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.
Cover image by Pixelcreatures via pixabay.com