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How to Change SMEs’ Minds into Creating Content That Matters?

Question by: Zerbabel

Hi Kathryn,

My role is to create and manage a content library for the company I work in. Collecting and reviewing content has been difficult. However, with the upcoming changes within the industry, I am attempting to change the mind of our Subject Matter Experts and sales team to create content that actually matters and is more purposeful. What are the top 3 questions I can ask the stakeholders which I am liaising with to think more about what they write? What are 3 points that they need to consider in order to strategically create and make use of pre-written content?

Thank you


Hi Zerbabel, thank you for your question.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are key to any library and it’s definitely a challenge to get them on board. Approaching them in person and saying that you appreciate their experience and what their knowledge delivers to the responses the bid team builds, and could you have a bit of their time to make sure that you can create the most compelling answers about their area that you can, almost always works. It gives you the opportunity to ask for the information you need and them the opportunity to showcase their field of expertise.

In my experience the three most effective strategies for getting stakeholders and SMEs to buy into working with bid teams on reusable, pre-written content are:

  1. Work out how much time they spend answering the same questions again and again. This really helps them see the value of creating a single, reusable answer, when they understand the chargeable time they’re ‘wasting’ on repetitive tasks rather than developing new solutions and offerings. It’s easiest if you go through how many emails you’ve sent them over the past few months and work out how many of the same/similar questions they were asked and then quantify approximately how long they would have spent either re-writing the answer and sending it back, or searching for the last one they wrote, copying it and sending it back.
  2. If it is a question of them wanting to OWN the answer and always having a say when it is used, you can work with them to create an answer that they are happy with and let them know whenever it is used in a submission. This way they still ‘own’ it but you get to use something accurate and they don’t waste time re-doing it each time. They are then also responsible for making sure it is kept updated (a plus point for the bid team).
  3. A tactic I’ve used with success is to arrange an interview with them (either face-to-face or over the phone is most effective) where you set a series of questions about their topic (which you have had to answer for submissions) that you ask them about and write down the answers for. Next, draft an answer with what they have told you and then get them to approve it or amend it as needed. Often Subject Matter Experts are very technical people and find it a challenge to put their thoughts on paper, and being able to send you say, ten bullet points on a topic, or provide short answers to questions will help a lot as they control the content and the end product, but you get to write it in the style that works for bids.

You also asked about the top three points that should be considered to strategically create and make use of pre-written content.

  1. Simplicity – anyone should be able to read it and understand what it is about or, if it’s a product or solution, what the benefits are
  2. Brevity – keep paragraphs and sentences as short and to-the-point as you can. Less is most often more when it comes to pre-written content
  3. Planning – work out what information is the most important for your team to have as a pre-written section that can be tweaked and work on getting that area sorted out first. It might be important because it’s always in use or because of the challenge of getting the information from the SMEs time and again.

Once you’ve been able to get a few Subject Matter Experts onside and their content working for them, you’ll be able to approach them to be pre-written content champions who can help you get their colleagues onboard and involved. Over time you’ll be able to build a convincing picture using real numbers and stories to persuade even the most challenging content owners that controlled, reusable content is a win-win for everyone. It does take time though.

Regards

Kathryn

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