What’s the Right Amount of Research?

 Knowing when to engage an SME

Whether you’re working on a B2C or B2B content marketing project, research is an essential part of the writing process. But what happens when that research is taking much longer than anticipated?

Maybe it’s a blog you thought you’d complete in a few hours. Perhaps it’s a difficult section of an e-book and you can’t quite make sense of the technical subject. Maybe you’re ghost writing for the CEO and you can’t figure out a good thought-leadership angle on a recent trend.

In times like these, your research drags on and you’re left empty-handed and feeling defeated.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to answer how much research is the right amount to create stellar content. This is highly dependent on the project, the subject matter and the deadline. Most writers will know it in their gut — that twisted stomach feeling that tells you when you’re stuck. This is when it’s time to call in reinforcements.

Writers and subject matter experts (SMEs) can make a powerful team. What’s more, when they work together, they can create powerful content. SME content can boost engagement, build readership and boost SEO. Even when writers work within an industry and have important core knowledge, their skills are in storytelling. An SME adds depth to the content and unparalleled authenticity.

So rather than determining just the right amount of research, let’s discuss when it’s time to engage an SME. Here are four writing situations that call for insight from an expert.

You’ve hit a wall with your research:

If you’ve tried all the research tricks you have up your sleeve and the same articles and information continue to come up, you’ve hit a research wall, my friend. The feeling is maddening. Stop driving yourself crazy and start researching the organization to find a possible SME. Then make contact so you can keep writing.

You don’t understand:

Perhaps you have hit the jackpot of all research and have loads of documents to go through. When you start reading everything, however, you feel like you need a Ph.D. just to make sense of the abstractions. Industry publications, academic articles and government documents and the like can be complex. Stop scratching your head and meet with an SME to go over items as necessary.

You lack creativity:

You have some basic research and a good understanding of it. But when you put virtual pen to paper, you just can’t find a creative and interesting way to approach the topic that will make it stand out from other information out there. Try brainstorming with an SME and you may just experience a light-bulb moment. Is there an analogy, recent event or common experience that could be applied to the topic?

The copy reads flat:

You did your research and wrote the copy, but when you look over the results they seem shallow and boring. If your lack of knowledge is coming across loud and clear, the copy is just going to fade into the white noise that makes up most of internet. Add depth by interviewing and/or quoting an SME. Share their opinion, insight, expertise and humor — it will make your copy stand out.

SMEs are great assets to writers when used strategically. Engaging an expert may feel like an extra step, but ultimately if you’re faced with one of the above dilemmas, you’ll save yourself time and frustration. Plus, the results will be much more intriguing for readers. When content is king, you can’t afford to be white noise.

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