By Linda Dessau published January 27, 2015

Don’t Get Spooked: Ghostbloggers Can Fuel Your Company Blog

Ghostblogging-Cover-Image

You want to produce more content. You have a tremendous amount of thought leadership and expertise within your organization.

The problem? Your experts aren’t writers. The solution? Ghostbloggers.

Some companies look to in-house or freelance writing professionals to turn subject matter expertise into valuable marketing collateral that can be viewed, enjoyed, and shared on multiple online platforms.

Ghostbloggers work closely with individual subject matter experts (SME) to capture their insight and shape it into cohesive content formatted for optimal results as a blog post. Let’s look at how to address and get beyond ghostblogging objections, then offer tips for both SMEs and ghostbloggers to make the relationship successful.

Objections to address

1. It’s unethical.

Blogging started as a highly personal form of public journaling by people with so much passion for a topic that they wanted to share it. People who still think that’s the definition of blogging find it appalling to imagine anyone doctoring an author’s original musings.

The case for ghostblogging: Countless celebrities and leaders use ghostwriters for their books and speeches. The truth is that people with the most insightful, entertaining, or helpful ideas often are not the ones best equipped to write about them.

“Most executives don’t have the time or ability to blog consistently and effectively,” writes Mark Schaefer. “So if they don’t get help, it just won’t happen. Isn’t it a good idea to help bring their ideas to life?”

2. It won’t sound like the bylined author.

It’s not just companies that have brand identities now; individuals are making great efforts to express their personal brand. When subject matter experts are going to be identified as the authors, they want to make sure it’s an authentic expression of not just their ideas, but their tone of voice, vocabulary, and personality – their personal brand.

The case for ghostblogging: Ideally, the ghostblogging process includes a conversation between the author and the ghostblogger. By transcribing and/or recording this interview, the writer can retain not only all of the nuggets of wisdom, but the language and personality of the subject matter expert.

3. It removes the “social” from “social media.”

In today’s social business landscape, people expect to be able to interact directly with companies and their leaders. If a ghostwritten blog post expands into a conversation in the comments section, on social media, or by email, the responders would feel betrayed and downright furious to discover they weren’t really corresponding with the bylined author.

The case for ghostblogging: Content and connection are two distinct segments of a social media relationship. Having ghostbloggers produce the original content is a separate process from responding to comments and conversation. There are ethical ways to help the bylined author and still be authentic, as I detail in the next section.

Best practices to help SMEs

1. Prepare. Be sure both the subject matter expert and the ghostblogger are working with an editorial calendar so your SME knows what topic he or she is discussing and when. Before meeting with the ghostblogger, SMEs should do an uncensored “brain dump” of all their thoughts and ideas on the topic. The format could be point-form notes, a mind map, or a digital recording.

2. Give time to the process. Keep in mind that it can take a while to build a cohesive collaboration and, like any relationship, it requires care and tending. Stress the importance of regular meeting times and timely responses when follow-up questions arise. The SME also needs to block out time to carefully review each draft.

3. Read every word. At least two people need to review each draft – the SME and the managing editor or whoever is responsible for editorial quality. Have the SME check for accuracy as well as tone of voice, while the managing editor looks for overall compliance with the company’s content policies. Be explicit about where and how the ghostblogger missed the mark. The more feedback that is given to the ghostbloggers, the better they will be able to capture the SME’s voice and stay true to your company’s brand.

4. Be authentic. Have the bylined SME respond personally to any comments, tags, or mentions on social. If needed, have someone else monitor the blog and social media pages for comments, then ask the SME how to respond, and post those responses.

Best practices to help ghostbloggers

1. Prepare. Before the subject matter experts start preparing, consider the main point and subtopics the post will address. Send questions to the SME that will help fill in your outline and fire up the expert’s passion for the topic. (Introverts, especially, will appreciate the chance to gather their thoughts ahead of time.)

2. Let the conversation wander. Even if the SMEs send a written draft, try to meet with the experts to fill in or clarify details as needed. As they wind down an answer, always ask, “What else?” Don’t worry if you stray from the original outline, just capture all the details. Use a digital recorder if you’re worried about writing or typing fast enough. You never know how many pieces of content one interview will generate.

3. Be open to change. Ask for detailed feedback and be flexible. Even when you write verbatim, the experts still may want to make changes when they see their words in context. They also may come back with new thoughts after some time for reflection.

4. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Even when you edit the SME’s written draft, you’re really rewriting. That means you’re vulnerable to the writer’s blind spot – you see how it’s supposed to read rather than what’s actually on the page. Try reading the post out loud or use text-to-speech software.

For more tips for ghostbloggers, see Top Five Ways to Fire Up an Executive Blogger.

Working with ghostbloggers can open a multitude of opportunities to broadcast your company’s ideas and expertise, providing a continuous flow of value to your customers and prospective customers.

Want to learn more about how to create effective content efficiently? Check out the 2014 CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal and register today for 2015 CMW.

Cover image by Pixelcreatures via pixabay.com

Author: Linda Dessau

Linda Dessau is the author of Write Your Way to More Clients Online and the founder of Content Mastery Guide. Her hands-free blog writing service helps small businesses attract their ideal customers with captivating content. You can follow her on Twitter at @lindadessau.

Other posts by Linda Dessau

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  • http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/ Doug Kessler

    Thanks for a sensible approach to a practical tactic.
    Done right, ghosting can be super-effective.
    Done badly… it can fall flat (or blow up).

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      Thanks so much for your comment, Doug! That’s a good warning for us all.

  • Catherine Hamrick

    This is a great post. Question: How much is general compensation (range) for ghostbloggers? I know it would vary based on field and prominence of a company. However, I often see low rates, even by successful businesses. Is there a perception that online work is much easier than traditional?

    • http://www.influitive.com/ Cassandra Jowett

      I think you get what you pay for. In my industry (B2B marketing and technology), the best professional writers I’ve worked with expect about $300-350 per blog post. And I think it’s worth every penny.

      • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

        Love your answer here, Cassandra! I’ve certainly seen prices in that range. Unfortunately I’ve also seen much, much lower. Catherine, maybe you’re right that there is a perception that since it’s online it doesn’t require the same investment.

    • http://ghostblogger.co Lacy Boggs

      I’ve got a blog post that breaks it down if you’re interested, Catherine: http://ghostblogger.co/how-much-should-you-pay-a-blog-writer/

      • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

        Thanks for sharing that, Lacy! You and I have a very similar approach :)

  • http://ghostblogger.co Lacy Boggs

    Great article, Linda. As a professional ghostblogger, one of my main talents (and most important skills) is being able to mimic the voice of my clients. I spend a great deal of time at the start of our relationship learning about the business, the clients, the audience, and so on so that I can write like the client.

    And a lot of my clients say I’m so accurate it’s “eerie!” Which is just awesome as a “ghost” blogger. 😉

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      Love it, Lacy! I’ve heard the same thing – it’s spooky :)

    • Peggy Salvatore

      Yes, as ghostwriters we have learned to capture the “voice” of our clients in much the way some people are good at mimicking the voices of others – say Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin!

      • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

        Great example, Peggy – put a smile on my face :)

  • http://twitter.com/ janlgordon

    Excellent article Linda, we provide ghostbloggers for high profile clients and you are absolutely right when you say some people who have great ideas and insights are sometimes not able to put it into words, they’re too busy or can’t write. Being able to capture their essence and voice and put it into words is truly an art.

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      Thanks for your comment, Jan. Glad to know you’re out there!

  • http://www.robinwarshaw.com Robin Warshaw

    Terrific column, with something for everyone involved in the process. Readers might be interested in a free webinar on Jan. 28 from Training Magazine Network with the author of “Working With SMEs.” Info at: http://www.trainingmagnetwork.com/events/387?gref=tmnSA2

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      Thanks for your comment, Robin!

  • rogercparker

    Linda: Thanks for a very worthy article with revealing details. I especially like your emphasis on relationship building. In an age of often “commodity pricing,” for writing, your emphasis on mutual, long-term relationship building is very timely.

    I also appreciated your mention of mind mapping as a way to structure projects and orchestrate the development of their client’s message. I also second your recommendation to use transcribed interviews to explore, harvest, and develop the client’s message.

    Time and time again, after reading transcript of our recorded interviews, clients have expressed surprise at the amount of valuable information that came from their mouths during the interviews…often, enough information to form the basis of several blog posts.

    Most of all, I appreciated your “legitimizing” the concept of ghost-writing. It shocked me 10 years ago, when I began interviewing bestselling nonfiction authors, how many authors have had assistance writing their books. I always remind clients that authors are similar to ship captains; the captains are responsible for the direction and safety of their ship, but don’t necessarily row the oars or run the engines.
    Great job, Roger

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      Hi Roger, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. It is nice to see you! I’ve admired many of your articles and ideas over the years.

      Isn’t it interesting that experts at all levels don’t always *feel* like experts? I love being able to surprise and delight someone by turning around their ideas in finished written form – “I said that?” Yes, you did!

      I draw on my life coaching certification often to help people claim their expertise and share it with the world.

      What a wonderful way of thinking of ghost-writing! The expert is the captain of the ship but doesn’t directly take every important action that gets the ship from shore to shore.

  • Cathy Mayhue

    Linda, Ghost blogging could be considered but I guess instead of that, why not give due credit to the actual writer, it would give a blog more respectability as it will be seen as a platform where lots of writers come together and share their views.

    Cathy, Ozmentmedia.com

  • http://studentadvisor.com/ Diane@StudentAdvisor

    Linda, this is a good article on the practice of ghostblogging. As an editor, I have dealt with several ghostbloggers, and I have suggested the field to some who have asked how to make money writing online. The one question that I wonder about is how a ghostblogger presents a professional portfolio of their work without compromising the thought leaders they write for. Anyone know the answer?

    • http://www.contentmasteryguide.com Linda Dessau

      That’s a wonderful question, Diane! Personally, I use my own blog and my guest posts as examples of my writing. Beyond that, I have two or three clients who have agreed to be identified and for me to use their posts as samples. I’d love to hear what others do as well.

  • whit1423

    As a content creator myself, I have used this site before. I sold one article, which was under the minimum payout. However, I have several connections with other content creators who have sold many articles on Ghostblogger, yet have NEVER been paid. In the content creation industry, Ghostblogger has earned a very bad reputation. And I’m not quite sure why anyone — unless they are benefiting — would promote this site.

  • whit1423

    sorry, just realized that this posting isn’t talking specifically about the Ghostbloggers site. My apologies.

  • Crystal

    Excellent article. Just don’t use Ghostbloggers.net. They aren’t paying all of their writers. They owe me and many others for articles that sold months ago, and they won’t take down my remaining work. I warned them that I would publish the articles myself. Even that didn’t persuade them to do the right thing. I published the articles, and unfortunately buyers will have to file a dispute with Paypal after finding them already published. Be sure to buy from a reputable source if you aren’t writing your own material.