tips for working with a ghostwritier

Executive Bylines: 5 Tips for Working with a Ghostwriter

John Boitnott

Sep 29, 2019

As an executive, it’s important to distribute more content across all channels. By sharing your thought leadership on LinkedIn and other social media, your company website/blog, or through bylines on outside publications, you are developing your role as an industry thought leader. Positioning this contributed content helps build trust, credibility, brand awareness, SEO, and engagement with your target audience.

However, you may not have the time or writing skills to produce that content. There are two ways you can approach this objective. First, you can work with a writer inside your company on the marketing or communications team. Or, you can hire a freelance writer. That way, you can focus on your high-level business objectives while this “ghostwriter” talent puts words to your voice and engages your intended audience.

Best Practices for Working with a Ghostwriter

To get the most out of this relationship with these content chameleons, consider these 5 best practices: 

1. Recruit and hire ghostwriters just like you would if they were a prospective employee.

Taking this long-term approach to working with a ghostwriter is an investment worth making. They will understand you and your writing style more as time passes, saving you from having to start over with someone new every few months. Think about what it takes to train a new employee, including the resources you’ll invest in them.

Since you are also entrusting a ghostwriter to serve as your voice on content across various channels, look for someone who understands the role and can easily adopt your voice. Focus on this criteria when you ask a colleague for a reference, use a freelancer job posting board, or recruit from within. When interviewing a potential hire, know what kind of freelance writing you find relevant and compelling. Get information or examples that illustrate their past experiences with ghostwriting work. Also, ask them how they worked directly with an executive on content creation. 

2. Spend time with the candidate on the phone or in-person, giving them time and space to get to know you.

Since it’s your own name out there, you need to participate in helping the ghostwriter adopt your voice, style, and perspective. They may want to interview you, see other examples of your work, and conduct further research on you. Give them everything they need to learn your point of view and speak on your behalf. 

Ghostwriter Nina Gass has worked with a wide range of personalities across industries. She believes this is one of the most important steps in creating high quality content that meets expectations.  

“When I work with a new client, I like to interview them on the phone or video conference as part of the content creation,” notes Nina. “I hear how they answer questions, including their tone and expression. These conversations reveal what they feel passionate about or where they have a definitive opinion. I emulate this dialogue style within the content so that others who know that executive can feel them in the writing.” 

3. Listen to the ghostwriter’s advice about writing and content.

While you have a certain vision of what you want to say, the ghostwriter is the one who will have to execute it. Most often, ghostwriters have extensive experience to know what works best when it comes to format, length, and overall style.

If you insist on your way, you may find a publication rejects the ghostwritten content or requests revisions. Both of these will cost additional time or money, and also add unnecessary conflict with the ghostwriter. 

Remember, you hired a ghostwriter for their expertise. In this area, it’s best to stay “in your lane” and let the ghostwriter drive this part of the writing process.

4. Clearly communicate your goals, key messaging, and expectations for the relationship. 

No ghostwriter is a mindreader. “I’ve worked with some clients so long that I can finish their sentences before they do,” says Gass. “But, when I have attempted to guess what a relatively new client was thinking, I’ve often been wrong. Assuming I know has only led to more revisions and ongoing confusion. In contrast, a client that gives me clear direction with an outline or bullet points enables me to nail the content the first time around.”

Help your ghostwriter by regularly communicating and opening the door for questions. Not every ghostwriter communicates the same way you do. Discuss what works for both of you. For example, you could agree on a brief weekly meeting that occurs online, in-person, or by phone. Also, be sure to find out how often the ghostwriter wants to communicate.

5. Be patient.

Even the best, most seasoned ghostwriter may take a little more time with initial ghostwriting projects. It’s common for their first projects to go through multiple revisions as they learn to adopt your voice. 

“I’ve had a new client get upset that the first draft wasn’t perfect,” adds Gass. “Rather than understanding that the initial project may take longer to assimilate their voice, these clients have concluded it’s a lack of writing skill. This belief doesn’t help facilitate the ghostwriting process and will lead them to go through many ghostwriters.”

The professional ghostwriter is aware that your time is precious. Theirs is too. They want to adopt your voice as quickly as possible so they can produce more content. In these situations, it doesn’t help to berate or question a ghostwriter for not producing work that sounds like you on the first pass.

Instead, take the time to go through these longer editing periods. Then, provide the ghostwriter with constructive feedback. As they receive comments and suggestions from you, the ghostwriter begins to learn your style.

A Continual Learning Process 

Enjoy the progression of your relationship with your ghostwriter. When you are open to communicate and share, this relationship will only get better with time. You’ll both gain insights from each other during this continual learning process. Plus, you can improve through the creative interchange and deliver the type of ghostwriting services that meet your objectives.

A Little Extra Executive Inspiration

Still hesitant about taking the plunge into content and social media? For great examples of business leaders who are killing it on social media, read our ebook featuring eight executives from top brands and what they’re doing to promote their brands.