How To Finally Get Content From The Technical Staff


Don’t be a Shy Ronnie when trying to get content from technical staff.

Here’s a problem you might be suffering from. Nobody at your firm writes articles for publications or posts for your blog.

But then you see other firms don’t seem to suffer from that problem. You always see their content in magazines, emails, and blog posts.But your staff is much smarter and way more qualified than them!

Why is their technical staff motivated, but yours isn’t?

The Good News

If the technical staff won’t make time to create content, that’s not your fault. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

But this problem is figureoutable.

I’m going to explain the two basic ways you can solve this problem. First, I’ll give you an option you might like to use, but really shouldn’t. Then I’m going to explain an approach that might be a little less fun, but will ultimately cause less stress for everyone involved. I’ll also explain how I’ve used this approach to feed my firm’s blog over the last six months.

Option One: West Philly Approach

This first approach is not for the faint of heart. Do not try this unless you have already tried option two, have done the research I’ll mention later, and exhausted all other options. This approach is definitely not for “Shy Ronnies.”

You’ll need these supplies:

  • A few pieces of paper, preferably with lines.
  • A pen
  • A pair of gloves
  • A handgun with serial number removed

The first three are easy. But you may struggle with the fourth one. Unfortunately, I don’t know where you can get such a weapon.

However, if you go down to 52nd and Market Street in Philadelphia, ask for Leonard. Tell Leonard’s crew you know “CrAzy FaCe GHoSt KilLah'” and you need Leonard to help you “find your heater.” Discretely give them $375. Leonard will appear and give you a brown paper bag. Without looking in the bag, thank him and walk away.

Important: Don’t turn your back on Leonard!

There is a 41% chance you will make it out of that situation alive. Also, make sure you have the paper and pen in your pocket.

When you get back to your office, put on your gloves and kick in the door of your subject matter expert (SME) with your pistol in the air. Shout, “Keep your a$$ in that seat if you want to live!”

Then shoot the SME in the foot to show you are not playing around. Grab him/her and shove them back in the seat, throwing the pen and paper on the desk in front of them.

Important: Make sure you twitch your left eye as much as possible during the first few minutes.

Position the barrel of the gun right up against the back of their head. Now say, “What’s in that brain of yours is gonna end up on that paper. It’s your choice whether it will be a scribble or a splatter! NOW WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT (TOPIC – example, commissioning data centers).”

When the SME is done, empty the rest of the rounds into the wall by the door. Then put the gun in the SME’s bare hand. Tell the SME that content marketing is now their #1 priority in life and they need to apologize to the very next person that walks in that room. Then they can only say, “Sugar Ray was an astronaut ” for the rest of the day. Remind them you know where they live.

Thank them and walk out the door with the paper. Important: Don’t forget your pen.

When you close the door scream, “There is something wrong with (SME name)! I think (he/she)’s finally snapped. Call the police!! (He/She) is saying crazy things and I’m scared.” (Start crying)

Granted, if you do this on Tuesday, the rest of the week is going to be a bit awkward. But pretend like nothing has changed. Send a “get well soon” balloon to his/her hospital room. For the next couple months, whenever you pass the SME in the hall, ask how their family is doing. Say, “Let’s make sure you keep them healthy.”

Keep in mind, some more traditional firms may even fire you for this so check with your HR representative and employee manual first. And depending on your jurisdiction, this kind of action may be frowned upon legally (pretty sure it’s cool in Philly and Detroit. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer).

But ultimately, you now have content that you can work with.

Again, the West Philly Option is not for the faint of heart. It is complicated, expensive, and a lot can go wrong. So, always start with this next, and much easier, option.

Option Two: Sane Approach

In reality, there is so much keeping SMEs from writing content. And even if they are motivated to write content, there is no guarantee that it will be interesting, a reasonable length, or readable.

Here is what I believe the best solution to be.

  1. Get your SME a speaking or webinar gig
  2. Record it
  3. Get that recording transcribed
  4. Personally edit that transcription into several, readable, articles
  5. Get the SME to OK the finished articles

There are several companies that do transcriptions. It typically ranges from $1 to $2 per minute if there is only one voice on the recording. One 60-minute webinar could easily get you six different articles or blog posts. That transcription would typically cost less than $100. Not a bad deal. Plus, it is a lot less headache for the SME and it will be less frustrating for you.

I’ve used Transcribe Me and Casting Words. I found they both did a good job.

Yes, you will have to do some work editing the transcription into articles. Those transcriptions aren’t going to be good enough to paste into your firm’s blog. Deal with it. Just close your eyes and bite that kitten’s head!.

Key Takeaway: In all seriousness, you can sit there and blame the technical staff all day long. But that’s not going to get you anywhere. If you want content, you’ll have to take action. So, take the “sane approach” to getting great technical content.

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  1. Ben Carter says

    Great article Matt – certainly made me chuckle!

    I had a similar issue in a previous role and so I ended up ghost writing (is that the correct term?) content under our Directors names for print, online etc. The advantage of this is that (hopefully) the content was more engaging and as an added bonus I got very clued up on some of the technical aspects of our work.

    It did however get to the point where so much content was needed that I recruited a full time in-house copywriter so I could focus on other responsibilities.

    I would say though that this route is only viable if you can guarantee a constant stream of work. The alternative is you use an agency or freelancer, but you may find the average hourly rate slightly eye-watering!

    • Matt Handal says


      I’d love to get to the point where I have “too much” content from the technical staff. 🙂

  2. Insightful and entertaining article Matt. As always! To add to the transcription service options, I recommend Rev, a recording app and integrated transcription service. Typically a 24-hour turnaround on the transcript with $1 per minute fee regardless of # of speakers.

  3. Alexandra Luckwitz says

    Hey Matt,

    This one certainly kept me on my toes. Wouldn’t this be an easier approach?

    1. Get your SME a speaking or webinar gig
    2. Get a copy of their speech/speaking points
    3. Personally edit that into several, readable, articles
    4. Get the SME to OK the finished articles

    What would you recommend if you’re already the point person who writes speaking event content for team members? Signing them up for more speaking events wouldn’t necessarily help me develop content more efficiently, it would simply add to my workflow as I am now writing a speech and additional content.

    Thoughts on other ways to get team members to contribute content? Thanks.

  4. Hi Matt. I was in a role where a small fraction of my job was to ensure my firm was producing at least one thought leadership article per month. I was in this role for 10 years. Because I had many other responsibilities, I had to be efficient. My technique included the following:

    1) Approach this task with the goal of minimizing the amount of time a billable team member spends on non-billable work. I was very clear with each team member that my job was to make this as painless as possible for them.

    2) Develop and publish an annual editorial calendar schedule (no topics identified at this time). Send technical staff corresponding calendar appointments for their assigned dates and deadlines.

    3) Create a set of guidelines for developing content. This included brainstorming questions to help the technical staff arrive at a good topic, as well as general guidelines for what we were trying to accomplish (ideal word count range, tone of voice, consultative style, etc.) Distribute guidelines to team members approximately 45 days before their article was due.

    4) Meet with the team member and discuss the guidelines and their content ideas. Listen, ask questions, and help them select a topic and develop an outline for the article.

    5) Gauge their personal interest in writing (a select few actually prefer to write their own material!). Offer to ghostwrite for them, if they prefer.

    6) Ghostwrite the article, share with the team member, and incorporate their edits.

    7) In the beginning, the distribution channel for these articles was our blog and monthly newsletter. In more recent years, my team would also help the technical staff “author” these articles on the LinkedIn platform. This helped our team members get more direct recognition for their efforts and also helped us get more eyeballs on our content.

    Using this method I was able to create a library of thought leadership articles on a wide range of topics, and I was able to train my marketing team to do the same. It helped that we had strong support for this effort at the highest levels of the organization. But I also like to think that our approach had a lot to do with our success. Rather than posing this as something “marketing needs from the technical team,” we approached it as “marketing is going to help you get your ideas on paper in a very efficient way that respects your limited time.”

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