Much of the content on the web is produced by ghostwriters. This isn’t immediately obvious, but it really has become a standard practice across the web as a whole, mainly because it’s an efficient and reasonable compromise. Sometimes the creator of a product or website just doesn’t have the written communication skills necessary to actively promote their brand via blog. Similarly, a talented writer might lack the name credibility to break into writing about something on his or her own reputation. These two talents join their resources and produce a blog in the name of the creator, but with the talents of the writer, and everyone goes home in a limousine; the writer gains valuable experience and hopefully a good recommendation when they eventually move on to other projects, and the content promotes the brand.
That said, there are still some misconceptions about ghostwriting that pop up from time to time. To that end, it can be helpful to clarify the nature of ghostwriting and how it relates to creating a high-quality blog, particularly through examples of some of the best and worst practices that can pop up when employing a ghostwriter.
Do be involved
Hiring a ghostwriter is not quite the same thing as hiring a more traditional writer. Normally a writer is employed to write something in his own name, from his own ideas and for his own purposes. Even a writer hired to convey a brand message is allowed his own identity to a certain extent. But a ghostwriter is writing on behalf of and to an extent as the name of the brand or creator of the brand.
This means that the “idea man” behind the brand needs to work very closely with the ghostwriter to discuss topics, posts and commentary. Yes, notice that commentary is included: Any good blog includes a very active comments section from which good ideas can be brought to light, and the replies of the ghostwriter to these comments must reflect the same persona he adopts as the author of the blog. This requires bouncing ideas and the nature of replies off the idea man and keeping things in theme, as it were.
This may seem to contradict the prior point, but the two actually compliment each other. Yes, a ghostwriter must work very closely with the “name” they are writing under to make sure that the content produced is in line with the authorial vision of the brand. However, there is a reason that a brand hires a ghostwriter, and that reason is his expertise. The writer knows the way he is comfortable writing and knows how to communicate in that medium. This means that any brand that hires a ghostwriter must be comfortable bowing to his experience in the field he has chosen and listen to his advice.
The reason for this is to create consistency. Part of maintaining a good ghostwriting image is projecting a consistent voice and style of writing from issue to issue. If there is a lot of call behind the scenes to change the tone or content of a blog, the message eventually will become schizophrenic and fail to keep readers’ attention because it can’t stay on message.
Do consider outing your writer
This is a risky decision, but it can be a vital one. Sometimes a relationship with a ghostwriter can develop so thoroughly that it becomes obvious they need to be taken on full time. Ghostwriting is, by its nature, a tenuous and temporary relationship, but it can also serve as a sort of internship leading to long-term agreements. Perhaps the blog is incredibly successful and the writer justifiably would like a bit more recognition for his work.
This kind of announcement should be handled carefully but honestly, explaining the good work that the ghostwriter has done and the nature of the decision to bring him out in public. It will definitely have consequences; some readers are fickle and might feel upset they weren’t reading the “real” thing, but in general most people will stay for the good content they have grown accustomed to.
Don’t settle too fast
As mentioned, ghostwriting is a good choice for people who want a more temporary relationship. Some blogs are by nature very short-term projects, such as a blog intended to serve as advertising leading up to a particular product’s launch and the immediate period after the launch. Then the blog closes down after serving its purpose, remaining online only as an archive for interested parties, if at all.
In these cases, it’s important to understand the nature of ghostwriting and not force a blog past its lifespan. Let the project go as long as it needs, and then move on to another, possibly with another writer. No writer is perfect for every project, and recognizing when new talent is necessary for a project is a vital skill in getting good ghostwriters. However, this requires being up-front and fair with the writer from the beginning, and letting him or her know the temporary nature of a project. Writers often get used to working from project to project, but when they don’t know that a project is going to be temporary, it can lead to them scrambling to fill the gap in their schedule.