In today’s content marketing world, everyone wants executives to demonstrate “thought leadership” by writing articles and blogs. However, not every brilliant executive is equally brilliant as a writer. And even those who do write well rarely have the time to dedicate to it – writing requires uninterrupted time.
The increase in business blogging is driving a rise in executive ghostwriting. As with the spectral varieties, there are many types of executive ghostwriters.
The drive-by ghost
Sometimes the executive’s only input adding their name at the end of the process. The executive often has little to do with the creation of the article or blog, other than final approval.
This happens fairly often with corporate blogs – someone in marketing is actually writing for the executive. Bylined or contributed articles on websites or magazines are often ghostwritten in this way.
The collaborative ghost
Much more fun, from a writer’s perspective, is collaborative ghostwriting, when the writer and bylined author work together to create something that is better than either of them could do individually.
Using this approach, the finished piece reflects the stated author’s thinking but may be enhanced by the writer’s perspective and by the process of asking questions and delving deeper. And chances are it’s written better and/or faster than the executive could manage alone.
This type of collaborative ghost-writing requires:
- An executive that is willing to spend a little time thinking about topics and discussing them with a writer, and
- A writer who is good at listening and flexible enough with tone and style to make the finished piece accurately reflect the bylined author’s thoughts and personality.
How do you collaborate with a ghost?
The answer to this question depends on the personality of the bylined author and the subject matter.
I’ve used many methods for collaborating with executives. Often it’s as simple as a phone call, perhaps with a follow-up question via email. Sometimes collaboration requires meeting face-to-face or face-to-whiteboard. And sometimes people prefer to do a short written ‘brain dump’ of their ideas in an email or a bulleted list.
For the writer, this kind of collaborative ghost-writing can very rewarding. It’s fun to exchange ideas with people who are knowledgeable about technology. It’s a challenge to create the right tone and style, not only for the author but also for the intended use of the piece.
The only drawback is that you cannot easily tell the world at large about your published work. Since the ghostwriter has no byline, there’s no obvious record of your involvement. And publishing the fact that you wrote it seems like a betrayal of trust.
Ah, the perils of being a ghost.
The next time you’re reading a pithy article or blog post by a CEO, see if you detect a shiver down your spine at a particularly nice turn of phrase. Maybe you just felt the presence of a ghost.