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When to Hire a Ghost-Writer

It's compelling. Mention "ghost-writer" and inevitably people will say, "Oh that's interesting. What does that mean?"

It's also common. Most books and articles "authored" by experts are actually written by an expert, like me.

Everyone has a great story to tell, but very few know how to tell it or have the time. It's a dream job for writers like me, who hail from journalism, with a career baked in public relations and have been blessed to work with amazing authors and various industries.

Content is king. It always has been, and now more than ever, content is what drives the commerce kingdom. Before going further, "ghost-writer" is a fancy way of saying the writer gets paid a fee, in lieu of any ownership rights or residual income or royalties or credit. But don't let the term fool you, most companies have personnel from the marketing communications arena that write on behalf of the company or corporate brand.

Ghost-writers are all around us. Every company and brand should have a consistent voice, style and rhythm. So, it's natural to assign one person to oversee the content, and contribute as periodically as deemed necessary to the social media domain.

I prefer the term "ghost-writer" over public relations professional or media relations expert. PR folks -- aka spin doctors, sources close to the story, press secretaries, public information officers, spokespeople -- get a bad rap. Most people couldn't tell you one legitimate thing about public relations. And no, it's not that we're good with people.

PR people are writers. They craft messages to reach the right audience at the right time through the right vehicle. They measure public opinion and public sentiment, pushing items, thoughts and people toward a trend tipping point. PR people are connectors. PR people are thinkers.Often, PR pros get labeled "publicists," which can have negative connotations too.

Still, most of the news consumed on the national and local levels are aided by actions of a PR pro trying to get the message across.Today, social media has blurred the lines of traditional media. Twitter breaks news faster than CNN. Consumers are selecting social media feeds instead of traditional choices. So, while television, radio, magazines and news print will always remain stable media outlets, today corporate brands must prepare to think of themselves as their own media outlet.This is where the ghost-writer, or senior writer/editor (or PR pro), comes in.

Therefore, let's get to the point, here's when to hire a ghost-writer with high-level PR expertise:

1. Crisis -- Any threat to business reputation or product sales is considered a crisis. The severity can vary. Nevertheless, when tensions are high, money is on the line, and everyone is watching, it's good to hire an outsider who can smooth things out, both internally and externally. I've seen crises be turned to opportunity when responding appropriately. The best time to hire a ghost-writer is before the crisis occurs, and establish an "emergency communications" plan. But without that, better to put my number on speed dial.

2. New product (book) -- Particularly with a book, bringing in a writer during the developmental stage is critical for establishing the direction and understanding the history behind the project. Typically, a book will require a 6-12-month timeframe in order to develop a platform, and credibility so a following of fans develop. The ghost-writer gathers information, conducts interviews, and begins to establish the brand voice and style, writing drafts for review, and pushing the project forward.

3. New (or existing) company -- Similar to a new product, the sooner you can bring in a writer, the better. They become among a brand's most valued advisors, crafting comments based on desired strategy and target market. At times, I'll be asked to help with the business planning, to help explain the nuances of market research and the opportunity. Not all businesses need a writer, but I can tell you, they should have one nonetheless.

4. New strategy (or science) -- For corporate turnarounds, mergers or major scientific breakthroughs, get a writer on board to take a deep-dive into the details, finding what can, and cannot be shared publicly, and shape the messaging for media consumption.

5. Education marketing era -- Every business should embrace this social media age which is fueled by consumer demand for information. That's why we have entered an education marketing era where content has never been more king. If you don't have a spit-and-polished bio, and quality photo, corporate backgrounder, fact sheet and relevant news or blog, then you're risking your brand's reputation. People make up their minds quickly, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." So, get the fundamentals nailed down with the help of a professional writer.Then, educate. Fascinate your audience. Be compelling.


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About the Author

David Jahr, BizEx Marketing
106 Sumida Gardens Lane, Apt 107
Santa Barbara, CA 93111
949 874 2667

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