Marketing Yourself via Ghostwriting
When considering a business purchase, which do you feel is a more credible source of information—a vendor’s Web site loaded with cloudy benefits or a published article featuring an actual user of that product? An article ghostwritten by you for one of your best clients then published in a national trade publication provides a credible sales message that is impossible to doubt. Why is that?
Trade publication stories kindle believability. According to a study conducted by Siegal & Gale, trade publications enjoy the highest of credibility rankings. In fact, they top the list over other information sources such as Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Newsweek and CNN.
An article describing how you recently solved a client’s problem breeds trustworthiness and becomes a powerful endorsement. The result is credibility, name recognition and the perception that you are an expert in your field. In terms of influence, with readership in trade publications often ranging from 50,000 to half a million, there’s a huge potential to influence many prospects.
If you want a reliable and repeatable marketing technique that results in articles about yourself, ghostwriting for your best clients is a peerless method. Treasure that client—an individual who uses and swears by your service. The reason you want to ghostwrite the story yourself is that if you don’t, the article might never be written. An even more compelling reason is that when you write it, you can subtly influence the article on your behalf. When done correctly, the result is your company on the receiving end of leads and sales.
Ghostwriting a normal-length article of about 1,400 words—roughly two pages long—is not complex. With the tips provided here, it’s possible to do it yourself. It isn’t magic, and to be published you don’t have to know someone who knows someone at the publication. In fact, editors frequently look outside their staff of writers for stories. You’re reading one of those very stories right now.
A Few Steps
The first step in ghostwriting an article is contacting your best client and asking if you may share the successes they’ve had when using your services. Simply explain the following:
- Their time commitment will not exceed three to five hours during the upcoming month.
- Your interview with them will last no longer than 30 minutes. It will be conducted by telephone and recorded – with their permission of course – to ensure accuracy and to hold their time away from work to a minimum.
- They and their company will receive free publicity.
- They will be viewed as a knowledgeable source of information, which will make them more valuable to their company, future employers (articles look great on resumes) and potential clients of their own should they have a business.
- They retain full approval and editing rights, including the right to kill the story at any time.
- Once you find a candidate who agrees to be your “consulting author,” set an exact interview time.
- Call your consulting author at the scheduled time and begin the interview as a simple conversation to help avoid any jitters.
- Steer the conversation to obtain information stressing how your product improved their quality, performance and cost. These topics will most interest a trade publication’s readers.
- Ask questions to get solid examples and good quotes you can use in the story. Besides adding authenticity and relevance to the article, questions keep both of you more at ease and conversational instead of stilted and nervous.
Usually, you will find consulting authors very willing to share information, data and the procedures they used in solving their problem. If you encounter an individual who is understandably skittish about sharing proprietary data, simply offer to mask the data by referring to it as “Formula A” or “Data Set B.” Don’t use false data—just information that still tells your readers an accurate story while not revealing any company secrets.
Editors Want Information
As you ghostwrite the article, remember this—editors accept stories for publication only when the promotional tone is nearly non-existent and the story provides information appropriate to the publication’s readers. Trade publications exhibit unique characteristics that reflect their readers’ preferences. You’ll have a better chance of an editor accepting your article when your style matches the style of the publication.
Write in the first person for your consulting author. Clearly describe the problem and the solution. Use clear, upbeat, short sentences. And by all means, use the consulting author’s name, company and title in the byline. Take no credit for the story. If you do, it dilutes the credibility of the story and its value to your company. Leave your ego at home on the day you write the story.
It Takes Time
Once you’ve completed the story, obtain all necessary approvals and sign-offs in writing before forwarding the article to only one editor at a time. Editors demand exclusivity and will not kindly remember your company for a long time if they see the same story in a competitor’s magazine. If an editor turns down your article, then forward it another publication.
How long does this ghostwriting process take? From initial interview to actual publication usually takes several weeks. Four primary factors cause this delay:
- Drawn-out review times by the consulting authors. No matter how excited and motivated a consulting author is when interviewed, once it comes time for them to review about 1,400 words of draft text, time seems to stand still.
- Extended periods in obtaining signed releases from managers, lawyers (if needed) and marketing personnel within the consulting author’s company.
- Harried editors who are too pressed for time from too many requests for PR, favors and other article submissions.
- Once accepted by an editor, the production time span to a printed story is a long chute with plenty of gates.
If you’re not keen on the idea of ghostwriting an article yourself, hire someone to do it for you. Some PR firms charge $4 per word and more depending on the complexity. If the price sounds high, consider this—a 1,400-word article fills almost two trade publication pages. In comparison, just one typical full-page ad in a publication with a modest circulation of 50,000 readers costs around $11,000. That’s just for the space alone and doesn’t include the cost of creative and production work charged by ad agencies. An advertisement that consumes as much space as a two-page article ghostwritten by you regularly costs three or four times the amount of a story. Now there’s a rationale for you bean counters.
Looking beyond the obvious marketing and promotional advantages of your published article, there is an additional huge value—reprints. You’ve probably had reprints forwarded to you from helpful colleagues, but when is the last time anyone other than a sales rep ever sent you a reprint of an ad? Again I ask, which do you consider a more credible source of information?
Use article reprints in a number of ways:
- Trade Shows: Reprints inspire trust and credibility when handed out in person.
- Direct Mail: Send reprints to prospects for impact.
- Requests for Proposals: Furnish a reprint (and its inherent trustworthiness) with your proposals.
- Point of Purchase: A reprint in a kiosk or display has the power to sell by itself.
- Investors: Reprints are captivating and influential inserts in your annual reports and are helpful in other financial offerings.
A ghostwritten article provides potential customers a credible solution from someone who has increased productivity, reduced costs or improved quality. The advantage of that article is that it comes from a customer—an actu