If you lead a marketing team, you know how challenging it can sometimes be to get contributions to your content marketing program from internal subject matter experts (SMEs).
Here’s what I often hear from corporate marketers on this subject:
You ask SMEs to contribute an occasional content asset, or even simply to brainstorm some meaty topics. Suddenly the most competent and confident engineers, consultants, scientists, technicians — experts and highly articulate in their respective disciplines — become wallflowers. Ghosts. Invisible men and women. Seemingly too busy, bothered or bewildered to contribute much (or at least as much as you’d like) to your content marketing effort.
Why is that?
For starters, most of your colleagues are busy with their day jobs. So unless content planning and creation suddenly gets added to their job description and performance objectives, it will often take a back seat to other assignments and priorities.
But there’s another reason: Like engineering, medicine, architecture, supply chain management or any discipline around which a person might have SME knowledge and insight, content planning, creation and curation is a specialty, too. It draws on remarkably diverse know-how and skills, including some mystical combination of strategic thinking, problem solving, creativity, storytelling, research, reportage, writing, editing, design, art direction, business acumen, audience empathy, and maybe dozens of other ingredients.
Sad to say, because someone is an outstanding SME, doesn’t automatically make them a prolific, skillful content creator.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs finds that the biggest challenges B2B marketers face when it comes to content marketing are generating valuable content, and generating enough content.
I’m convinced a major factor underlying those twin challenges is this: Corporate marketers who absolutely want to execute a robust, ongoing content marketing strategy, but find themselves unable to get enough SMEs to contribute on a consistent basis.
A Content Marketing Secret Advantage
The bad news? This post won’t help you solve the problem of getting SMEs involved and contributing. Although we’ll keep working on it, as it’s one of the problems we’re often called upon to help clients solve. Follow Content Is Marketing for future posts on and around that topic.
The good news? There’s at least one way CMOs can use content marketing, starting now, to get the right people on board and contributing effectively. It’s an advantage in this case for the same reason content marketing can be such a challenge for SMEs: Because being able to generate and execute content ideas isn’t something everyone can do, do well, and do consistently.
So, what’s the secret edge CMOs can gain from content marketing?
Use it as a screening tool when hiring.
That’s right. As you sort through candidates for that next opening — looking for something by which to separate one from the other, and on which to predict their future performance — consider giving them a homework assignment.
Challenge them to come back to you with a description of a big-idea content strategy and program, one that would set your organization apart from the competition and engage your most important audience(s) as never before.
Or, if you’ve already got a significant content strategy up and running, ask them to pitch you four or five ideas for new content assets. What would the topics be? Where would you find the subject-matter expertise on which to base the content? In what format would each asset deliver? Where would they fit in the audience’s consideration and buying continuum for your product or service?
I’m convinced one of the best ways to know whether a job candidate has the ability to understand a company’s value proposition, target audience, and the sales and marketing dynamics of your category, is whether they can imagine content that would engage your audience while complementing your brand and being a catalyst for growing your business.
Theoretically, using content marketing as hiring tool will help you build a staff that is better equipped to support you in at least three important ways:
- Solicit, edit and manage what contributions you can get from those busy (reluctant?) internal SMEs.
- Generate content on their own.
- Manage external content marketing resources and partners.
What do you think — good idea? Have you used this sort of approach to get a feel for a job candidate’s content marketing abilities and potential? If so, tell us what sort of assignment you gave them and how it turned out.
This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.