In nearly every field, working with subject matter experts to create content is a no-brainer. It can make a huge difference in, what Andy Crestodina says, creating the best content on the internet for your topic. It also plays a major role in creating expertise for your organization and building your website’s domain authority.
While many of us are experts in our own right—and can create highly specialized content with the best of them—there is no substitute for having the point-of-view of experienced team members who are immersed in the organization, attend the internal meetings, go on sales calls, and talk with customers.
There are also massive employer benefits to using internal subject matter experts for your content marketing program. It creates the opportunity to raise the profile of internal rising stars, gives their personal brands some search engine optimization juice, and affords them speaking opportunities at industry trade shows. It also helps facilitate communication between departments.
But how do you work with these experts to get content created in a timely manner? How do you get their time and attention when it’s not their first priority? And how do you create the content when they aren’t writers or hate the way they look or sound on video?
The simple answer is that it’s extraordinarily challenging.
There are many challenges (many of which you’re probably aware of) in garnering input from your subject matter experts in a timely and efficient manner. The biggest ones we run into pretty consistently are time constraints, silos within the organization, and prioritization.
So how do you make it a priority without taking their time or requiring they be the ones to create the content?
We’ve created a process we use with clients that works like magic every time. It requires some elbow grease on your part, but it’s flawless and efficient.
Get Buy-in From the Top
When beginning this work, it’s important to get buy-in from the top. Without it, all of your efforts to engage subject matter experts will fail.
One of the things we require when working with new clients is a tw0-day workshop with the leadership team (0r, in today’s virtual world, it ends up being more like multi-day and in two-hour increments). This is a requirement. We will not work with an organization if they don’t agree to this immersive time together.
Not only does it allow us to get what we need to craft a strategy and plan, but it also builds trust fast with our new clients.
As part of that workshop, we discuss processes for getting subject matter experts involved in the content marketing program. We ask them to list some of their more experienced and talented people. Then we talk through what they perceive their strengths and weaknesses to be.
From there, we discuss the importance of a weekly content meeting—and how imperative it is that it becomes mandatory. If we don’t have buy-in from the top, and it’s not mandatory, people show up the first few weeks and then start to schedule over it.
We discuss the process we need the leadership team to go through to make sure the subject matter experts show up every week, participate, and always keep it as a priority on their calendars.
Of course, it’s up to us to keep them engaged and understand how their participation is benefitting all, but the first step is to ask leadership to require them to attend.
You can use this same process as a new agency, a new employee, or when re-launching your content marketing program.
Identify the Subject Matter Experts
Subject matter experts are, of course, the people inside the organization who have a particular skill set, understand the product or service intimately, and/or work directly with customers or prospects.
In most cases, I like for the content team to be comprised of one person from each department: product, customer service, sales, risk, marketing, and leadership, to name a few.
Not everyone will have something to add for every topic or in every planning session, but they will be able to provide color commentary during discussions. These side conversations are going to be most valuable to you as you build your content.
While your immersion workshop with the leadership team will determine who you want to start with, you’ll also want to keep the following in mind:
- Are they active on social media? Do they have a following? Do they attend industry events?
- Do they have certain expertise? Can they provide a long-term point-of-view about the industry?
- Will they be excited to be asked to participate in your content efforts? Do they have longevity at the organization?
- Do they already share information, news, and ideas about the industry, your competition, and the organization?
If your subject matter experts have these qualities, their expertise and insight will help you create even better content that differentiates your organization and helps them either create or enhance their personal brands.
Because of that, people will find your website when searching for solutions to their problems, which will eventually turn into lead generation (or, as I like to say, credit for the work you’ve done).
One other thing to remember: try to pull together a group of diverse experts. You don’t, for instance, want a bunch of guys from sales named Jim. You can have one guy from sales named Jim, but try to get someone from each department within the organization.
Make Information Sharing Easy
Now that you’ve built your subject matter expert team and gotten buy-in from the top, it’s time for the CEO (or another executive) to make good on their promise.
Schedule a weekly meeting. Make sure it’s at a time that everyone can attend almost every one of them and ask the CEO to request they all attend.
You will get some grumbling at the start. No one wants one more recurring meeting on their calendar. That’s why it’s important it’s mandated from above. After the first few meetings, they’ll stop grumbling and look forward to the conversation (it’s your job to make sure that happens).
They’ll even begin to participate, which is the next part of making information sharing easy.
If you use Slack or a project management software or Teams or some other tool to stay connected, create a channel that is specific to content development.
This is where the team can share news alerts, thoughts, comments, ideas, competitor content, and more.
At first, just like you have to do when you are building a community from scratch, you’ll have to seed the conversations.
I like to share articles with a one- or two-sentence commentary. These come from several places: Talkwalker alerts, Buzzsumo, Brand24, Twitter lists, and my own newsfeeds.
After a few weeks of the team clicking the emoji response of their choice or writing quick comments such as, “Thanks!” or “Interesting”, they’ll begin to participate.
I will warn you that, when it begins to work effectively, it can get a little overwhelming. That’s where your preparation for the meeting will come into play.
We’ll cover that, running the meeting, creating the content, and some best practices in a forthcoming article, which you can find here.
A version of this first appeared on the MuckRack blog