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Monthly Archives: July 2013

If you are a communicator of technical, marketing, business, and other information, at least one of your projects today likely involves organizing content. You might be wondering, “What should I consider when deciding on an effective organizational pattern to use? What’s a good way to structure topics into a logical, orderly flow? How can I combine multiple topics into fewer topics? What are some of my options for organizing content?”

In the previous webinar I presented to the Society for Technical Communication, Patterns for Organizing Content—Many More than A to Z, participants had activities to work through independently. Let’s look at one activity together as preparation for the second webinar on the subject of organizing content, Upside Down, Inside Out, and Other Acrobatics for Organizing Your Content.

Organize Our Content Deliverables for your employer.

Your department is developing a promotional piece, Our Content Deliverables, for your employer or your client. How would you organize the following content deliverables?

case studies, catalogs, courseware, diagnostics and troubleshooting, instructions, marketing collateral, online help, operations and maintenance, parts lists, proposals, reports, scripts, service manuals, software instructions, specifications and requirements, speeches, standard operating procedures, strategic plans, style guides, theory of operations, training material, user guides, and website content

You might agree that this alphabetical listing is one option for organizing a list, but it is not particularly effective. There is no logical flow to assist the reader. Consider how your employer is accustomed to thinking about content. Perhaps your employer organizes work according to lifecycles, in which a product progresses through various phases. To be in step with your employer, try organizing your promotional piece according to where each content deliverable belongs in the product lifecycle. For example:

  • Developing and testing the product might include reports, specifications and requirements, standard operating procedures, strategic plans, and style guides.
  • Marketing and selling the product might include case studies, catalogs, marketing collateral, parts lists, proposals, speeches, and website content.
  • Servicing the product might include diagnostics and troubleshooting, operations and maintenance, service manuals, and a theory of operations.
  • Training the end user of the product might include courseware, instructions, online help, scripts, software instructions, training material, and user guides.

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One of the joys of participating with several colleagues in a speaking troupe we call Thinking Forward involves creating thoughtful talks for our audience. Our latest theme, Transforming Your Community for Good, got me thinking…

What do communities look like?

Communities of people come in lots of different sizes and shapes. They may be specialized and similar or diverse and different in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, cultural background, residence, level of education, economic status, type of employment, or some other demographic.

Communities likely have insiders and outsiders. They are exclusive in some way. Members may live in the same neighborhood. They may work for the same employer. Maybe they have the same professional degrees or licenses. Communities can have different structures. They can be hierarchical, where members fall somewhere between the top and the bottom. They can be flat, where all members have an equal voice. In some communities, you already belong. If you graduated from a specific college, you are in the community of alumni. In others, you have to join. For example, membership in an association of alumni likely makes you a more exclusive member of the community, with additional perks.

Though communities look different, members share a bond; there is common thread; there is a tie that unites. And all communities—as different as they are—are part of a global community of human beings who breathe the same air, walk the same earth, and touch one another, someway, somehow. Read More