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  • Brian Castle

Ghostwriting: A Better Way to Advance Executive Thought Leadership


We actually see a lot of great content online, and I like to think that we’re a part of that at Parklife. In virtually every industry, there are founders and executives who are innovating, pushing forward new leadership philosophies, and taking new approaches to their business models in ways that work better for their customers and employees.


Some of these founders and executives are stating their cases, rather eloquently, in online forums, some of which they own (blogs, social media) and in articles placed in appropriate trade media and mainstream outlets. What’s their secret? Do they have a lot of time on their hands? And are they all great writers, on top of being great executives?


The secret for many is that they work with a ghostwriter. While many may think that having a ghostwriter is unethical or inauthentic, I’d make the opposite case. Every time we’ve worked with a business leader, it’s been a full collaboration. The creative process actually starts and ends with the executive, with the professional writer filling in the big gap of production in-between. To understand this dynamic, you have to understand the common ways that ghostwriters and executives work together.


Collaborations can take many shapes. Some of the people I’ve worked with like to get some bullet points down—the main outline on a subject—and let us flesh out a draft for them to refine. Others like to take a stab at what we might call a “non-writer’s first draft,” just getting as many of their thoughts on a document as quickly as they can.


Still others use methods that don’t involve the written word to get their thoughts across to their ghostwriter. I always get really excited when Joe McCutcheon, an innovator in the residential cleaning business, sends me a voice note dictated to his iPhone. There’s something old school about that (my dad sold dictation equipment to doctors, lawyers, and bankers when I was a kid), but it gets the job done. Joe always conveys his excitement for the matter at hand, and it’s really easy to hear where his passion lies on a given subject.


One of my favorite ways to capture the thoughts of thought leaders is to interview them, either by phone or on camera. It’s an emerging best practice now, that when you’re shooting video interviews, which can yield a collection of shorts suitable for YouTube and Vimeo, as well as distribution on social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you take the transcripts and shape even more content suitable for blogs. We’re putting this practice into play in our work with the formidable team at Celero Commerce. In effect, when you put this practice into play, you’re able to create a virtual thought leadership platform, versus just creating video work.


So the answer for many business leaders isn’t simply making time to write. Some of the more brilliant folks I’ve worked with, all of whom write just as well as we do, tell me it’s a matter of time. And it’s not always what you think, that they don’t have time to sit down and write something. It’s an acknowledgement that the professional writer can do in 30 minutes to two hours what others may find turns into hours of staring at a blank document on their computer screen. We get paid to be good, but perhaps just as important, we get paid to be fast.


While just about everything in business, especially in companies that are service-oriented, is a function of expertise, time, and cost, the advancement of thought leadership, I would advise, is better-suited to collaboration. I think that when you’re working with a ghostwriter, especially one that’s asking all the right questions of you during the creative process, you’ll better fully-realize your ideas. And when you have a strong collaborative workflow, the resulting material will be both ethically generated and authentic.

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