PR’s Disappearing Act: The Art of Ghost Writing
On any given day I could be a sixty-year-old financial advisor, an accountant working with ultra-high-net-worth families, or a 25-year veteran of the advertising industry. When you regularly ghost write op-eds, blogs and LinkedIn posts for clients, it is critical to ensure that you not only write in their style and voice, but also deliver an effective message that supports his or her objectives. Here are a few tips for writing on behalf of clients across industries and expertise:
Capture the person’s voice. Consider your past conversations with the subject, review content that he or she has written, and watch videos of past speeches, presentations, or broadcast interviews to get a feel for the person’s speaking style and typical vocabulary. Are there certain words or phrases they use often? Do they take a formal or more casual approach to speaking? Do they have any anecdotes or often-shared lessons that would be appropriate to include in the piece? Writing the piece in a way that your subject would normally speak will help make it convincing, credible, and truthful.
If possible, consider “interviewing” the person to get a better sense of their style. If doing so, prepare a list of smart questions that will help draw out interesting insights, and share it with your client in advance so they have time to prepare thoughtful answers.
Understand the topic and the audience. Before you begin writing, first make sure you fully understand the message or argument your executive wants to get across in the piece. (Interviewing your subject will help here as well.) Then do in-depth research to ensure you are familiar enough with the topic that you can communicate the message accurately and deliver an effective argument. The last thing you want to do is make your subject sound ignorant or inexperienced.
In addition, make sure you’re writing for the correct audience and providing insight(s) they can’t find elsewhere. Bolstering the piece with personal experiences, hard-hitting data, or a contrarian perspective will help break through the clutter and better position your expert as a forward-thinking thought leader on the issue.
Fact check and proof extensively. Review your completed piece multiple times to ensure all statements, data points, and sourcing are correct. Any errors you make will unfortunately reflect poorly on your client given that their name will be attached to the piece, not yours. Ask at least one colleague to proof the content before sending it to your client, and if your client makes any additional changes, both you and a colleague should proof it one last time before it’s officially published. It’s also important to include a date on the piece so readers can understand the context of the time and market environment in which it was published.
As we all know, content essentially lives on Google permanently and can be shared far and wide across social media, so it’s more essential than ever that anything you write on behalf of a client is smart, on-brand and, most importantly, accurate. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter ― it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
By Shaina Tavares, Vice President