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What’s New with STC?
2010, Q2 (July 11, 2010)
By Terry Smith, Incoming Carolina Chapter President

Terry Smith
Terry Smith
There are some big changes afoot with STC. Members who attended this year’s STC Summit in Dallas were able to get a first peek at some brand new things and to get more details about some of the things we had been hearing about.

Professional Certification

The biggest change by far is a work in progress, but it’s so important that I must mention it first: professional certification! STC members have been debating whether technical communication is a profession or a craft and whether we need professional certifications since the very beginning. The goal is to make the certification process a reality by the end of 2010. The details are not final, but the basic idea is that the certification would be based on work already completed. The work would be reviewed by a committee against a standard to determine whether the person had produced work that meets the certification standards. The fees for certification have not been set.


The move to have professional certification is tied to changes in the International STC Competitions, because the standards used for judging competition entries align with the standards used for determining whether a technical communicator has produced work worth of professional certification.

So what would that mean for our competitions? First, know that our local competitions do not have to follow the format of the international competitions. That said, our local STC Carolina competitions generally use the same judging forms and categories as the International competitions (although we have been known to add categories like “Most Improved.”) In the past, the competition categories were based on the delivery media: technical publications, online, or art.
The new categories will be based on the work’s function.
The new categories will be based on the work’s function: informational, instructional, promotional, or user-support. Most of the entries we have received in the STC Carolina competitions are user manuals and online help; those will all be part of the same user-support category. A two-page specification sheet would go in the informational category. Obviously training would all go in the instructional category. Many marketing materials belong in the promotional or informational categories. Notice that these categories are much broader, so it is likely that your company’s technical communications fit into these categories better.

The forms used by the judges are changing along with the categories. People submitting entries to the STC Competitions consistently report that they care more about the feedback they get on their entries than they care about the actual awards (although the awards are a nice bonus). As those of you who have judged in the STC Carolina competitions already know, we train our judges to provide plenty of constructive feedback. The new forms are meant to get that kind of feedback from everyone who judges by requiring essay-style answers for every question. Examples of questions on the judging forms are “what is the purpose of this work?” and “does the work fulfill its purpose?” and “how can the work be improved?”

STC Community Social Network

New web resources, including social networking feature, are available for all STC members. The new web resources are still in flux, and there has been quite a bit of confusion about them. While chapters and SIGs can use these resources, we do not have to switch to using a different web site. Instead, these are additional resources. (Of course, chapters and SIGs can switch if that meets their needs, but I don’t see STC Carolina doing that.) You can go to stc.org to see what is happening with the new web resources.

Transparency and Leadership Training

It is not unusual for STC members to say that they don’t know what is happening with the society, and that it is difficult to find out. As a council member who should be in the know, I must agree. There are many things I did not understand about how STC works as an organization (and how we must work under our legal charter) and many things that were not revealed to members until the decisions were finalized. Our current society president has said that making the workings of STC more transparent to the members is a top priority. For anyone who wants to be a leader in the profession, understanding how decisions are made will be very helpful.

Terry Smith can be reached at president at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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