You know that you’ve got expert resources—even potential thought leaders!—inside your company that could help you create more insightful and more interesting articles, videos, and marketing materials than you could ever come up with on your own. But so often, the same character traits that make someone really good at what they do also make them pretty terrible at writing about what they do.
Here’s how to find experts in your company, coach them toward creating great content, and motivate them to keep creating. Use the links below to navigate between sections.
- The types of industry and product experts you may encounter
- How to find your experts
- Coaching product experts toward great content
- Get them creating
- How to motivate your experts
- Find a partner to help with promotion
The types of industry and product experts you may encounter
The Thought Leader
This employee is easy to spot. They are not shy about sharing their ideas. These experts go to conferences, write their own business-focused blog posts, and converse with other experts on LinkedIn. These individuals care about the public face of their career, they want to share ideas, and they may come off as a bit ego-driven. You may not have to search hard for them, as they will come find you with good article ideas. Use them when inspiration strikes and their creativity is high!
Some people are career individual contributors, and that’s totally okay. ICs want to come in, do their work, make their money, and go home. Let them! But you can also access their huge internal knowledge banks for the good of your marketing. These folks won’t spend a lot of time coming up with ideas for blog posts or articles, and they may find your requests for idea generation an imposition on the time and space they need to do their work. Come to them with personalized ideas, interview questions, or set aside time for them to talk in front of a camera or on tape.
This expert type has some overlap with thought leaders, except these folks love collaborative learning. They want to get into a group and work through ideas. Send these folks out to evangelize for your brand events that energize them and fit with your brand promise. Try sending them to local meetups, conferences, and job fairs.
Still waters run deep. While they may not want to sit in front of a camera or climb up on stage, these deep thinkers can put together well-reasoned ideas and feel most comfortable working through information on their own time. Coach these individuals with broad but intense written topics, and give them time and space to chase their ideas down. Try a blog post a quarter goal with them, set up some meetings to track progress and give feedback, but generally leave them alone to build their arguments.
While coaches don’t love creating content in any of the ways listed above, they shine when it comes to managing people. Take advantage of the coach’s ability to motivate others, suss out difficult ideas in-progress, and celebrate successes. You can delegate some of your oversight tasks to coaches, too, so you have time to focus on direct facilitation.
Go to your product marketing, customer success, and middle-management to find experts who explain difficult or niche concepts to others in a coherent and detailed way. These employees may already create internal content like customer success manuals, or they write documentation for your code. Their skills translate easily to how-to, explainer, and top of the funnel content that your marketing needs. When you talk to these experts, discuss ways that you can combine forces and use some of the content they already produce for customers and internal stakeholders to inform a marketing audience.
How to find your experts
Although it may feel like it, your experts are not hiding from you. But you might have to come out of your cubicle or take off your noise-cancelling headphones to find them. Choose your experts carefully. They have to be willing to engage on some level. Look for those who already attend the conference circuit or events. Don’t be afraid to start googling your coworkers and scraping their LinkedIn pages for articles, insightful posts, and videos they may have written. Try these tips.
- Talk to people. Learn their interests and their needs. You can make this as casual or as formal as you want. And remember: talking can also mean messaging via chat.
- Talk to managers. They’ll be able to help you identify the great communicators, the employees that have expressed interest in expanding their knowledge work, and the employees who are most likely to help first.
- Do a little research into what people like to do in their professional lives. Start a slack channel for networking, conferences, and expert topics, and then approach people individually about writing/recording based on topics they feel passionately about.
- Become an expert in the types of projects your company does. Who will attend the next conference? Who will head up the new project? Who works on that cool new product? Once you know something about the projects, you can talk to people.
- Follow up. Put time on calendars, send emails, bug people on your messaging tool. Put a notification in your calendar to follow up in a week, a month. Take time to help others debrief after a conference and suggest that they turn their knowledge into an article, a presentation, or a video.
Coaching product experts toward great content
Your internal product and industry experts are practitioners, not marketers. While they may be great at doing the thing, they probably don’t think they can write about it. That’s your job. As content marketers, we know how to shape an idea into a coherent argument and how to make that marketable. In highly technical or niche fields, you have vast internal resources of industry experts. Partnering with them will only improve the quality of your writing and your brand trust.
If you want to be an expert coach, you have to learn to help people get past fear. All writers experience fear, but somehow we work through it, put it aside, lock it in a closet, or actively ignore it for the sake of our article, video, or blog post. Your job as an expert coach is to help your experts get past the fear of this new and probably difficult thing and get their information out of their heads.
Get them creating
This is how to plan good expert-written (or ghostwritten) content.
- Work the format they feel comfortable with. Not all content has to be a blog post, although that’s what we content marketers might gravitate towards. You can use video, podcast, interview, or slideshares to feature your expert’s knowledge. Learn about what feels comfortable for them, and then figure out how you can feature them in that format.
- Designate a writer as a coach or mentor. Writers know how to gather information, pull out the most important parts and organize it in a meaningful way. Pair your expert with their own content mentor who’s in charge of ensuring the expert’s content matches your branding, voice, and editorial needs. This partnership will hopefully put the expert at ease, since they don’t have to bear the pressure of editing.
- Invest the time. Start with a meeting schedule to hold both the expert and the coach accountable. Make sure you build in time for the expert to write, time for the coach to look over the writing, and time for revision. It may be as little as an hour a week, but you’ll need to budget time as one of your resources. It’s not fair to expect thought leadership without the resource investment to back it up.
How to motivate your experts
Remember: this isn’t anyone’s primary job but yours, so you have to be the motivator, the promoter, and the reporter.
Your experts need to know the value of initiative they’re working on. Bring them some metrics that show how well expert content does on other sites. After the fact, show them how many views their post received or how many people showed up to their talk. Promote the content on your social channels and maybe write up a sample post for them to share with their followers. Drive traffic to your posts through paid media, content syndication, and email newsletter blasts.
Can you tie the metrics you gathered to any new business? Show them!
Also, gather this information for yourself and your own reporting. How do your marketing efforts that involve your coworkers pay off? Is it worth your time, your marketing budget, and the time of your participants? If you can show that this works, you may be able to get some actual budget thrown your way to grow the plan.
Find a partner to help with promotion
What do you do with all that great content your experts have created? Promote it. Don’t trust this high-value content to social media channels alone. TechnologyAdvice can help you find the right audience for your expert article or white paper. Learn more about our content syndication services.
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