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Build real thought leadership with subject matter expert videos

Anyone remember the 1980’s movie “Revenge of the Nerds”? Here’s how it went: tired of being bullied by a particularly condescending jock fraternity and perpetually ignored by every good looking girl around college, a group of freshmen geeks band together and, through their superior knowledge, special personal talents and high energy enthusiasm spectacularly defeat the frat boys and win over the girls. Good not-so-clean fun ensues and the movie went on to gross more than $ 40 million in its opening year.

While the comparison should probably stop here the same qualities – deep knowledge, infectious enthusiasm, and strong personalities – that super powered the “nerds”, on the screen and in theaters, exist amongst experts and specialists within your company.

Leveraging subject matter experts in your B2B marketing and communication can be a highly valuable way to improve your company’s credibility and build industry thought leadership by sharing real insights and forward thinking knowledge straight from the source. It is high time to get these experts and their specialist knowledge out of the basements, into the light, and on to social media, but how do you do this without traumatizing everyone involved? A quick way to get started is video. Here’s why and how.

Why: two reasons subject matter experts can change how prospects view your company

Real insights – Unlocking the vast resources of specialist knowledge and embedded insights of subject matter experts might seem like a daunting task but, if done right, it can help establish real thought leadership and prove an invaluable resource for your company. Your own subject matter experts know a lot about your industry. They are on the forefront of their field and actively help pushing it forward. Their insights and perspectives can be valuable for your customers, and such insider wisdom can be many times more effective than simply relying on one-to-one conversations between, for example, salespeople and customers.

Credibility – Traditional approaches to marketing and communications have typically prevented R&D staff from having their say in public forums. As any professional communicator knows, the subject matter experts deep in company labs have a habit of being overly direct and “too” honest—far too authentic. But times have changed. Thought leadership is being debated like never before in marketing circles and while a lot of this might not amount to much it is well worth remembering that today’s “nerds” are the voice of credibility and the evidence of your company’s expertise. Their special capabilities can be channeled into appropriate contexts where their obvious lack of media training will only add to the magic for your audiences.

It’s time to think about how to create and maximize meaningful connections between the SMEs in your company and their peers at your customers, and how to connect them to other influencers in the industry. With the advent of social media this has never been easier, but where do you begin?

How: capturing the magic of subject matter experts through video

I’ve argued before that relevant on-target content is the new driver of engagement for forward thinking B2B marketing and we’ve touched upon examples of company engineers being engaged in corporate blogging here before – but an easier place to start, for you as well as your SMEs, is by capturing the magic on video.

Here’s one way to work within this area: start by capturing a number of videos, even as short as one or two minutes long, where your experts talk about some aspect of technology or provide other industry-based perspectives that you expect will appeal to a broad audience or perhaps just to a small niche of like-minded experts. Check out FOSS’s approach. It’s simple but relevant and engaging, as the comments indicate.

Initially, I’m not advising you to create a complex and difficult-to-control roster of would be experts as rock stars with and abundance of social media profiles and handles to go with. Most B2B companies have one or two technically competent people who are able to bridge the gap between deep technical know-how and effective communication. Such people often have likeable, helpful personalities combined with a good understanding of what should and should not be shared with customers. With qualities like these, they should be empowered to build thought leadership while sharing their deep knowledge and engaging energy with the larger industry community and your potential customers. Engage them, entice them and help them find the sweet spot between deep knowledge and accessibility.

An interview format – asking pre-arranged questions that your experts can readily answer – is perhaps the most effective method of enabling your experts to respond easily. Make these videos available in various forms around your content network (Voice of Company, Voice of Industry) as blog posts, on dedicated technology sites, on your corporate video platform, or even just on YouTube. Again social media can help as many of these options are integrated.

3 tips for getting started with SMEs and video

1)  Start small, work out an effective system, then scale. Begin by working with just a few passionate and open-minded experts (be sure to bring their manager on board as well) and expand the program when your formats and systems are perfected and have proven their worth.

-2)  Make it easy to take part. Frame the interview, pre-arrange questions, and keep it simple and focused on one topic at a time. Whatever you do, leave the technical asides surrounding publication and sharing to others. SMEs have enough to do without figuring out the backend of a video CMS on top of their day to day tasks.

3)  Share praise and rewards – Feed views and comments back to SMEs and be sure to make the contributors visible within your company as well. What motivates SMEs is most likely deep personal interest in a field mixed with professional ambition, and not the implications for marketing and sales.


Let us know what you think! How do you approach leveraging SMEs in marketing, how do you feel about company SME’s on social media, and what are some great examples of this you have encountered?

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Jonathan Winch

I’m Jonathan Winch, partner at cylindr and BBN International and a B2B marketing enthusiast. I've participated as a strategic and creative resource in the marketing and communication sphere for over 25 years, making contributions to the strategies and communications of companies of all sizes, the best known of which include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Danisco, GN ReSound, Hempel, Nokia Siemens Networks, LEGO, Coloplast, and Johnson & Johnson. My mission? To help B2B companies make the most of the value they create for the world. My hobby: Nutritional science, particularly sports nutrition.

One Response to Build real thought leadership with subject matter expert videos

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