You know your CEO should be guest posting, but who has the time to write articles AND run a company? That's where ghostwriting comes in.
Getting your CEO published on reputable third-party sites has a number of benefits, but ultimately, it all comes down to this: Customers want to connect with people, not brands.
(Think Apple. It’s hard not to think about Steve Jobs, right?)
But oftentimes, CEOs don’t have any time to write. Or maybe they’re not much of a writer.
The solution? Ghostwriting. Hire a talented freelancer writer to create compelling content that you can get published as guest posts on leading sites in your industry. The byline goes to your CEO, the money goes to the writer, and everybody’s happy.
Here’s everything you need to know about managing the ghostwriting process when you have a busy, hands-on CEO with no time to write.
Is ghostwriting ethical?
There are two arguments about the ethics of ghostwriting.
Some say it’s unethical because passing off someone else’s work as your own is irresponsible and inauthentic. For them, ghostwriting = untrustworthy.
However, as long as the content published under your CEO’s name meets a few conditions, ghostwriting is completely ethical. Those conditions are:
- Your CEO knows their stuff (e.g., your industry/niche and the topics being written about)
- Your CEO is passionate about the topics being published under their name
- Your CEO is involved in the ghostwriting process
- The content is accurate
- The content is helpful in at least one of these ways: It answers or analyzes important questions; it teaches the reader how to do something new; it provides useful insights or information; it is entertaining; it inspires readers
- The content isn’t blatantly self-promotional or deceitful
3 dangers of ghostwriting
As with anything, ghostwriting can pose dangers for your brand. Avoid these pitfalls by keeping your CEO hands-on in the process and keeping an eye out for the following threats:
Ghostwriting danger #1: Cheap content
Poor writing or boring topics reflect poorly on both the CEO and your company.
Good content comes at a price. If you’re only willing to invest minimally, you’re going to get mediocre writers, which means you’ll have mediocre content.
With ghostwriters, you get what you pay for. Invest wisely.
Employees who are straight out of college or coming to your company with fewer than a couple years of experience usually lack the knowledge and skills to write a good post.
Inexperienced writers don’t know what they don’t know. The result will likely be multiple rounds of revisions and frustration for everyone involved.
At best, the final product will be passionless, vanilla content. At worst, inaccurate information could slip through, which could earn your CEO a bad reputation, cost you business, and mean one less off-page site your brand can publish on.
Ghostwriting danger #3: Too much content
More isn’t always better. You could theoretically publish upward of 250 posts a year under your CEO’s name if you wanted (with the assistance of a ghostwriting squad).
At some point, too much content dilutes your brand. It becomes painfully obvious to everyone that your CEO is creating content at an inhuman pace. Nobody likes that guy.
Have a strategy for off-page publishing. Your CEO’s name should be associated with topics you want your brand to be known for. Aim to own that niche as the expert.
The ghostwriting process in 6 steps
Now it’s time to talk process. Making the ghostwriting process go smoothly comes down to these six areas:
1. Find your ghostwriter
It all begins here. You need the right talent to create the right content. There are several routes you could take to find the ideal ghostwriter:
- LinkedIn. Search for people who list “ghostwriter” as their profession and sort through the search results. You could also try LinkedIn’s ProFinder service, which connects businesses with writers.
- Ask for referrals. Have your marketing team reach out to their personal networks via email or social media. A friend of a friend may know an amazing writer.
- ClearVoice Marketplace. This is another option to find excellent ghostwriters. You set your budget, topic and instructions, and then ClearVoice matches you with a curated selection of freelance writers who meet the specifications of your assignment. Here are detailed instructions on how to use the ClearVoice Marketplace.
Look for people with a track record of creating compelling and engaging content, and always read examples of their work.
2. Generate content ideas
What should you write about? This is always the big question. Here are six ways to come up with new blog content. Some additional methods include:
- Internal resources. What issues are your customers experiencing? Chat with the people in other departments, especially if you have a customer service department or account managers. Every problem is a topic just waiting to be written about.
- Google’s autocomplete feature. Google search data reveals a wealth of content ideas. Simply type in a word or a couple words and see what pops up. If you want more suggestions, click on one of the search suggestions, scroll to the bottom of the search results, and look for the related searches. This can help you start building out your topic universe.
- Do a Google site search. For example, let’s say you wanted to write an article about ghostwriting for ClearVoice. To see what has been written before, go to Google and type in the following (not including the quote marks): “ghostwriting site:clearvoice.com”. To do your own search, replace the “ghostwriting” with your own keyword(s) and the domain name for any other domain you want to research. This can help you identify potential content ideas and avoid pitching ideas the site has already published.
Important to note: Whether or not you include your CEO in the idea-generating stage depends on their preference. Some want to be involved, and some just want to be presented with fleshed-out concepts. Ask.
3. Match your topic to a reputable publication
Much has been written about how to pitch a pub and get your guest post accepted. Convince & Convert, for example, already did a splendid job of this.
Some publications want an outline first, and some want to see a full post right off the bat — make sure to read their contributor guidelines before making first contact with them, so you give them what they want. And the blog’s editor might have some great ideas for content as well, so ask for suggestions — they know their audience and what they want to publish best.
4. Meet with the CEO
Put a recurring meeting on the schedule where you, your CEO and any other relevant marketing team members can review the work thus far and discuss feedback for the writer. You may wish to have your ghostwriter attend these meetings via Skype, GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts, especially if you’re trying to build a long-term relationship.
If you plan to publish several articles per month, plan to meet weekly for 30 minutes to an hour. If the writing load will be less, you probably only need to meet once a month. During this meeting, it’s up to the CEO to convey the ideas and provide any needed context or data.
5. Nail writing style & voice
Any articles published under your CEO’s byline should sound like your CEO. Although it may take a bit of work in the early days of working together, a good ghostwriter will find your CEO’s voice and figure out how to say exactly what your CEO wants to say. If your ghostwriter can’t master this stuff within a month or so, then don’t be afraid to move on and find another writer.
The best way you can help here? Give your ghostwriter several examples of their previously published posts or posts written in a voice they wish to emulate.
6. Review & revise
Once your ghostwriter sends you the content, it’s time to review it. Make sure the article:
- Has a compelling headline, a strong lead and a conclusion
- Makes all the points you want to make
- Has the right tone
- Includes all the important facts
- Is formatted for readability
- Is free of grammar and spelling errors
- Includes visuals (unless the publication handles this)
- Links to relevant sources
If the article needs a revision, give the writer notes on what needs to change. Hop on a call for five minutes if necessary.
Once everyone is happy with it, submit it. Now get ready to do it all over again.
Content is one way people discover your brand and decide whether they like you and can trust you. Use content as your stage to create connections and start conversations with the people you eventually want to do business with.
Use the tips in this article to make sure you invest wisely in a ghostwriter to help turn amazing ideas into great content that helps grow your business and revenue.
Have you had success using ghostwriters? Any tips to add? Let us know in the comments below.