Subject Matter Expert vs. Professional Writer: Which is Best for Your Company Blog Strategy?
If you’ve made the wise decision to start a blog for your small business (or already have a company blog), congratulations! You’ve taken an important first step toward establishing your business as a trustworthy source of information — not to mention the many SEO benefits of regular blogging and content creation.
What comes after deciding to start a company blog is where things get tricky. After all, now you have to determine not only what your prospective customers want to read, but you have to… well, start publishing things. And unless you have a marketing professional on staff, that means your next step is a tough one: finding the right person to plan, research and write articles for your blog.
Of course, not all freelance bloggers are created equal. Some come from a marketing background and have a special focus on SEO. Others are journalists or social scientists by training, and excel in telling engaging, human-centered stories. And then there are the subject matter experts — specialists within a particular field that, more often than not, aren’t writers at all.
For a lot of small business owners, the choice is a tough one. Does it make more sense to hire a copywriter that knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization? Will a creative writer with a knack for storytelling be the right choice? Do you really need a subject matter expert for your company blog?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. Your industry, audience and unique goals all play a big part in deciding what kind of freelancer would make the most sense for your small business. What you do know is that in order to make your company blog a success, you need help. So how do you decide?
I’ve been blogging for businesses for nearly a decade, and over that time I've learned a thing or two about what types of freelancers make the most sense for different kinds of company blogs. Before you decide on what type of freelance blogging support you need, ask yourself these important questions.
Are you a B2B or a B2C company?
When selecting the right freelance blogger, this is probably one of the most important questions to consider. In most cases, the needs and motivations of a B2B audience are totally different from a B2C audience. If your target audience consists mainly of professionals, they are more likely to want more in-depth content that uses industry language they recognize. If your audience is made up of more traditional consumers, they’ll probably want content that explains concepts in layman’s terms.
So why does that matter when it comes to choosing between a writer and a subject matter expert? It all comes down to perspective. A subject matter expert might be better prepared to unpack complex topics that industry professionals will find valuable. A professional writer, however, is better positioned to translate complicated themes into clear and easy-to-understand content — which lends itself to B2C audiences.
Of course, some B2B companies put a premium on simplicity and clarity, while the notoriety of a subject matter expert can be an important tactic for building trust with a B2C audience. The most important lesson here is to carefully consider the needs of your audience — and don’t simply assume you know what those needs are. Interview customers or collect feedback via an email survey Or, better yet, work with a strategist that can help you do both.
Do you want your content to entertain, persuade or educate?
The knee-jerk reply to this question is almost always “all of the above!”, but when it comes to selecting the right freelance blogger, a little bit more introspection is necessary. Of course you want your content to be engaging as well as informative, and you want it to ultimately lead to a sale (or whatever other success metric you’re aiming for). But when you’re choosing between a subject matter expert and a professional writer, you need to prioritize.
Let’s say you own a gym, and your goal is to sell both memberships and personal training packages. It’s safe to assume that your target audience already understands the importance of exercise for overall health, but are unsure of how to get started at a gym. You also know from your experience that consistent motivation and a sense of empowerment are important to your prospective customers.
In this situation, your first priority is to educate — and in doing so, demonstrate the expertise of your team of personal trainers. Your second priority is to entertain — or, more specifically, help readers feel a sense of excitement, empowerment and emotional investment when they read your blogs. But since the motivation to get healthy is probably already there (they are reading content about fitness, after all) persuasion is lower on the list of priorities.
A subject matter expert would likely struggle to write blogs that are both engaging and easy-to-understand for someone new to fitness, and might end up alienating the very people you hope to attract. So, the best way forward in this scenario might be to work with a professional writer that has some serious research skills. They can interview your trainers and do plenty of independent research, and then translate it into engaging content that your readers will love.
Of course, if you’re a lawyer that specializes in personal injury lawsuits, entertainment is not a top priority. This could be a case where a subject matter expert might make more sense — so long as they are capable writers who know the basics of writing effective digital content.
How much time can you commit to content management?
Sometimes the most important consideration for creating quality blogs is how much time you or your team have to manage it. Even the most capable subject matter expert likely won’t have the skill set needed to manage a full content and blog strategy — leaving you and your team with the responsibility of handling all of the details beyond writing.
A content professional, on the other hand, could easily supply assistance and guidance on how to effectively manage a blog strategy — and provide quality content to feed it. Before choosing between a subject matter expert and a professional writer, determine just how much additional support beyond writing you will need.
The bottom line…
There are pros and cons to both subject matter experts and writers — and lots of diversity within each of those categories. Plenty of content professionals are very skilled researchers, and lots of subject matter experts are savvy wordsmiths. The deciding factor is often less about the skill set of the freelancer in question, and more about the type of person you and your team want to work with.
If in doubt, ask questions. Get a feel for what it would be like to work with someone before making a decision, and never simply assume a writer can’t create in-depth blogs about complex topics (nor that a subject matter expert doesn't know their way around a keyboard). The extra time spent choosing the right freelancer will save you time and energy down the road!
If you’re on the hunt for a professional writer with some serious research skills to match, you’ve come to the right place.
Find out how Candidly Consulting can jumpstart your company’s blogging strategy with a free consultation by phone!