What Is an SME Review? | Meaning, Benefits and Considerations

Suzanne Wentley
Published: Oct 11, 2023
Last Updated:
Table of Contents
Looking for an SME to review your content? Let Compose.ly connect you with our community of subject matter experts.

If your client's industry is filled with insider jargon, complex processes that involve focused study to understand, or concepts usually left to the experts, you can’t rely on just any copywriter to get your marketing materials right. You need someone who knows the subject matter — an SME, or subject matter expert.

Digital content marketing is now a necessity for any business to stay competitive in any industry. But that doesn’t mean you can easily find a technically proficient, knowledgeable, and professional writer available for hire. Even if you can find a content writer who has proven experience in the right line of work, you should consider an increasingly common practice called an SME review.

What Is SME Review?

The SME review definition is as straightforward as industry topics are complex. It is an editorial overview of any content by a professional who is qualified to offer knowledge, strategy, or guidance in a specific area or topic. SMEs can also identify trends and problems in both marketing materials and throughout a company. They are often responsible for finding solutions and addressing challenges with specialized equipment or processes.

Still wondering, “What is a subject matter expert?” It may seem like a relatively new profession, but consultants with focused knowledge — often proven with impressive resumes and certifications — have been hired by forward-focused business owners for decades. SMEs can be an employee of an established firm or a freelance contractor, and they are great additions to marketing teams. 

They can also work on an hourly basis to serve as expert witnesses, brainstorm solutions to challenges, and — most importantly for business owners looking to gain competitive advantage through marketing — review materials. Sometimes, this person is also a professional writer. Mostly, the SME review is a separate part of an editing process within a content creation plan.

Many benefits come with working in partnership with a professional with an expert level of knowledge in a client's industry. These domain experts can be part of a process to improve content and increase the return on investment with the content budget. 

For the SME review to be most effective, you’ll need to know how to maximize this subject matter expertise. When you are prepared with an understanding of the subject matter expert roles and responsibilities, you’ll be on your way to meeting your client's strategic goals. 

SME Reviews Explained

With an SME content review, you’ll have the confidence that your marketing materials are reaching a smart and experienced target audience with the right tone and message. 

SME reviews aren’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Not every subject matter expert consultant is knowledgeable in every industry. What's more, some experts have more experience in consulting than editing, and vice versa. When you understand exactly what you are looking for in an SME, you're more prepared to find a professional ready to work on whatever the project entails.

There are different types of SME reviews, such as:

  • Technical
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • Medical

Technical writing reviews are appropriate for a vast number of industries. Subject matter knowledge in the logistics industry varies dramatically from that in the medical equipment industry. When a business works with technically complex products and services, a content professional who understands it all can save you the problems that come with published errors.

SME reviews are also appropriate for legal documents or medical guides for use for business-to-business clients or with internal team communications needs. Having an expert checking content for accuracy is a wise investment in the final editing process of important content plans.

5 Benefits of a Subject Matter Expert Review

If you haven’t integrated SME reviews into your overall marketing strategy, you may wonder if it’s worth the time and resources to add another step to your content's production before delivery. If you want to guarantee quality content, consider these five benefits you’ll get from partnering with a professional with subject matter knowledge in your industry.

1. Build Credibility and Authority

With a subject matter expert working with your content for review, your company will enjoy a position of credibility and authority within the industry. The expert, in essence, is part of your business, as they can help to elevate the expertise you’ve already established with your quality products and services. 

You can have confidence that whatever is produced as part of your content project will have the stamp of approval from someone who understands your industry. What’s more, your customers and prospects will have confidence in your content, too. 

2. Leverage Expert Insights

The reality is that marketing professionals are often juggling just as many responsibilities as the business owners who hire them. That makes it challenging to find the time to do adequate research to understand every industry you work in fully. When you leverage the expertise of an SME, you can expand your business — without expanding your workload.

SMEs can do more than just review materials once writers submit them. They also can come up with ideas for blogs or other outreach tools that your team may have never thought of without that in-depth understanding of the industry and its target audience. They can help you produce content at scale for clients who may worry that no one will understand their complexities.

3. Improve Audience Engagement

Any sort of outreach is rooted in a deep understanding of your client's target audience. Simply put, an SME will speak their language. This expertise allows you to keep your content consumer-focused by presenting a tone and message that resonates.

This connection is the first step toward getting your client's target audience to engage with the brand. For example, let's say your client works in the industry that coats paint on industrial metal. Not many people know much about it, but your SME will. If the content plan is filled with real-life concerns, such as tips for updating software on the equipment or defects in powder coating, the people who care about this will reach out. The beauty is in the details, and sometimes only an SME can provide those details in a content feedback cycle.   

4. Fact-Check the Accuracy of Your Content

Nothing is worse than a glaring error in your content, even if it isn’t glaring to the untrained eye. When an industry is filled with specialists, you need to work on their level of understanding. If you get something wrong, your client's current and future customers may lose confidence in the brand — and maybe you, too.

Every SME review should include double-checking all the facts in a blog, white paper, case study, guide, or any other content you may be producing. Unless your content writers are also subject matter experts, you cannot expect them to know the ins and outs of your industry. That’s why your content budget should include working with someone who does.

5. Generate Content That Satisfies Google’s E-E-A-T Standards

To rank well on Google’s search engine result pages, your content must meet standards that are abbreviated in the marketing industry as E-E-A-T. This stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

When your content fulfills these four qualifications, the content passes an important measure written into Google’s algorithms that help you rise toward the top of the list in organic searches. When coupled with digital advertisement campaigns, this search engine optimization can allow your clients to powerfully expand their reach and awareness within their industry.

What You Need To Consider When Working With SMEs

As you create a content production plan, be sure you leave adequate time for an SME review from when the writer submits a draft to the planned publication date. This is important for all different kinds of content, including videos, landing pages, white papers, and blog articles.

Once you’ve created the structure needed to integrate a subject matter expert into your editorial calendar, you’re ready to find a professional who is ready to help. 

Choose an SME With Specialized Experience in Your Industry

Specialization is the most important thing to consider as you search for someone who can perform content, service, or product SME reviews. You want to feel confident that your SME really is an expert in the specific industry you need.

Look for someone with:

  • A strong resume of experience in companies your clients are familiar with.
  • Certifications or degrees necessary for the industry.
  • A portfolio of published work on which they performed SME reviews.
  • Testimonials or contacts of professionals you can speak with.
  • A content creation agency that has already vetted the SME’s expertise.

Just like the hiring process of any team member, you can’t take their word at face value. By performing your due diligence at the beginning of the partnership, you will feel more comfortable with the process as it moves forward.

Communicate the Purpose of the Review

As you initiate communication with any subject matter expert, be clear about the work you hope to accomplish with them. There are many ways that marketers partner with SMEs. You may find an expert in the industry, but they are more experienced with overall business consultation than editorial reviews. 

If they can’t review content on time, they won’t be much help to your marketing initiatives. Articulate in detail your needs and expectations. Share your editorial calendar and deadlines to verify they have the capacity to take on this important work. You likely aren’t the only company the SME is working with, and you must confirm that your content won’t slip through their cracks.

Disclose Any Collaboration or Relationship With the SME

Whether you are posting marketing materials such as blogs or white papers online or simply communicating internally with a client's team, it's good practice to disclose your relationship with the SME. When you announce your collaboration, you put your company on the same level of expertise as the experts. 

Disclosures can look many different ways. For published articles, you can offer the SME a credit line under the byline of the writer with a short explanation of their qualifications for review. Another common method of disclosure is having a short paragraph at the end in italics with a longer explanation of the expert’s qualifications.

If SMEs have experience with content reviews, they will likely already have a ready-to-publish short byline or end-of-text biography paragraph. Talk to the expert or research your competition’s work to determine what's best. The method isn’t as important as making it clear you’ve enlisted an expert to validate accuracy and trustworthiness.

Be Open to Feedback From SMEs and Make Necessary Revisions

If your SME review is truly effective, the expert will likely have changes that they’ll expect you to make. Not every writer or even every marketing professional is comfortable with constructive criticism, but this is exactly the work that makes an SME review so important for your success. While you’re in charge of your final product, you should always strongly consider any changes your expert suggests.

Let’s say you disagree with a suggestion. Your SME should be willing and able to defend the reasoning so that you both can come to an agreement. The review should include clear, effective, and respectful communication from both sides. To facilitate this, it’s a good idea to discuss the feedback process during any interviews you have with candidates or agencies who work with subject matter experts. 

Boost Your Business’ Credibility With Our SME Services

Business owners in industries that involve complex concepts and processes can greatly benefit when their marketing team works directly with a subject matter expert. Whether you need an outside perspective on overall strategy or editorial oversight for content creation projects, SMEs provide experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. They can help take your work to the next level.

However, finding a professional within many industries with the consulting experience required for your SME review isn't always easy. Working with a content creation agency can solve this problem, as a network of content professionals already vetted and supported SMEs. You can feel confident that the work will be done well — giving you the freedom to focus on other elements of your business. 

Compose.ly works with a team of SMEs who are ready to perform the reviews you need for your marketing needs. Connect with Compose.ly’s subject matter experts to help your content strategy meet your goals today.

Learn how to work with AI tools, not against them. 

Download our free guide to AI content creation and discover: 

✅ The benefits and limitations of generative AI
✅ When to use AI tools and when you still need human assistance
✅ Tips for writing effective ChatGPT prompts
✅ 6 ways to leverage ChatGPT for content creation
Download Now

Speak with us to learn more.

Let us make content marketing easier for you. Fill out the form below, and a content specialist will get in touch with you in 1 business day.
Close button icon