Collaborating with technical subject matter experts on blog posts
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Let’s face it: You can’t sustain your company’s blog all by yourself. But you don’t have to. The great thing about marketing B2B technology is that you’re surrounded by super smart people. Collaborating with technical subject matter experts (SME) on blog posts can be incredibly fulfilling. Oftentimes I find that SMEs are as passionate about technology as marketers are about creating great content. Together, you can make a great team.
So, who are your subject matter experts? They are your engineers, developers, administrators, technicians – anyone who helps build, deliver and support your company’s products and/or services. These people offer a dual advantage: First, they know your technologies better than anyone. Second, they are also very similar to your target audience. Because they are trying to solve your customer’s problems, it’s very likely they are interested in the same topics as your customers. Actively engaging with your company’s technologists will take your blog to a new level.
Now you just have to convince your technologists to contribute. This can be a challenge given how busy everyone is these days. It’s also possible that they don’t feel comfortable writing for a public forum. That’s ok. SME blog contributions can take several forms:
• A 30-minute brain dump with you or another writer • A suggested topic, links to background information and any additional context for a blog post • A link to an article or report and the SME’s roughly written response to the said content • Audio recordings of Meet Up presentations, conference sessions, etc., that they attended with suggestions for a specific angle or why it’s of interest • Technical details or specific anecdotes that he/she adds to a blog post you've started • And, of course, a complete first draft
Each of these scenarios requires varying levels of effort from you depending on the SME’s writing capabilities and your understanding of the content. But whether you write the first draft or edit the SME’s first draft, I highly recommend that you send the blog post back to your source for a technical edit. Highlight any edits and revisions that could have changed the original meaning. When writing in Word, turn on Track Changes. In Google Docs, go to Editing > Suggesting. This will give you both assurance that the content is accurate, while helping you build a solid partnership.
And what if you're still met with resistance from potential SME contributors? In an ideal world, you’d have management’s support and contributing to the corporate blog would be part of each person’s job responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be much. Consider how much content you’d have if each of your technologists was required to contribute to the blog once or twice a quarter. You can certainly make a case to management, but whether or not contributing to the blog is a requirement, it helps if your subject matter experts actually want to contribute.
Here are some tips for making it worth their while:
• Give your technical SMEs the byline – no matter how small their contribution. • Make sure everyone understands their options for contributing, and make it very easy for them to do so. • Offer occasional writing seminars. This will make your job easier over time. • Hold a seminar on the value of personal branding, explaining how it can help their career and offering tips for promoting their contributions via social media. • Be flexible and show respect for their time. It might be difficult to enforce deadlines, so try to have multiple blog posts in progress at once to cover yourself. • When a new blog post is live share it internally and publicly thank the contributor.
Finally, express your gratitude – again. At the end of the day, the corporate blog is primarily your baby. The immediate benefit of SME blog contributions is yours. Let technical subject matter experts know you appreciate their hard work, and be open to suggestions. With a little bit of luck and hard work, you’ll have more content and topics than you know what to do with.