December 27, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Your subject matter experts (SMEs) know almost everything about their industry or niche. That’s great for your content. But ideally, you’d also like your SMEs to have an audience, following, or clout that gives your brand an extra boost. What if they don’t? Does that mean you shouldn’t work with them? Don’t ditch a great SME just because they’re not an internet celebrity. Today, we’re looking at how to promote SMEs to get your brand more visibility and make your expert a popular name in all the right industry circles:
Promoting your SME is all about increasing their visibility and name recognition within an industry or niche. It’s the same as marketing and promoting any other product or service. Why should people pay attention to this expert over another? What can they (and by extension, your brand) offer that nobody else can? But proving that value starts when everybody knows their name. Here are some ways you can promote your subject matter experts to help them build name recognition and clout that your brand can capitalize on:
The marketing rule of seven says customers have to engage with a company at least seven times before they consider buying from or making a partnership with that brand. When “marketing” your subject matter experts, the same rule applies. Maybe your audience doesn’t need a hard and fast seven encounters with your SME before they trust them, but repeated exposure and name recognition help. You don’t need to push your SME’s knowledge or skills right away. Introducing your audience to their name and them as a person is a good first step.
Ask your SME to host company or industry events. As a host, they’re simply the facilitator to transition from one activity to another. Think about Carson Daly, Ryan Seacrest, or Dick Clark. They’re household names and their primary claim to fame is hosting events.
Try inviting your SMEs to run your next webinar. They can introduce the speakers, run the recording, and read or respond to audience questions. While they may not be presenters, their names are out there and attached to the event. The attendees get a glimpse of their personalities and have a better chance of recognizing their names when they move from hosting to having a guest spot at your next event.
If you want people to know your name, put yourself out there. This is true for self-promotion, brand recognition, and product or service recognition. Encouraging your SMEs to attend conferences, trade shows, and other in-person events is a great way to help them get comfortable promoting themselves in the right industry.
Self-promotion is a strange marketing area. You have to come across as confident, not arrogant. You have to be knowledgeable without being a know-it-all. It’s hard to do, but easier in a setting where niche conversations flow more naturally. That’s where conferences and trade shows come in. These events give your SMEs opportunities to network and provide subtle self-promotion (and talk up your brand, too). By meeting new people in sessions or mixers, and already having discussion topics in common, it’s easier to get the conversation flowing and come across authentically to the audience members you want to attract.
This SME promotion tactic is likely the easiest one because you’re already doing it. Quote your experts in your written content. Add their information to articles, blog posts, and social media posts to share one-of-a-kind, helpful tips with your audience. The more often you quote the same SME, the more name recognition they get among your audience.
Once they build a following from your current audience, those people may bring new friends or colleagues into the fold. Soon, with repeated exposure through content, people in the industry learn and trust your SMEs’ names when they see them on a byline or in content when they scan through. Don’t forget to share your content on all important channels, like your website, social media, syndication partner websites, and your newsletter.
Similar to quoting your SMEs in written content, these are probably other ways you’re already using their skills. Content comes in many forms, so make sure you’re using your SMEs’ knowledge to your advantage. Put them in front of the camera, behind a Zoom screen, or in front of a microphone and talk to them in real-time. Any opportunity you have to include your experts in content is a chance to help them build name recognition and an impressive portfolio associated with your brand.
The SMEs with the most dynamic voices or in-person personalities may be best for videos, webinars, and podcasts. While anyone can do it, these mediums give you a better sense of someone’s essence versus just their words in type on a screen. Think about how politics changed after the Kennedy vs. Nixon televised debates in 1960. Using different content can help your brand in the same way. Visual content is a valuable tool when used right. Make sure you’re using it to your advantage when necessary to promote your SMEs.
If you’re sending content out to the news media, find a way to slip your SME’s name into the press releases. Use them as quote subjects when promoting your new products, services, or upcoming events. Adding an SME to your press releases is a subtle way to increase name recognition and associate their expertise with your brand.
Plus, it’s less self-promotional for either entity. Another news outlet is simply reporting their words, and yours. But it’s all about exposure. The more your audience sees the SME’s name and connects it with your brand, the better it is for both of you.
The more opportunities your marketing team creates for your SMEs to engage directly with the audience, the better. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as creating an industry community on social media platforms or in comments sections on your website. Encourage your SMEs to answer questions on sites like Quora or Reddit in their spare time. Have them use their real names, associate their name with your brand, and share links to content they helped develop for the company.
This option is an easy, effective way to increase name recognition while providing value to the right audience members in spaces where they already spend time. Other options include hosting or taking part in Twitter threads and chats, voicing opinions using hashtags, or finding other ways to connect with your audience, both digitally and in person.
Make sure you’re promoting your SMEs by name on your social media profiles. When you share an article, podcast episode, or other content to which they’ve contributed, mention them by name in the post. Share their personal social media handles along with links to the content on every platform.
And don’t limit their social media presence to just content they helped develop. You can also feature your SMEs in employee spotlights or other fun social content. Giving behind-the-scenes looks at who your team members are as people help humanize your brand for the audience. It also builds name recognition and deeper connections between the SME and your company followers.
Similar to including your SMEs on your social feeds, make sure you’re hyping them in your email newsletters, too. Give them bylines for article content or when sharing links to videos or webinars that they contributed to. You can also use your newsletter as a place to share more about who your SMEs are as people.
Conduct a personal interview with questions that have little to do with the industry, like “what’s your favorite band?” You can sprinkle those in, among other questions, that showcase their passion and expertise for the industry, such as “what is your favorite part about working in the X field?” The more your audience can connect with your SMEs on a personal level, the more interested and excited they’ll be to read content that your experts contribute to in the future.
If your website has a “Meet the Team” section on the About Us page, make sure you include your subject matter experts there. Even if they’re contract employees, they’re just as important to your business as any other team member. Even if you don’t feature team pictures and bios anywhere on your website, you can still include a “Meet the SME” page through your blog or content hub.
Most websites or blog builders have the option to include hyperlinked bylines. When clicked, they take you to a page that displays an author bio and a link to all their contributed content sourced from your site. Having a bio section on your website lets your audience browse all the content from your SMEs in one place. This increases the time they spend on your site, which is good for SEO metrics. It also helps your audience become more familiar with your SMEs as individuals, which increases their loyalty and trust.
Just as you want to make sure you’re featuring your SMEs on your brand’s website or blog, make sure that the individual has their own online “home” set up. This presence could come from active social media channels, up-to-date websites and blogs, or an online portfolio. Remember, while your SMEs are an extension of your brand, they also have to be their own entities. That means they have to do some self-promotion, or at least have an individual identity outside of your brand if your audience goes looking for it.
Encourage your SMEs to set up online accounts or purchase web space. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple Twitter account where they post a single industry fun fact per day. An online portfolio that lists their biggest industry accomplishments and links to their content contributions. If your team has the resources, they may even work with your SMEs to get these personal sites and profiles running.
You’ll notice we mentioned the word “active” when talking about a social media presence in the last section. This word is key. Having a Twitter account isn’t enough to build SME name recognition if the profile or feed stays blank. Being on LinkedIn isn’t the same as being active on LinkedIn. Sharing your resume may get you a bit of recognition, but sharing posts, responding to comments, and calling attention to industry breakthroughs get more.
This might be an area your SMEs fight you on if it’s not something they engage with already. But remind them that being active on social media doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Your SMEs aren’t influencers. They don’t have to rely on perfect profiles to make money. Simply encourage them to check in a few times per week. Ask them to always share content your brand publishes on its channels where you mention their name. The more comfortable they get with the process, the easier it becomes for them to stay active on their chosen platforms.
Many companies love to give back. It helps humanize the brand and show that you care about more than making sales and achieving corporate goals. Encourage your SMEs to volunteer for different initiatives with other team members, or individually under the company name. Some volunteer options include:
Most nonprofit or charitable organizations need help during the holiday months, too. The more places you can send your SMEs and get them to talk with potential audience members in connection with your brand name, the more you can both increase your recognition and grab new audience attention.
Encourage your SMEs to join relevant industry associations or organizations. For a membership fee, these organizations offer perks like newsletters, continuing education courses, training seminars, and meetups for like-minded industry individuals.
By being a part of organizations like this, your SMEs have the chance to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry. They’ll learn about trends and upcoming breakthroughs before anyone else. They’ll also get the chance to network with other prominent industry names and people who fall into your brand’s audience segments. If possible, see if your company can pay the membership fees for your SMEs. They may be more likely to join if they don’t have to foot the bill.
One common point we’ve made throughout this article is the necessity to get your SMEs to connect with the audience. It boils down to networking. The more people they know, the more wisdom they can spread. And the more people your SMEs know, the more they can talk up your brand. We’ve said it already, and we’ll say it again: networking matters. The way you do it doesn’t. Whether your SMEs are more comfortable talking up people at conferences or connecting with them on LinkedIn, as long as they’re talking, they’re on the right track.
We know. This point sounds backward. Why would you try to get your SME other work from outside your company? To build their name and reputation. You have to give a little to get a lot. If you’ve tried all the tactics above and your SME still isn’t building the individual following you hoped for, try to get their name and expertise out to a larger audience. Sometimes that means using other channels and resources.
Your local news and industry publications are always looking for knowledgeable, quotable sources. Bill your SME as a team member from your company willing to talk to them or provide a quote. The bigger the publication or news coverage, the more brand and name recognition you get. You can also get their names listed on sites like Help a Reporter Out or Help a B2B Writer. These websites connect SMEs and industry experts with reporters or organizations that need information and provide links or byline credit in return.
Once you’ve helped your subject matter expert claim industry or internet fame, you don’t want them to lose momentum in the field. You can also help your SMEs continuously update and polish their niche-specific skills so that they’re always valuable sources for your audience. This constant upkeep helps your brand come to mind when the audience thinks of “quality” and “expertise.” Here are some options for helping your SMEs grow and develop their knowledge and skills:
Does your company provide continuing education courses or training programs for its internal employees? Extend these benefits to your SMEs, freelancers, or contract workers, too. For example, if your company offers a subscription to LinkedIn Learning, make sure it’s available to your SMEs as well. If you’re inviting team members to register for webinars or conferences, make sure those emails go out to your external employees.
The more company-approved training you can provide from within or draw attention to for your SMEs, the better chance you have of them taking advantage of the resources. This practice ultimately helps your brand because you know your SMEs have the latest information and can share it with your audience.
Advancement doesn’t always have to come from external sources. Sometimes the biggest pain point of working with subject matter experts or encouraging their growth is a disconnect between your content team and your SMEs. If your writers or interviewers don’t “get” what your SMEs are talking about and your SMEs don’t understand what your content team wants, neither side will grow or get better.
To avoid these kinds of rifts, encourage team coaching. This process takes place when your team members serve as trainers and mentors on an individual or small group level. Team training can cover any relevant industry topic, such as how to do something in your department or how to learn a new skill. The more opportunities your team members have to collaborate and learn from each other, the better their relationships become. When everyone feels valued, they’re more receptive to the information they receive and are more likely to learn and grow from it.
Even if your SMEs aren’t learning anything “new,” it’s important to encourage them to work on “being themselves.” It sounds basic because how can you be anybody other than yourself? But human nature, peer pressure, and pseudo-fame are strange things. When people work in a public setting—like SMEs who share their knowledge with an industry audience—they may feel like they have to “become” something or someone else to gain more authority or be more likable.
But an SME job isn’t an acting job. The more authentic and honest your experts are with the audience, the more likable they become. Encourage your SMEs to work on themselves, outside of the job. The better they know who they are and the more confidence they have, the more their personalities and knowledge will come across in your content.
Sometimes, growing your SMEs’ skills means moving them up through the ranks in the company. While many subject matter experts have no desire to leave their current roles or get into a management position, if they’ve reached the ceiling of what they can do and learn in their current job, it might be time to talk about new opportunities. If new challenges, tasks, or opportunities arise within the company, they may be more likely to take them than to seek these kinds of roles elsewhere.
Work with your individual SMEs to find out their preferences and needs. Recommend promotions, advancement, or additional tasks as necessary to increase their knowledge and skills.
Once you know you’ve got a solid, well-known subject matter expert in your back pocket, you need to make sure your content engages and excites the audience. Content analysis is an essential part of making sure your pieces meet your audience’s needs and provide the value they’re looking for. But knowing where to start with the analysis and then planning a strategy around it is tricky.
Our Director of Content Analysis, Jeremy Rivera, understands this hurdle. He created a guide called How To Analyze Your Content and Craft a Winning Strategy for 2023 to work through the content analysis process and shape your next brilliant marketing strategy.
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