Using Ghostwriters, The Do’s and Don’ts

Posted in Marketing, PR by David Oates

I often have to write articles for clients’ bylines. I try my best to write the piece so it can be placed in blogs and trade magazines or used in speeches and advertisements. In return, I don’t seek or receive attribution. Instead, the credit goes to the person who I collaborated on the piece with.

The standard practice of using ghostwriters to create content goes back generations, if not hundreds of years. There’s even talk that William Shakespeare may not have written every work credited to him. Regardless of your views, the art of ghostwriting is a necessity for many organizations whose executives are too busy to craft pieces on their own.

Here’s how it works. A writer, typically someone with marketing, PR, or journalism experience, will be contracted to craft an article for a person or company. That individual will set up a 30-minute phone, video, or in-person interview to learn what should be focused on in the article from someone who deeply understands the subject matter. The intent is not only to convey a set of facts but to also understand the takeaway points the “author” wants to include in the piece.

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From there, the ghostwriter will do additional research, collect statistics relating to the topic, and begin drafting the article. The art of crafting the copy is organizing facts and capturing the writing style of the person for whom he or she is developing the piece. Good writers will attempt to have the article not sound like it came from them, but rather from the person attributed.

After completing the draft, the ghostwriter will send the document to the “author” for a full, critical review. For the article to maintain its integrity, it must be given a complete once-over by the person who will ultimately have their name associated with the piece. Ghostwriting can cause issues when the “author” only gives the piece a quick glance or, even worse, doesn’t bother to review it at all. Failure by the attributed person to carefully review the article before publication will come to light if the article gets the attention of a reader who offers feedback or a question the client must answer on their own. If they failed to actively participate in the piece’s development, they run the risk of being unprepared for any follow up.

Employing ghostwriters can save time and help you better convey your thoughts and ideas. However, you must be aware of the potential pitfalls and take responsibility for the content you are claiming ownership of.

About David Oates

David Oates, APR, is Founder and President of Stalwart Communications, a Pay-On-Performance PR and Marketing Agency. He possesses 20 years of extensive experience directing marketing and public relations programs on a tactical and strategic level through a long and successful career that spans both agency, corporate and military environments. David is an accredited public relations expert affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. He can be reached at
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