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What Does Thought Leadership Mean? To Ghost or Not to Ghost

thought leadership

I have a love/hate relationship with thought leadership and ghosting. Ready to leave a party but don’t want to interrupt conversations for awkward good-byes? That’s the perfect opportunity to ghost. Ready to break up with someone without facing them? That’s a cowardly ghost.

Ghostwriting — just like ghosting — brings up mixed feelings. This is especially true when it comes to thought leadership, which should provide expert knowledge, be compellingly written, and adhere to brand guidelines.

Thought leadership in content procurement

There are a few ways you can go: having employees write content, hiring ghostwriters, or using journalists to write stories.

In my experience, each comes with its own set of pros and cons. There’s not one best option; it all depends on your brand, your customers, and your resources.

Write Your Own Material

Pros: This option is the least expensive and has the most integrity. The experts are the authors. It may not be Hemingway, but that’s part of the charm — customers want to get to know the people behind the brand before they purchase. Plus, your experts can get into technical details more effectively than outsiders.

Cons: It may not cost money, but it’ll certainly cost time. Also, while your experts understand the subject matter, they likely won’t have the skills to translate that to a layperson. Even if they do, they might stray from your official voice and tone, diluting your brand.

Call the Ghostwriters

Pros: Writers shape knowledge into articles that will be read and shared. You’ll save time and rest easy knowing your content is being handled by pros who’ll adhere to corporate style. (We know, anxiety about voice and tone consistency keeps us up at night, too.)

Cons: Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, and good writing costs money. Sure, outsourcing the work saves some time, but hiring writers, giving them the necessary information, and reviewing their work take time, too. You also risk alienating savvy customers, who may be skeptical of your internal engineering expert’s sudden ability to pen white papers. If this is the case, keep your expert heavily involved in the process.

Hire a Journo

Pros: When you hire a journalist to write a story, employees are treated like the experts they are — as quoted sources in a larger story. This content can achieve many strategic content marketing goals — search optimization, brand affinity, information sharing — in a direct, accessible, objective way.

Cons: Just like hiring ghostwriters, this costs money and time. Additionally, while your experts will get to showcase their know-how, the spotlight won’t be focused solely on them. This format doesn’t allow for true thought-leadership pieces, since there isn’t as much room for strong POVs and in-depth knowledge. Along those lines, it can’t be applied to white papers and reports either.

So which way do you go? In addition to the time and resources available, your content marketing strategy will be a deciding factor. What goals are you trying to achieve? Increased brand affinity? Consider a bylined or ghostwritten story. Educating or providing information? Try a journalist-penned story. With detailed analysis of technical issues, stay closer to stories bylined by your own staff. The more detailed, the more involved your staff has to be, down to possibly writing the content themselves.

Need help with your own thought-leadership pieces? Contact me.