One of the sessions at the recent 2018 STC Summit was titled, “Communicate Your Value: How Analytics Can Transform Your Career.” This session was positioned at the last slot of the week before the concluding luncheon, so the presenter (Dustin Vaughn from Adobe) wisely kept the presentation almost completely text free and encouraged group discussion instead of delivering a straight lecture. The talk/discussion covered the issue of how technical writers can use metrics to demonstrate their value to an organization.
The cost of doing business
It’s a sad fact, but most businesses usually regard communication functions as a cost center rather than a profit center unless their primary source of customer income is creative/written content the communicators are developing. Even if you’re in a proposal-writing job that is responsible for winning contracts, an organization usually sees itself as paying for you out of General and Administrative (G&A) fees or “overhead,” so you’re seen as a necessary evil or cost of doing business. In short, “You’re never the most important person in the room.”
How, then, do you demonstrate that you’re actually adding value to an organization in tangible (i.e., monetary) ways? The discussion revolved around this topic, the goal being to tap the wisdom of the people in the room to see what they could contribute.
How do you demonstrate value?
Beyond proposal writing, which I already mentioned brings in money directly, there are other ways content like online help or FAQs could help an organization save money or prevent losses. For example, if multiple customers are accessing particular questions about your organization, product, or service, it might be a sign that the explanatory text, product, or service needs to be updated or improved.
Your customers might be looking for content that describes additional, neglected features of the product/service. That might represent a potential new business area.
If you’re posting content internally and you suddenly observe an uptick in views on a particular safety issue, you could identify a need for additional training or safety awareness. Improved training in that area could save the company from worker’s compensation or lawsuit expenses.
What metrics should you collect?
Ideally, you want to use metrics that are easily or already being collected to demonstrate that your content is of value to internal or external customers. If your content is being delivered in a web-based environment, for example, you can use Google Analytics or a related program to capture information such as:
- What sorts of keyword searches are readers using to search your site?
- How often do they click on “Yes/No” button on the “Was this information helpful” prompt after an article?
- How often are specific pages collected?
- What is the language/locale of the people accessing the information?
- How much time do they spend on the page?
- Does the page include multimedia? Which ones get the most traffic?
- If you’re writing conference papers or otherwise presenting content at a technical conference, you can track how many people come to your presentation or booth or how many new business contacts your paper/presentation attracted.
The bottom line in this case is: find ways to quantify how you’re contributing to the bottom line.