Pain Points: How to Involve Internal Experts in Content Creation


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There’s a lot of talk about finding your brand voice and keeping it consistent.

As we highlighted in the Spaceship Earth post, there are opportunities to show the unique perspective of individuals within your brand.

Anchoring your brand to a solid foundation allows individual expressions of that brand to be unique and original while staying aligned with one another and collectively manifesting all of the cool things you want to bring into the world as a company.

As marketers, we’re always looking for ways to be original and to express our brand so we can differentiate ourselves from competing brands.

And one of the best ways to do this is to interview experts within your own company.

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Why is it so hard?

Most people who you work with are busy and often have very specific and well-defined job descriptions.

It’s highly unlikely that your Director of Engineering’s job description includes writing blog posts.

For people who work outside of marketing, creating content can be viewed as a distraction rather than a valuable use of time.

To eliminate this pain, we have to figure out how we can make it easy—and valuable—for people outside of marketing to participate in content creation.

Two key challenges when working with internal experts

1) Internal politics

Typically, there is some apprehension about going to an expert and asking for something that might conflict with something they’ve already been told to do.

For instance, if you have a team of developers or designers who are on a deadline or slammed with work for a key customer, you don’t want to be the person who’s causing them to miss a key deadline in their core job responsibilities. You don’t want Mr. or Mrs. Manager from the other department to come over to your desk, coffee mug in hand, and tell you to keep your silly blog posts from derailing product development.

2) We’re afraid to ask

Depending on who the person is, you may not know how to approach your expert.

Using the example of the director of engineering, if you don’t already speak their language, it can be intimidating to think about what you want to capture from them and what questions you want to ask.

How to overcome these challenges

1) Get buy-in to smooth internal politics

Even though it is challenging at first, you know that you want to represent the unique facets of your brand and draw out subject matter expertise in your content. So, go straight to the leader of the department you’re interested in featuring.

The leader you go to might, in fact, be the person you interview. Or the leader may suggest somebody else who has a unique and valuable perspective.

If you want to get the perspective from somebody on the data science team, you can reach out to a leader of that department and say, “We want to make it really easy for you to share a perspective, so rather than asking you to write a guest blog post, we’d like to interview you. Then we’ll transcribe the interview and edit your ideas into a cohesive article. You are welcome to review the article before we publish it.”

2) Be prepared when approaching your expert

Approaching an expert can definitely be intimidating. You can feel more confident by taking the lead and writing a series of questions related to your topic.

In addition, drafting a strong outline is key, because you want to minimize the work for the person being interviewed.

Helping structure and organize the content with and for them helps them feel like this process is easy; you’re helping guide them through the process rather than just dumping a bunch of questions in their lap and expecting a busy person to answer them independently.

How can your organization make it easy for experts to participate?

One of the best ways to handle this challenge is to offer an opt-in program.

Put the word out that you’re looking for experts who want to share their expertise to help the company stand out with unique content.

If you can get a few enthusiastic volunteers right off the bat, other people in the company will see that their colleagues are being profiled on your website and the content is being shared on social media.

That expert is now recognized as an expert within the company, and it starts occurring to other people within the company that this is a cool opportunity and an honor to participate in—rather than just one more task to do or burden to shoulder.

Reinforce the importance of the expert’s participation

When experts volunteer, ask them to keep their own supervisor apprised, or ensure they receive buy-in from their department leader.

If you can show why their perspective aligns with the company mission or key business goals, then it’s not going to be viewed as a distraction from the person’s “real job” (because that person’s real job is to help further the mission of the company and achieve the company’s goals).

What if someone isn’t comfortable being interviewed?

It happens. If someone hasn’t shared their perspective before, they may be wondering how well their ideas are going to be received.

If you run into this situation, try one of these three approaches:

  1. Remind your expert that you will edit and polish their content so they look professional. You can also tell them that they can review their content before it is published.
  2. You could allow people to participate anonymously. This is a good approach to use if you want to share someone’s expert perspective but they don’t want to be cited although they’re happy to help.
  3. If somebody just doesn’t like being put on the spot, you could gather the information you need asynchronously; ask them if they could answer five to seven questions on their own time.

What if someone says they don’t have the time?

This is a common objection: “I’m too busy and I’m on deadline.”

The way to handle this situation is to be as prepared as possible.

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You can offer to edit the content, polish it, add visuals, and then allow your expert a chance to review the content before publishing it; this will help alleviate those initial fears about the process taking too much time.

Summary

It’s tempting to bang the same marketing drum over and over again.

Varying your content by bringing other voices into your brand is a great way to show the rich diversity of perspectives that make up your total brand.

Your brand doesn’t need to be all marketing speech, and it shouldn’t be.

Your customers and your audience want to make a real connection with the brands they do business with.

Looking for opportunities to be original, unique and stand out is a great a way to make a real human connection with your audience.

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