm Report

by Kevin Cuddihy on 15 December 2011

Posted on behalf of STC President Hillary Hart.

As we head into this holiday/end-of-year season (at least in parts of the world), I’d like to update you on what STC (the Board, the staff, committee chairs) have worked to achieve in the past six months, and where we plan to go in the next six.

First of all, we can say that Project Phoenix—the past year’s big push to use technology to gather data on our members’ preferences and to redesign and reengineer the STC website accordingly—that work has been a success. The number of visits to the website has increased about 15% in the period of 1 July–30 November 2011, compared with the same period last year. Unique visitors have increased by 18% and, most importantly, the time folks are spending on the website has increased by 25%. More people are coming to the site and are finding more reasons to stick around. We are collecting a full array of analytics and will analyze them over the next couple of months to improve the user experience even more.

I talked in a previous blog about STC maintaining and strengthening a culture of learning. Here’s what we’ve done. Our educational offerings have boomed. In the past four years, the number of live webinars has increased by four-fold (from 14/year to 56/year). Certificate courses (which didn’t exist four years ago) have increased by four-fold in the past three years. And STC held its first virtual day-long conference last month. What a great experience that was, listening to experts talk about state-of-the-art research results while the conference-goers carried on their own discussion in the chat room. Virtual conferences allow participants to be active and vocal learners without interrupting the speaker.  

Perhaps the biggest step we took this year was to set up a TC certification program, administered by a Certification Commission. The Certified Professional Technical CommunicatorTM (CPTC) credential will help promote the profession by increasing recognition, respect, and salaries; allow certified professionals to stand out in a crowded job market; and provide employers with assurances about the quality of their hires.

And we held dues steady for the third year in a row!! For 2012, dues are the same as in 2011 and 2010. Plus we have a new category of membership for those coming out of degree programs: New TC Professional. Dues for this category are halfway between regular and student memberships, thus easing the transition into the TC workplace for new first-career or second- (or third)-career members.  New TC Professional membership is open to anyone who has graduated within the previous three years.

Informed by the Global Audit Task Force report, the Board has renewed its commitment to support and serve the technical communication profession globally. The survey results that chair Kit Brown and her committee members presented to the Board suggested many ways to provide educational and professional benefits to STC members wherever they live. 

In the next six months, I look forward to expanding these initiatives and adding more. And wait until you see the preliminary program for the 2012 STC Summit in Rosemont. We’ve already got dozens of great speakers and sessions lined up, such as Building a Developer Documentation Wiki, Destroying the Box, Putting the Sexy Back in Tech Comm, Publishing in a New Media Landscape, Data Visualization: Seeing through the Numbers, and Collaboration in a Decentralized Culture. Other sessions on content strategy, localization, agile development, ePubs, CMSes, Web design, mobile, HTML5, and more will help you compete in (or teach for) today’s multi-faceted technical communication workplace. These sessions represent a variety of areas that go “beyond writing” and in which technical communicators are actively engaged. May 2012 may seem a long way away, but we all know how time flies.

I hope this time of year offers fun and peace for you and your families.

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