But as an SME, there are several things you can do to make everyone's job easier and create a more collaborative and productive relationship with a writer.
Here are my top ten ways to be a good SME:
- Respect the fact that you know the product, the writer knows good writing.
- Don't use the writing process as a political tactic or as a substitute for the thinking and discussion that needs to happen offline for the document's topic, or worse, the product itself.
- Resolve your own disagreements about comments made by others; don't make the writer be the referee.
- Remember, if a product feature is in writing, you have to deliver it. Don't let a brochure or data sheet become a statement about anything other than what a customer can buy today.
- Understand the type and scope of the document project; watch for the temptation to create a "kitchen sink" document that presents everything you know about the topic.
- Learn the differences between features and benefits.* A feature's mere presence in the product does not make it a benefit.
- Be specific in your comments. If the text isn't clear, indicate what is confusing about it or what it should present.
- Understand that marketing isn't really "fluff;" copywriters are indeed trying to give customers clear and useful information.
- If you are providing a first draft, don't struggle with it. It's more useful for the writer to get complete and accurate input, then rewrite it into a polished document.
- The writer has to comply with corporate publication rules and style. You may not like those rules, but your material probably isn't "special" enough to go against them.
What qualities, skills, actions, etc. do you find helpful for the working relationship between SMEs and writers?
*Not sure about the difference? Check my book, Copywriting That Sells High Tech, which also presents a wealth of useful techniques, tips, and ideas to help with writing your own materials.