Expand Your Horizons
by Samantha Massaglia, Media Relations for Governor Jesse Ventura

When I entered MSUís graduate program in technical communication, I never considered handling public relations for a 6í3", plainspoken, former professional wrestler known as The Body, who ran for Governor (and won). I credit the experience and skills I gained as a member of the MSU technical communication program for opening that door.

Technical communication in the work of a political spokesperson can be summarized in one word: clarification. When I write a position paper for the governor, I seek to clarify his beliefs about that issue. Writers need a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter and must anticipate questions the reader might have, answering those questions in a clear, concise manner before the reader asks.

Some argue that the purpose of technical documentation is to instruct, whereas the purpose of public relations documentation is to persuade. That may be true, but one can successfully integrate the skill set they learn as a technical communicator into other areas of the communications industry. While at MSU, I studied subjects like audience analysis, web design, editing, desktop publishing, and technical literature. These topics helped me become a better technical communicator, and each one has come in handy while working for the governor.

I must frequently write for several different audiences, ranging from reporters, to legislators, to the public. Each audience has different needs, and how successfully I communicate with them (which, ultimately, influences how effectively the governor communicates with them) depends on my ability to analyze their needs as an audience. I learned how to do that in the technical communication program.

The Ďtechnicalí part of technical communication comes in handy, too. The Governorís office has a website, which is managed by the communications department. When we first began strategizing the purpose and appearance of the website, I was able to play a significant role in the discussion because of the background I gained in web design as a technical communication student.

Technical communication is as narrow or broad as we make it. You must let employers know about your versatile skills. You will be surprised at how many doors your training as a technical communicator will open.

 

 

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