Strong source material can be hard to find
Content strategy is the backbone of all effective web projects. You’ve got a solid strategy in place and you’re revved up and ready to get started on the writing. But you’re short on source material to help you write knowledgeably about the business’s products and services. So where do you go from here? If supporting content is not forthcoming, you’ll have to find it yourself.
Select your SMEs
This is where your subject matter experts (SMEs) come into their own. As a source of grassroots knowledge, SMEs are worth their weight in gold. By cultivating good working relationship with these key players, you can find everything you need to produce quality content.
Bear in mind that SMEs aren’t necessarily the same people who review and approve content. You want the people who work at the coal face, and that means client services, marketing and product people.
So how do you find your SMEs? Sit down with your project sponsor to identify the main players for each subject area. Next, put a date in your diary to talk to each one.
Don’t go into the meeting unarmed. You need a ‘game plan’ to structure your discussion. This is your best chance of getting the valuable information you need to support your copy. Don’t get hung up on a rigid framework; an outline of main talking points will do.
Useful points could include:
- What’s the product or service? Talk me through it.
- How do the product or service help your customers?
- How does your product or service compare to those offered by competitors?
- If you could get three main messages across, what would they be?
- Do you have any back-up material to help me? This could include brochures, fact sheets and other marketing collateral.
- Do you have any issues with the existing content? Are there gaps that need to be filled?
To get the best from your SME, let them do the talking, with a little gentle persuasion if they’re not immediately forthcoming. Ask leading questions to tease out the level of detail and insight you need. Keep them on track with pertinent questions, but don’t cut them off in full flow.
Once you’ve harvested the content you need, you can get cracking on the writing. As you write, you may find that the original site map doesn’t support the content you’ve sourced. If this happens, don’t hold back on proposing structural changes that make sense. After all, the copy you produce is at the heart of a good experience for the business and for users.