Have you ever been to a wedding where the officiant clearly didn’t know the bride or groom? He gave a generic spiel about marriage and maybe even mispronounced someone’s name — and everyone cringed through it.
If you’re publishing ghostwritten content, you’re likely putting readers through the same painful experience.
Although ghostwriting practices vary from company to company (and some work better than others), we’ll refer to it as when a company contracts someone to write on a topic without personal information about the author or any interaction with him.
There are quite a few problems with this approach, but here are the main risks:
1. The finished product lacks personality.
If you hire ghostwriters to create your blog content, it might take on a personality and tone, but it probably doesn’t reflect the authors or the company. Readers will spot the discrepancy between your brand image and the personality your content embodies. They'll also notice when your sales material and customer service reps don’t give off the same vibe as your content.
2. You sacrifice personal details for bland statements.
When we surveyed more than 150 editors at online publications, 20 percent named “unoriginal insights” as one of the top reasons they decline content. Personal examples and anecdotes are what make your content shine, which explains why a majority of editors said they look for both of these in contributed content. Thousands of online articles provide how-tos or tips for running a business, but the most memorable ones come from authors who bring these ideas to life through real-world examples.
3. It’s difficult to defend ideas you didn’t write.
Responding to comments is a crucial part of content marketing — even comment trolls deserve a response every once in a while. But it’s hard to respond to comments, especially rivaling ones, when you didn’t have a hand in forming the ideas yourself. Imagine defending a position you didn’t feel strongly about in the first place; it’s not an easy or comfortable thing to do.
4. It’s hard for readers to relate.
Some companies choose to hire ghostwriters and author their content under the company’s name instead of individual authors. But consumers don’t trust or relate to brands; they connect with the people behind them. If you’re removing individual authors from your content, you’re missing out on the unique ability to forge authentic relationships with your audience.
Forfeit Your Ghostwritten Work for Knowledge Extraction
Just because writing isn’t your forte doesn’t mean you can’t create compelling content and overcome the pitfalls of ghostwritten content at the same time. By taking a hybrid approach (we’ll call it assisted writing), you can unlock the benefits of personal content and leave the writing to the experts.
Here’s how it works:
- Form a relationship with your content strategist. Your content strategist must understand your company, goals, target audience, personality, and style preferences. She will help you come up with article topics and relay all the important information to a professional writer.
- Let the knowledge extraction begin. This is when your content strategist will get your specific insights and knowledge on a particular topic so the “meat” of the article comes from you. Knowledge extraction can take a few different forms: written questions, an interview, or a series of fill-in-the-blank statements to spark your creativity. We’ve created a knowledge management template to help organize this process during content creation.
- Send the information to a writer. Once your content strategist has mined those insights, a seasoned writer can connect your ideas in a logical, coherent way that readers understand. Because the writer is armed with information about your preferred tone, style preferences, and audience, she can craft an article that sounds like you and speaks to the right people.
- Tweak your article as needed. The last step is making edits and approving the final article. In this phase, you can make sure it “sounds” like you and that you agree with every statement (or make changes, if need be). Then, you can confidently publish a thoughtful article knowing it’s oozing with your personality, experiences, and knowledge — and it only took up an hour of your time.
Let’s face it: You don’t have the time or skill set to write and publish professional content. But it’s OK to seek help. If you really want to form authentic relationships with your audience, the knowledge and rich details have to come from you. Don’t undermine your own intelligence by relying on others to dream up ideas for you. You have a wealth of knowledge, so share it!
What tips do you have for capturing and communicating your insights?