How SMEs Can Leverage the Talents of Technical Writers

After working with dozens of SMEs on hundreds of projects, here’s my advice for SMEs looking to collaborate with technical writers. 

Subject matter experts—also known as SMEs—are a hot commodity. As professionals with specialized knowledge in their field, SMEs offer guidance and strategy to decision-makers. They’re often also tasked with creating educational content to promote their company’s work. 

While SMEs aren’t expected to write like New York Times bestselling authors, they are expected to share their expertise. But due to their demanding schedules, making time for this part of their job can be hard. Fortunately, they don’t need to do it alone—a technical writer can assist with content creation. 

Skilled writers can transform rough notes, outlines, presentations, or scripts into polished content. Collaborating with a writer saves an SME time and lightens his or her workload. Even better, a great writer can showcase an SME’s knowledge and solidify their reputation as a thought leader. If you’re an SME assigned to work with a technical writer, here’s how to make the most of the collaboration.

Send reference material

Once you’ve chosen a topic to write about, help your writer prepare by sending them relevant reference materials. This may include:

  • PowerPoint slides from previous presentations
  • Webinar recordings or scripts
  • Industry reports
  • Magazines
  • Newsletters

Also, send anything that you’ve published in the past about similar topics. This will help your writer understand your point of view and learn your style and tone of voice.

Show up fully for interviews

Plan to be fully present during the interview. Keeping your camera on will help your writer see your facial expressions and get a better sense of your personality. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take the call while driving in traffic or while attending another conference call on a different device. (And yes, I’ve had both of those happen. More than once.)

Don’t stress the prep work

I can’t count the number of times that SMEs have postponed interviews because they don’t feel prepared enough. But here’s the thing: all you need to do is show up. Don’t stress if you don’t have an outline ready or haven’t done much research before your interview. Just bring your brain, answer questions, and let the writer do the rest. By the end of the interview, your writer will have a clear vision of what to write and can take the process from there. If not, they’ll book another session with you. 

Do your edits—yes, right now

Here’s an insider secret: don’t skim the article when it first reaches your inbox. Either dive fully into edits or immediately block off time in your schedule to do so. It’s best to complete the review process while the project is still fresh. If you let an article languish for too long, your writer will have to reacquaint themselves with the article. At best, this will frustrate your writer; at worst, it will cost you more money.

Looking to give useful feedback to your writer? Don’t be shy to point out any inaccuracies, generalities, or points that require citations. Offer up wording suggestions and brief explanations where possible. Try not to stress over every word or turn of phrase. Your writer’s job is to make you look good—so trust in their skills and experience.

Get it out in the wild

Get your piece published ASAP. You’ve invested in the content creation process—now make sure that the piece makes it out into the world to be seen by others. How can you help? If it’s your job to forward the final version to a publication, post it on your blog, or pass it on to another internal department, get it done right away. If you don’t have time, delegate it. Then you can start reaping the rewards from your latest project.

Promote, promote, promote

To ensure your content does as well as it possibly can, take the time to actively promote it. Once your piece is published and out in the world, share it in any way possible. Giving it some love on social media will go a long way in helping it gain exposure and making sure that you’re reaching the widest audience possible. By reaching out to any of your existing audiences, you’ll get the most out of the hard work that you (and your technical writer) have put in.

In a best-case scenario, your writer will become a valued member of your team and you will enjoy working together. The longer you work with a single writer, the more seamless the content creation process becomes. Best of all, a close collaboration ensures that you’ll have a long-term voice for your work. Dream team, here you come!

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