Over and over again, you’ve heard the importance of generating quality content that will increase website traffic, showcase your company’s expertise, and generate leads. However, in order to create valuable content that intrigues and informs potential clients, you must have valuable, specialized knowledge to offer them. That’s where your engineers, the subject matter experts (SMEs), come in.
Unfortunately, for most engineers, writing marketing content is like pulling teeth. They hem and haw and find every excuse to let the matter slip through the cracks. There are more important problems to solve and customers to address. Well, there are several key things you can do to set your SMEs up for content creation success.
There’s an art to drawing out your SMEs’ specialized expertise and translating it into valuable, lead-generating content. Who is the right person for the job?
1. Be Realistic (“How Good of a Writer Is Your SME?”)
Okay, your engineers are super smart and somehow you need to convert what is in their brains into something clear, useful, and engaging. Let’s be realistic about who the writer should be. Depending on how good at writing they are, there are several choices:
- The SME writes the whole thing.
- The SME writes the first draft, and a copy editor reviews it for grammar and readability.
- A copywriter interviews the SME and writes the first draft. The SME reviews it for technical accuracy.
Consider what will get you the best content for a reasonable amount of time and money. Hiring a copywriter may be more cost-effective since it frees up your engineer to do other things. However, if the information is very technically detailed, it may be easier for the SME to at least lay the groundwork with a first draft.
2. Set the Stage (“Why Do I Have to Do This?”)
Now that you’ve decided the best course of action, meet with your SMEs to convey the importance and purpose of the content. By explaining the business goals behind the content creation, the SMEs have a better understanding of why their contributions are so essential to the company’s success.
Take the time to convey the overall goals of the content by answering the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the content?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the primary message or takeaway they should come away with?
- What next steps do you want the audience to take afterwards?
To give your SMEs even more direction, provide them with example pieces of content that you’d like them to emulate. You can even schedule a brainstorming meeting to discuss meat of the content and create a rough outline together.
Before the SMEs begin writing, discuss the goals of the content and provide example documents they can use as a template.
3. Set Clear Expectations (“When Is This Due?”)
There is a surprising amount of planning that goes into content creation. It helps to create a timeline of tasks that must occur to complete the content, establish who is responsible for each task, and then pick a feasible deadline. Here is an example list of steps for writing a white paper:
- Gather source material
- Create an outline
- Write the first draft
- Collect images
- Review the first draft
- Create a second draft
- Review the second draft
- Create the final draft
- Send to copy editing
- Post on the website
- Promote the content
Word of warning: the more people that are involved in the content development, the longer it will take to finalize it. Colleagues and clients go on vacation or have higher priority emergency fires to put out. Content creation is usually one of those important but not urgent to-do’s that get pushed further and further behind if you’re not careful, so unless you have a dedicated marketing person responsible for driving the process, it may get forgotten over time.
4. Provide Resources (“How Can I Make Your Life Easier?”)
Try to make the assignment as painless as possible. Block out your SMEs’ schedules so that they have uninterrupted blocks of time to work on brainstorming, writing, and reviewing. If there are other employees assisting the SME, reiterate to them the importance of the content and thank them for their prompt responses. Make sure the SMEs have the tools to make their lives easier, such as an organized system for tracking tasks or a shared directory for storing files and images so that everyone is working from the same draft.
What happens if the content is stuck in development hell? It may be time to switch the plan up and get things moving again.
5. Know When to Reprioritize (“Is This Worth It?”)
When a piece of content is stuck in development hell and not making any progress, it may be time to reassess. Does the SME’s manager need to get involved to get buy-in or provide more help? Does it need to be assigned to another SME or copywriter? Does this white paper need to be put on hold (temporarily or indefinitely) so that the SME can concentrate on a higher priority webinar? There’s no use in beating a dead horse (or dead case study), so don’t be afraid to change tactics as needed to achieve the overall strategy.
Hopefully with this guide, your SMEs are now on board to help share their expertise with potential and existing clients. For next steps, follow this checklist for creating valuable content that sticks.