Today, every ambitious professional wants to be perceived as a thought leader. Thought leaders are individuals who come up with bright new ideas, opine on how trends might unfold, and pride themselves on their ability to see what’s coming next.
Becoming a thought leader isn’t easy. Your ideas not only have to be insightful and perceptive, but they also have to resonate. If a thought leader speaks in an empty forest, do they make a sound?
Enter professional ghostwriters. These writers help thought leaders convey their stories in interesting, eye-catching ways that build a lasting relationship between thought leader and audience.
Besides the fact that ghostwriters are professional writers, and therefore, should know how to communicate better than your average person, they also help address another issue many thought leaders have: a severe lack of time. The types of people who aspire to be thought leaders are busy: they’re entrepreneurs, executives, change agents. They have packed schedules and a long list of ever-competing priorities, and lack the time to sit down and put pen to paper.
And so, they work with ghostwriters. If you’re a writer who’s curious about how to get into these ghostwriting gigs, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re going to explore how to ghostwrite a thought leadership article. But first, let’s clarify exactly what a ghostwriter is.
A ghostwriter is someone who writes under another person’s name. Here on the Hire a Writer blog, we all write under our own names. But in most instances, when we write for clients, we do so in the client’s name. Instead of publishing an article written by Ross Henderson or Joy Youell, the client publishes an article “written” by their CEO or VP of Marketing.
That’s ghostwriting––and it’s far more common than you think.
Most, if not almost all, businesses that work with external content writers publish ghostwritten content. It makes sense: the leaders whose profiles you want to build are too busy doing their actual jobs to sit down and write two articles a week.
As a writer, there’s a lot of focus on getting your own by-lines, making your name known, and ultimately, becoming a thought leader yourself. Ghostwriters don’t get any of that glory, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a great living if they’re good at what they do.
Sometimes, the business might just slap someone’s name on a piece of content you’ve written right before it's published. Other times, the process can be more involved: you may have interviews with the thought leader, exchange drafts and notes, or even have a joint working session on your article.
The nature of the relationship really depends on the scope of the project. For a simple article, you might just have one quick Subject Matter Expert interview and exchange a round of feedback in a Google Doc.
At the other end of the spectrum are the ghostwriters who write pretty much every famous person’s autobiography. They enmesh themselves in their subject’s life for months on end, conducting countless interviews with the subject and their closest confidants. It can be a lucrative field: it’s reported JR Moehringer, the ghostwriter of Prince Harry’s recent autobiography, was paid a $1 million advance for his work.
Obviously, that’s an extreme example. But it goes to show the full range of what’s possible in ghostwriting: an area that covers everything from simple SEO blogs to the books atop the New York Times Best Seller charts.
For the purposes of this article though, let’s take a closer look at the type of ghostwriting you’ll most likely find yourself doing: ghostwriting for executives.
Your ghostwriting journey begins with a period of research. During this time, it’s your job to educate yourself on the topics you’ll be ghostwriting about so that when the time comes to talk to the thought leader, you’ll have smart questions to ask.
Research the latest trends in the industry. Look at what other thought leaders are already saying. And most of all, make sure you understand the fundamentals of what you plan to write about.
Once you’ve completed this basic research, schedule an interview with the thought leader. Ahead of the call, you’ll prepare a list of topics you want to cover.
Want to learn how to best prepare for a call like this? Check out our guide to preparing for a subject matter expert interview.
As a ghostwriter, the time you spend interviewing the thought leader is perhaps the highest-ROI time you have. Remember, thought leaders are extremely busy individuals. You’ll likely only have half an hour or so of their time to deeply explore a complex topic and learn exactly what their thoughts are.
Maximizing this time is key. As the interviewer, it’s your job to keep the conversation focused and on-topic, making sure you cover the entire topic in the time you have allotted. This doesn’t mean you have to rigidly stick to a schedule, however: allow your interviewee to drive the conversation towards the areas of the topic they feel most comfortable talking about.
Much like anything else, becoming an effective SME interviewer requires lots of practice. Along the way, you’ll have good interviews and bad. Make sure you reflect after each on what went well and what you could improve for the next time.
Finally, it’s time for you, ghostwriter, to actually start writing. The work you’ve put in until now should hopefully make this a relatively straightforward process.
As you write, refer back to the interview you conducted. Personally, I like to read the transcripts of each interview, listen to key sections of the conversation, and jot down important ideas to highlight in the content.
Your job is to distill your interviewee’s thoughts into a format that’s engaging, entertaining, and educational––no matter what the topic happens to be. This is where you have a chance to flex your creative muscles, within reason of course.
Once your first draft is complete, you’ll send it off to the thought leader. Now, there’s always the chance they might rip it to shreds and leave you a thousand notes, but in most instances, provided you followed the process outlined here, the work you deliver shouldn’t be a million miles away from what you discussed with them.
Work through any edits until the content is at a place that both parties are happy with. If there are any major issues, it’s always preferable to hop on a quick 10-minute call to discuss them, rather than get into an unhelpful back-and-forth in the comment section of a Google Doc. Once you’ve ironed out these issues, you should be ready to publish: whether that’s on the thought leader’s LinkedIn, a placement in an industry publication, or the company’s blog.
Once you hit that ‘publish’ button, the job is far from done. Nobody ever became regarded as a thought leader, an industry luminary, from one blog post alone. Thought leaders are molded through hundreds of social media updates, dozens of written articles, and numerous appearances on podcasts, conference stages, and more.
If you’re capable of building a good relationship with the thought leader you ghostwrite for, there’s every chance your relationship will be a long-term one. For many writers, that’s the perfect scenario: a long-term, repeat client who you have perfectly aligned expectations with.
Get really good at ghostwriting for thought leaders, and that’s something that’s entirely within your grasp.
Interested in hiring a professional ghostwriter to help you become a thought leader? Reach out to the team at Hire A Writer – we’d love to talk.
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