The life-changing magic of solving just one audience pain point with each piece of content.

You can’t be everything to everyone. Focus on making something special for someone.

Your subject-matter experts are basically geniuses. They are solving complicated problems with nuanced and well-developed points of view. They understand the context, background, ancient history, pros, cons, landmines, tripwires, roadblocks and hurdles surrounding all the challenges your audience (read: your prospective and current customers) may face.

Of course they do. This is what makes them great at their jobs, and it’s the reason why you source them to bring your organization’s expertise to life through content. And it’s why they are a necessary building block in building the trust, relevance and relationships your content strategy aims to earn. 

They know so, so much. 

Unfortunately, that can be the challenge, too.

Once you’re able to coax your subject-matter experts (SMEs) to participate in your content marketing by showing them your audience’s needs and explaining the role they can play in solving them,  it’s difficult to then say, “This isn’t quite what we had in mind.” Egos get bruised. Eyes get rolled. Mouths clam up. Calendar invites go unaccepted. 

At organizations large and small, we’ve seen this dynamic play out between marketers and SMEs. Nurturing the SME-marketer relationship is critical to your content: One has expertise in the subject matter, while the other has expertise in attracting and converting audiences by using it. It’s a perfect marriage, until it isn’t. 

Instead of letting an impasse lead to a stalemate, here are some tips on how to get your SMEs to understand and embrace the life-changing magic of solving just one audience pain point at a time with each piece of content: 

Embrace data. 

You’ve got the same goals, but maybe different understandings of how to accomplish them. When the SME believes the path is an abundance of information (or the opposite, vague information so they don’t “give everything away”), use audience data to show behavior and consumption trends of the bestand worstperforming content in your space.

For instance, is there a Reddit thread debating a topic relevant to your industry or community? One that gets your SME so hot and bothered they start to shake and rant while you talk to them about it? That’s a perfect place to start: What would they comment (in 500 words or less) to close the case? Then, show them there are dozens, hundreds or thousands of conversations like that happening online in your space, and each one could use a concise comment clearing up misconceptions. It’s a long game. And it happens one conversation (or piece) at a time.

Help them think like a publisher. 

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or top-performing voice in your niche probably doesn’t publish 10,000-word essays on the regular. They understand the art of editorial packaging and focus on tailoring content to their audience’s attention span and interest level. Showing the top-performing media in your space can help them understand what they are really competing with.

For example, what was the most-shared piece from (insert the publication that your marketing team wishes they own) in the past year. What can we learn from it? Sometimes, having a practical conversation with your SMEs about the publications they read and refer to can help them be more reflective on what is actually working. The takeaway? Yes, we’re trying to be more like those publications with the content we create.

Show them the power of the format. 

SMEs spend a lot of time in deep conversations, and typically, once bought in, customers will listen to them. But before an audience member turns into a customer, you have to play to their attention span and the fact that they are not a captive audience. This is where formats can help bridge the gap between the audience’s interest and your SME’s knowledge.

Formats can also serve as creative restraint mechanisms. Why is Shark Tank so popular? (Entrepreneurs have to cut to the chase). Why is Axios gaining ground in the news media business? (They embrace bullet points like they’re running an ammo shop). If you look at the content that is resonating in your community, there is likely a limiting structure (a format) that keeps it focused and somewhat formulaic. That not only plays to attention spans, it also increases binging, repeat-viewing, bookmarking and most importantly, encourages habitual consumption. That’s what marketers should be after – creating content good enough that your audience will want to subscribe to it.

Take them on a tour of your distribution channels. 

Showcase how content plays out in particular mediums and how the end product will look. There’s a reason Twitter employs a character limit and walls of text aren’t usually high performers. Packaging content for distribution is where you as a marketer shine. 

  • A search engine results page (SERP) only gives you so much space to contain your headline. 
  • An email subject line needs to be concise, too. 
  • A LinkedIn post can’t rival War and Peace in length. 
  • A bumper sticker needs to be readable from a safe following distance. 

The point is: content needs to be packaged for the channels in which your audience is consuming it. And as a marketer, your main goal is to help package expertise and ideas for consumption and engagement.

Involve them in performance review. 

Getting the SME to feel like part of the teamnot just a resource the team usesis essential to long-term success. Besides, we’ve found that they tend be interested in how different approaches succeed or fall flat. By showcasing the wins, congratulating them, and conducting post mortems on the losses, the SME will start to see content in the field it is competing against and it will help them understand your audiencetheir customera bit better along the way.

Plus, it never hurts to show an SME that 100,000 people read their latest piece or watched their most recent video. Just be prepared for them to ask, “Ok, so how do we get to a million?” But a question like that shows you’re already on your way. R

Need help packaging your organization’s expertise into content formats that resonate with audiences? Get in touch to learn how we can help.


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