Don’t Fake What You Don’t Know: Using Subject Matter Experts in Your Content Marketing

If you’re a brand creating content, you’ve likely discovered that you need several different people to tell your story.

No one person is an expert in the content you create. And if you’ve chosen one content writer (or even a few), they’ve no doubt run into areas of uncertainty in certain subject areas.

Sometimes, they’ll write anyway. Ouch. They shouldn’t. Readers are time-starved, and savvy, and will pick out fake knowledge faster that you can write out the buzzwords to share it. The lack of knowledge is always right there, in how a piece is worded or structured.

The solution? I think it’s using genuine subject matter experts (or SMEs) — ideally in your own organization, or community — to boost your authority, as well as to potentially drive revenue. SMEs can help drive revenue, too.

So Where Do You Find a Subject Matter Expert?

Good old fashioned talking to people is a start. Get to know your colleagues. Put out feelers to them about what kind of expertise you’re looking for. Quite often, they know someone who knows someone — and you’re off to the races.

If you’re a bigger organization, putting together a more formal SME program could be a better way to go about finding people in your company or organization that you can rely on to provide real expertise. Your content or marketing team can create a one-page document explaining what the SME role entails, and your HR team supports you: as they’re onboarded, employees weigh in on what expertise they’re willing to share; older employees can opt into the program too. You start by onboarding the right candidates for this job within your company. If you’re going this route, be sure to outline your rules for creating content in this document so the SME you choose won’t require a protracted training session; and think through exactly how you can support your SMEs in gathering their insights.

Should You Have More Than One SME?

Unless your industry is specific to a particular type of knowledge, it’s definitely best to utilize more than one SME to expand the know-how of your marketing content. Even for one industry, you’ll have different subtopics to write about, which requires reliable experts. In the legal industry, for instance, numerous legal niches exist you’ll need to explain to prospective clients.

What’s most important is to meet regularly with your SMEs and have an outline immediately available for the type of content you need. Also, give them freedom to share ideas with one another to form a content think tank.

The more experts you have in one room, the more knowledge and reliable information you’ll bring to blogs, videos, whitepapers, or e-books.

What Kind of Expertise Does an SME Bring?

Subject matter experts can help with much more than content; they can help with your content marketing operations, too.

Experts in SEO, for instance, can help you optimize your content and create workflows to ensure that everyone who touches content knows exactly what needs to be included. Maximizing this expertise will save you from having to hire third-party experts to incorporate white hat SEO and other marketing optimization. Technical SMEs in your inner circle, on the other hand, could help make you more powerful by advising you on the right tools to use and how to implement them. It’s like having your own consultants, in house.

Thinking Long Term

When it comes to employing SMEs, think long term rather than of a one-shot content item. Being taken seriously as a content provider means delivering consistently strong content with genuinely helpful insights and tips. SMEs are key to this effort. I advise engaging SMEs in regular content planning and reporting, to keep them engaged–and inspired by the success of their content contributions. Content planning can be fun, and energizing, too — and once they like you, they might pass the word along to other potential SMEs in their network.

Get in touch with Forge & Spark Media for more ideas on how you can keep the love flowing to and from your online audience.

Shannon Emmerson
Shannon Emmerson
With 20+ years experience in creating and publishing digital content for a range of organizations, Shannon knows it’s all about stories. Inspired by: small acts of courage.