Sometimes I Just Can’t Be a Ghost…

by Linda Pophal

Having worked for organizations and their senior leaders and spokespeople for a number of years as director of corporate communications and marketing in various fields I’ve long been familiar—and quite comfortable—with the concept of ghostwriting. Ghostwriters write content for others. That content might be in the form of a speech, a presentation, an email, an article, a letter to the editor, a book-length manuscript, or a wide range of other applications.

After leaving the “corporate world” I’ve continued to do a great deal of ghostwriting, possibly even more, as I create social media posts, blog posts, white papers, case studies, articles and, yes, even books that others will claim as their own.

It doesn’t bother me—usually. And that’s probably most likely because I was so used to it as part of my communications career. But every once in a while it does bother me.

The Problem I Sometimes Have With Ghostwriting

Every once in a while I find myself writing something that I begin to feel very proprietary about. As I’m writing, I’m thinking: “Do I really want to give credit for this over to someone else?”

It’s not that the copy I’m writing is so brilliant—or that it’s so unique—that its publication would result in instant fame, fortune and acclaim for whoever’s name accompanied it. And, it’s not that I’ve had a client explicitly ask me to write something that strays into my area of thought leadership. It tends to happen more as I’m coming up with content ideas and moving forward with a concept for a client only to begin to think, “do I really want to have this be theirs and not mine?”

It’s just that it feels that it’s too much “mine” to give up.

I tend to be fairly introspective. So, as I was having this experience again recently (for the third time in as many months), I began to think about why. And I’ve come to a conclusion. I can’t sell out my own personal brand.

My Personal Brand: A Line in the Sand

Much of the work I do for clients is on topics that I didn’t know much about before I started working with them. Or, I knew a little, but the scope of my expertise and “thought leadership” was limited. They’re the experts. I’m the translator. It’s easy to be a ghostwriter in these situations, even as I become more and more “expert” on their areas of expertise and thought leadership.

In some cases, though, I’ll take on a project or come up with an idea for a client that hits too close to home. It’s content, or a premise, that feels uniquely “mine”—it reflects my expertise, my personal brand, or my unique brand of thought leadership. And I don’t want to give it away—or sell it, no matter how high the fee.

The bottom line for me: I’m happy for my clients to pay me to help them leverage their thought leadership. But I need the foundational thoughts, the premise and thought leadership of the content, to be theirs. That’s my personal line in the sand.

I know there are other content marketers that read this blog. What do you think? Have you run into situations where you found yourself thinking, or saying, “I just can’t give this away”?

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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