Ghost in the Machine

One of the major services that VerbFactory provides is writing (hence our name!) – and a big part of that work is ghost writing articles, blog entries and correspondence from executives. This is interesting work, but it can be a bit of a minefield. Here are five things that we keep in mind every time we work on these kinds of projects.

1 – Be discreet.

No one wants the world to know that he or she is working with a ghost writer. For us, that means that we’re not allowed to share some of our best work with the outside world. It can be a bit of a bummer, but being a “vault” is key.

2 – Write like your client.

The goal of working with a ghost writer is to come up with a final piece that sounds like the executive whose byline is at the top. It is important not only to get the content right, but also to capture the client’s voice so it sounds like him or her.

3 – It’s still your client’s article.

Most executives who work with ghost writers do so because they are busy, not because they can’t write. Clients have tons of edits – which is a good thing, because it ensures that the piece will really reflect their views and voice. It’s important for ghost writers to leave their egos at the door.

4 – Respect the client’s marketing team.

Because of the nature of the work, ghost writers often work directly with senior-level executives rather than through intermediaries. This can definitely ruffle some feathers internally – “why is that outside guy having lunch with the CEO twice a week when I have to book two months out to get a 15-minutre meeting that will probably be canceled?” – but it’s important for a writer to remember that his or her real client is the marketing department, not the executive in the corner office. Don’t “big league” them!

5 – Set expectations.

Because it’s so difficult to capture someone else’s voice, the first 1-2 ghost-written pieces usually need a lot of revisions and review to get them right. Build this into the project before you start – we usually say that it will take 2-3 pieces to really “get” an executive’s tone. If the writer (or client) expects a first-draft masterpiece, there can be friction. Get aligned as early as possible.

Have you ever worked with a ghost writer? If so, what was it like for you?
Leva a comment and let us know your thoughts.


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