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Tips for Subject Matter Experts – Providing Effective Feedback

Tafel Glhlampe StrichmnnchenAs a content services company, we help companies transform their content. This involves working with subject matter experts (SME) to rewrite and restructure legacy content. We have noticed, that although authorities in their role, SMEs often require guidance on how to provide effective feedback and comments when reviewing draft content.  We provide short training sessions before any transformation project. Here are a few tips SMEs can use to provide effective feedback.

Providing feedback is a critical part of the content transformation process. Providing effective feedback ensures review and rewrite time is well spent, and the review workflow is efficient.

What to focus on
To boost the overall content transformation effort, it is important for SMEs to focus on high-value functions.

Areas of focus Questions to consider
Content veracity
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Does it say what it needs to say?
Content sequencing
  • Does it flow appropriately?
  • Is this how the user would access the content?
Content completeness
  • Is the content complete?
  • Is any content redundant?
Content usability by the target audience
  • Can the user use the content effectively?
  • Is something standing in the way of their understanding?

What not to focus on
It’s important not to focus on

  • “wordsmithing” or trying to improve the style or tone, unless the content is inaccurate
  • “formatting” or how something looks, as the output can change according to project and publishing requirements. Especially when working in XML!

Tips for giving feedback
In some cases, content is provided by a predefined subject area grouping.

  • Review all topics in the group to understand what information is documented and ensure that it is complete.
  • Look for
    • content accuracy
    • gaps in information
    • missing content
    • questions from the writer
  • Write feedback in a comment and include
    • answers to questions
    • missing context
    • corrections to terminology
    • missing information
  • Contact the writer to discuss any topic, if unsure of how it fits or the approach the writer has taken.

Guidelines for effective comments
Effective comments are

  • clear
  • specific
  • directional, and
  • complete.

Clear vs. unclear comments

To be clear, comments must

  • deal with one point at a time, and
  • use clear language.


Unclear comment Clear comment
This doesn’t quite work because numerous factors are involved and you haven’t grasped the true process.
  • You need to include these factors: …
  • Refer to xyz to see where this fits in the full process.
Employees may do this at various times.
  • Does it flow appropriately?
  • Is this how the user would access the content?

Specific vs. non-specific comments
Specific comments provide detail and help the other party understand what you mean the first time. Non-specific comments are vague and non-commital. Using specific comments save significant time and frustration.


Non-specific comment Specific comment
This doesn’t make sense. It’s not clear what you mean by “action the form”.
This is quite vague. “Complete all forms” is too general. Please state the exact forms required
Not true. The broker does not do this; the system does

Directional vs non-directional comments
Comments must direct the writer on what the content should say that it does not already say.


Non-directional comment Directional comment
This doesn’t quite work as is. This needs to state that the completed form must be forwarded to these three parties.
This is not correct. The front line employee no longer creates a manual invoice. The new system does that automatically.
Incomplete. Please add in the reference to management input.

Complete vs. incomplete comments
To be actionable comments must be complete.


Incomplete comment Complete comment
There are several more items to add. Please add in the following items: …
Numerous other conditions exist. Customer status and account status also affect the situation. Please add them in.
Ensure you cover all the situations. Ensure you cover all situations, including when the customer does not have government ID, and when the customer is a minor…

Download the QRC-Tips for providing effective feedback.

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