If you’re a brand marketer, you are likely familiar with subject matter experts or SMEs. These subject-specific specialists have extensive experience in a particular niche, such as technology or healthcare – and often some of the most seasoned figures in a particular niche may be in-house experts at your own company. When you activate them in your brand’s content, you can gain new depths and insights.
That depth can add credibility, authority, and authenticity to your brand new. When you turn to SMB Skills, you’re showing your audience that you know exactly what you’re talking about – and that you can trust your advice.
However, successfully integrating a subject matter expert into your content marketing requires a certain degree of finesse. Like all partnerships, an SME relationship is based on clear communication and effective collaboration.
Here are a few tips to help include SMBs in your content program.
1. Include SMEs in your content strategy
When planning your editorial calendar, hold briefings with your SMEs at least every six months. SMEs know the landscape of their industry like the back of their hand. Your insights can help you plan general topics for upcoming content related to your products and solutions – and then tweak your messaging to keep up with the latest trends. Your audience will get thorough, up-to-date information all year round.
Your SMEs can also be one of the best sources of information about your audience. In addition to providing target group search data, insights from sales and direct customer feedback, an SME can also tap into very human elements: what interests your audience, what challenges it has and how future content can address their concerns in a valuable and practical way.
2. Determine whether your SMEs are passive or active
When you start working with SMEs, you need to make an important distinction: will they play a passive or active role in your content program? Each option requires a unique management method and content workflow.
Whichever route you take, take the time with your SMB to establish a process that works for everyone.
Active SMEs are more involved in the basics of content creation. They can serve as the interviewee for another author’s article, offer their byline to represent new thought leaders, or even write the content yourself.
Since they are better at dealing with the content, you should maintain an open dialogue. Ask about their availability, get an idea of their personality and find out which medium best suits their strengths.
Take Samsung. In developing a content plan with Skyword, Samsung identified Taher Behbehani, GM and head of Samsung’s mobile B2B business, as an active SME. His personality was perfect for hosting, so the Samsung team developed a podcast series with Behbehani as the host and face of the show. In each issue, Behbehani interviews IT influencers to understand market trends in technology.
Outside of videos and podcasts, an active SMB can contribute regular interviews or even one-off quotes to bring highly technical content to life. If they prefer to write content themselves, you can give them a featured spotlight on your website to increase interest and engagement.
Passive SMEs usually offer higher-level support such as B. Reviewing ideas, finalizing content and providing general guidance. You can add comments to the content to highlight certain phrases that should be corrected.
Ultimately, their role is more limited. So try to streamline the review process as much as possible. Provide passive SMEs only with the context and materials they need. For example, if they don’t review content until after a draft has been written and edited, send them a clean copy that they can mark up and return to you.
Clearly define their roles so that both you and them understand when and how to get into the process. This allows them to focus their efforts on providing their expertise.
Image attribution: Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.
3. Distract your SMEs from the detail overload
SMEs often invest more in product details or technical specifications than the normal reader. This passion is useful in locking your content to the bottom line, but SMBs may be too prone to explaining every detail – and could lose readers in the process.
The average reader probably doesn’t need the depth that SMBs can provide, especially with early-stage content. It is therefore worth taking the time to explain the iceberg approach to your SMEs.
Point out that it is often more effective to show the tip of the “product iceberg” in your content and how that product can change the lives of readers with just a hint of the real depths hidden beneath are. Rather than explaining every minute detail in advance, this approach attracts readers and piques their interest to fuel engagement.
Image assignment: Jean-Christophe André on Pexels.
4. Make the most of your SME’s time
Brands typically struggle to get SMBs to write marketing content, according to a 2021 Skyword study. It makes sense: SMBs are busy people, and participating in a content program means spending time and effort on it.
So reach out to any SMB with a structured plan that both respects and maximizes their time. Let them know about your content program, outline your goals, intended audience, their roles as reviewers or contributors, and the impact the content will have on their line of business or personal career. This will help them understand why your content is worth contributing.
You should also explain how to optimize the workflow process to make it as smooth and simple as possible. For example, you could:
Create a template, standardized briefing, or list of questions to capture your results. When they discuss topic ideas, you can ask them the same questions for each one: What are the benefits of the product here? What challenges does the reader face? What can help them to overcome these obstacles?
Couple SMEs with ghostwriters. If your SMB wants a byline but doesn’t have enough time to write content, a ghostwriter can interview the SMB and transfer their unique point of view to the page, making sure that their personality is captured.
Make it easy for SMBs to share their content. You could write social media texts for them or exchange ideas on how to use the assets they helped create.
These are just a few examples, but you shouldn’t stop there. When your SMB is used to contributing, take the time to make process improvements and refine the workflow.
5. Follow up with profits
It is one thing for an SMB to understand the impact it is having, but quite another thing to see the results of its work. Make it a point to gather performance data on your SMB content. How many times has it been viewed? What is the click rate? How many likes or comments did it get on social media?
As you gather this information, make it a habit of dropping the SMB a quick note or sharing a nice comment from a reader to keep them up and busy. Seeing the results will motivate them to keep delivering quality content, and your audience will feel that excitement.
6. Scale your SMB program
Ideally, start your SMB program with some rock stars who accept the fact that a new process can have some growing pains. After you have collected data showing the impact of an SME program on the business and careers of SMEs, you can use that to further promote the program.
By taking the time to develop a thoughtful approach to working with SMBs, you can engage readers with content that is more robust, well-researched, and backed by industry expertise.
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