Want to be a Ghostwriting Expert? Heed the Following Three Tips

My coworker sent me a great cartoon today—she thought it could make for a good blog topic and she was right (thanks Rebecca!). Take a look:

CaptureNow as someone who ghostwrites for a number of executives in the C-suite, I love this cartoon. It speaks directly to the beauty—and pressure—of being a ghostwriter. On the one hand, you can give the busy, C-level executive platform chance to have his or her voice heard. You can take a journey into this individual’s brain, navigate through the sea of ideas, notions and opinions and extract a compelling, highly strategic piece that panes him or her in the best possible light.

On the flip side, this can be an incredibly daunting task, especially if you are up against near impossible deadlines.

I feel for you… I really do. So I want to help. If you empathize with the woman above, who was just instructed by her boss to string together pearls of marketing wisdom under the byline of her manager, let me help you out. Here are the trade secrets I’ve learned along the way:

  • Be a Friend First, Writer Second: In truth, the only way you are getting an incredible story out of a CEO, CMO, CTO, etc, is to truly become his or her friend. And you can’t fake it. You have to genuinely forge a connection with this individual so that they let you in. It’s only when you are “in” that you can find the real story. One of my favorite parts of my job is ghosting for a number of my C-level “friends.” I look forward to my weekly calls with them. I love being invited into their brain to help them decide how the story should unfold. I appreciate hearing their insights firsthand and turning those valuable insights into copy that helps others. You can’t be a disingenuous ghostwriter. Find common ground with your interviewee, build an amazing level of trust and then—and only then—don your writer’s hat.
  • Don’t be a Yesser: The most effective ghostwriters view themselves to be somewhat of a brand advisor. Though they are in the business of pleasing the subject matter expert, they also understand the importance of strategically advising the C-suite individual. For instance, if your CMO wants you to blog on his behalf and expresses a desire to write about the death and irrelevance of newspapers—however one of your dearest media friends is a regional newspaper—that’s the time to interject. Make sure your interviewee is not so singularly focused that he or she loses sight of the big picture, and what could cast him or her in a poor light. Trust me… you will earn considerably more respect if you politely advise them against a specific course of action that could potentially harm them.
  • Remove Yourself From the Writing: When you ghostwrite you have to abandon your go-to isms and idioms. Conversely, you need to step into the language of your subject. To that end, it is incredibly helpful to create a style sheet for every person you ghost for—a sheet that includes a list of their word preferences, likes and dislikes and writing patterns. For instance, if they have already been published before, when you start working with them take note of their traditional approach to writing. Do they use exclamation points? Write in all caps for emphasis? And, whenever you talk one-on-one, note verbal choices they make. Do they use the expression “at the end of the day?” Do they have a more conversational approach to storytelling?

Here at Content Boost, we spend a considerable amount of time ghostwriting for our clients—and it’s a job we absolutely love. So if you identify with the woman above, shoot us a note. We can get that blog done by noon and remove this burden from your shoulders. I would love to hear about your own ghosting challenges. Shoot me a tweet at @Carrie_Majewski and let’s start the conversation!

Carrie-SDubbed a “Chatty Cathy” from the time she uttered her first word, Content Boost’s Director of Content Marketing Carrie Majewski (née Schmelkin) is nothing short of verbal. Her love of talking matured into love of writing which inevitably transformed into a love of marketing. Carrie is responsible for overseeing the cutting-edge content marketing beast that is Content Boost—managing brand and editorial strategy, fostering client relationships, identifying new revenue opportunities and striking strategic partnerships. Carrie has worked with a variety of high profile clients on branding and copy creation from Sprint to Panasonic to AT&T to Emerson Network Power. When she’s not busy wordsmithing and debating content marketing versus traditional marketing, you can find her working on her swag in a hip-hop dance class, clogging her DVR with “Friends” reruns and trying desperately to make it up past 9:30 pm on the weekends with her hubby. #OldSoul.