Graphic of a subject matter expert (SME) collaboration

You’re a marketer. You have goals, budgets, timelines and the drive to get it all done. And you love what you do—go marketing! Guess who else has those same characteristics? A subject matter expert (affectionately referred to as the SME). But when it comes to SME collaboration for your content marketing plan, it’s hard to get on the same page. A recent WriterGirl survey of marketing professionals across a variety of industries, including healthcare, listed the following as their top three challenges in content planning:

  • Involving SMEs in content creation (39%) 
  • Interviewing SMEs (34%) 
  • Getting approvals from SMEs (34%)

Out of all the challenges, the top three involve SMEs! We already cover how to interview SMEs in another popular WriterGirl post, but below, we take it one step further by addressing the challenges in the overall collaboration process. With a little planning and a little more flexibility, you and your SME can become a dynamic duo of content creation. You both work hard to move the needle forward for healthcare, and that’s a great starting point!

1. Collaborate early with your SME  

The same WriterGirl survey to industry professionals found that over half of content marketing planning comes from content writers, creators and editors. Service and department managers make up 20% of content planning, and only 9.57% of C-suite or other executives are involved. Let’s change that with the first C in a successful SME partnership: collaborate.

By involving the SME early in the planning process, you can align your goals to make sure their voice is heard in your marketing materials. This collaboration includes identifying content topics, audiences and the measurements of success. Ask the following questions in the initial content planning process:

  • What goals do your SMEs have for their patients, department and themselves?   
  • How can marketing and communications support those goals? 
  • What issues and barriers do the SMEs currently face?

Additionally, it’s important they understand their contribution is a “must-have” as part of the larger organizational goals. That takes buy-in from their supervisor or administrator before you make contact. An official kick-off call or discovery document establishes the foundation for the rest of your content marketing plan. If you are having trouble getting on their schedule, discuss a working lunch or attend a department meeting. Aiming for SME collaboration as early as possible sets your content marketing plan up for success.

2. Connect on a human level 

To create compelling content, it’s critical you understand both your subject matter and your subject matter expert. Have they done previous interviews or written any relevant content? What are some of their passion projects? Where did they go to school? What is their favorite meal in the hospital cafeteria? What do they enjoy doing outside of work? Getting to know your SME on a human level establishes real, authentic connections.

And what do you do if you are having a hard time making a genuine connection with your SME? We’ve all conducted an interview that falls flat. Prepare for any disconnect by asking the same question in multiple ways. Everyone processes information differently, so you may receive a different answer when you ask the question differently. An absolute content gem could come from your SME simply rephrasing their answer. And, an answer you aren’t expecting might take the SME interview in a different direction. Be prepared to pivot and create backup questions to redirect the SME.

3. Celebrate your joint project 

SMEs are proud of their work and their field. And you want them to be proud of the work you do together. So, celebrate accomplishments throughout the project by sharing milestones such as go-live dates, data analytics and positive feedback from staff and patients. Giving your SME a report with relevant information like demographics, views and visits shows them the impact of partnering with marketing. Celebrate with them now and your relationship will continue to grow in projects moving forward.

Here are a few other ideas to show appreciation for your SME’s partnership:

  • Presenting a marketing case study to employees and senior leadership 
  • Publishing a press release
  • Laminating, framing or showcasing printed materials

Bottom line: A positive SME partnership can make or break your content marketing plan 

Remember the 3 C’s going into any SME partnership: collaborate, connect and celebrate. If you’re still having SME and content concerns, WriterGirl can help. Our network of healthcare writers and content marketing strategists can support you at any point in your marketing plan. We’re experts in all aspects of the content process, and excel at SME interviews and writing thought leadership.