How to Properly Use SMEs

May 26, 2021

The sea of sameness. You’ve all seen it. The platforms and apps we use on a day to day basis even optimize and promote the output of similar things.

If I asked you to tell me your best guess of the average writer’s process and output, what would you say?

If you told a writer “Hey can you please create a blog post about How to Write a Title Tag that Converts”, what would the writer do first?

Most writers start with an outline. They put the title at the top and start Googling. They type “How to Write a Title Tag that Converts” and open up the first 4 or 5 results on Google.  They start taking notes making sure they cover the most important elements and answer the reader’s most pressing questions.

The writer is an amazing copywriter and she writes a great article on the topic.

Wonderful, but what’s the problem here?

The problem lies in the research phase. If we are getting all of our info to write from Google, how are we ever going to create something new and ADD to the conversation as opposed to just saying the same thing in a different way.

When people hear of “The Skyscraper Technique” popularized by Brian Dean, far too often a writer thinks that means combining the top 3 articles into 1 longer article that’s more comprehensive.

There’s nothing wrong with covering some of the same topics. Depending on what the article is about, I’m sure it will benefit your reader to cover 3-4 of the essentials that everyone writing about the topic will be covering.

But we need to add to the conversation. We need a unique view, a different voice, and to bring new data and ideas to the table.

We’ll never do that if the research phase of your writing doesn’t have a huge chunk of it carved out allowing time to interview a Subject Matter Expert.

Subject matter experts writers

Combining Writing Skills & Knowledge 

I think a great writer should create a better piece of content than an average writer that’s also a subject matter expert on a given topic.

I’ve talked to so many clients that ask if I have written on a topic or if I am an expert in the industry.

I love where their head’s at. But I think they’re going about it in the wrong way though.

An amazing writer’s job is to create content in a way that hooks an audience right away, and keeps them engaged while telling a story throughout the piece of content. That’s the power of an amazing writer.

An amazing writer equipped with the skills and right questions to ask an SME before writing a piece of content? Now that’s an unstoppable force.

Whenever I need to use a writer for a project, I don’t use a subject matter expert writer. I have 6-7 writers that I trust with any type of content and equip them with the right input from the true SME.

Using an SME in content

Using Subject Matter Experts Properly

A true subject matter expert will make all the difference. I like to ask clients “Imagine if your lead developer, who knows everything about this product, was also the best writer in the world?” 

That would be a spicy combo.

I always prefer a technical SME to one that is good at marketing. A true technical SME provides such a unique insight because they don’t think of the product or service the same way us marketers do, and that’s so refreshing. It adds new insights and high-level thinking to a subject that was previously reserved for the same 2 articles being regurgitated by 100s of marketers.

There’s no 1 set of questions I use for every interview with an SME. It all has to be hyper-targeted at the piece of content you’re working on at the time.

That being said, there are a few recurring themes you can use when trying to get the best info out of an SME. You should ask questions like:

  • Tell me an unpopular opinion that you hold about this subject? The more people that disagree with you the better
  • If a reader could only know 1 thing about this subject, what should it be and why?
  • What’s 1 quote by you that you would love to put your name behind
  • What do most people get wrong when thinking about this subject?
  • What is the coolest data you’ve seen on this subject?

These 4 questions accomplish the 2 most important parts of writing. It gives incredible insight to the reader that they’ve never read before, and it goes against the grain and stands out. If 4 articles say X is so important, and then our article says that X being important is what most people get wrong when thinking about this subject, the reader automatically takes a step back and really thinks about what we’re saying.

It sinks in more. We include a high level SMEs direct thoughts and quotes. We may even get to provide new data to an industry that badly needs something new. 

Let Writers Write 

A high level SME, a great interviewer, and an amazing writer will change the course of any business. I whole-heartedly believe that any company that can have all 3 of these things with a consistent output, will reach any level they want to get to.

But these 3 things don’t all have to be the same person. 

Let the writers do what they do best and engage the audience through storytelling. Let the experts be the experts. Combining the 2 is the superpower.

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