A version of this post was originally published on Muck Rack.
When leading PR for an executive (or a team of executives), one of the most challenging assignments is ghostwriting.
The balance of advocating for the business, having a point of view on pertinent industry issues, maintaining an authentic voice and being concise often requires a lot of practice. And, if you’re working as an outsourced partner, you’re likely juggling ghostwriting for multiple clients, adding an increasing layer of complexity.
Fortunately, there are ways to accelerate the ghostwriting process and adapt an executive’s voice in support of reaching business and thought leadership objectives. Here are a few tips for speeches, op-eds, quotes, owned thought leadership and other forms of content:
1. Study your subject
To effectively communicate on an executive’s behalf, you have to understand the individual, their career path, their interests and what gets them excited. Resources like bios, social media accounts, Google search results and previous public remarks or speeches will give you a good sense of the executive’s background.
After analyzing these materials, you’ll be able to identify the information you need to formulate a point of view and thought leadership platform. Doing your homework is just the first step.
2. Spend time with your executive and pick up on tailored words, phrases, ideas
Now that you’re well-informed about your subject, you’ll need to capture nuances. If given the opportunity, spend time with the executive.
More importantly, you'll want to examine the person in his or her leadership role using natural dialogue with colleagues. Which main idea does this person focus on? Which phrases or sentence structures are unique to this individual? Get granular: Which words do they use in speech?
3. Use simple language
Most leaders use brevity and impact when they speak—an impressive trait! An executive’s writing style should reflect this style; remember, authenticity is key.
4. Make it substantive
If you listen closely to executives, they very rarely speak just for the sake of it. Instead, it’s calculated and tactical - they offer direction, insight and feedback. Especially when drafting media-facing materials, any quotes or insights from executives should be both substantive and additive.
5. Tell great stories
What is it about stories that engage and captivate us?
In the age of information overload, good stories keep us interested. Telling a story is a great way to ensure that your executive stands out and keeps the reader engaged. Stories can more effectively share anecdotes, lessons learned and influence and inspire others.
6. Always tie back to thought leadership or business objectives
As communicators, we have to make sure that outcomes and outputs ladder up to the culture of a company and its business and communications objectives. One way to do that is to reference or directly talk about values, ideas and growth initiatives in an authentic way.
Ghostwriting is not an easy task, but constantly improving on listening to your executive effectively, working on certain writing skills, and focusing on the substance can help PR pros ace the task.
Julia Sahin is a vice president, Financial Communications & Capital Markets, New York.