Subject Matter

The mind of a writer—Part I: How to instantly become a subject matter expert

One of the biggest challenges we come across as technical writers is knowledgeability. People often ask, “How can you write about something if you are not an expert in it?” Our question is, “How can you write about something (objectively, impartially, open-mindedly) if you are?”

Admittedly, a degree of subject matter knowledge is imperative to composing a convincing piece, especially in technical writing. Our livelihood exists because so often the people who hold that knowledge don’t have the time—or ability—to write about it.

So, how do writers-for-hire dive deeply enough into subject matter to write about it convincingly, without knowing it so well we lose touch with the audience we are trying to reach? It is not a question of depth but of breadth.

The “well-traveled” writer writes better

Have you ever been at a party or social gathering where someone who’s been abroad is recounting their tales of travel, and everyone is listening attentively? That’s because the storyteller is comparing their cosmopolitan experience with their domestic understanding. Not only does that make the information they are giving you more relatable, but it adds a robust quality to the new information they are providing about their travels.

With content marketing, it’s a different kind of travel, but the result is the same—compelling and relatable content. Rather than across an ocean, it can be across an industry. Instead of another culture, it’s another angle. Writers are often writers because they can see the connection between seemingly disparate concepts. And the more topics they know about, the more these connections aid in creating killer content.

Knowing enough about the main topic to write about it intelligently allows the writer space to add “inspiration from their travels” that will create riveting and engaging content for your company. And, no, we’re not talking about fiction writing.

The “inspiration” is how your product or service connects with people on a gut-level; how your content can meet readers’ needs. Those are universal truths that we writers can dial in on from any platform, which is why we need to stay wide and well-traveled.

Still waters run deep

The truth about deep product or subject knowledge is that ideas can become stagnate. In today’s hyperconnected, Googled world, readers lose sight of the nuances that subject matter experts live and breathe every day. But that doesn’t mean a little depth can’t bring more value. The answer lies in middle-depth writing.

To keep things moving with your content, and to make it more widely consumable, the concepts need to be shallow enough to wade through quickly, but deep enough that the reader can catch something worthwhile. This is done deftly by technical writers through that interconnectedness we talked about.

Jack of all trades, master of none, writer of all

So when you are outsourcing the creation of content for your business, do not expect the writer to know as much about your industry as you do. Surely, they will need to pick the brains of your subject matter experts in order to produce quality content. But trust that they know more about getting the right message to the right audience. Let the writer’s understanding of human nature blend the information you’re giving them with the information people like to consume, and your marketing content will make your brand the life of the party.


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