Successfully Publishing the Subject Matter Expert
Successfully publishing the subject matter expert (SME) in external media is often a challenge.
I know. I’ve been helping companies in the insurance industry get published for more than 15 years. While the writing, editing and publishing processes require both the writer and SME to be patient, the rewards are worth the effort.
By successfully publishing the subject matter expert in external publications, the SME and his or her company build credibility. Showcasing insurance industry expertise has helped my clients secure speaking engagements and attain clients. It also enhances search engine optimization (SEO).
To place an article in an external publication, both parties have to focus on meeting the end goal: creating a reader-friendly and accurate article that will boost credibility. Keeping the eye on the prize is the best way to avoid common pitfalls such as egos going awry, the article losing its focus or needless edits.
What the publication’s editor thinks is ultimately the only opinion that matters. Since this can be difficult for the SME to accept or appreciate, it is incumbent on the writer or public relations professional to explain how publishing works.
Insurance SMEs need to accept that the editor’s job is to publish easy-to-understand information that will benefit their readership. Editors are often cynical folk. Editors have had their fill of marketing slop that pretends to be objective and legitimate. As a result, they are weary of public relations professionals who do not understand a publication’s audience and goals.
The easiest way to publish an SME is to hire a writer with a proven track record of being published – whether under their own name, as a ghostwriter or both.
To improve the chances of placing an article, hire a quality writer who:
- shows you work samples of successful article placement,
- fully understands the rules of publishing,
- communicates clearly with the potential editor,
- knows how to pitch content,
- conducts thorough interviews,
- possesses the humility to strike the balance between SMEs and editors, and
- is fun to work with
The writer should act as the internal pre-editor to make sure content is reader-friendly and written according to the publication’s requirements.
Editors have had their fill
of marketing slop….
There are different ways writers can work with SMEs. The best tactic depends on the SME’s time commitment and comfort level with writing and reviewing content.
Once a draft is written, a common phenomenon occurs. The SME who does not understand the rules of publishing will make corrections or insert material that can reduce the chances of publication. It’s not their fault. They were not taught in English classes how to write like trained journalists.
Successfully publishing the subject matter expert requires teamwork, give and take and a lot of patience. The writer must make the SME as comfortable as possible by incorporating additions and changes and reducing the extraneous information that can weigh down the piece.
At the same time, it is critical to explain why the approach or article elements – such as the headline, lead, story organization, theme or another element will improve the SME’s chances of publishing success.
SMEs also might have difficulty with an eye-catching lead they find to be too general or that does not explain enough right away. Often, an SME will want to add details that an editor would consider to be too much “in the weeds” or will include marketing material that actually discourages its publication.
After working on dozens ghostwritten and/or edited pieces for research organizations and actuarial firms, I can tell you it is common for technical SMEs to include information about methodology. The trick is to offer a reasonable compromise that provides sufficient explanation or caveats in laymen’s terms without sacrificing accuracy.
Successfully publishing the subject matter expert is critical for building brand credibility, but it is also a balancing act. After publishing dozens of articles on behalf of my clients, I can tell you first hand that SMEs gain credibility and opportunities from well-placed articles. Success requires mutual respect between the writer and the SME to make the process as easy as possible. Remember too that you can get more from your content investment through appropriately repurposing content.