5 ways to do it better
At Tribe, we’re not big fans of ghostwriting for internal communications — because it tends to undermine authenticity. Having a copywriter try to emulate the voice and style of one of the company’s executive leaders can be a hit or miss proposition, and employees are likely to recognize that it was written for, and not by, their CEO or other exec, to the detriment of trust.
Still, there are times ghostwriting is necessary. Occasionally we’ll have a top executive who truly cannot find time to squeeze in a 20-minute interview or to respond to a handful of emailed questions.
When ghostwriting does become your only option for sharing leadership thinking with employees, here are a few tips to make that ghostwriting as successful as possible:
Pick a writer who knows the executive
Sometimes an internal writer who has had a lot of exposure to a specific executive can do a good job of capturing that leader’s voice. Or, if you’ve worked with the same communications agency for several years, there may be someone there who’s spent considerable time with that executive and interviewed him or her for previous articles or videos.
Give the writer examples of previous writings
Find articles, speeches and presentations, or even emails, that this executive has written on their own in the past. They can help give the writer a sense of the executive’s style and tone of voice. Do they write in short, direct sentences? Or do they string long clauses together? Is their style more casual or formal? Do they use contractions?
Send the writer video links
Videos — or even better, a podcast — featuring the executive can be very useful for the writer. They can yield the conversational building blocks in heavy rotation with that executive, such as commonly used adjectives (great, super, fantastic, exquisite) and transitional or ending statements (At the end of the day, bottom line, for sure, no doubt, definitely).
Give the writer some personal background
Learning more about the executive’s life experience can help a writer in subtle ways by offering some context. Is the executive’s work experience in technology or manufacturing? Do they have an advanced degree? Where did they grow up? What do they do for fun? This stuff may sound unimportant, but it helps provide a fuller picture of the human being behind the title.
Encourage the executive to edit for personality
Ask the executive to spend a few minutes reviewing the article — not just for accuracy of content — but as a personality check. Encourage them to identify phrases or words they really wouldn’t use — and to substitute the sorts of things they would say. And remind them this isn’t about their vanity, but respect for employees. They deserve to hear from leadership in the executives’ own words.