Unless you’re the subject matter expert and the marketer too, chances are you’ll be seeking contributions from other internal experts to form the nucleus of the content for your content marketing program.
Depending on how far along your organization is on the content marketing adoption continuum, you may experience differing levels of enthusiasm among staff when it comes to helping you create content.
At the very early stages, people often can’t envision why they would need to take time from their day jobs to help create what they consider marketing deliverables. If you’re an experienced content marketer, this can be frustrating because you probably have a vision for your campaign and already possess an appreciation for the positive impact that content marketing can have on a business.
The key here, as with many things, is taking the time to explain why. You need to tell a vivid story so that others can understand what you’re trying to do and how their contributions are essential for the success of the campaign, and ultimately, the bottom line of the business. If they believe what they are doing is important and provides them with an opportunity for recognition, you may find a more willing group of contributors. Usually, you’ll be able to zero in on a champion or two who will be the first to get on board. Once they begin producing, others often join in to keep from being left behind.
Despite this, you may find that some people will still hesitate to get involved. They will say they are too busy. They will say they are looking things over. They will dodge you.
But the real reason they hesitate is simply fear.
We all fear negative criticism in one respect or another. If you’re not used to publishing your work and dealing with feedback, the thought of attaching your name to something can be daunting. This is true even if they are just one of many unnamed contributors to an initiative. Someone internally will know they were a part of it and the same fear instinct kicks in. This seems counterintuitive since you’re asking people to help you with something they are supposed to be an expert in. But that doesn’t always get them past the trepidation of putting themselves out there.
If you’re just getting the ball rolling when it comes to content marketing, the first thing you need to do is identify those early champions who want to contribute. Then you can leverage their contributions to get some quick wins that will convince others it’s worth doing. Success is contagious.
When you’re working with expert contributors, it’s helpful to understand the strengths they bring to the table beyond their subject area knowledge. For instance, some people are excellent writers while others can barely string a paragraph together. If you’re dealing with a so-so writer who can get all of the facts on the table and doesn’t mind having their work heavily edited, you might find a good synergy. Other people are very sensitive about having their words moved around, so asking them to write for you may lead to unnecessary friction.
Often, subject matter experts are very busy people and can be hard to pin down. If this sounds like your situation, then you may have to get creative about how you gather content from them.
Here are a few strategies I’ve used to derive content from subject matter experts:
Get them writing.
Ok, not a particularly novel approach for the first suggestion, but bear with me. If you’re creating content that requires deliverables such as blog posts or white papers, eventually you’ll need to get the content into written form.
Sometimes, you can’t judge what someone is capable of until you see what they’ve written. If you find a cooperative contributor, work with them to define a topic or an outline and ask them to write whatever you’ve agreed to. Then, see what they deliver. From there, you can figure out if what they gave you is gold, garbage, or something in between. Adjust your approach next time, based on the results from the initial go-around.
Needless to say, if they gave you garbage, you’ll have to democratically suggest the necessary edits to get the final product where you need it to be.
Write something yourself and ask them to react to it.
If you have some initial content or ideas to go on, you might find that writing something yourself and asking your subject matter expert to react to it will be a more expeditious way to get the content you need.
As I mentioned earlier, some brilliant experts are so busy they can’t figure out where to get started. Or maybe they are harboring some type of insecurity that is holding them back. Offering them an initial draft of something can give them a tangible place to start. This approach can work particularly well for experts who are higher up the food chain and used to directing or editing the work of others.
If you’re in a highly technical industry or don’t have baseline material to draw from, this technique may not be realistic. Thus, you can jump to the next strategy…
The thing with subject matter experts is that they usually can speak for a long time on their topics once they get going. However, not all of them are particularly talented at translating this into the written word.
If your final deliverable is something that requires a written product, you could choose to hold a recorded interview with your subject matter expert. Develop a series of questions in advance and let them unleash their knowledge into a microphone. You can then get this transcribed or simply pull the content you need from the recording to develop whatever type of written end product you require. Then, you can ask them to react to what you’ve created and hopefully wrap up the process quickly.
In some cases, your final product may actually be a podcast or a video, in which case your subject matter expert may never have to review a written deliverable.
You should keep one thing in mind. Some people, no matter how experienced or knowledgeable, will freeze like a deer in headlights when a microphone or camera is put in front of them. I’ve witnessed otherwise talkative, gregarious individuals shutting down and reverting back to reading from written notes during an interview. This might actually be fine if all you are doing is transcribing what they are saying for a blog post. But it can make for a pretty flat podcast. Again, get to know the strengths of your experts and get them doing what they do best.
Perhaps the last thing I’ll leave you with should have been the first thing I said. And that is, your leadership team must be behind you for this to work. Your experts need to know that management views what you are doing with urgency and importance, or many of them will choose to find other things to spend their time on. Only when they understand the importance of your initiative to the business and see the enthusiasm from management for it will they give of their valuable time and talents. That’s really only fair.
This post is adapted from an excerpt of The Content Driven Product Launch