Legal PR blog

Choosing a good ghost writer

Ralph Savage discusses key considerations when bringing in a ghost writer
GHOST WRITING IS one of the true marks of an experienced communications professional. The ability to speak on behalf of your client; to project his or her voice in writing so that their knowledge, opinions and profile are enhanced is an extremely valuable skill.

If you are thinking of hiring a ghost writer in to support your public relations strategy, here are a few things you should consider before you hand over the pen…

Find a professional you can trust

Trust is essential in the relationship between a ghost writer and their subject. As displayed to rather gruesome effect in the Roman Polanski 2010 film The Ghost, the writer is expected to understand the voice of their client intimately. While the movie presents a somewhat far fetched example of the typical relationship it illustrates the point that a ghost writer will very often be given the keys to the safe; feel free to make them sign a confidentiality agreement but understand that it’s rarely in the ghost writer’s interest to be indiscreet.

Expect the best

Ghost writers will typically come from a background in journalism and should be able to demonstrate an objective, critical eye for topics that matter. Using those skills the writer should quickly be able to grasp complex issues and concerns that are relevant to you or the subject on whose behalf they’ll be writing. The aim must always be to build a coherent argument that supports your message; it is the ghost writer’s job to understand quickly what that message will be and convert that into persuasive prose.

Trust is implicit between a ghost writer and their subject
Trust is implicit between a ghost writer and their subject

Agree the fee up front

Depending upon your relationship with the writer, fees can either be charged based on time spent for the work or on the basis of word count. The latter is often a simpler option owing to the fact that unlimited redrafts may be required.

Demand unlimited redrafts

Be sure only to publish exactly what you are comfortable with and bearing that in mind a ghost writer should always be expected to draft and re-draft their articles until you are completely happy. This may be required more often at the beginning of a relationship with a writer; the more often you work with them the easier it can be for everyone to begin singing from the same song sheet.

Work within the deadline

If you’ve hired a practising journalist they should be familiar with publishing deadlines. As such their first drafts should be completed well in advance of the date on which you are expected to deliver the finished article – also known as the copy deadline. Clients such as law firms often have numerous layers of approval required before external communications material can be published so this approach is a must for clients as much as it is for the writer.

Exploit the writer’s skill

You’ve hired a ghost writer to make you look and sound good so allow them to express themselves through prose. A ghost writer can be a powerful asset to any external communications strategy, creating articles, speeches or presentations that compel an audience into action.

Post by: Ralph Savage / Website:
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.