The subject matter experts, or SMEs, within your tech company are a powerful weapon in your content strategy. Why? Because their expert knowledge is a great way to add authority to your tech content and differentiate it from your competitors. And while all tech companies should be taking advantage of the untapped knowledge their SMEs have to offer, it’s not always so simple. That’s because while your SMEs can provide a wealth of content opportunities, getting them involved in the content creation process can sometimes be a challenge.
According to our recent survey, “Content Marketing in the Real World,” 47% of respondents reported that SMEs in their company LOVE to help create content, but an equal number said getting SMEs to participate in content creation was a hassle.
If you fall into the “hassle” category, or are just looking for ways to get your tech company SMEs more involved in the content creation process, read on for some tips to encourage their cooperation.
Remember Project Management 101
Project management best practices apply no matter who you’re working with, but here are some reminders to keep in mind as you encourage SME participation in your content strategy.
Do Your Own Research Upfront
You need to ask the right questions in order to get the right answers. Before you engage your SME, make sure you have a good general understanding of your topic and the type of content you want to create. The more detailed your questions, the more detailed and useful responses you’ll receive in return.
Set Realistic Expectations
Determine the level of participation you’d like from your SME prior to asking for their involvement. Set clear expectations from the start. For example, will your SME be solely responsible for writing a piece of content, or will you interview them and write the content yourself? Be sure to describe the purpose of the content and intended audience.
Provide your SME with a timeline or due date for your project and make sure it won’t conflict with other major projects or deadlines that could get in the way of your content plan. Finally, invite your SME to ask questions about the process and timeline as well.
Provide Resources and Set Clear Guidelines
Identify any resources your SME might need in order to make participation easier. Provide an example of content similar to what you want to produce. For example, if you want to write a blog post, show your SME an example of a similar one you’ve previously written.
Create a shared folder that allows both of you to access drafts, outlines, photos, and anything else related to the content. Set up a meeting to go over the content outline and deliverables..
Stay in Communication
Keep your SME in the loop as your project progresses and notify them of any changes to your schedule or scope in your content project as soon as they happen. Check in every so often to make sure your SME is on track with project deliverables. Your SME will feel more engaged if they feel that their time and opinions are valuable.
Involve Them in Final Review
Once your content is complete, involve your SME in the final review. Not only will this help you catch any last minute inaccuracies, but it will also help build trust with your SME–and encourage them to participate the next time you ask.
Get Creative to Encourage Participation
Now that we’ve revisited some of the project management best practices for working with your SME, let’s think about ways to get them more involved and invested in your company’s content marketing strategy.
Make it Simple
Make it so easy for your SMEs to get involved that they can’t refuse! Instead of expecting them to write an entire white paper from scratch, provide an outline where they fill in the blanks. Develop a survey with multiple choice answers or short-text responses. Offer to interview them so they don’t have to write a single word. The easier and less painful it is for your SME to provide information, the better.
If you’re lucky enough to have several SMEs to choose from, rotate content responsibilities when possible. This way, you won’t feel like you’re always harassing the same person. And if one SME sees another one is willing to help, hopefully they’ll feel some healthy peer pressure to do the same when it’s their turn.
Clarify the Business Case for Content
Writing blog posts can seem like busy work to non-marketing people. Make it clear how content leads to lead gen, which leads to sales opportunities, which leads to deals, which leads to revenue. Get them excited about an opportunity to contribute to company growth that’s outside of their core job description.
Offer Incentives + Recognition
Who can refuse some participation swag? Gift cards, company apparel and recognition in company newsletters or social media might just give your SMEs that little extra incentive to offer their time and knowledge. A handwritten thank you note or cc’ing them on an appreciative email to their supervisor wouldn’t hurt, either.