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3 Best Subject Matter Experts to Interview for Your Blogs (Examples)

May 30th, 2024 | 4 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

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A row of people who might service as a subject-matter expert (SME) option.

These days, in Google’s eyes, you need to have more expertise, authority and trust. Your content also needs to prove you have experience. That means real-life examples.

This can feel nerve-wracking. It involves opening up and getting personal. But the good news is, you likely have plenty of “subject matter experts” — in other words, people with experience — who can help personalize the work you do.

At Zoe Marketing & Communications, our content editors, Jenny Kales and Claire Charlton, conduct 240 “SME” interviews every year. They have deep experience adding real voices to web content. Here, they’ll share insight on why SMEs matter, plus three top types:

  1. Clients with personal stories
  2. On-staff experts
  3. Off-staff experts

This blog is designed to energize you about the different people you can interview to share your story. And you’ll discover your next steps for more ideas and, if you need it, support.

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Why SMEs matter

It’s one thing to tell your future customers how great you are. It’s another to show it.

“Readers want relatable stories,” says Zoe content editor Jenny Kales. “If they have a concern, a problem to solve or a question, they want to see how other people tackled it and what their experience was.”

SMEs-Benefits-Jenny Kales Quote

This is true whether your SME is an industry pro or a customer.

And, Charlton adds, it’s essential to show your product or service’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Don’t be afraid that your SME might say something negative,” Charlton says. “This is honesty, and it’s important to include.”

So — who can you chat with?

3 top types of SMEs

You’ll get excellent insights from your clients, experts on your staff and experts not your staff (like partners and collaborators). Here’s a closer look at all three, with some examples.

1. Clients with personal stories

Start with people who’ve had a personal, successful experience with you. Look first to:

  • Clients with success stories
  • Case study participants

Ideally, they can speak candidly about your product or service. For authenticity, they should give their full name — and share some of the challenges they had before turning to you for help.

SMEs-Clients-List

This can include business owners or marketing contacts. But think creatively, Kales adds.

“Choosing an ‘outside the box’ SME who is truly relatable will intrigue readers, connect with them emotionally and boost engagement,” she says. “Think students, clients, parents, guests and happy customers.” A few of her SME examples:

“I spoke with two former students — one who now teaches at the school — and the head of school,” she says. “We included photos of each grad and powerful quotes.”

“This was a piece for the Walworth County Visitors Bureau,” Kales explains. “The owner shared her tips for travelers, and I also injected some of my own experiences and knowledge of the region into the article.”

This was for The Michael J. Fox Foundation Chicago Run/Walk. “Instead of speaking to the PR person,” Kales says, “I interviewed a local family who participates in the event due to their personal experience.”

Sometimes, you’ll have to do a little networking and asking. But these sources can really resonate with readers — because they’ve been in their shoes.

2. On-staff experts

Think about the folks on your team who do the everyday work to create or deliver your services. They’re experts in what they do! And they’re pros at explaining “how this works.”

SMEs-On-Staff-List

“Talk to the person or people who design or implement your process or product,” Charlton says. “What did they overcome to make it happen? These ‘it wasn’t simple’ stories can be powerful.”

Here, your options may include staffers who work with:

  • Leadership
  • Sales or marketing
  • Product/service development
  • Customer success/quality assurance 
  • Technical support
  • Data management
  • Training 

Charlton has interviewed a wide range of “in-house” experts. A few examples:

“This was a nuts-and-bolts piece about how kids with autism benefit from ABA,” Charlton says. “My source has a deep understanding of parents’ confusion as they begin the process. The result was a detailed guide rich with empathy.”

“Lisa Hovarth is also a mom who had several family members who struggled with alcoholism. Her eight tips on preventing drug and alcohol abuse are poignant and come from experience.”

“Here, we needed an expert to explain why it’s important to start saving for college early and recruit family to help. Diane Brewer has solid insight — and a clear way of de-stigmatizing financial aid.”

Remember, it’s not always the top leadership that has the best insights. Depending on the topic, anyone who works at any level of your business can be an SME.

3. Off-staff experts

Finally, chat with people who aren’t on your staff but are highly aligned with your mission, such as:

  1. Partners and collaborators
  2. Respected “thought leaders” in your industry
  3. Professors or researchers who specialize in your field

“This can be a great solution if your in-house SMEs are tough to pin down for interviews,” Charlton says, “or you’re in a field like medical, where putting clients’ names out there is tricky.”

SMEs-Off-Staff-List

The bonus? “You’re aligning yourself with other reputable names,” she adds, “which can also help your blogs’ search visibility.” A few samples from the Zoe team:

“The Ethel and James Flinn Foundation is a grant-making nonprofit focused on de-stigmatizing mental health,” Charlton explains. “An aligned organization, NAMI, provided tips for supporting family mental health. The expert was also a father who could speak from experience.”

In a piece for the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Kales shared what cows eat and why it matters. “This is a great partner example,” she says. “UDIM works on behalf of dairy farmers, and the expert I talked to has worked on a dairy farm since childhood.”

“In this case, the expert was me!” Charlton says. “The county we were working with wanted to highlight some of their Metroparks, and I’m an avid visitor. I was able to offer my own intel.”

Again, creativity matters. Think of other local influencers or organizations to interview that can support the message you want to share.

Next steps in finding SMEs that work best for your business

Connecting with future customers by sharing your experience is more important than ever. Yes, Google wants it. But what’s more important is that your readers want it.

“Just start talking to people,” Charlton says. “Whether it’s your clients, staff or other experts, they could share an angle or concern you never considered. Those can be the best stories.”

And if you need support finding SMEs — or interviewing them and writing stories quoting them — talk to us. Zoe has 40+ years of journalism experience and deep content marketing roots.

To learn more about subject matter experts and creating great content, be sure to read:

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Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.