Ghost(Writer) Hunting: How to Make it Less Scary

If you’ve got a business and you’re up and hip on the latest and greatest marketing trends, you’re likely well aware that content marketing is good for your business.  If you’re not, let me throw some great stats at you courtesy of this wonderful infographic: 60% of B2B marketers plan on increasing their content budgets this year.  Content marketing is a proven way – and the most effective way – to get your website up higher on Google search results if you’ve got quality content.  I’d recommend checking out the infographic.  It’s much more colorful and entertaining than me simply listing off the facts.

When you’re back, let me outline another one of the facts on the infographic.  Namely that 62% of companies outsource content marketing as of 2012.

Of course, if you’re outsourcing your content marketing, you’re not going to want to advertise to the entire world that you’re doing it.  Again, the entire point is to make the company itself seem like an information resource that the consumer can trust – not make a third party company sound like a resource that the consumer can trust.  It’s all about building that relationship between company and consumer, be your consumer fellow businesses or simply individuals.

Back to the infographic, you’ll notice that the most frequently used content marketing strategy is the sharing of articles. This is followed by social media, and then blogging for business.

Get where I’m going?  If 62% of companies are outsourcing their content marketing, and the most popular avenues of content marketing have to do directly with writers… that means there’s a sea of ghostwriters out there, silently plying their trades to companies who may not have the time or money to take care of their content marketing needs in-house.

It can be difficult to judge when it’s time to bring on a ghostwriter.  After all, it’s very likely that you’ve got access to a word processing program if you’re reading this, and it’s also highly likely that you – or somebody you work with – is literate enough to produce blogs and articles.  However, just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily make it worth your time and energy to do so yourself – but don’t just take my word for it, check out this wonderful post by content marketing institute about when you should outsource your content creation.

I’ll be here when you get back.

But How to Find Quality?

Just because the majority of companies are using ghostwriters doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find good quality ones.  In fact, since the nature of ghostwriters is that they act like ghosts – namely, you don’t actually see the people that are involved with the content creation, as they are given no credit and work invisibly – it can be very difficult, indeed.

To give you a bit of a perspective on what it’s like to be a ghostwriter, I’ve written a couple of blogs on this myself.  You can check them out here: Substantiating the Ghost Writer: Part 1, and Part 2.

When you learn more about what a good ghostwriter does (and yes, I’d like to consider myself a “good ghostwriter”) you’ll know more about what to do when you’re out hunting for one.  Want some more tips?  Oh, I’ve got tips.

  1. Does the ghostwriter ask about voice, or send over a voice document? If you’re working with a ghostwriter who wants to represent your company and yet asks you nothing about your company’s voice, run the other way as fast as possible.  The entire point of a ghostwriter is that they represent your company in your stead, and, as you might imagine, no two companies are exactly alike.  In order to facilitate the greatest amount of understanding, the ghostwriter should be keenly interested in your company as an individual entity, not simply another company selling widgets.  Your company is unique.  The ghostwriter needs to be able to reproduce that uniqueness.
  2. Does the ghostwriter have testimonials? Now, the truth of the matter is that not all ghostwriters will be able to share work from previous clients – after all, sometimes NDAs are involved, and as much as you don’t want others to know that you’re working with a ghostwriter to maintain a picture of total authenticity, others are probably the same way.  Regardless, the ghostwriter should have other samples so that you can validate quality and get a feel for the different kinds of writing that the ghostwriter can produce.  (Psst: here’s some great examples!)
  3. How accessible is the ghostwriter? Now, this is somewhat more of a nebulous concept, but if you’re outsourcing your writing, the writing should still sound like it came from your own company.  This can be a difficult thing for some ghostwriters to manage, as it requires a lot of research and time spent hanging out “with your company.”  This goes hand in hand with finding the “voice” of your company – but it also means being willing to do the research needed to understand your industry and get a feel for what it’s like to operate within it.  The science and philosophy of this is becoming known as “insourcing” – and we explain a little more about it here.
  4. How flexible is the ghostwriter? Ghostwriters should be exactly like ghosts.  Able to pass through walls, able to bend and work around any obstacle.  It’s not unusual for a ghostwriter to need a period of ramp-up in order to become perfectly attuned to your company’s voice.  But this will often require some rewrites and the best ghostwriters are amenable to this.  Of course, even the best ghostwriters will get perturbed if you send things back 20 times, but establishing the relationship is extremely important.  As Writers Sherpa says, communication is extremely important when working with ghostwriters.  Make sure that you find somebody that you can communicate with.

Perfecting the Haunting

A ghostwriter should live up to the name.  Good ghostwriters are able to haunt your business and turn around your concepts and words so that your content marketing gets the attention it needs from a professional writer who has the skills your business needs to succeed.  It’s not always easy hunting down the perfect ghostwriter – but if finding and capturing ghosts was an easy task, Ghostbusters probably wouldn’t have been as popular as it was.  But trust me here – once you find the perfect ghostwriter to manage your content marketing campaign, you’ll be amazed at how awesome having your own personal poltergeist can be!

What tips do you have for finding the perfect ghostwriter?

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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