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Six steps to managing content experts

1. FIGURE OUT WHAT TURNS THEM ON.
Some are motivated by money, some fame, some by the pure academic spirit of sharing knowledge. Others keep their agendas annoyingly hidden. Uncover their agendas, and the sooner, the better. As you talk with him about his area of expertise, watch his eyes. When they light up, those are the topics heíll give you best content on. Give him an assignment heís passionate about. Youíll both be happier in the end.

2. FIND THEIR STRENGTHS AND PLAY TO THEM.
Some are good writers, others are better at editing or revising existing text. Some have great ideas on their own, others need a good idea to start from. Some are responsive, others need to be frequently reminded of deadlines. Some are creative, others prefer to be told what to do. Design your web site to show off his best features. If heís got great photos, make them the centerpiece. If he can tell an engaging story, weave it through the user experience. Let the strongest content determine the format; donít flatten his most brilliant ideas by forcing them into your template.

3. MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES.
Some are prima donnas, like actors who demand the fanciest trailer with the finest champagne. If possible, give them what they want. Others are easygoing, like good friends. Be friends with them. Whatever you do, always begin and end your interactions with praise for a job well done. Be enthusiastic and let your enthusiasm rub off on them like cheap perfume.

4. DISCRETELY COVER UP THEIR WEAKNESSES.
Expert canít write? Edit it for him before the text ever hits the web page. Or, even better, interview him, take notes, and write it yourself. Expert canít meet a deadline? Give him a fake due date, then, when he misses it, give him an extension. Offer to help. Expert overwhelmed? Donít put him on the spot. Speak softly, calmly and assure him everythingís going to work out beautifully. Remind him that youíve done this a thousand times before. Whisper ďTrust meĒ into his ear.

5. ESTABLISH THE RULES, WITH A SMILE.
Deadlines are real. So are the overall objectives of the web site. And so is your audience. These comprise the rules of the web design dance. Content needs to be on time, on topic, and appropriate to the audience. (And no touching the dancers, please.)

6. KNOW WHEN TO CALL THE BOUNCER OVER.
Some experts are straightforward and respectful. Others are passive aggressive and challenging. And some are just plain aggressive. Theyíre always breaking the rules, but just barely, just enough to make your work life miserable. Their content requires a lot of fixing and your dignity suffers as you work hard to make this jackass look good. Thatís when itís time to call it quits and kick him out. Itís not worth it. There are always other content experts whoíll behave themselves.