How to Prepare Your Content Before Migrating to a Digital Asset Management System: Part Two

Your files are inventoried and you know exactly which ones you’ll migrate to your DAM solution, but there is one more thing you need to do: optimize that all-important metadata so your system will function as you need it to.

Let’s start by defining what metadata is and talk about why it’s so important to the functionality of DAM.

What is Metadata?

Metadata is what allows users to find, retrieve, edit, and share content.

Kevin Gavin, CMO at sums it up nicely. “Metadata is information about the digital asset that makes it easy to search and filter in order to organize and manage large collections of digital assets,” he says. “Standard metadata for images, for example, include things like the date, time, and location that a photo is taken as well as the camera and resolution.”

Amy Chan, SR Product Marketing Manager at Extensis says “Metadata is the underpinning of an effective digital asset management system. Without a good process in place,” she says. “a DAM can fall short of its effectiveness.”

Most metadata fall into these 3 categories:

Administrative Metadata

This type of data helps manage your content and includes things like the date it was created, who created it, and who should have access to it.

Descriptive Metadata

Having the right descriptive metadata helps users find the content they’re looking for. Some of the descriptive data to include in this are the title of the content, the author, and keywords. A keyword is what an end user types into the system to find content. For example, by typing “DAM” into the system, the user would see content related to that subject. Gavin says a keyword list can include as few as a dozen or up to hundreds of keywords, depending on what the DAM administrator determines. Additional keywords can also be added as the system grows.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Rights Management Metadata

When you include metadata that shows the copyright status and licensing provisions of your content, it will identify how and where it can be used. Gavin says that digital rights management is built into DAMs and “can be tracked at the individual asset level.

What is a Metadata Schema?

A metadata schema, according to Chan, “is the framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information.

It is your structure and the list of fields (such as: date, author, name, subject, etc.) that you would like your catalogs to contain.

This helps define how people add, categorize, search, and understand assets.” In other words, a metadata schema is the structure you use to organize your metadata.

Chan recommends organizing information into 3 buckets:

  • Crucial information:Information you need to have about your assets. Make this a mandatory field for anyone cataloging your digital files. In an example workflow of a sports photographer for a university, crucial metadata could include: » Event » Subject » Photographer » EXIF metadata’]
  • Nice to have information: Data that you would prefer to have, but it’s not essential in your workflow.  Following our previous example, this could include: » Full description of photo » Opposing team
  • Negligible information: Information that you could live without, but it does not hurt to capture. Examples: » Final score of game » Relevant keywords’]

When and How to Add Metadata to Your Files

You will have the choice of uploading your metadata as is, or editing it before you migrate to your new DAM solution.

“Some metadata is added when an image is created such as the time, location, camera, and settings of photographs and they are tied to the file,” says Gavin. “Other metadata is custom and gets added along the way.”

He believes the more metadata that is added and the earlier it’s done, the better.

But he says that metadata should always be retrieved and migrated.

“It is a judgement call if it is worth the work to go back and add metadata to old files,” he says. “The more the files are used and needed, the more important it is to have metadata so that they are more easily found when conducting a search of the metadata.”

If you’re confidant that the existing metadata is good, your DAM solution probably has the capability to automatically import it when ingesting the files.

On the other hand, if you want to change or expand the metadata, you can choose to do that before migrating or afterwards.

Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.

There are some widely used open source tools that help edit and manage metadata such as EXIFTool and Python. Both of these tools can be used on Windows and Mac computers.

If you would rather add the metadata using the tools on your Windows PC before uploading to a DAM, you’ll have to create an Excel spreadsheet.

In this case, you would create a spreadsheet listing all of the files, and then create columns for each metadata field you want to create. You can create as many fields as you want.

Next, you can embed some of the metadata directly into the document, or use the spreadsheet as a guide while you’re migrating the content to the new DAM.

To embed the keyword metadata directly into the Word document, follow these steps:

  • Use the “Save As” function.

  • After you’ve typed in the file name, click on “Add a tag” underneath it.

  • Add tags or keywords related to the file. These tags will become part of the metadata associated with the file.

If you’re adding metadata to images on a PC, use Adobe’s Bridge to help embed the data directly into the photo.

If you decide that your metadata needs editing, once it’s complete you should export all of the newly revised metadata to a .CSV file so you’ll be able to ingest the entire batch to your DAM.

Keep in mind that if you add metadata to your files on a Windows Machine, you will need to update the files one by one.

On the other hand, it’s possible to embed metadata to your files in batches if you do it while migrating to a DAM.

Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.

Bringing it All Together: How Preliminary Work Will help you Choose the Right DAM Solution

Doing the preliminary work will give you a better idea of what you need from a DAM solution, and that will help in the selection process.

Chan stresses that “The long-term success and adoption of a DAM starts with the foundation you put in place in the early stages.”

In other words when you take the time to define your workflow, structure, and metadata practices, you’ll ensure your DAM is set up for success.

But she says success also requires best practices be put into place after the migration as well.

“Ensuring the guidelines are clear to all users is imperative for maintaining the effectiveness of the system,” she says. “Some companies will hire a digital asset librarian to manage this foundation. At a minimum, having a person to champion this infrastructure is key.”

How to Prepare Your Content Before Migrating to a Digital Asset Management System: Part One

If you’re thinking about migrating to a digital asset management (DAM) system, you likely have one key goal: to centralize your content so that it’s more easily retrieved, edited, and shared. And DAM is the ideal solution for many organizations.

But before you migrate, it pays to do some preliminary work so that your content is ready to be transferred.

We’ll talk about how to do that in this 2-part series, but first, let’s address some basic issues.

What is a Digital Asset Management System?

You likely use a primitive form of DAM right now, even in your personal life.

For instance if you organize your files into folders, you are centralizing them in a way that makes sense to you.

That way, when you need to find a document, you have a hierarchy of file folders that you can sift through to retrieve the desired file.

A DAM works much the same way, but instead of the system making sense to only the creator, it works across an entire organization.

Its core competency is to centralize all digital assets, and then make it easy for employees, partners, or other authorized users to find, edit, use and share the content.

Some types of content stored on a DAM system are:

  • Digital documents
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Audio files
  • PDFs
  • Removable media on flash drives, CDs and DVDs
  • Digitized analog media such as slides, prints, and negatives

What are the Benefits of DAM?

To make the best use of digital assets, they must be properly structured in order to increase organizational efficiency.

A DAM system does that in 4 main ways:

  • By organizing documents into pre-defined classifications, millions of pages can be corralled into a system that makes sense to everyone who uses it.
  • User governance. Not all content is meant to be public, and DAM can help restrict access to sensitive assets.
  • Audits. It helps to know when a document was last updated, edited, or used and DAM systems keep detailed records.
  • Through the use of unique metadata, which we cover in-depth in part 2 of this series, end users can easily retrieve the assets they need.

How to Find Your Existing Data

The first step in preparing your data is to locate all of the assets you currently own.

According to Kevin Gavin, CMO at, it’s common for digital assets to be scattered across a lot of storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, SharePoint, and other file storage systems.

“Our customers usually start with the content owners who already know where they are storing various assets and ask them to provide an inventory of digital assets to be centralized in the DAM,” he says.

Amy Chan, SR Product Marketing Manager at Extensis agrees that identifying the key stakeholders and asking them to deliver the assets that need to be cataloged is the best way to accomplish the task, but she doesn’t believe it needs to be done in one step.

“This can happen in multiple stages,” she says, “with the first focused on the primary assets the organization wants to include in the DAM.” She notes that with Portfolio, her company’s DAM solution, additional assets can be identified and added at a later time.

Some of the types of stakeholders that may own content in your organization are:

  • Marketing team leaders
  • Creative team leaders
  • Visual and audio specialists
  • Content creators
  • Customers
  • Distributors
  • Vendors
  • Customer service representatives
  • Social media campaign managers
  • Sales representatives
  • IT department members

Deciding Which Content to Migrate and What to Leave Behind

Once you have an inventory of all the digital assets, it’s time to determine what you will migrate and which files you will delete or archive.

For example, some content will be outdated, no longer used, or duplicated.

Gavin says the best approach to deciding what should stay and what should go is: “If in doubt, centralize it in the DAM.” He says that the cost of storing the files is relatively small unless you’re storing high-resolution video files, so best practice is to centralize the storage of all digital assets in the DAM.

“Once they are centralized, then you can run reports and see which assets are being used and which ones are not. Those that are not being used are candidates for deletion or for transfer to archive storage.”

Chan has a different approach.

She suggests first defining the goals of the DAM, and then having all stakeholders agree to them.

“This can be based on the greatest challenges the organization is facing with their digital assets,” she says.

For example, if out-of-date or unapproved assets are being used, identifying those assets and archiving them should be the driving factor in deciding which content to migrate.

The Next Step: Adding Metadata

Now that you’ve located your content, organized it, and deleted any duplicates, it’s time to add metadata to it so end users will be able to find it easily.

This is a big topic so we’ll cover it in part two of this series.

Close Corporate Communication Gaps and Avoid Duplicate Content: Here’s How

Your company’s hiring manager has a great human-interest story about a group of employees who donated vacation days to help out a sick co-worker. She shared the story in an email the people in her department — but the story never found its way to the company’s social media director. Nobody outside of the HR office heard about it.

An engineer from your company just presented an award-winning whitepaper at a global conference. Your clients would benefit a lot from the information, and it could even be re-purposed into a great editorial for an industry publication. There’s one problem, though: The paper hasn’t found its way to the marketing team.

Your company’s VP of marketing creates a beautiful, informative new brochure — but half of the company doesn’t know it exists. The sales department starts writing a totally new brochure. The CEO starts writing another one. None of the new brochures look or sound alike.

We could go on — but you probably see where we’re going with this: communication gaps lead to missed opportunities, duplicated work, and wasted time and resources. This happens with all sizes of companies, in every industry. Everyone assumes that they’re communicating and sharing, but they’re often unaware of what’s going on in other departments.

But how do you close those gaps? How do you ensure that your company’s departments are communicating and sharing information?

Here are a few strategies to help you improve communication across all of your company’s teams and departments:

1. Establish a point person/content manager to keep track of all content, across all departments. This person should be responsible for keeping up with everything from digital and print ads to whitepapers and editorial content to internal newsletters.

2. Invest in digital asset management software. If you need a starting point, check out the solutions provided by Widen CollectiveBrandfolder, and Libris. All three solutions have high customer satisfaction ratings and are designed to be user-friendly. Widen’s VP of Marketing Jake Athey cites Widen’s depth of design, highly integrated platform, and responsive service. Brandfolder incorporates a “visually elegant UI” and a “unique twist on folder hierarchy,” according to Product Marketing Manager Laura Hamel.

On a budget? You can even use free cloud storage options like Google Drive. Whatever you choose, make sure that you organize your content in a way that that makes sense and is easy to search/browse.

3. Spread the word. Once you’ve got a point person and a cloud-based library in place, it’s time to let everyone know about it. Use email, intranet, and/or your company’s internal social media accounts. Include important information like the name and contact information for your new content manager and login info for your storage system.

4. Establish a “communicate before creating content” policy. Encourage everyone to check in with your content management point person before starting a new project. A simple Skype message like, “Hey I need X type of content”, or “Do we have a brochure about X?” should help cut down on duplicate work. You could also use your company’s intranet to share and exchange quick updates about the content you need, the content you have, and share any other useful information.

5. Consider project management software.

If your company creates a lot of content, a project tracking tool might be a good investment. Tweet this

Project management software allows real-time collaboration, and it helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. Web-based project management tools such as Asana, Wrike, Basecamp, or Trello) are ideal for workforces that are dispersed across geographic regions. To learn more, read reviews, and compare platforms, is a handy resource.

6. Have monthly or quarterly and check-in calls. Your content manager should conduct regularly scheduled calls with key people from  each department to ensure that everyone is in the loop about new or updated content.

7. Keep your content up to date. It’s important to review your content library periodically. This will give you a good opportunity to update, discard, and revise your content as needed.


You and your company have already made the decision. This is your intranet vision: a dynamic, collaborative experience that is

Possible? One-hundred percent. It’s been successfully achieved by countless organizations. But one thing they all agree on—whether you’re a big company with thousands of employees worldwide, or a small company with a few offices scattered across the state—is that embarking on Project Intranet is not to be done lightly.  So, let’s get started.

Strategic Planning for an Intranet


1. Decide: Go or No Go

On the Plus Side for Project Intranet

Is an intranet a foregone conclusion?  Maybe not, but connecting with employees is. The Deloitte University Press in its 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends listed employee experience as a central theme and a primary challenge for human resources departments across the country. And for companies eager to help employees engage with company culture, intranets are the obvious channel.

  • TIP: Millennials in particular are looking for ways to connect as employees. Values matter and they report wanting to have a sense of purpose in the workplace and greater insight into company goals.


More Pluses: Standard but Sooo So Satisfying

When basic information, standard to every company, becomes easily available with a minimum of hassle, everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

  • HR materials
  • Benefits forms
  • Training manuals
  • Insurance forms


Even More Pluses

  • Cost savings (if the new intranet solution is cheaper than old communication hardware and software)
  • Higher productivity from employees who feel more engaged
  • Higher earnings as a result of higher productivity
  • Better knowledge management
  • Better corporate security


On the Minus Side for Project Intranet

But before you become too accustomed to those rose-colored glasses, take a hard look at the less pleasant realities.

1. Cost of software and hardware

2. Cost of labor at outset and ongoing

  • Teams from each department must be trained to contribute content and staff must understand all the technical aspects of the intranet. Without effective training, implementation can actually hinder the employees’ ability to perform well.
  • Routine maintenance is a must and is another aspect that consumes time.
  • There must be intranet overseers who are constantly on guard for the uploading of excessive information that causes confusion. If navigation and organization of the intranet is affected, productivity can be impacted.
  • Even out-of-the-box software solutions are never truly complete and will need some customizing.

And as an extra incentive to do things right, take a squint at Blogger Deb Lavoy’s little survey called, “Why I Hate my Intranet”. Most answers circled around lack of usability and irrelevance but there were others:

Some responses were more colorful, one referencing the movie, Independence Day. “The president asks the captured alien, ‘What is it that you want us to do?’ The alien answers, ‘Die!’ That’s how I feel about Intranets. And I’d be willing to wage intergalactic warfare for the cause.”

Rose-colored glasses off but still ready for Project Intranet?  We thought so! On to the all-important human element: your team.


2. Assemble Team

Corporate entities that will probably be involved in the team include:

  • IT
  • Communications
  • HR
  • Training
  • End-users
  • System administrators
  • Intranet champions
  • Departments that will have content represented

If at all possible, schedule a day to go through the project goals and timelines.  To help people understand their individual roles, consider using a RACI responsibility assignment matrix, which assigns each team member to being Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for each task.


It will be important for potential team members to have a clear idea of what the commitment means in terms of time and labor.


3. Identify Audiences

 ‘Know thy audience’ is the cornerstone of every good communications campaign. And lest we forget, an intranet is just another communications channel.

Companies often do employee surveys prior to setting up a major communications channel such as an intranet; others feel they have a good grip on end-user wants and needs. It’s important to have team members – such as end-users – who can represent those wants and needs truthfully in order to create an intranet that will be widely used.

What you find my surprise you.

In his article, “The Design Process: How to Redesign Your Intranet”, Toby Ward noted that “Not all of your intranet users will have the same needs. This means that the employee from Santa Monica will look for different resources than the one in Atlanta. Similarly, the associate from Communications will need different information, tools, and forms than the one from Sales. Also, not to be overlooked are the ways these different user audience types may wish to interact with content, and with one another. It is highly unlikely that your Millennials will wish to consume and communicate information in the same ways that some of your more seasoned employees do. So, analyzing your people becomes a fantastic place to begin your redesign journey.”

By knowing your audience well, you can be specific about your objectives and how to prioritize them.

Intranet Meets Culture

Knowing your audience also enables you to create a user experience that matches your company culture. To the left are examples of two prize-winning intranets that couldn’t be more different, but were equally effective in representing their organizations.

The Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand, a non-profit devoted to treating and preventing blindness, focused on gorgeous, moving photographs and an easy-to-use format that would inspire its workers throughout the world.

The Hulu Intranet, its users fondly dubbed Hulugans, was built with Igloo software and has a rowdy feel that invites its users in and celebrates its entertainment roots. It was voted one of the year’s best in 2016 by Intranet authority Neilson Norman Group.

4. Set Objectives

There are several different players with skin in this game so there are going to be diverse objectives to meet. They might go something like this:

  • Corporate Objectives: insight into corporate values and goals
  • Departmental Objectives: dissemination of essential materials
  • Management Objectives: motivational tools
  • Employee Objectives: social and interactive features
  • C-level Objectives: announcements/information

Or it might go nothing like that. It’s your intranet reflecting your priorities.


5. Create Action Plan and Timetable

Now that specific objectives are in place for Project Intranet, your team will create an action plan, consisting of ‘tactics’ to bring your goals to fruition. At the same time, you will begin to think about your timetable.


The action plan for every intranet project differs according to objectives and priorities, but the basics might go something like this:

  • complete decisions about and design of key content features
  • create features drafts and submit for end-user review
  • acquire hardware and software as required
  • migrate content
  • develop a training manual
  • plan for performance measurement
  • plan for launch
  • training for content providers end end-users
  • implement login for employees
  • execute internal marketing plan
  • launch

Some of these decisions, will be made departmentally. Other decisions will be made as a team.


According to the Nielsen Norman Group in January of 2018, Intranet development timelines are getting shorter. “This year’s average of 14 months (or 1.2 years) is the shortest yet for our Intranet Design Annual winners,” said authors Kara Pernice, Amy Schade, and Patty Caya in The 10 Best Intranets of 2018.

Even though better Website development tools and out-of-the-box solutions are making the process faster, as with every major project, time is money. Every contributor to Project Intranet will depend on every other contributor to bring in his or her portion on time. So, a solid timeline, constantly updated, is a tool to live by.


5. Measuring Success

Yea! Launch day with all its festivities has come and gone and colleagues in the hall (and digitally of course) are high-fiving you all over the place. Your ‘likes’ are off the chart. But that doesn’t let you off the hook for constantly measuring the success of your creation.

Stakeholders in Project Intranet will be eager to celebrate with you but they will also be waiting for the kind of metrics that show you have met your objectives. Remember that showing how things have improved is only possible if you can show how they were before you began. So be sure you have the before statistics as well as the after statistics.

Knowing the right mix of metrics and anecdotal information to give an accurate picture of your success is tricky, according to the experts. But it’s not one you can afford to ignore. Future investment in Project Intranet and/or the inevitable improvements depend on accurate feedback. So a strong and very complete plan for what works and what doesn’t work is essential. As well as built-in strategies for how to act on new information. In that way, measuring gives real value, not just useless statistics.


In Conclusion

Building an intranet for your company is an undeniable challenge, but the rewards loom large. Done right, your intranet can demonstrate some of today’s best ways to communicate. Mr. Gates said it all:

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.   Bill Gates

A Delta Case Study

Your organization prides itself on transparency. Your executives understand that central knowledge creates unity. But lately, employees have been grumbling: they don’t feel they get all the information from the top, and they’re starting to worry.

Your corporate intranet started out as a robust repository where all employees could find out about company events and news; coworkers; promotions and openings; and a whole slew of other employee-facing information. But it’s been quite some time since anyone’s used it regularly. In fact, the last employee survey you sent out got almost no response.

Your HR department has just brought in a group of new recruits. While it’s a great sign that your business is booming, the timing couldn’t be worse: Their manager is out on personal leave, and the rest of their department is preparing for a weeklong conference. You’ve been asked to set up an onboarding process to put much of their training online.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If you answered “yes,” you’ve come to the right place.

What makes us particularly helpful with your in-house messaging?

We take the time to get to know your company. We become proactive members of your organization, not just a contracted vendor. We dig deep into understanding your corporate strategies and goals, then combine this knowledge with our experience to provide best-practice strategies for your employee communications. This partnership ensures that your employees get the right message.

We get it done. We have the talent, the tools, and the processes to manage your large project efficiently. We understand how to strategize your big picture, how to manage multiple moving parts, and how to set up the appropriate talent to make our team feel like a seamless extension of yours.

We help clients across various market segments – from manufacturing to petrochemicals to oil & gas to professional services to retail franchises – keep their entire employee base in the loop on everything happening within their organization:

Extra Hands for Mar/Comm

Your company might have an internal communications manager who creates and administers all your in-house communications. But what if she’s the only one working on them? Or what happens when she doesn’t have time to edit and proof all of her messaging? Consider us your “second set of eyes” and your “overflow team”. Once you’ve started working with your team of writers at The Writers For Hire, you’ll have the same core group on-call anytime you need us.

As your in-house communications writers, we know what makes a great in-house messaging strategy. Components can be as varied and unique as your company, but some of the elements that we create include:

  • Internal newsletters. Distributing appealing newsletters to your employees on a regular basis keeps them informed and engaged.
  • Internal memos. Have some exciting news that shouldn’t wait to be broadcast? Circulating an internal memo at an unscheduled time will get their attention – especially if it’s good news or contains some praise.
  • Internal blog. Post updates for (or from) your staff where you focus on your internal audience rather than your client base, like talking about who attended the charity event from the past weekend or how they can participate in the upcoming food drive.
  • Executive communications. Messages from “the top” require an experienced ghostwriter who can quickly understand your C-level execs and write content in his or her voice.
  • Employee-wide announcements. Simplify the distribution of time-sensitive or otherwise critical company information – such as a change to some corporate policy, an explanation of a crisis, or an emergency response – in one mass-message.
  • Intranet. Much of the above content is great fodder for an employee-facing site. If you’re establishing an intranet, or have had one for years, we can help keep yours current, clear, and captivating with updated news, company wins, HR documentation, training manuals, employee handbooks, and of course, the occasional creative fun stuff.

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Writing with SMEs

As a marketing specialist, you recognize that SMEs (subject matter experts) are critical to effective content marketing. They’re authorities on your company’s products and services. Without them, your company couldn’t run—and it would be nearly impossible to create detailed content that showcases your company’s expertise.

But if you’ve ever had to collaborate with one of these experts to produce a piece of thought leadership content, you might know that convincing them to share their knowledge—especially in writing—can be challenging at times.

Whether you are planning a new marketing campaign, seeking to raise your company’s digital profile, or venturing out on your own as a thought leader, you need SMEs on your team. Developing a strong partnership with your SMEs can help you write valuable content that benefits both you and your customers.

There is a wealth of online information about working with subject matter experts. Here is a compilation of some best practices that have helped other marketers, and may help you, generate more SME and SME-enabled content.

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Meet them where they are—literally and figuratively.

You may be familiar already with SMEs who are very active communicators within your company and on social media. Seek them out! You’ll already have insights on their interests and areas of expertise, and they might be more receptive to a writing project than other SMEs.

For the less active, you will need to exert a bit more effort to get a feel for their comfort level with writing and their preferences for working collaboratively.

Before starting, or deepening, your efforts to partner with SMEs to write, you might want to seek out other teams in your company—sales, public relations, training—who have experience working with SMEs. Some members of these teams no doubt will have tips that might prove useful to you.

A guide to working with SMEs to develop e-learning materials, for example, notes that a SME could be heavily vested in content that already exists. They may resist new ideas about how to present information, a possibility you’ll need to address before launching a project with them.

Get to know your SMEs and the issues that matter to them.

This will help you target topics that they can elaborate on for your customers.

Ask to be copied on the SMEs’ emails and collect other examples of their writing, such as documentation related to their work, their LinkedIn profiles, and any formal presentations they’ve given recently. Attend their working meetings, or just hang out in their spaces to get a sense of their immediate priorities and what they see coming in their field and for the company.

From there, you’ll need to communicate directly with the SMEs to explore those topics in more detail.

Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa suggests five questions that content marketers can ask SMEs to get the ball rolling, with the goal of gathering information your customers will want to consume and share:

  • How will the [a new product or service] help [target audience]?
  • What challenges have you helped customers overcome recently?
  • How have [industry developments] affected [target audience], and what should they do about it?
  • A [job title] in our LinkedIn Group wanted to know [question?].
  • I’ve heard a lot of people in the industry talking about [target keyword]. For example, [other thought leaders in the industry] said [something you’ve read while doing industry research]. What is your take on this?

These kinds of questions can form the basis of impromptu chats or informal idea-sharing sessions. Providing brief written summaries of these encounters for your SMEs to review might relieve some of their writing burden while engaging them in the creation of useful content. Asking SMEs to react to and edit your own high-level attempt to explain your company’s product or service could be another form of burden sharing.

Conduct formal interviews.

Be sure you to do your homework and prepare thoroughly for interviews so that you do not waste your SME’s time. Preparation should include conducting keyword searches on the SME’s area of expertise, gathering information on the SME’s professional background and experience, and sending out the interview questions ahead of time. Brendan Cottam, writing for B2B marketers, provides a good example of keyword research and questions aimed at making the most efficient use of your expert’s time.

Maximize, Maximize, Maximize!

Once your expert has provided writing, or data, start maximizing their contributions to create content that your target audience will want to read and share.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

To this end, be creative in finding ways to convert your experts’ contributions into useful information for your customers.

Identify the superstars.

In cases where your SMEs already are competent communicators, convert their written products into formats that you can promote inside and outside the company:

  • Share slides from their conference presentations.
  • Edit their oral presentations into short online videos.
  • Post the executive summary and excerpts from their white papers.

Give the less confident a gentle nudge.

Some SMEs may just as soon let you do the heavy lifting. These less enthusiastic writers may be willing to provide content—qualitative or quantitative—that you can then edit, reformat, and post. For the poorest writers, you might consider using the editing process as an informal tutorial or providing more formal tutorials, taking care to focus on the mechanics of communicating the message while respecting them as substantive experts.

The concept of prewriting—the thinking and planning that precede drafting a written product—can help overcome anxieties about writing and boost reluctant writers’ confidence.

You can draw upon the wealth of online college-level instructional material available today, material that walks you through pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

Resources such as Duke University’s Writing Studio and MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing will help you tailor your tutorial to the needs and preferences of your SMEs. For example, outgoing, talkative types might enjoy brainstorming sessions, while the more quietly cerebral SMEs might enjoy a hands-on mapping exercise. Check out images of pre-writing for inspiration.

In partnering with SMEs, especially reluctant writers, it will be especially important to mine your conversations and interviews for nuggets of valuable content. In her article on working with SMEs, Jessica Miller of PR 20/20 lists “20 marketing opportunities from 20 minutes with a SME,” including:

  • Sharing key points from interviews with your company’s blog authors, customer service representatives, and sales teams.
  • Recording podcasts featuring SMEs’ answers to interview questions.
  • Using content from interviews to draft high level one pagers, including infographics and tip sheets to share across marketing, sales, and service teams.

Measure and Reward

Before launching any major initiative to get your in-house SMEs to write more, think about how you will measure your efforts. You also might want to consider how, within your company’s culture, you will recognize outstanding contributions from these experts. Once you’ve uploaded content that your SMEs have authored or inspired, Gillin recommends:

  • Putting tools in place to measure views, shares, comments, likes, downloads, and other metrics of engagement.
  • Making sure everyone on your team is actively upvoting, sharing, commenting, and retweeting.
  • Featuring SMEs’ writing in company blogs and company publications.

Whether you’re starting fresh or building upon existing strategies, coaxing your SMEs to write more, giving them a shout-out when they do, and putting in some additional effort yourself could well produce results that both you and your customers will value.

Say Goodbye to Fluffy Web Copy

So, how many websites have you visited that are “dedicated to providing superior customer service”? Or whose “mission it is to make customer satisfaction a top priority”? Or whose products and services “meet your needs”?

And so on.

Fluffy phrases like this are easy to write and, on paper, they sound nice. After all, who doesn’t want superior customer service? Problem is, these phrases have been done to death and overused to the point where they don’t mean a darned thing. And, they do absolutely nothing to drive sales or tell visitors what you actually do (other than provide “superior” customer service).

Good web copy should be clear and easy to understand. It should tell visitors what you do and how you do it. It should provide solutions. Good web copy should contain real information, not meaningless buzzwords.

Here’s what I mean:

“At XYZ Law Firm, our mission/our goal is to . . .” Instead of telling potential customers what you’d like to do, tell them what you actually do. Use strong verbs and clear language. Instead, try something like “At XYZ law firm, we . . . “

“At Uncle Bob’s Mini-Storage, we are dedicated to providing the utmost customer service . . .” Okay, that’s nice and all, but can I store my priceless antiques there? Is there 24-7 security? It’s better to get to the point. For example, “At Uncle Bob’s Mini Storage, we provide gated storage units and round-the-clock surveillance to protect your valuables . . .”

“At Mama’s Restaurant, customer satisfaction is our #1 goal.” Okay, but what do you serve? Do you have breakfast? Why should I eat at Mama’s? Good web copy should entice readers to try out your menu. How about: “At Mama’s, we’ve been serving up old-fashioned, down-home favorites since 1952. From huevos rancheros to chicken-fried steak and gravy, we’ll satisfy your big Texas appetite, 24/7.”

Have any other suggestions for killer web copy? Want to add to my list of fluffy words and phrases? Leave a comment!