Should You Hire a Ghostwriter?
If you’ve mostly thought of ghostwriting services as something reserved for presidents and celebrities working on memoirs, I’ve got good news: ghostwriters can also help startup founders and CEOs get key messages in front of their target audiences.
Here’s why: Nearly all startup founders and CEOs have big ideas, but they’re not all good writers. And even those who enjoy writing usually don’t have the time to do it.
The result is that many startup leaders never manage to get their biggest and best ideas – the ones that can put them on the map as thought leaders – on the page.
And that’s a problem. Because according to recent research by LinkedIn and Edelman…
- Thought leadership content affects purchase decisions (including awarding business and buying new or additional services) for 49 percent of decision makers.
- 27 percent of decision makers said poorly executed thought leadership content has led them to not award business to an organization.
- Only 15 percent of the thought leadership content decision makers come across is “good or excellent,” and 28 percent – almost a third! – is moderate to very poor.
Most thought leadership content is underwhelming in quality.
Translation: get thought leadership right, and you grow your business. Get it wrong, and you actively hurt your business.
So what’s the best medium for this thought leadership? The written word. It’s versatile, durable, and shareable – not to mention consumable from any device in any setting.
Enter the ghostwriter.
Ghostwriters can translate ideas into well-crafted articles that let startup founders and CEOs showcase their innovative thinking so it can reach people virtually any time and anywhere.
Read on for insight about how you can benefit from working with a ghostwriter, what you can expect from a good ghostwriter, and how to know if working with a ghostwriter is right for you.
How Working with a Ghostwriter Benefits Startup Founders and CEOs
We’ve established that the role of the ghostwriter is to help founders and CEOs get their vision (aka thought leadership) into the world.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s at stake in that process:
- Credibility and awareness: To some extent, all of PR and content marketing is about growing credibility and awareness for your brand. Getting your message into the world raises awareness; having something meaningful to say boosts credibility.
- Respect: Per Edelman, 90 percent of decision makers agree that effective thought leadership increases their respect for an organization.
- Trust: Eighty-eight percent agree that thought leadership can increase their trust for the organization that produces it.
- Other people’s perception of your capabilities: Another 88 percent of decision makers agree that effective thought leadership improves their perception of an organization’s capabilities.
But keep in mind that these are the outcomes when the thought leadership in question is effective – which, as I mentioned earlier, is only true about 15 percent of the time.
When a startup publishes thought leadership of “moderate to poor” quality, it has the opposite effect:
- 38 percent of decision makers say badly done thought leadership can actually decrease their respect for a brand.
- Another 27 percent say bad thought leadership can lead to not awarding an organization a sale.
Low-quality thought leadership content can hurt your brand.
Put differently, it’s better to skip thought leadership altogether than it is to do it badly.
But really, you shouldn’t skip it.
As many as 42 percent of decision makers agree that they’re willing to pay a premium for brands that display thought leadership.
This is where the value of the ghostwriter really comes into focus:
Ghostwriters make it possible to gain all the benefits of thought leadership (trust, credibility, awareness, respect) for a fraction of the time it would otherwise cost CEOs and founders.
This means you can spend your time in the most lucrative way possible: growing your business.
So what’s it like to work with a ghostwriter? Glad you asked.
What to Expect from Working with a Ghostwriter
The founder-ghostwriter relationship is similar to the one between presidents and their speechwriters.
The ghostwriter you work with should do the following:
- Capture your voice on the page. Presidential speechwriters are not rewarded for having their own flair. The best speechwriters, like the best ghostwriters, make presidents (or startup leaders) sound as much like themselves on the page as they do in person.
- Help you develop nebulous ideas into full, convincing arguments. Speechwriters don’t set or consult on policy. Instead, they take key policy points and position them into strong arguments that appeal to the target audience. Ditto ghostwriters: we don’t try to influence your thinking; we make your best thoughts accessible to the people who can most benefit from hearing them.
- Turn those arguments into well-structured articles. A great speech is well paced and engaging. It has momentum and keeps listeners hanging on until the end. The same is true for great thought leadership articles. There are hundreds of possible ways to structure a piece of writing; ghostwriters have tried them all and can confidently choose the best one for your ideas.
- Frame your ideas for the target audience. Different voting blocs care about different policy points and respond to different framing. Speechwriters might tweak the same general speech to work well in front of different audiences. The same is true for startups: potential investors care about different things than potential customers or potential employees. Ghostwriters make sure an article is tailored for the people who will read it.
- Weave in key messaging. Big ideas are just one part of speeches and thought leadership articles. The best also include key messages that reinforce core values and beliefs, whether of a politician or brand.
- Check your facts. Fact-checking used to be a standard part of presidential speechwriting. Go figure! Luckily, it’s still standard in ghostwriting. Ghostwriters protect your credibility by verifying all facts, updating what’s out of date, and finding new evidence to support claims when no source exists for a “fact” you were hoping to cite.
- Take feedback about what is and isn’t working and revise as needed. Presidential speechwriters have to take feedback from a lot of stakeholders – and with reason. When the president speaks, people dissect every word for meaning. The stakes usually aren’t quite that high for startup thought leaders, but you’ll still have to be able to tell your ghostwriter what’s working and what’s not. And your ghostwriter needs to be able to take that feedback and use it to improve what they’ve written and apply it to future projects.
- Proactively come to you with ideas and opportunities. Here’s where the worlds of speechwriting and ghostwriting diverge. While speechwriters aren’t expected to find events where presidents can deliver their remarks, ghostwriters – at least, those backed by a PR team – can come to startup founders and CEOs with opportunities to get their message out to key audiences, including by chiming in on timely topics important to your industry.
If you’re more of a visual person, the process can be summarized like this:
The idea-to-article process: idea goes to a ghostwriter who turns it into an article
This process gets easier over time, as your ghostwriter gets to know your voice, style, ways of thinking, primary concerns, key messaging points, and so on – in other words, as you get to know each other.
How does that happen? Read on.
Essentials for a Great Relationship with Your Ghostwriter
The best ghostwriting happens when both parties – thought leader and ghostwriter – are actively engaged. Here’s what that requires of startup founders and CEOs:
- Voice time: For a ghostwriter to learn your voice, they have to hear you speak. Ideally, that happens over phone calls where your ghostwriter can ask you specific questions about the pieces they’re working on.
- Feedback: You may have a lot of edits for the first few pieces your ghostwriter tackles. That’s normal and shouldn’t raise any red flags. The best way to make sure future drafts get better is to engage fully with early pieces to highlight what’s working and what isn’t. If you’d rather not write out a bunch of notes, a phone call is a great way to deliver feedback.
And here’s what you can expect from your ghostwriter:
- Iteration: Again, second drafts and subsequent pieces should get better. Ghostwriters need to be able to take feedback and incorporate it into a piece. CEOs and founders shouldn’t have to give the same feedback or call out the same issues more than once.
- Improvement: With effective feedback, ghostwriters should master voice and messaging. Eventually, CEOs and founders shouldn’t have to do more than a proofread before signing off on an article.
If you invest the time early on to guide your ghostwriter toward the voice, tone, and messaging you want, you’ll get to a place where you can dash off an email or hop on a quick call that your ghostwriter turns into a compelling piece of thought leadership.
How to Know if Your Business Could Benefit from a Ghostwriter
Pretty much any startup can benefit from thought leadership. So how do you know if you should work with a ghostwriter to develop that content?
I suggest doing it if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:
- The big ideas you think and speak about never sound as good on the page.
- You never get around to writing the pieces you’ve been meaning to write (you know, the ones that would elegantly educate and persuade your audience on key topics in your space).
- You hate writing.
- You love writing but don’t have time to do it.
- Regardless of your feelings about writing, it’s not the most lucrative way you could spend your time.
Sound like you? Then it’s probably time to find a ghostwriter.
Want Samples of Propllr’s Ghostwriting? Get in Touch!
At Propllr, we do ghostwriting for many startup founders and CEOs. We’ve placed and penned articles for thought leaders on a wide variety of topics, including…
- Cloud strategy
- Optical interconnect hardware
- The drawbacks of developing a branded app
- The future of ecommerce
- The role of tech in the retirement industry
- Strategies for crafting a parental leave policy
- The future of agtech
- The state of marketing in fintech
… and more!
I’d love to link to some of our favorite pieces, but that’s just not how ghostwriting works. So if you want to see some samples – or hear more about how we handle ghostwriting – shoot me an email, and I’ll send some your way.
Oh, and happy Halloween, everyone!
Me as a witch