Don’t let the wrong people share your company’s story

I’ve long recognized many of the companies with the best information do the worst job of presenting it. It’s clear they have the expertise, but the wrong people are responsible for sharing that knowledge.

It’s not really the fault of those individuals.  Each of us has specific skills and knowledge areas. But while someone in your company may be an expert on a particular subject, they aren’t necessarily also an expert at presenting their knowledge in written form. Subject matter experts who are also effective writers are a rare breed. Some of the most brilliant people I’ve worked with were also some of the poorest writers. Or their writing skills may have been decent — but they struggled with translating their subject matter into easily understood prose.

The good news? It’s easy to ensure your company’s expertise is being presented clearly and effectively when you work with a professional ghostwriter. I’m not describing someone who develops novels about supernatural beings. A ghostwriter is a professional writer who takes what your subject matter experts know and transforms it into well-written content for your website, blog, magazine articles, white papers, speeches, or other marketing communications channels.

Besides ending up with higher-quality copy, working with a ghostwriter makes the most of your subject matter expert’s time. Whether your expert is a physician, an attorney, a C-suite executive, or a salesperson, the time needed for them to write is time away from their regular responsibilities. They should use their hours in the most productive and profitable way — and that’s probably not agonizing over sentence structure.

Skilled ghostwriters can help you bridge the communication gaps between experts and their audiences. Take a program I handled for a CPA firm serving financial institutions. Both bankers and CPAs are financial experts, but their professions don’t always communicate well because of differences in terminology and jargon. I’d interview the firm’s accountants to gather information demonstrating their expertise. Then I would transform that knowledge into trade magazine and newsletter articles using language that was more familiar to bankers. The approach delivered the information bankers needed to do a better job of running their banks, and it gave the bankers confidence this CPA firm could communicate with them.

How does ghostwriting work? Typically, a ghostwriter meets with your subject matter expert or conducts a phone interview. The process provides the basic information for the project and gives the ghostwriter the opportunity to hear how the subject matter expert talks and thinks. That way, the finished work actually “sounds like” it came from the expert, not from an outsider.

Next, the ghostwriter drafts the content and submits it to your expert for review. Because the material will be published under the expert’s name, they must be confident it’s accurate and comfortable with how it’s being presented. The ghostwriter makes any edits or corrections before submitting a revised draft for final approval. When the story appears, it carries the expert’s name. Nobody else is aware of the involvement of the outside writer — that’s why the process is known as ghostwriting.

Some people think ghostwriting is unethical. It isn’t right to put someone’s name on something they didn’t create, critics reason. Nonsense. The information in the piece is based entirely on the knowledge of the subject matter expert. The ghostwriter simply conveys it in a way that’s clearer and more communicative. You’d be surprised how many of the articles, books, speeches, and blog posts “authored” by top executives from companies you follow and respect are actually crafted by ghostwriters.

If your communications materials fail to present your company’s expertise clearly and effectively, and if your internal experts spend more time than they should trying to fine-tune those messages, it might be time to find a ghost of your own.