5 Secrets to a Successful SME Interview

May 2015

5 Secrets to a Successful SME InterviewIf we’re going to create quality content that grows our companies’ thought leadership, solid input from our subject matter experts (SMEs) is an absolute must. While some content creators may cringe at the thought of slogging through an interview with these folks, there are ways to get the scoop you need while also building a solid relationship with these folks … and you may even enjoy it.

Before you start scheduling interviews with those SMEs for your next piece of content gold, check out our 5 secrets for rocking the expert interview.

1. Choose carefully

While it’s tempting to make your first call to expert who knows the most about your topic, that person may not be the ideal partner for you.

Seek out an SME who’s also a good communicator — one who speaks frequently at conferences, or one who has direct contact with customers. If the person is used to talking about the topic with regular people in plain English, chances are good that he or she will be an ideal fit for your interview.

2. Work with their schedules

Depending on your industry, your chosen SME may not have the same working hours as you … or those hours may be so jam-packed that even squeezing in a 20-minute chat is impossible.

Be flexible and let your SME suggest the best date and time. You’re looking for a slower time of day when he or she can give you undivided attention. Be open to scheduling before- or after-hours time slots if those are more convenient for your expert. Your expert will appreciate your flexibility and you’ll be much more likely to have a successful interview when distractions are minimized.

3. Set expectations

Before you even set the appointment, make sure your SME knows what to expect — not only from the interview itself, but from the entire content creation process.

  • Let your expert know exactly how much time you will need for the interview — and stick to it.
  • Send a preliminary list of questions in advance to give him or her an idea of what you’ll be discussing.
  • Begin the interview by briefly describing the content creation process and letting your expert know that he or she will be kept in the loop all the way through publication and beyond.

4. Record the conversation

Having conducted dozens of interviews with many different types of experts, I can tell you from experience that making an audio recording of your conversation is the way to go. Why?

  1. You’ll have a solid record of everything that was said, just in case you need to go back and check a fact or two.
  2. You’ll be able to be fully present with your expert and engaged in the conversation, and you’ll probably also ask better questions.

If your interview is in person, you can record the conversation using a portable recorder or the voice recording app on your smartphone. If you’re talking by phone, you may want to connect via Skype and use the Call Recorder app; many phone conference services also offer the option of recording calls.

5. Say “thank you” and follow up

When you wrap up your interview, be sure to thank your expert for taking time out of his or her busy day to chat with you. I also like to ask if it’s OK to contact them if I need clarification on anything we’ve discussed, which they tend to appreciate.

Also remind your SME of any next steps that will require his or her input. If you will be sending a review draft, let him or her know when it will be coming and when you will need approval. And make sure they know when the final product will be published so that they can share with their online communities.

OK, your turn: What are your secrets to a successful SME interview? Share your thoughts in the Comments — we’d love to hear from you!

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Join me for our next VIP Webinar, How to Work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), on Wednesday, May 27!






Rachel ParkerAbout the Author

A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).

As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. Contact Rachel about speaking to your group or business.

Our Clients Are Saying

  • Event Sold Out Two Years In A Row!

    Rachel worked with me on creating a content marketing calendar and content for the Big Social Media Summit (Big SMS) three years in a row. She is very organized and knows just the right amount of posts on social, email newsletters and content to send.  Her content marketing efforts helping us sell out our event three years in a row!  I am expecting the same for October 2014.

    Rachel was hired to write content for our email newsletter and content for our social platforms. In addition, she had a budget to do advertising on social media. She participated in the event live and after the fact to assure buzz was created before, during and after the event. As a result, our event sold out.

    When I work with Rachel, I have total peace of mind.  I know that she is on target, on time, reliable and delivers over and above the results I expect.

    I trust Rachel totally with her ideas on strategy, marketing and the content used to not only promote our events, but also post on my behalf on social networks. I have been doing social media for 8 years, and I hire Resonance to post on some of my social sites as it saves me time, and keeps my social sites relevant and current. They always post great, engaging content that gets my social properties likes, comments and shares.


  • Professionalism and Sincere Desire to Help

    I just didn’t seem to be able to find the time or the right words to explain what I offer and how my company helps people accomplish their goals. Rachel was able to ask me some questions, do some research and capture my voice while writing my website copy exactly as I needed it to be written.  Now, the copy on my website is much more professional than what I would have created and having this task handled by Rachel and Resonance freed up my time to complete other tasks I am better suited to do.

    It was a joy to work with Rachel. Her professionalism and sincere desire to help was apparent from the first communication until the final delivery. I will definitely use Resonance again and highly recommend their services.

  • Added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks

    Rachel took the overwhelm and stress out of writing content for my marketing campaign! When I approached Rachel, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to focus on writing copy for a lengthy marketing campaign that included sales pages, solo emails, newsletters and social media updates. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I hired Rachel because I couldn’t have done it without her support and expertise. I loved how she used my voice and words to craft content that helped me reach and attract my ideal client. As a result of working with Rachel, I added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks, hundreds of new social media followers and exceeded my sales and list building goals! You know your marketing copy is working when you hear someone say, “I see you everywhere”. Thank you Rachel for helping me not only get seen by my ideal clients but get paid!

  • Increased website traffic, New Lead Generation

    We were experiencing a lack of internal resources to consistently maintain the Ustream blog. So we turned to Resonance Content Marketing to write blog posts on current industry topics while maintaining a consistent tone with the brand. The result is increased website traffic, new lead generation from gated assets on blog, and better educated/qualified leads. And I now have more time to spend on marketing strategy with the confidence that the content we push out is extremely well written and engaging.

    Rachel is an amazing writer and has really managed to create engaging and relevant blog material on topics that aren’t always super interesting. On many occasions, she has been able to quickly turn around one-off requests and the results are always top-notch. She has also helped guide our content strategy based on her expertise in content marketing, which has been a huge asset to our team.

  • Social Media Ranking Better Than Ever!

    We are so happy to have hired Resonance for our social media needs. We spend most of our time serving our clients and studying our field so we can provide the highest quality possible. We no longer worry about our social media, as we have total confidence in the wonderful work Rachel and her team have accomplished.

    Our social media is active, promoted, and is ranking better than ever! People often comment about what they see on our Facebook page. Resonance has added a creative, and artistic twist to our social media that is appealing and captivating to our audience. This has allowed me more time to work with my team and clients, so I can focus on service towards the people that help our business grow.

    I know there will be wonderful content on Facebook, and that Rachel will answer to posts, comments and questions as soon as a comment arrives. I am often impressed at how quickly she responds! Thank you Resonance! I highly endorse Resonance and encourage companies who need social media strategies to work with Resonance! You won’t regret it! 

  • One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

    My company had little or no time to spend on social media. Our needs were to ensure a steady stream of posts across three platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) by harvesting and re-purposing content from our own site and news streams. So I contacted Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing.

    The result was two-fold. Not only did our ranks of followers grew steadily, the steady drip, drip, drip of content helped us train our personnel and direct their own individual social media efforts.

    Rachel and her team are extremely organized and open to discussion and new ideas. They deliver a rapid response to new opportunities — and an overall feeling of being on the same team. One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

  • Increased our likes and interaction rates

    Working with Rachel was a delight. Not only does she communicate very well, but she provided valuable insight about our social media platforms and followers. We have much better engagement with our fans and followers, which increased our likes and interaction rates.


  • Produced ROI Result

    Form.io needed someone who could grasp the complexities of our product, capture the subtlety of our differentiating value propositions, and convey them in the right voice for an exacting customer audience…. Resonance delivered, by crafting a multi-faceted online content marketing strategy that drove traffic and conversion, producing the ROI result we were looking for….

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