Preparing the SME

This post was written by John White on Tue, 24 Feb 2009 14:16:46 +0000
Posted Under: interview,interviewing customers,rapport with writer,relationship with engineering,subject matter experts

When you hire a writer to interview a subject matter expert (SME) or a customer, you have a bit of work to do on both sides of the relationship.

  1. Tell the writer about the interviewee’s specialty and personal characteristics, the kinds of information to elicit, and what you want out of the interview. If I know that I’m trying to get information from an engineer on how the company’s technology was developed, I’ll steer him/her away from discussions of product marketing and trade shows. When you provide this kind of background, you save yourself time and money in the long run, even if you have to brief the writer a bit.
  2. Tell the interviewee what you’re trying to accomplish in the interview and in the written piece. Most interviewees never get this picture. The writer can provide it during the conversation, but it’s awkward, and you as marketing manager are in a better position to describe the goals in terms that will mean something to your co-worker or customer.
  3. Take part in the meeting or call. It’s a good idea to be part of the conversation yourself, especially with a new writer or a new project. If your writer has done six case studies with your customers already, and you’re confident about the work product, then there’s no need to attend. But if you’re asking your press release writer to interview an investor, you should plan to be a fly on the wall to keep the conversation going the way you want it to go and help the writer through unfamiliar territory.

Yes, of course, it makes perfect sense. But so does flossing your teeth, and a lot of people don’t do that either. This is really cheap insurance on the project for which you hire a new writer.

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