It took a few weeks, but you’ve finally hired the perfect ghostwriter for your business’s blog. He’s experienced, he’s easy to work with, and his rate fits well within your marketing budget (cha-ching!).
You send him an outline for your first blog post and wait with eager anticipation to read his work…
…only for it to break your heart.
It isn’t bad, per se, but it just doesn’t represent you or your company well. Did you make a mistake in hiring him? Should you let him go?
Don’t panic. Any great writer thrives off effective, constructive feedback. Here’s what to know before you share your thoughts.
Did you provide your new writer with a strong outline ahead of time? How about a brief or a quick chat detailing your personal opinions about the subject matter? If they reached out with questions during the writing process, did you respond?
Writers can research indisputable facts about your industry and flesh out major points, but it’s impossible for them to research a subject matter expert’s opinion.
If you want the final draft to accurately represent your views, you need to clearly share those views ahead of time, whether in an interview, an outline, or a brief. This doesn’t mean you need to be TED Talk-level articulate; it just means the writer needs a solid understanding of your opinions before they start the first draft.
This is a big one, because I used to believe this. But the truth is, a ghostwriter won’t sound more like you than you do. At least, not you, personally. This is because 1) they aren’t you, and 2) replicating your voice isn’t the most important part of blog writing.
Hear me out.
When you first read a draft, it’s incredibly common to feel something like this: “I wouldn’t say that in real life!” The thing is, blog posts aren’t real life. They’re virtual tools meant to communicate your expertise to your target audience in the most effective way — and the way you speak in real life may not be the most effective way.
So, instead of asking, “Does this blog post sound exactly like me?” try to ask, “Does this blog post effectively communicate my expertise to my target audience while also representing my brand well?”
With the right information, a great writer will create a voice that does the latter.
If a writer doesn’t nail your brand voice right away, it doesn’t always mean they’re a bad writer. And it doesn’t always mean you didn’t provide them with clear materials ahead of time.
Finding a writer who nails your brand voice perfectly on the first try is like striking gold the first time you start digging. It happens, but it’s not normal. More often, you’ll find a little bit of gold here and there before you eventually strike it rich.
To guide your writer closer to the goal, provide them with effective types of feedback (more on that below) and take time to explain any inaccuracies you come across, especially if the person is unfamiliar with your industry. After two or three rounds of feedback, a good writer should nail your voice.
Most subject matter experts I work with are perfectionists — which is likely how they achieved success in the first place. If this is you, then even if you’re presented with the perfect blog post, you’ll probably want to change something.
Resisting that temptation will save you tons of wasted time and energy. Ask yourself these questions to determine when a change you’re itching to make is really just a personal preference:
Sometimes, the answer to these questions is yes. That sloppy writing will misrepresent your brand, or that confusing flow will affect whether readers get the point.
But sometimes the answer is no. It’s just not the way you would have written it, and it’s hard to let that go. But try — or you might as well be writing the post yourself.
Blogs are a very different form of media from books, magazines, or even website copy. They’re less prominent and permanent, and they can be changed or updated as needed.
People don’t read blogs the same way they read all those other forms of media. It’s a more casual format meant for quick consumption. Rather than consuming blog posts with rapt attention, readers skim, often scrolling through on mobile devices between meetings, on trains, or while eating lunch.
Because of this, blog posts don’t require the same level of scrutiny as books before they’re published. Don’t get me wrong: they should be high quality. But if you want to produce regular content, you can’t afford the time to refine every detail the way you would with content forms that take months and years to produce.
Also unlike print publications, once you hit “publish” on a blog, the game isn’t over. If, later down the line, you find a missed typo or an incorrect sentence, you can change it immediately.
Now that you understand some key truths about blog writing, it’s time to give your new ghostwriter some notes. Here’s how to get your message across clearly and eliminate unnecessary rounds of feedback:
Not only does specificity show your writers exactly what you are (and aren’t) looking for, it also eliminates the need for unnecessary back and forth for clarity.
As you review a blog post, point out specific turns of phrase that stand out to you as misrepresenting your brand voice. Adding why is a great bonus. With concrete details in hand, a great writer won’t keep making the same error.
Detail is your best friend.
I mentioned earlier that the key to a successful blog post is providing a detailed outline ahead of time. Well, detailed feedback is just as important. If your ghostwriter is struggling to make your suggested revisions, try the following:
Again, a great writer won’t keep making the same mistake. The more time you spend giving feedback up front, the less time you’ll have to spend later. But if you don’t communicate specific problems, you’ll end up firing writer after writer.
Test a few different forms of feedback with your writer. You can even ask which one they like best.
You might try:
Sometimes, you’ll read a draft that you just don’t like, and you’ll struggle to articulate why. This scenario is normal, and it’s important that your writer knows how you feel — but the worst feedback you can leave a writer is,
“I don’t like this.”
“This just doesn’t feel right.”
Or the ever-puzzling,
These may be true, but they don’t give your writer any direction for how to make corrections. They thought the content represented you when they wrote it. Without any specifics on what the problem is, they’re just stabbing in the dark — and they may miss the mark again.
If you’re struggling to put your finger on what you don’t like about a blog post, it could indicate a fundamental issue with tone or flow. Try to articulate a few specifics as well as you can, and explain what you’d like to see instead. A skilled writer will be able to draw good conclusions and take another crack at it.
As the business owner, you’re just as much a part of the blog writing process as your ghostwriter is. After all, the writer is representing your personal and professional brand, and your name is the one in the byline.
To build content you’re proud of, take the time to provide all the materials your writer needs to succeed, both before and after their first draft is complete.
Leslie Sattler is the editor in charge of writer hiring at Fluxe Digital Marketing, a content marketing shop that helps smart businesses create, produce, and promote content through a unique one-on-one interview process. She is a born-and-raised Long Islander and a graduate of New York University.