A major struggle for content marketers is getting input from the experts in your company. I’m offering a few tips that help the process, and I’ve reached out to others for some additional strategies.
Great content requires great insights. From the smallest print ads to the longest blog posts, if you want the reader to engage with your content, you want that content to educate and enlighten — that’s the difference maker.
For manufacturers in particular, most of those insights are stored in the heads of engineers, operators, and technical experts in the field. Extracting that content is one of the biggest challenges for today’s marketers, as indicated in the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 report.
Marketers employ a variety of tactics to engage these experts. Here are 14 to help you out.
1. Reach out to experts in advance of a deadline
Get ahead of the game. If you aren’t fighting a deadline, you won’t feel so stressed if you’re waiting on input from an expert. Reach out for those interviews months in advance, if possible.
2. Make a day of it
If the piecemeal approach doesn’t work, consider Nicole Donnelly’s approach, where you set aside a whole day for expert interviews.
Having a whole day blocked out has worked really well for my clients as well — especially for video. Everyone knows there’s a big investment happening so they show up prepared. And you can knock out a ton of great content in a day.
Find a subject matter expert that is willing to talk with you and record the conversation. That could be an internal expert, or if there’s too much bureaucracy, find someone outside your organization.
4. Set up ongoing meetings with experts
If you’re only working with two or three experts, set up a standing monthly appointment so you’re guaranteed a spot on their calendar.
5. Opt for impromptu
On the flip side, the problem with setting up meetings is that meetings can be canceled. Mary Keough of Gorilla 76 believes the impromptu can be just as effective.
If you’re struggling with a particular subject matter expert, make it impromptu for them. “Hey! I see you’re free this afternoon. Got 20 minutes to sit down for an interview with me?” Sometimes, people (especially those dang engineers) are more likely to cancel formal meetings than a “random” brainstorm.
6. Schedule input session for Friday
Is there an ideal day of the week for an interview? Ema Roloff believes so.
While I don’t have a dedicated day for interviews, I do see a trend that Fridays are a good day to create content with others!
Makes sense. When Friday rolls along, most people are downshifting into the weekend and can use a break from the grind of the workweek. They’re looking for an excuse to avoid any more heavy lifting!
7. Treat your internal people like customers
A common theme we see is the need to really value your expert’s time and minimize the amount you’ll need them. We love Julie Basello’s mindset here.
I am dealing with internal people, but I still treat them as my customers because it is their area of expertise that I need to showcase with my content. I try to plan ahead thoroughly on my end so I can work quickly with the other person and not take up a lot of their time.
Once you get them to commit, Chris Grainger believes you continue with the red-carpet treatment.
For me it’s all about serving the guest (even if they are part of your company) and keeping the audience in mind. Whether it is a CEO or an intern, if you truly treat them equally the quality of content will be amazing.
8. Set meeting times to review the content
Many times the expert input gets held up in the review process. Whether it’s print or video, if possible, set up a time on their calendar where they’ll review the content. You can actually do it together to make it even more efficient.
9. Tailor your content to your expert’s strengths
There may be an assumption on the part of marketers that our subject matter experts are comfortable doing whatever we want them to do. Joe Sullivan, host of The Manufacturing Executive podcast, advocates taking a different approach.
Play to the strengths of your SMEs. If they’re quieter types who feel uncomfortable, maybe tapping into their brains for insights and doing some written content is the way to go. If they’re super outgoing and charismatic, putting them on camera for content could be ideal.
10. Get people away from the office setting
Will Healy III, who excels at tapping internal resources for his content, says getting people away from the office can work wonders.
Even if it’s just lunch or a coffee or a beer, get them away from their computer/desk/office/phone. I’ve had so many great conversations with people that have filled my head with ideas — but only when I get them out of the daily churn.
11. Make the company part of the quest
The Original Manufacturing Trailblazer, Allison DeFord, takes it to the next level (as per usual). If you’re really all in on improving your content, make it a company-wide mission to find the experts. That means an “Inside-Out, Top-Bottom” approach:
If the culture of the company is all about the Story and making a customer the hero, then the C-Suite and heads of sales and marketing will make it known and pretty much a policy that salespeople and customer service people are always on the lookout for a story… Who is using your products for what projects and for what purpose? It’s like being a journalist and you’re constantly on the lookout for a great story.
12. Be persistent, empathetic … and a sponge?
Eddie Saunders Jr., who hosts his own video series Flex & Friends, offers a combination of tactics when engaging with potential experts.
Be a persistent and empathetic sponge. Persistent in your pursuit of information and results. Empathetic in your approach and understanding of others’ time, efforts, and resources. Be a sponge and soak up as much as you can when the pool has water.
Meaghan Ziemba, who produces her own show, Mavens of Manufacturing, echoes Eddie’s call to be persistent. But remember your experts are busy, so make sure they’re aware you’re on the calendar. And they may require using a very underused technological tool:
In true manufacturing fashion, a lot of things get pushed around and rescheduled, but sometimes your experts need a little extra help remembering what’s on their calendar. When sending out friendly reminders, make sure to also call them. That extra personal touch goes a long way to get what you want when you need it.
13. Once you’ve got ‘em, let them do the talking
If you’ve actually got someone talking to you, what then? Typically, these people are willing to talk shop and engage with you, but you have to be willing to let them do the talking. So sayeth Jeff Long, king of the Video Value Bombs:
I find that it’s easier to get content from subject matter experts when you ask open-ended questions and let them talk. It sure beats saying, “alright, tell me everything about X” and then they blankly stare at you trying to figure out how to share the breadth of their knowledge.
14. Show the company the success
It’s pretty exciting to see yourself in the content, especially for those folks who don’t produce it regularly. I once interviewed an expert who was so thrilled for the opportunity. “Now my family will know what I do!” Make their content a big deal, and share the results of how often it was shared. It will make everyone feel like they’re part of the effort.
The big takeaway: Make sure you’re talking about what your experts love to talk about
I’d like to expand on Jeff Long’s insights in tactic No. 13.
I once had to interview a subject matter expert at a client’s company. He was an engineer, and my marketing liaison told me he wasn’t excited about talking to someone in marketing.
However, when I interviewed him, I found he had a wealth of information. To be honest, I couldn’t get him to stop talking!
The key to getting his input was that I was focused on a key strategic innovation for the company. I had done my research, and I was getting down into the weeds about what really made this product special. And you could tell the engineer was proud as hell and loved sharing the details.
I guarantee that anything that excites an internal expert like this will be bound to resonate with the external customer. It’s up to you as the marketer to bubble that to the surface.