How to successfully ghostwrite thought leadership content

How to successfully ghostwrite thought leadership content

One of the best ways to get the attention of your C-level target audience and gain credibility for your brand is through thought leadership.

In fact, in Edelman’s 2020 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, CEOs said that strong thought leadership content strengthens a company’s reputation and positively impacts RFP invitations and wins. Yet all my clients say their thought leaders don’t have enough time to write.

The result? Marketers almost always end up ghostwriting for thought leaders.

Ghostwriting itself isn’t difficult, but it brings a special set of considerations. For example:

  • You need to please the audience and the thought leader while meeting your organization’s communications goals.
  • If you’re writing for more than one person, you need to ensure they don’t all sound the same.
  • The resulting content needs to fit the needs of your target audience.

So how do you ghostwrite successfully? Here are some tips to help you create successful marketing content for your thought leaders.

It’s not about you

Barbi Green, Senior Director, Brand & Content Strategy at Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO), reminds us to not let our egos get in the way.

“It’s easy to fall in love with your name in print, but this is neither the time, nor the place. Ghostwriting (or at least ghostwriting well) requires that you embrace the anonymity of writing on another’s behalf.

“The good news is that there’s a freedom in not having your handle attached to a blog or an asset. It’s an opportunity to experiment with a different voice or perspective, and that – in a strange way – can be liberating.”

Balance content strategy with the voice of the individual 

Mavis Prall, Head of Content Strategy for Philips Healthcare, says company content strategy must come first.

“It’s important to identify a differentiating perspective on a topic, so that it will break through while also meeting the business goals associated with the client. Sometimes the writer has to help shift the perspective of the person for whom she is writing, to make the piece compelling enough.”

I find the best way to do this is by using Message Maps. If you don’t already have a Message Map for your company, creating one is a good place to begin your thought leadership campaign.

Next, create a Message Map for each individual thought leader. Finally, see where the Message Maps overlap. That identifies your sweet spots for topics for that particular thought leader.

Find their voice

When you write for someone else, it needs to sound like they wrote it themselves.

Green of IMO says one of the most challenging elements of ghostwriting is capturing your subject matter’s voice.

“Ideally, you will have access to the person you’re writing for – the ability to interview and observe them. However, in many cases, this simply isn’t an option.

“If you can, find video, webinar recordings, or audio (podcasts are a great resource), and pay attention to how they speak, their commonly used phrases, even anecdotes. Try to get your hands on blogs, papers they’ve written, or interviews they’ve given.

“Anything that provides a window into how they communicate will help you to ‘speak’ on their behalf.”

Prepare for the interview

If you are able to meet with the thought leader for whom you’re writing, make sure you’re prepared.

Meredith Hilt, Head of Thought Leadership Marketing at IBM Watson Health, says having a meaningful conversation with the person you’re writing for is an important first step.

“Writers need to do their homework ahead of time to make the most of these conversations. Define your topic, find out what your expert has already said about it, find out what other experts are saying about it, and develop open-ended interview questions that cover new ground.”

Woman doing research before ghostwriting thought-leadership content.
Prepare by doing research before you ghostwrite thought leadership content.

Learn the subject matter

Finally, it pays to truly know the topics you’re writing about.

Says Green of IMO, “There’s no winging it when you’re writing under someone else’s byline. You have to know the material, so read up, do your research, and ask questions of adjacent subject matter experts.”

To stand out amongst your competitors and win more deals, thought leadership content is a must. Taking time to learn the material and the person can greatly help marketers who ghostwrite for their organization’s thought leaders.

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How to successfully ghostwrite thought leadership content