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From the Trenches

Using a Ghostwriter? Why the Byline Choice Matters

Right Source | August 20, 2015
Using a Ghostwriter Why the Byline Choice Matters

Companies that use ghostwriters to assist in their content marketing efforts can often be vexed by a deceptively difficult question: Who gets the byline?

That is, in any company that has multiple public-facing employees and executives, which of them should get credit for a ghostwritten piece? How do you decide? And how much does it matter?

In fact, it does matter, for three main reasons.

For starters, that person’s name will go on your blog (and possibly elsewhere) as the author of the post. He or she may receive questions about it, possibly live during a meeting with clients or prospects. Remember, your customers and prospects won’t know the post was ghostwritten; they will naturally assume the bylined author wrote it personally, so if that person can’t answer questions about it, or hasn’t even read it, he or she ends up looking foolish and that reflects on the company.

Second, using a ghostwriter doesn’t let you entirely off the hook for getting a blog post written. Although it’s sometimes possible for a writer to draft an article using strictly independent research, it’s rarely ideal. No one is more of an expert on your business and industry than you and your colleagues are, so whoever is getting the byline should usually be part of the process by making him- or herself available for an interview and/or preparing some notes for the writer to follow. And, again, that person will also need to review the post, since it will be published in their name.

So while using a ghostwriter saves time and energy and often improves the quality of the writing, it certainly doesn’t allow the bylined author to simply ignore it as someone else’s problem.

Third, while a blog is a great branding tool for a company, it can also help to brand individuals who work in your company as being experts on particular subjects. That’s a good thing, especially when you’re trying to build a particular line of business for a specific person.

So now that we’ve established why it matters who gets the byline for ghostwritten posts, let’s go over a few simple pointers for deciding how to assign them.

  1. Ensure the bylined author is actually an expert on the subject of the post. For all the reasons cited above, this rule is the most obvious, and the most important. It simply makes no sense to assign bylines randomly, unless you never expect anyone to read your blog.
  2. Spread the workload around. The biggest reason corporate blogs get abandoned is that no one has the time to make their upkeep a priority. That gets easier when you work with a company that will maintain the editorial calendar and do the writing for you, but even then there’s some work involved. So because the person getting the byline will have some responsibilities for quality control for that post, make sure that person has the time to participate.
  3. Make sure your bloggers are enthusiastic about the blog and its purpose. Nothing can torpedo an editorial process faster than bloggers who just won’t (or feel they can’t) participate in the process. So even as you’re trying to spread the work around, it’s important to consider whether there is anyone on your list who just isn’t interested in participating. There’s not much to be gained by trying to drag someone kicking and screaming through the process.
  4. Make sure your bloggers are, well, important to your business. Are you assigning blogs to interns? To administrative staff? To the mailman? To anyone and everyone willing to do it, because the people who ought to be doing it – your partners and key public-facing employees – are always looking to beg off? That’s a problem. You made a commitment to a content marketing strategy that includes a company blog because you correctly assessed that leading the important conversations happening in your industry is a crucial way to keep your name in front of clients and prospects. You need to stick to the commitment even when things get busy, or risk finding yourself less busy than you’d like to be.
  5. Set a schedule several months (or even a year) in advance. Once you know the topics your blog will cover, setting a schedule of authors is simply a matter of matching names to topics appropriate for them (see point #1) while making sure that no one person is given too many responsibilities within too short a time frame. The further in advance you can schedule it, the fairer you’ll be to the people who have to do the work.

It’s a great idea to have a blog for your company, and using professional writers and editors will boost the quality of the product while helping you stay on pace. But your blog represents you, so choose your authors wisely. Even if they aren’t doing the writing, they have an important role to play in the success of your content.

Want to make sure your blog posts are truly remarkable? Use this checklist to avoid common mistakes as you plan, write, and edit. For more help creating quality content that leads to growth, get in touch.

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About Right Source:

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.