It seems like nowadays anyone with access to a search engine is a self proclaimed expert. There is much to be said for a desire to learn and grow. But, we should not mistake a those practice of lifelong learning with subject matter experts.
Subject Matter Experts: Who are they?
Subject matter experts are different than those folks who simply know how to read up on needed material. Expertise is cultivated through years of formal study (or training) and bolstered by years of experience. A subject matter expert is someone who not only knows the content of their subject matter, but also someone who is intimately connected with the practice of their subject.
A subject matter expert is not someone who presents well on the fly or talks a good game at a conference table. They are the keepers of deep theoretical and practical knowledge of a subject matter.
Interviewing an SME will add value to any message. You see them in videos all the time, but do you know why it’s important to interview subject matter experts for your video?
1. Build Credibility of Your Message
Right away, the SME builds the credibility of your message. It’s a simple strategy to bolster the validity of what you say. So many messages are crafted by marketing and communications teams with a working knowledge of a topic. Or at least enough to create a concept around it.
When an expert speaks, people will be more inclined to believe what is said. With an SME, it’s more about gravitas than charisma.
An SME can speak to the details, concerns, and nuances of a particular subject in a way that someone who is not intimately acquainted with the subject simply cannot.
2. Elevate the Content of Your Message
An SME elevates the content of your message. As we all know, it is not doctors or lawyers or scientists who create the shareable videos you see as you scroll through social media (that’s a different kind of expertise). However, any good creative team will consult a subject matter expert for accuracy and delivery of their content.
An expert can offer simplicity and clarity to elevate your content, which is key to valuable, effective messages. Many unknown nuances often exist within any given subject that an expert can easily clarify to make a message resonate more effectively. Sometimes it’s a brief explanation of an overly complicated term or simply dismissing content that is ultimately irrelevant.
3. Ignite Passion for the Subject
An SME not only has a wealth of knowledge, but they have a passion for their topic. After all, you don’t spend years learning and studying about a particular subject or practice if you don’t find it somewhat fascinating.
Often, excitement about the benefits of medical cannabis or the ramifications of a new safety protocol is quite hard to grasp, unless you also share the passion. And, as a person who is passionate about a subject matter, an expert is a great conduit to ignite passion for a subject matter in your audience. It’s contagious, and they’ll want to learn more.
4. Offer Valuable Insights about the Subject
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to include an SME in the creation and execution of your messaging is their ability to offer valuable insights about the subject matter.
There seems to be a growing propensity recently to jump into any topic online with a comment or a judgement proclamation… without actually having knowledge on that topic.
A SME not only knows a great deal about a subject, but their expertise gives them the ability to critically think about it. They can address the nuances or contradictions or controversies within it.
Only when you have amassed enough knowledge and experience can you truly offer valuable insights. It’s nearly impossible to think critically about a subject that you don’t know much about.
Then, it is better to listen to subject matter experts.
5. Cultivates Trust with Your Audience
Finally, an SME cultivates trust with your audience.
That trust is the foundation. It underscores the importance of how they build credibility of your message, how they elevate content, and how they ignite passion for the subject.
It is because they share expertise, offer insight, and reinforce your message that your audience begins to trust your message, your brand, or your mission. And, that is ultimately what makes a message effective.