Thinking about hiring a ghostwriter? Make sure they’ll also be a ghost thinker

The best ghostwriters don’t just write. They work with their clients to frame their ideas in ways that produce content that is relevant, valuable, and compelling to their target audiences.

If you are thinking about hiring a thought leadership ghostwriter, as you vet potential candidates, make sure the one you choose lets you know they will also serve as a “ghost thinker.”

What most people don’t realize when they work with ghostwriters is that the act of writing is only part of the value a ghostwriter provides. A ghostwriter should also be helping their clients frame their thoughts about a subject and structure them in an article or other piece of content.

The importance of ghost thinking when ghostwriting

The best ghostwriters don’t just write what their clients tell them to write.

Instead, the best ghostwriters work with a client to frame an idea the client has in a way that will resonate with the client’s target audiences, and then create a structure for a written piece of content containing the client’s idea that ensures it is relevant, valuable, and compelling to those audiences. This is especially true when we’re talking about ghostwriting thought leadership content for attorneys.

Many pieces of thought leadership content in the legal field will focus on developments in the law, such as court decisions, new legislation, and regulatory actions. This kind of content is straightforward. The ghostwriter will review the language of the court decision, legislation, or regulatory action, write an accurate summary of it, and then weave in the client’s views about the “now what” or “so what” of the development.

But sometimes an attorney will want to work with a ghostwriter regarding an “evergreen” topic (i.e., one that’s not tied to a recent legal development) that the attorney has not fully thought through. Perhaps the attorney wants to write about taking depositions of expert witnesses, or a deal they worked on that required an innovative approach, or the emergence of two approaches to litigating a particular kind of case. They’re just not sure about the angle from which they’ll approach the topic.

When this is the case, the best ghostwriters serve as ghost thinkers.

They work with the attorney to develop the structure of the thought leadership article by asking questions about the topic, the attorney’s views on the topic, and the attorney’s experience regarding the topic.

If done correctly, the ghostwriter has pulled from the attorney the substance they’ll need for writing the article, in a structure—developed in real time—that the ghostwriter has determined would make the content as relevant, valuable, and compelling as possible.

Ghost thinking in action

For example, an article about depositions of expert witnesses could take many forms. The most basic one would be “Five best practices for deposing expert witnesses.” The topic might be of interest to an attorney’s target audiences, but this particular framing is one that has been used time and time again. For that reason, those target audiences might not be interested in this article.

But if the ghostwriter pushes the attorney toward more interesting angles, such as common misconceptions about deposing experts, or a discussion of the four-pronged strategy the attorney used to elicit deposition testimony from an expert that changed the direction of a litigation, the ghostwriter has given a fresh angle to a well-worn topic.

The same thing goes for an article discussing the emergence of two approaches to litigating a particular kind of case. The mere fact that there are two approaches may not be particularly compelling to an attorney’s target audiences, especially if these two approaches have been employed for a while now.

But if the ghostwriter asks the attorney questions that elicit insights that push the article in a more compelling direction, such as comparing and contrasting the two methods or discussing recent trends in these two methods, the attorney and the ghostwriter will now have an article about this topic that’s more interesting to the target audience.

Ghost thinking is simple, but not easy

Ghost thinking is a skill that looks easy but is not. The best analogy I can make is what many characters in the LEGO Movie and LEGO Movie 2 do when they build objects with LEGOs.

If you didn’t see the movies, when the characters build objects from LEGOs, the pieces come together on the fly. A vehicle may still be coming together, with LEGO pieces flying in from all directions to assemble it, as a character jumps on it and begins to drive it.

That’s what ghostwriters who are ghost thinkers do.

As they are chatting with their client, they start to see an outline develop in their minds for the piece of content being discussed.

Once that outline comes into focus, the ghostwriter can steer the conversation in a way that helps them elicit from the client the substance they need to write the article with, based on the angle that they’ve determined would be most relevant, valuable, and compelling given what they know about the client’s target audiences and the client’s goal for this particular piece of content.

When a ghostwriter can be a ghost thinker and guide their client toward the optimal substance and structure for a piece of content during a conversation, the ghostwriter also ensures they’re using their client’s time most efficiently.

They should only need one conversation with their client because they should be asking the right questions to elicit the right information for the content since they’re mapping out the content’s substance in real time during the conversation. They’re seeing in their minds the outline of the content before it is written, so they know what questions to ask of their client and what points to follow up on.

When you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, you’re in the market for a ghost thinker too

If you’re interested in hiring a thought leadership ghostwriter, you’ll want to make sure they’ll serve as a ghost thinker too.

If they will, you and your colleagues will get a better bang for your buck because your ghostwriter will produce more relevant, valuable, and compelling content and require less time from you and your colleagues.

To be sure a ghostwriter you’re vetting will serve as a ghost thinker, ask them questions about their process. Their description of it should make it clear they are a ghost thinker.

If they’re not going to serve as a ghost thinker, they’re not going to push you and your colleagues to think about how to discuss the topics you want to discuss in your thought leadership in a way that will resonate most strongly with your target audience.

If you’re confident that you and your colleagues can do that on your own, that’s fine. But chances are that you and they could use a little help getting there.

That help is exactly the kind of help a ghostwriter who is also a ghost thinker provides.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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