Everyone has something to say, but does everyone have a voice? Having collaborated on many projects with a wide range of professionals, Wordsmithie’s answer is “Yes!” The explosion of social media offers unprecedented opportunities for businesses to engage their audiences. A good ghostwriter can help them find their voices and fine-tune their messages.
Here are a few tips for working with clients on blogposts, newsletter articles, appeal letters, editorials and other pieces.
What’s their writing style?
First, review the client’s current materials—blogposts, email campaigns, bylined articles or direct mail. Read up on the client’s industry and check out what their competition is writing. Then ask the client to describe his or her own writing style. Is it brief and to the point, warm and humorous, or reserved and confident? As we noted in our post on why writing shorter takes longer, conversational writing works across multiple media. Listening to how clients express their thoughts helps you hone in on their writing style.
Chat ’em up in an interview.
Email interviews can save time, but there’s nothing like a phone interview to let clients’ personality shine through. Email clients questions in advance to give them time to think about their answers. Try recapping the project before diving into the interview, reassuring them that they’ll have time for review and easing them into the conversation. We often record interviews and have them transcribed, so we don’t miss a single word. (Also see our tips for conducting interviews.)
Listen for good quotes!
Unless the clients are professional speakers or politicians, they’re unlikely to speak in thought bites that can be put verbatim into writing. Writers do a lot of editing and paraphrasing to condense a 10-page transcript into a 500-word blogpost. Still, I always highlight the best quotes, if they say it better than I could write it. These quotes set the tone of a piece and let a client’s true voice shine through.
Pay attention to word choice, length of the sentences and cadence of speech. All these elements come into play when writing in the client’s voice. Imagine yourself both in the client’s shoes and those of the audience. Does the piece ring true? Could the client’s significant other read it and recognize the voice behind the words? And leave plenty of time to review and revise the final written piece until everyone is satisfied.
Writing can be daunting for businesspeople who either don’t have the time or inclination to write. That’s why they come to us, and we’re delighted to help. A good ghostwriter remains invisible, while helping clients find their voices and connect with their audiences.