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Should Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) Write Your Content?

You have your strategy planned out: hire a really good writer, identify topics that convert, and forge forth, tweaking as you go. Ultimately, you hire a writer who has plenty of experience, references, and a long-standing history of impressing clients; what could go wrong?

The Problem

The biggest problem with this picture is that every good writer specializes in certain topics or niches – usually niches they have some personal experience in. Some may be better at writing for pets, while others may be better at writing for marketing. Still others specialize in writing for healthcare, manufacturing, finance, or law.

Writers will often write on other general topics upon client request, no matter what they specialize in. But that doesn’t mean you should expect them to craft an expert-level piece full of authority if you do, especially if you’re paying entry-level rates for your content.

The catch here is that writers who have experience in a topic naturally and almost effortlessly write with authority and expertise. Someone who has 10 years of experience working as a veterinary technician will naturally be able to understand and parse veterinary information when writing about pets, resulting in a better end result than someone who relies on Internet research alone.

Enter the Subject Matter Expert (SME)

A writer who has extensive experience in a specific topic or industry is often referred to as a “Subject Matter Expert,” or SME. SMEs understand industry jargon, key terms, trends, and how to speak to both laypersons and people with advanced industry knowledge. They also frequently have unique insight into industry audiences and are better able to target content to convert.

In many ways, this makes the SME much more than just a writer; they’re an important source of ideas and information, too. Many large-scale corporations hire for this role specifically, both for the production of content and simply because they are a valuable resource to the entire company.

When to Use SMEs for Content

SMEs are often more expensive to hire for writing projects than generalists. This is a reflection of experience, training, and education. Just as you naturally pay a surgeon more than a nurse, you will pay more to hire an SME than an entry-level copywriter.

But sometimes, that extra cost is justified. If you work in a particularly complex industry, such as aerospace, finance, or manufacturing, you probably market your products to an audience with a very high level of knowledge. Hiring an entry-level writer can be risky because their content may come across as sub-par or ill-informed simply because they lack an education in the industry.

In these scenarios, you generally have two options: have a generalist write your content and tweak or fix it after, or hire an SME. You should use SMEs when it isn’t possible to spend time fixing content, or when doing so would be cost-prohibitive. On the other hand, if the content you need is relatively simple, such as text for a Contact Us form, a generalist is probably just fine.

Finding SMEs and ensuring you have access to expert-level content isn’t easy. Many businesses go through tens of writers before finding the right one. You can significantly reduce that loss by working with an agency who qualifies as an “SME” in content marketing, like Go Digital WSI, instead.