In fifth grade, when my teacher asked my class to write a report on our favorite author, I knew immediately who to choose: Carolyn Keene. The mastermind behind Nancy Drew, my favorite female sleuth, Carolyn Keene churned out one page-turner after another, keeping me up past my bedtime and making cable TV dull by comparison.
That day after school, I rushed home to start my research, heading straight to the leather-bound set of encyclopedias in our family room, index cards in hand. It didn’t take long for me to learn that Carolyn Keene didn’t actually exist. Like her stories, she was a work of fiction, a mere pseudonym for a group of ghostwriters. I wanted to pack up my Nancy Drew paper-backs and never read another one.
Fast forward to today, and Carolyn Keene is less of a disappointment and more an example of what can happen when a team of people get together to create interesting stories and content. Had Carolyn Keene been a real person, working on her own, she couldn’t have generated so many good stories across so many decades. Collectively, the ghostwriters created a cohesive body of work enjoyed by generations of thrill-seeking preteens.
I think about Carolyn Keene in my own work as a content marketing writer, which involves ghostwriting for professionals at every rung of the ladder, across many fields. CEOs of major corporations, lead scientists at startups, principals of schools, contractors managing work sites — they all use ghostwriters, whether because they don’t have time to keep up with a regular publishing schedule, or because they struggle to tell their stories and get their points across in a way that pushes forward their marketing and business goals.
A good ghostwriting partnership can be a real boon to your business, but there are some things you need to understand about the process (and figure out about yourself) to make it work. How, exactly, can a ghostwriter help, and what can you do to make your partnership a success?
If you’re like most professionals in the modern world, you’re stretched thin and could probably use a few more hours in your work day. But alas, you can’t alter time. And sleep is important.
Writing and publishing content aren’t core parts of most professionals’ jobs. So the idea of publishing professional-grade blog posts and case studies consistently just isn’t realistic. That’s where a good ghostwriter can come in, helping you find and hone your voice, share your expertise, and tell stories in ways that enable your company to achieve some high-level goals. These include:
- Establishing yourselves as thought leaders
- Building brand awareness
- Generating leads and making full use of marketing automation
- Attracting partners
- Targeting a particular audience
- Cultivating relationships with customers
- Staying on top of your editorial calendar
This is a tall order, whether you’re a health system administrator stuck in meetings all day, an architect out in the field, or a software developer troubleshooting code. Your time is valuable, and chances are, your company can’t afford to have you spend hours doing something you weren’t trained to do. So it makes sense to work with a trusted ghostwriter who can create the kind of high-quality, strategic content your company needs — all in the timeframe it needs it.
The hold ups
Despite the widespread use of ghostwriters in the business world, you might be on the fence about hiring one. Maybe you question how an outside writer could possibly create substantive work about your narrow field — indoor air pollution from solid fuels, for instance — or you feel guilty at the thought of hiring someone to do your work for you.
If it’s guilt, remember this: ghostwriting in content marketing is less about you than about the greater good of your company or organization. You can’t meet those critical business objectives — attracting leads, building credibility, cultivating relationships with customers — without a steady supply of content. So let go of the guilt and take one for the team.
If it’s that you don’t think anyone but you can write about your field, know that a good writer can. That’s what they’re trained to do. That’s their expertise. And if they show lackluster results, then you have some work to do. You can either find a writer with related experience, or you can spend a little time feeding your existing writer some information and acquainting them with your approach.
The road to success
Working with a ghostwriter can make your life easier, but don’t expect it to let you off the hook for everything. You’re the expert, the one with the years of hands-on experience and knowledge. And you’re the one who knows what content your clients and customers would benefit from or enjoy. You’re going to need to suggest some topics for your writer, or at least weigh in on topics your writer recommends. You might also pull together a rough outline or talking points, or set up a phone (or even in-person) interview.
After the writer submits a draft, you’ll need to review it for accuracy and to ensure that it aligns with your approach and your company’s overarching story. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the piece sound like me? Are these the kind of words and phrases I use?
- Is this the kind of advice I’d give to my own clients, partners, or customers?
- What anecdotes or stories from the field could I add to bring the story to life and help get my points across?
- Does the piece reflect well on my professionalism? Does it reflect well on my company and align with its goals?
- Could I reference and link to any relevant sources so my readers can learn more?
Take the time to make changes if necessary. Or jump on the phone and talk your ghostwriter through the problem areas so he or she can fix them. If you don’t take the time to review — and you don’t speak up — the writer will have no way of knowing. Ghostwriters aren’t mind-readers, so make a thorough review core to your process.
The need for mutual respect
Even if you haven’t written a single word, the story is, at the end of the day, your story. Your company is paying for it; your name is being attached to it. The last thing you want is for a ghostwriter to take over and dismiss your ideas. Speak up if and when your writer crosses the line. And ask him or her to flag areas of uncertainty in the draft so you can review them closely and make any necessary changes.
At the same time, when your ghostwriter writes a good piece of content on your behalf or contributes to your story in a meaningful way, take a minute to show your appreciation. Writing is hard work, and doing it in lieu of authorship or credit can drain even the most enthusiastic writer. A simple thank you can go a long way.
Ghostwriting, done the right way, is a two-way partnership that can energize your business and allow you to create more than you could do on your own — and at a quality befitting of your expertise and experience. Just as I came to realize about Carolyn Keene, there are benefits to a team of people working together to achieve common goals. In this particular case, “Carolyn Keene” made my adolescence (and that of countless other adolescents) pretty exciting.
If you’re looking for writing support or have questions about whether ghostwriting is a good option, reach out to us to talk through your needs.