If you're short on good content, ghostwriting is an excellent way to make sure that the content you publish is original, exciting and relevant for your audience.
Ghostwriting is the process of an author writing an article on behalf of another person, and publishing it under that person's name. The ghostwriter will typically conduct an interview or a series of interviews with their subject and write the text based on these interviews. The subject is listed as the author of the finished product, with the ghostwriter staying anonymous.
Ghostwriting is common in the publishing industry – many celebrity autobiographies, for example, are written by ghostwriters. In the world of marketing, ghostwriting is a great way to uncover the hidden knowledge within your company and use it to answer your audience's questions.
Your company may be full of people who are experts in their field, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're great marketers or writers. While they may have built up a considerable amount of knowledge and years of industry experience, they might not have the best understanding of customers' needs and issues, and they're probably not experienced writers or SEO experts.
Ghostwriting gives the best of both worlds. You get to show customers and prospects your in-house experts' knowledge and experience, while also making sure that the final article will be well-written and perfectly suited to your online audience.
With a good library of ghostwritten knowledge articles, you can present the company and its people as a knowledgeable and trustworthy partner that understands the market's needs. The experts also get a reputation boost and an improved online presence.
The ghostwriting process also helps expand your content library. During the interview process, discussions often throw up new ideas, solutions and points of view that the experts might not have consciously thought of before. Marketing draws out and leverages the organisation's knowledge, and you discover new ideas for future articles and interviews.
There is no strictly-defined way to ghostwrite an article, but this is the process I have used when ghostwriting for a range of major B2B companies, and I've found that it works very well.
The first step should always be to identify your experts and get buy-in from other parts of the organisation. You need to find the person or people in the organisation best-suited to discuss the topic you're writing about. The interview and feedback processes also take time. You need to make sure that your experts, who are often busy people who may not have had anything to do with marketing before, are willing to book a few hours in their calendar over a few weeks to help with the articles.
Before you meet your expert, careful research is vital for a successful interview. Even if you're discussing a very technical topic that is entirely new for you as a marketer, read around the subject and try to get a solid high-level overview. You'll be able to come up with questions, and it'll make it easier to ask follow-up questions and guide the expert towards your core topics during the interview itself. Your research should also include search keywords relating to the topic. They shouldn't dictate the entire article – you're writing for people and not for Google, after all. But there's no point spending a long time on an article that answers questions which no-one is asking.
Booking a dedicated time for the interview is essential, and it must be in-person or digital. Just sending a list of questions over email for the expert to answer won't lead to a good article. My interviews have typically been in-person, but they're now all on Zoom or Teams thanks to the pandemic. It's good to meet face-to-face, but digital meetings have worked much better than I expected. Being able to share screens and quickly send links helps speed things up if the expert needs to explain something, leading to better discussions.
Make sure you have enough time – an hour is usually the best, although a 30-minute interview may work as well if you have done your research.
While you're speaking to your expert, you may need to guide them and keep them on-topic. Experts are often very enthusiastic about their field and have a much deeper understanding of it than your audience. That means they can easily steer off towards an unrelated topic or dive too deeply into a particular area. They may have the knowledge, but you're the one who knows your audience and what issues they are interested in – so you shouldn't be afraid to direct the expert back to your core points and keep them on the right track.
Take notes during your interview. You can record your talk and transcribe it afterwards, but this is time-consuming. Taking notes allows you to quickly find key quotes once you start writing, and makes it easier to ask follow-up questions during the interview itself.
Once the interview is over, it's time to start writing. I always try to create the first draft as soon as possible after the interview, when the material is fresh in my mind.
Once you have your first draft, you can have a follow-up meeting so the expert can give feedback. You should send your first draft well in advance of this meeting, so the expert has time to review it first.
Don't rush the feedback meeting – book another hour with the expert so that you can review the article in detail.
Following this feedback meeting, you can hopefully create a final version to send to the expert for final approval. You can take any final feedback or corrections over email at this stage but be aware that another feedback meeting may be required. Once your final version is approved, you're ready to publish it online under your expert's name.
If you need to, you can adapt this process depending on what your organisation looks like - but based on my experience, following this process always works well.
If you're looking for more practical advice on the interviewing and writing process, I've prepared a short presentation with a few of the most valuable tips for ghostwriting. In it, you'll find some more recommendations that will help you capture the expert's tone of voice and create a fantastic article.
For more tips and guidance around the entire content creation process, take a look at our in-depth content creation guide.