Vision, Platform, Strategy Tactics
Just so you know where I'm coming from: this is where I think STC is today, where it's heading, where I would like to see it go, and how to get there.
A healthy, vibrant, and growing STC, providing value to members and practitioners so that they, and the audiences they serve, can succeed
- Increase membership by building a Society for members and practitioners both today and tomorrow
- Support and value volunteers, the Society’s greatest asset
- Reinforce the trust and communication between the Society and communities
This is where I think things stand today:
Technological trends: Technology affects the subjects, tools, and channels of our work. Trends include the Internet of Things, responsive web design, smartphones, wearable tech, video documentation, gamification, cloud, and wikis. Many of these trends are catching on because of changing demographics.
Demographic trends: Today the largest portion of the US and world workforce is Millennials (b. ~1980–2000), who are very different from the members (Boomers, b. ~1946–1965) we had at our peak and know how to satisfy. These cohorts are markedly different in their shared life experience, education, skill set, and attitudes. This affects audiences, practitioners, and the Society.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, our profession is growing faster than average, but the long-term trend at STC is steadily downward. Why? While there are more kinds of technical communication than ever before, today's practitioners are dispersed and hard for us to reach. They don’t always see themselves as technical communicators, and we don’t see them—to our mutual detriment.
Collaboration trends: Soft skills are more important than ever before. Why? Because today's practitioners collaborate with more people, using more forms of communication, on more platforms, than ever before. Like a rainbow, what practitioners do is now a continuum, but by its tight focus STC filters out most of the colors.
Strategies for Today and Tomorrow
We’re at a strategic inflection point, and we have to make a change. Now is the time to adjust and start working with demographic and technological trends, not against them. The longer we wait, the more painful the choices will be.
The approach I advocate is: Expand our focus to attracting new members while retaining existing members. It’s a strategy we must pursue to survive and thrive.
We need to adopt three general tactics:
Look around: We need to get outside the mentality of the boardroom and the trap of “boardroom groupthink.” We don’t know all the answers.
Ask around: We’re not the first association to deal with changing demographics and declining membership. We need to research and benchmark with other organizations and learn what they’ve done.
Get around: Ask focus groups of both younger members and non-member practitioners (convened by members at larger companies) and see how what they say differs from current members. By convening focus groups and constructing accurate personas, we can learn more about what appeals to them and what doesn’t. I’ve done a little of this; the differences are striking, and the opportunity is huge.