Today, my friend Jean asked me a fundamental question about content marketing. How do we create meaningful content for people or industries when we lack the proper domain knowledge?
For example, if you’ve been hired to write for a technology startup, but only have passing knowledge of the tech at hand, how is possible to create something worth reading, listening to, or watching for the prospective audience; an audience who, more than likely, possess deep troves of industry knowledge that surpasses your wildest imagination?
First, recognize that this is normal. Great writers and content producers aren’t always domain experts, nor are domain experts often great at producing incredible content.
Second, while the luckiest position to be in is that of the domain expert when it comes to creating content, domain expertise also has its downsides.
For example, I’ve been a “coworking expert” for a few years now. But that expertise is based on a narrow experience and scope of the industry. Which means I’m liable to create content based on a limited supply of information; material that could be, at best, terribly biased or, at worst, disastrously foolish. While domain expertise makes content creation a fair bit easier, it also tends to limit your exploration of new ideas and media.
So, what strategies do non-domain-experts use to generate great content when they have no clue what they’re talking about? There are three.
Don’t underestimate the awesome power of conversation. Interviews with people more “in” than you can generate amazing insights. What’s more, because you don’t have an insiders perspective (at least not yet) you can see things differently. You’ll latch onto concepts that others miss because you don’t have their same tunnel vision.
Interviews don’t need to be with keynote speakers at the annual industry conference. They need to be with somebody who has something interesting to say, and more knowledge about the industry than you.
You can record these interviews as a podcast or for useful reference material for an article.
You can conduct these interviews with customers, suppliers, or even employees within your organization. All of them have something interesting to say. Your job is to take the raw data and make it sing.
One of the best ways to get an all-access pass to expert-level domain knowledge is to become an insider. Join all the Facebook groups. Go to all the conferences. Watch all the Youtube videos. Give yourself a crash course on the subject, then go more in-depth.
Writing about ecommerce? Start your own online store as a test.
Vlogging about wine? Take a job at a local wine bar, no matter how low the position.
Podcasting about psychology? Start recording conversations with your friends majoring in the subject at university.
This is the good ol’ fashioned tactic I like to call studying. However, I think about studying differently.
I like to learn with what I call passive intent.
Passive in the sense that I’m not aiming to get anything specific out of the material.
Intent in the sense that I do intend to get something out of the material with every pass through it.
So gather all the podcasts, audiobooks, books, and blogs you can find on your topic. Keep them at the ready, so you have material you can start absorbing between projects, on your commute to work, or while on the can. If you lose your train of thought, don’t worry, that’s not the point. You can go back to review what you missed if you want, or you can keep going.
I’ve sometimes found myself missing near-on entire chapters of audiobooks because I was doing something else while listening.
This approach works because I don’t listen to or read books once. I’ve become an “expert” in various topics, not because I’ve listened to many different audiobooks or podcasts on the subject, but because I’ve listened to the same ones more than 20 times. You’d be surprised at the stuff that seeps in, even when you think you’re not paying attention, and you’ll be confounded when you hear a brilliant bit of insight that you somehow missed on the last listen-through.