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How to be a ghostwriter

No, I’m not suggesting any of us take up a career writing other people’s autobiographies for them. But in content marketing, it’s often necessary to interview colleagues who are experts (or just experienced) in their fields, as the basis for authoritative technical articles. If these are to be presented as the thoughts of the individual – or the company – then we’re becoming a ghostwriter for that person.

So what are the tried and tested tips for this? Firstly, if it’s someone we don’t know well, it can take a while for them to get warmed up, so it’s sensible not to go straight into the topic under discussion, but to have some scene-setting chat first. One excellent idea is to discuss the format for the article. Indeed, if this is done in advance, the outcome of the conversation can be used to formulate an outline for the article, and some questions or points that need to be made.

It’s their article

A piece like this is not an interview, so it’s important to let the person we’re talking to direct the flow. It’s their article. Our input should be limited to ensuring that we stay on the topic we’re covering in the article, and asking for clarification where necessary. Experts can assume a lot!

Whether the article is going to be presented as the thoughts of the individual or the company, we need to have a good idea of what the style and tone of the final piece may be. I’d try to express this in writing, probably even before transcribing anything from the interview, but definitely before knocking it into shape! Above all, we need to keep their ‘voice’ in our head.

Then of course we need to be accommodating when receiving feedback – if the piece is supposed to be representing someone else’s thoughts, they should be allowed to be as critical as they like.