Nearly every workday, all workday, I wear someone else’s shoes (figuratively, please do not send shoes). People who are resistant to employing the talents of a ghostwriter might think it’s cheating or unfair to slap someone else’s name on a well-written piece and claim it as their own. It’s not dishonest in the slightest. Good ghostwriters don’t have an ego. Even if we don’t get credit in the byline, we get the satisfaction of a job well done when our pieces are picked up by major outlets or gather engagements by the hundreds and impressions by the thousands. I view ghostwriting as an exercise in creativity, taking on the voice of a character, putting myself in their spinning computer chair, looking out their window and into their office, discovering what makes them tick.
If you’re curious about the mysterious ways of a professional ghostwriter, here’s more about the ghostwriting process and how one is an asset to any content team.
What Is Ghostwriting?
Ghostwriting is the art of writing from someone else’s point of view and crediting the resulting work to someone who had little (or zero) input in the creation process. This is a common practice for long-form thought leadership content and PR bylines. The credited authors are usually executives, directors, heads of departments, or subject matter experts (SMEs).
Having a well-known and industry-respected person as a bylined author lends credibility to your written content. Google prefers content attributed to a person instead of “admin” or “team member.” For your company blog, you’re welcome to make up a person for the author’s name (Google won’t know the difference), but you might as well use published content as an opportunity to bolster key employees’ online personas, giving them content to post on their social media accounts and cast a wider net to reach new readers.
Getting yet another outsider involved into your content creation process might seem like a headache, but to get started, a ghostwriter needs only a few basics. Professional ghostwriters are masters of independent research and of picking up on subtle nuances in voice to ensure that they’re writing convincingly as someone else. To get started, you should outfit a ghostwriter with a few key pieces of collateral:
- A brief. What is the article about? What’s the main takeaway? Where will it appear? What’s the word count? These are all basic questions that’ll guide an experienced ghostwriter to deliver the type of content you’re looking for.
- Unique POV. If the bylined author doesn’t have strong view on the topic at hand, a ghostwriter can craft one for them. Just make sure to leave extra time for research, so the writer can not only grasp the subject matter but become familiar enough with it to develop a unique take.
- Published bylined work. If the bylined author is published elsewhere online, it’s helpful to include writing samples in the beginning stages. Ghostwriters can find common links in subject matter, tone, and overall feel to ensure that the new piece isn’t incongruous to an established body of work.
Teams should be available to answer any questions that arise during the writing process, but ghostwriters are mostly solo beings. In just a few business days of quietly typing away, the team can expect a fully written, edited, and expert piece of content.
What Are the Benefits of Ghostwriting?
There are two major benefits of ghostwriting: it saves time and generally produces a more professional final product.
C-suiters and SMEs are busy people. Their days are too full as it is, so they hardly have the time to spend several solid hours on writing a thousand words. And copywriting is an even longer process when someone isn’t super confident in their composition skills. The second-guessing, writer’s block, and pages of cross-outs can be very stressful. Thus, why not offload the task to a professional?
SMEs are excellent at their day job. But if long-form creative writing isn’t part of their day job, sometimes the final product isn’t … Shakespearean. SMEs may be used to writing academic or scientific papers, which requires a very different style and set of skills compared to writing a public relations byline or for a major online trade publication. Academic writing lacks a certain pizzazz that’s necessary for drawing in an audience and keeping them engaged.
Tier-one publications – think The New York Times, Forbes, Inc., etc. – have wide audiences that, I’m sorry to say, are likely not as passionate about your niche as you are. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in what you have to say. A ghostwriter can be a sort of translator for you: someone who takes your narrow focus, broadens it, and adds compelling descriptions and narrative that speaks to the pain points and interests of the average reader.
If you have a hard time completely handing the reins to someone else, the best thing about ghostwritten pieces is that the bylined author always has final say over the result. If a sentence doesn’t sound like something you would say, you can change it!
The Secrets of Excellent Ghostwriting
Here are a few tactics experienced ghostwriters use to nail the brief and accurately convey the voice of someone else.
- Watch videos of speeches. For one CTO I was copywriting for, I envisioned him as a no-nonsense, direct, blunt figure. Just something about the company (a highly technical AI company) and his written statements screamed “authority!” That was until I watched a keynote he delivered. On stage, he was soft-spoken, charismatic, and approachable. This totally changed how I approached his voice, having never met him in person or virtually.
- Read everything. Everything! Every published byline, every social media status, every internal memo. Whatever the bylined author has used their own words for will offer insight into how you can accurately capture their essence.
- Unearth their passions, personal and professional. In the best-case scenario, a ghostwriter will have a one-on-one interview with the bylined author. Here, the questions will run the gamut of “Why is your company leading the industry” to “What are your weekend plans?” Interviews aren’t always possible, especially for time-constrained executives. But a ghostwriter should have a general idea of the human inside the business suit.
- Understand their niche. To sound believable, a ghostwriter really needs to understand the subject matter. For complicated B2B content, this may take several hours of background research. My tactic for effective independent research is to dive headfirst down the rabbit hole. Begin with the company’s blog and downloadable assets. From there, click on links to outside sources and footnotes, skim the primary resources and research, and read the most recent news around the subject.
- Focus on your similarities, not your differences. When ghostwriting for someone new, you’re going to psych yourself out if you focus on the disparate lives you lead. So instead of thinking, “How am I going to relate to this 50-year-old CEO from Kansas,” change your approach to “How can I portray this CEO’s passion for SD-WAN as passionately as I love cats?”
Why Should You Partner With an Agency Ghostwriter?
An agency provides a fresh outside view of your brand. What’s working? What could improve? What opportunities await? An agency is not only a great partner in ghostwriting high-quality content but placing those expertly composed pieces in top-tier publications.
If your marketing or PR team is constantly hounding you to write an article and you keep putting it off, outsourcing the task to someone who sounds just like you is a viable option. CEOs can focus on jet-setting, SMEs on devising blueprints for the next greatest thing, and ghostwriters on making sure every comma is in place and every adjective is just right.
Drop TEAM LEWIS a line today to learn more about our ghostwriting and creative writing services.