I have no problem outsourcing my tax.
I don’t think Jacinda Ardern has any less credibility because she uses a speech writer.
And I’m very comfortable that people know I get a plumber round to fix my toilet.
So why do many of us feel slightly uncomfortable about outsourcing content writing? Do we feel that it isn’t projecting an authentic voice? Do we feel we’re somehow deceiving readers by putting our name on an article that our fingers didn’t type?
It all comes down to trust
The big currency in today’s age of Photoshopped bodies, deepfakes and rigged elections.
Building trust with your customers is a key benefit of putting your blood, sweat and tears into content marketing. It was one of the top content marketing goals achieved for B2B businesses in the last year, with 75% saying they have effectively built credibility and trust through their content (Content Marketing Institute)
But the reality is that many leaders and subject matter experts don’t have time to write their own content. Outsourcing or hiring a professional to “ghostwrite” content sometimes becomes a practical necessity.
In this case, should we be totally transparent and disclose that in fact Joe Blogs is named as the author but didn’t write the words? Even if he thought and spoke those words?
Would this engender more or less trust with our customers?
Moving to content “co-creation”
The way I see it, good content writing is a partnership based on complementing skills. The experts have the ideas, I have the writing skills. I take their ideas and shape them into words that connect with their audience.
More and more content writers and marketing teams are moving to a co-creation model and I celebrate this.
Getting someone else to write your content acts as a bridge between your expertise and your target audience. A good content writer can tell your story in an engaging way, weaving in target keywords, strategic links and calls to action. These are important elements many experts forget to include when they’re (rightfully) focused on communicating their message.
Quality ghostwriting strengthens your authentic voice
If someone asked me to write an article, simply giving me a topic and a few dot points to go on, I’d probably say no.
I don’t work like that.
I don’t have the expertise. I lean heavily on my subject matter expert’s ideas and simply arrange the words in a pleasing way.
You are the gin and tonic, I am the lime that brings it all together (and adds a little sparkle)
Take the last article I wrote. I interviewed a Professor of Law on his thoughts on artificial intelligence.
We had a 30 minute interview in which we discussed a range of topics (set by me after some background research). We had a fantastic conversation which became the basis for the article.
As I write, I try hard not to alter the language too much, keeping as much of the humour and subtle nuances in language as would allow.
The professor then reviewed it, made a few tweaks to clarify some points and we were done.
Would it have been better if he had written it himself?
Maybe. I’m not so arrogant to think I am a better writer than anyone else. But he was stoked with the article, it captured his thoughts well, and it took him less than 30 minutes on the phone (over a chilled glass of wine I believe). This was his actual feedback:
“Clare’s writing was compelling and clear, with a distinctive voice that even sounded like me. I had the distinct impression as I read the piece that I’d actually written it – even though I knew I hadn’t!”
Does the fact that he didn’t physically type the words into a document mean he isn’t the author?
Personally, I think this view is far too black and white for modern content creation. In the age of automation, people have awoken to the fact that we need to focus our efforts on the areas we can each make an impact.
Leading people, coming up with innovative ideas for growth, developing new products. This is where leaders should be focusing their efforts, not on toiling over a keyboard.
Whether you choose to write your own articles or let someone else handle it, make sure you choose someone who will capture “you” in the article. This usually means a bit more time (and investment) is needed but in the end you have something you’re proud to put your name on.
If you would like to co-create an article together, get in touch.