4 Ways to Get High-Impact Content from Subject Matter Experts

Written by Rachel Alexander

If you rely on subject matter experts (SMEs) for content, you know exactly how frustrating it is to wait on urgently needed information.

Don’t they know you have a deadline to meet?

But the truth is, when you struggle to get high-quality content from subject matter experts in time to meet your goals, you probably need to re-examine your methods.

After all, SMEs have their own priorities. They’re generally highly valued members of an organization, and as such, they’re expected to make impactful contributions.

And let’s face it: a lot of us ask our SMEs the same questions over and over again.

Wouldn’t that frustrate you?

Fortunately, by making a few simple adjustments, you can better engage with SMEs and get the high-quality content you need to succeed. Below are four strategies you can implement today to ensure easy access to valuable SME knowledge.

1. Give Them a Head Start

The simplest way to get content from subject matter experts is to make it as easy as possible for them. Instead of sending them questions to answer—forcing them to create responses from scratch—try sending them a first draft and asking for a review.

Because you don’t have the same level of knowledge as your SMEs, you may have to make a few assumptions and guesses when creating your first draft.

That’s okay.

Your SME can make edits and suggestions to ensure the content is accurate.

This tip will save your SMEs time and demonstrate your commitment to getting work done. And you can bet your SMEs appreciate helping hard-working coworkers more than lazy ones.

2. Skip the Email

While email provides an easy way for people to interact and collaborate, there are situations when it’s better to communicate face-to-face or over the phone.

Getting content from subject matter experts is often one of those situations.

One of the problems with email is it’s too easy to ignore or forget. How many times have you read an email with the intention of acting on it later, only for it to slip your mind altogether?

The same thing happens to SMEs.

And forgetfulness isn’t the only issue. A lot of SMEs deal with packed inboxes. In fact, the average worker receives 121 emails per day.

Emails have also been shown to increase stress—not exactly the reaction you want to create when asking for help with an important project.

As a bonus, when you have face-to-face conversations with your SMEs, it’s easier to convey the entire context of your project and ask follow-up questions, leading to real-time collaboration.

When having these conversations, we suggest filming them on your phone—with the SMEs’ permission, of course. Once you have the video file, you can upload it to an internal knowledge sharing platform like Bloomfire which will automatically tag the video and generate a transcript.  Generating a searchable transcript of your conversation can provide you and your co-workers with a great resource to create the content you need now and in the future.

3. Express Appreciation

This tip may seem obvious, but the impact is too great to ignore.

Expressing appreciation when SMEs provide great content is an easy way to show them their work matters to you, and it will likely make them more responsive to future requests.

In an article on Forbes, David Novack, the cofounder and former CEO of Yum! Brands, explained how he used the power of recognition and appreciation to achieve incredible results.

“We built a culture of recognition with each group, leader, and brand embracing recognition in their own way around the globe,” he said. “As a result, we were able to reduce team-member turnover from more than 150% to less than 100% by recognizing people throughout the company.”

You don’t have to create a formal recognition and appreciation program to make your SMEs feel that their contributions matter. If your subject matter experts are sharing content through an internal knowledge sharing platform, comment on their posts to let them know what you appreciate about their work. If you have a weekly company meeting, give a shout-out to SMEs who have been contributing useful content. These simple gestures don’t require a lot of work, but they go a long way towards making SMEs feel valued.

4. Reuse Content They’ve Already Created

Many SMEs complain about answering the same questions multiple times. Whether they’ve provided it to you or someone on your team, once they’ve given an answer, they don’t want to have to do it again.

And why should they?

To make life easier for your SMEs, create a documentation strategy that allows you to repurpose content in future projects. In many cases, the best way to accomplish this is by creating a knowledge sharing community.

(Not sure how to set up a knowledge sharing community? Here are tips to get you started.)

It may be helpful to jump-start this effort by choosing a knowledge sharing platform that has a question and answer database. This will allow employees to post questions and for SMEs to respond directly in the platform, making their answers searchable for employees who have the same question in the future.

When subject matter experts are able to reduce the time they spend answering repetitive questions, they’ll have more time to focus on their core responsibilities—and to produce high-value content that benefits the whole organization.

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