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  • Denise Hamilton

Good Content Requires More Than Just Good Input

My son’s Little League baseball team was down 11 to zero. It wasn’t easy to watch all those nine-year-olds hanging their heads in a group show of “no hope.” Baseball has plenty of these moments. But it’s also a thinking person’s game, ripe with opportunity to turn around the worst situations. I remember that long-ago game well because my son’s team went on to win 12 to 11 and every player contributed. They were something special.

As a writer in enterprise tech, I’m dependent on SMEs for input. When something isn’t clear or I have to ask for an explanation of how something works, or why something else doesn’t matter, I call on those SMEs. I’m asking what I think are key questions only, but SMEs don’t always have the answers I need or the time to explain. In fact, it’s a rare content project that rolls out with all the pieces in place, and that includes my own knowledge. I might ask about a bit of technology for which there’s no good answer. It happens – at least occasionally – in every size company, from startups to huge companies with tens of thousands of employees. Even well-honed processes can’t catch every gap, or anticipate every need in new content development.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t always matter, and it’s almost never a game changer. What?! Perfection is a false god. With a few major points, POV and an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish, I can give it a shot as a writer. That’s because the best SMEs bring something special to the mix that goes beyond the perfect outline or marketing brief. Without these qualities, well, I wouldn’t want to be part of that team.

Here are my top must-haves:

1. Sense of humor – obstacles feel a lot less daunting when you can laugh about them.

2. Independent thinkers – when something isn’t clear, we’ll figure it out.

3. Willingness to keep pushing – until the content feels “right”; so-so isn’t good enough.

4. Supportive of each other – stepping up to take on a task when someone else is clearly stretched too thin.

Not everything can be measured in traditional ways. The most important things are felt, and that’s what keeps the best teams going. It’s called “heart.”

Song of the Day: You Gotta Have Heart, from the film “Damn Yankees”

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