| Oct 27, 2021

Executives Have Ghostwriter Problems – Here’s Why

Ghostwriters must relearn how to tap into their original goals of being artists, a trait that has often been conditioned out of them, in order to find a balance between real truths and personal stories that creates a lasting impact.
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Have you ever noticed how most people will answer with some variation of the word “fine” when you ask them how their day is going? Your good friend might tell you the truth, but most of our daily interactions aren’t with good friends. Your co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, the barber – you’re unlikely to get an honest answer out of them. 

Are these lies? Not necessarily, but they aren’t the truth. If your cashier gave you the truth, you’d probably be taken aback. If you greeted a random co-worker at the office by launching into a soliloquy about how your bills have been stacking up, you might suddenly find her avoiding you in the hall. In other words, there’s a difference in how we talk to one person over another. We interact with each other differently, and some people get closer to the truth about our lives than others. Social graces could be called white lies, because not everyone should (or needs to) experience a full truth. The same is true when writing articles. But readers are looking to you for truths, not simplifications or white lies. 

How Writing Has Drifted From the Truth

Many of the articles you can find online are heavy on information but short on truth. Take your hypothetical article from Bob Jones on five tips for investing in stocks. Many online articles leave the reader questioning what they just read or if Mr. Jones really has any clue what he’s talking about. 

Even if we’re novices at investing, we can tell when there’s some gradient of untruth or some fib. As it turns out, Bob Jones hired someone to put together 800 words. He cobbled together some information, but he really doesn’t know what he’s writing. He might not be flat-out lying (although that’s not unheard of on the internet), but he’s not conveying any real truth. Articles of this type are virtually meaningless – they are forgotten quickly and rarely (if ever) impact the reader.

Getting Back to the Personal

Truth is more profound than just information. It’s communication on a personal level. Unfortunately, our communications are polluted when they’re constantly filtered through social media, quick Google snippets, and media sites after clicks or other ulterior motives. These minefields are the battlegrounds where executives and their ghostwriters now find themselves. 

The ghostwriter relationship doesn’t automatically lend itself to truth. It’s paradoxical in that the art of ghostwriting is to transcend insincerity and to introduce the reader to the actual person behind the byline. A good ghostwriter can convey their client’s genuine emotions, thoughts, and feelings on a particular topic. A great ghostwriter takes that information and crafts a compelling narrative that leaves the reader wanting more, not less. 

Readers are not looking for merely a list of facts – they can find that anywhere. They are looking for stories, for real truths that will leave a lasting impression and shift their way of thinking. 


Observe, Pursue, and Extract the Nuggets of Truth

So, what’s an aspiring ghostwriter to do? They have to wade through the stream-of-consciousness interviews, briefs, and previous written works to find the nuggets of truth. In other words, they have to do three things: observe, pursue, and extract.

  • Observe: Communication isn’t just words. There’s emotion behind those words. Look for a sudden glint in the eye, a quicker speaking tempo, a slight bump in the volume — some indication that the person is experiencing emotion. A ghostwriter needs to be observant of not only words but behaviors.
  • Pursue: When you find those subtle changes in voice or inflection, you have to pursue those topics. Home in on them like a hunter, and don’t let them go. Say, “Hey, what were you talking about just there? Yes, I’d like to know more about that. The ghostwriter acts on observations in order to go deeper by pursuing the topics that elicit a response. 
  • Extract: Our opinions and emotions are built on our experiences. People build relationships through the stories they tell, and those anecdotes have been lost in the virtual world. Ghostwriters have to extract those stories and find a way to impart wisdom through the stories. 

Have the Courage to Ask… and Tell

The steps seem simple, but extracting the truth is no easy task. A guy I knew asked me for some financial assistance once. I was in the middle of some rocky times myself, so I told him I couldn’t help him out. I wasn’t aware that he and his wife were having difficulties, and he took my flippant response personally. He hated me for two years, and I had no idea why.

Under normal circumstances, most of us would probably just write that guy off and go on with our lives, never having the courage to dig a little deeper. But, asking him what his problem was with me and not accepting a curt “nothing” as an answer got me to a well of bottled-up emotion. Tears were shed, but at the end I walked away knowing that I had caught a glimpse through the insincerity that plagues so much of our daily lives. I had glimpsed this man’s truth.

These emotions, stories, and life lessons are the only things worth reading about.

So, all a good ghostwriter needs to do is chase down the glimpses of truth behind people’s facades. Recognize them, pursue them relentlessly, and ask the questions necessary to get to the person behind the words. Breaking through the communication barrier and getting to something real allows ghostwriters to write about more than information — they can write about the truth.

Brook Zimmatore
Executive Author

CEO & Co-Founder, Massive Alliance

Brook is a media and publishing technologist and CEO at Massive Alliance. view profile


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