How to Work With Subject Matter Experts to Create Website Content Together
Often, the more people you include in your content creation process, the more difficult creating good content becomes. But it doesn’t have to be impossible.
We all know that feeling when you’ve written some great content for your company’s website, but rounds of stakeholder revisions end up making it about as clear as a Donald Trump speech.
But things can get even trickier when you have to work with a subject matter expert to create content together.
Subject matter experts are, by their very nature, the experts on the subject you need to create content about. However, that doesn’t mean they understand what makes good website content or how to engage your target audience.
So you find yourself in a tricky situation, trying to get the expert knowledge that you need from them while making sure the content will still engage your audience.
But there are some ways to help the collaboration work more smoothly.
Assign clear areas of responsibility early on
Remember, it’s a partnership, not a dictatorship. So set out areas of responsibility early on. You are responsible for creating clear, engaging content that works for your target audience. They are responsible for providing expert knowledge on the subject matter.
Reassure them that they can review and check that the content you create is sound from a subject matter perspective, but the way the piece is written is your jurisdiction as that is your area of expertise.
Explain why writing content for a website is different from other mediums
Many experts in their field will have come from two schools of writing — the academic (lofty and often inaccessible), or the business (lots of buzz words and lacks clarity). Neither works well for a website, but often we forget to explain why.
Explain that just like writing a news story and a novel involve different skills and use different writing techniques, so does website copy. It is created for a purpose and in order to perform well, it needs to follow certain rules.
And if you really want to make your message hit home, just start talking about SEO. When they start looking confused (or bored!) you know that they’ve just realised there’s a lot more to writing website content than they first thought.
Be polite and helpful
Have you ever received heavy-handed feedback or criticism about your work? It hurts. So it should go without saying that for any collaborative writing process to work, both sides need to be polite and helpful.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t give feedback, or they can’t give you feedback. It’s about explaining your thinking. Why have you written it in a certain way? Why have you changed that phrase? Why have you cut down the length?
In my experience, people are usually happy with amends as long as they understand why you made them.
It also helps the person you’re collaborating with understand more about writing for websites, something I’ve found people often want to learn more about but are often too afraid to ask.
By working collaboratively with experts and setting some key lines of responsibility early on, you’ll find it’s much easier to create good content on a subject that you’re not an expert in.
What are your top tips for working with subject matter experts?
Stevie Cooke is a London-based writer and content creator. You can find out more about her at www.stevie-cooke.com