A PR lesson in how to ghostwrite a feature

Building a thought leader

We’ve blogged before on the value of positioning your spokespeople as thought leaders when it comes to profile building, and how publicly sharing insight can be a fast-track to elevating your personal brand and, by association, your company’s corporate identity.

However it is often the case that those with the most highly sought-after expertise don’t necessarily have the time, inclination or flair to translate their knowledge into an engaging piece of written content.

As a marketing professional, ghostwriting features on behalf of your brand’s figurehead is a great way to both raise their profile and authoritatively propel your company’s expertise into the public domain. If it’s not a strategy you’ve considered before, you may be missing a trick. The prevalence of the practice is now firmly recognised. In fact, it is estimated that around 60% of all non-fiction bestsellers, 10% of successful novels and even 7% of articles in medical journals are ghostwritten.

Download

Obviously, before you even think about drafting your feature, you’ll need to get the article commissioned. If you looking for tips on nailing a journalist pitch, check out our blog page for advice.

Once you have sold in your expert’s credentials and secured your slot, it’s time to get a download from the author. They may simply want to share their big idea - or they may be looking to provide a complete brain-dump which goes above and beyond the parameters of the piece in question.

Either way, it’s your job to ensure that you collect all the information you need to craft the feature efficiently and concisely. It is, of course, vital that you take notes, but you may also wish to record the session for future reference. And be sure to ask questions. If there is a certain trend the expert has noted, what is the reason behind this? If they are making a prediction about the future, why do they believe this will happen?

Bear in mind that, while you wouldn’t want to drop a bombshell, promoting an opinion which encourages audiences to question widely held perceptions can be powerful. So if you touch on something a little controversial, dig a little deeper.

While the fact-finding session should only take around 15 minutes, try to make sure that you leave with everything you need. If you begin to write and find that there are gaps, you can always go back and ask. However, time-poor thought leaders will appreciate it if the next email they receive from you contains a fully-formed article to review.

Ghostwriting the feature

Before you begin, be clear on what the publication needs from you. What is the wordcount? Is there a style guide you must adhere to? And have you been given a deadline for submission?

When it comes to actually drafting the piece, it’s important to ensure that the feature accurately captures the author’s voice. However perfectly crafted an article is, if it doesn’t sound like they could have written it, it just won’t resonate – so ensure that you mirror vocabulary, sentence structure and attitude. Also try, wherever possible, to replicate exact words or phrases noted during the ‘download’ session.

Leave your own style – and ego - at the door. You may not personally agree with your spokesperson’s opinion, or favour their signature motto, but this is their platform so allow their personality to shine through. That said, don’t lose sight of your organisational objectives – or what you are seeking to achieve through PR activity - and be sure to craft overriding messages accordingly.

Add weight to your argument

While the expertise of your author will set you in good stead in terms of theme, tone and structure, adding weight to their argument through the use of third party data will elevate a straight opinion piece to true thought leadership content. Once your argument is defined, do some desk research to find supporting evidence which you can build into the piece. Most media organisations have a rule that all facts should be confirmed by two reliable sources, and you shouldn’t be any less stringent in their own communications activity.

Using the media to reinforce your brand is arguably the gold standard in promoting your product or service offering and through ghostwriting features for your key spokespeople, you can ensure that the knowledge you hold within your business is disseminated far and wide.

Need help crafting thought leadership content? BlueSky PR is here to help.You can check out more insights from BlueSky PR on the blog

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Author: Carly Smith

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