How subject matter experts help you be a better PR pro

How subject matter experts help you be a better PR pro

It’s no secret that everyone in marketing and public relations is busy. But it’s worth taking the time to talk to your company’s subject matter experts. These interviews are a wise investment that will pay dividends in your company’s reputation and brand awareness.

Your company’s subject matter experts can provide the compelling and topical information you need to position the company and to tell an interesting story. As experts in a certain aspect of the business, they have the facts, data and examples that you need. And since they’re following industry trends, they can explain where your company fits in a trend’s cycle.  

In turn, the information you learn from subject matter experts can spark ideas for media pitches, blog posts, industry guest columns, social media posts and newsletter content.  

So how do you make the most of the time you have for your interview? Here are some tips from B2’s PR pros. 

  1. Do your research. Who are you interviewing? What is their role? What major projects have they worked on in the past? Is there anything interesting about their work that you should ask them about? You do not need to be an expert, but this background knowledge will help you take an in-depth look into their world rather than just touching the surface.
  2. Research, again. Take a look at industry news to see how trade journals are covering particular issues. The SME can help you determine if your company is taking a different approach, or ahead of the competition in this area. And look at local, regional and national news outlets to see if there are ties to trending topics.
  3. Get them to explain the jargon. A subject matter expert is often most comfortable talking in technical terms or industry jargon because they have deep knowledge of the topic. Don’t be afraid to ask them to explain it in easy-to-understand terms. Your target audience is more likely to be engaged when the content is easy to read. Also, if they are making a general statement, see if they offer a specific example of how the trend is playing out – this makes the statement more compelling and brings it to life.
  4. Know how you’ll use the information. Are you planning to use the information for a guest column, news release, social post or a blog? Ideally, you’ll want to use the one interview for as many marketing and PR pieces as possible. The depth of information – and length of the interview – will reflect how you plan to use it.
  5. Understand your target audience. Who will be reading, watching or listening to this information? The type of information you share will be different depending on the audience. For example, if your client works in insurance with large corporate business clients, you wouldn’t write the article the same way if you were targeting individual policyholders.
  6. Take cues from your expert. Are they passionate about a question you’ve asked? If so, dig deeper. You’ve found an interesting or unexpected piece of information that may be helpful to your readers. Ask more questions of your subject matter expert to determine how the information could be used. It’s important to be flexible and nimble. If an idea proves to be boring or inconsequential, be ready to ask open-ended questions about the subject matter expert’s work, looking for other topics that might be more interesting to readers

The time you spend learning about different topics within your company or industry will help you be more successful in marketing your company and telling its story through public relations.

Along the way, you’ll find that some of your subject matter experts will provide memorable quotes and engaging content – the “gold coins” that hook your target audience into your story. 

It’s no accident that these tips sound like what a reporter might do when interviewing an expert for a story. There are many similarities in how a reporter works and how a PR pro can mine for ideas.