Ghostwriters are the savvy leader’s secret friend

As people move closer to top management’s ranks, they discover perks and benefits reflecting added responsibilities of their new positions. Examples include better retirement plans, company-backed loans, and travel opportunities. They also learn top executives accomplish more by reaching out to specialized resources.

Ever read a magazine article or lengthy blog post from a corporate leader or professional and wondered how they found the time to write it? You’ve stumbled across one of those resources. Many of those leaders have plenty they want to say, but far too little time to capture their thoughts in words. So they turn to a professional known as a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter isn’t someone who creates horror stories. It’s a professional writer who develops articles, blog posts, and other materials on behalf of other people. Those people — the ghostwriter’s clients — publish those articles and posts under their own names.

It’s neither unethical nor dishonest. A top executive with a vision for a new office building doesn’t design it on their own. They turn to a professional architect to transform their vision into renderings and blueprints.

In the same way, ghostwriters don’t create their work from thin air. A ghostwriter captures what that corporate leader knows and wants to share in the most compelling and effective way. It’s a lot like speechwriting (speeches are often developed by ghostwriters, too).

When I’m engaged to ghostwrite something, I begin by interviewing the “author” by phone or in person. There are two purposes for the interview. The most obvious is that it helps me better understand the gist of the article, the facts involved with it, and the angle the “author” wants to convey. The second purpose is it gives me a chance to hear how the “author” speaks, listen to the cadence of their conversational style, capture the kind of words they use, and catch subtleties in how they explain key points.

When I write the article, I hear the “author’s” voice and word choices in my head. While I’m generating the words, phrases, and clauses, I’m really capturing what my client wants to convey in a way that sounds remarkably like them. One of the greatest compliments clients offer is to say, “Wow! This really sounds like I wrote it.” Actually, they did. I just transformed their thoughts into sentences.

I’ve ghosted articles and other materials for literally hundreds of executives and professionals, and if you read half a dozen, you’d have a tough time believing they came from the same writer. That’s the key to top-quality ghostwriting: the work sounds like it came from the “author,” not from the writer who ghosted it.

Why do corporate leaders like to work with ghostwriters? Even if they’re skilled writers, their time is at a premium and writing is rarely the best use of it. A story a professional writer can develop in a couple days might take the CEO a week to draft, with more important things pushed aside.

Just as important, a professional writer comes to the assignment with a different viewpoint. Too many leaders write in their industry’s jargon, think they know how the outside world sees them, or assume everyone else shares their knowledge on a topic. An outsider will question and challenge those internal attitudes and assumptions. And a good ghostwriter is discreet, so others won’t know they’ve received help.

What do magazine editors and their counterparts think of ghostwriting? It might surprise you, but most professionals would rather work through a seasoned ghostwriter than deal directly with a corporate leader or a professional who does something other than write for a living. An editor’s goal is to publish content that will be interesting and useful to their readers. A good ghostwriter will present the information in a more meaningful and engaging way. Plus, a busy editor knows a ghostwritten story will require less editing and polishing.

As you’ve read through trade magazines or scrolled through online publications and seen articles, you may have thought, “I should really author some articles on trends in our industry, but I just can’t find the time.” Many of those authors couldn’t find the time, either. That’s why they found their own secret friend.