I’ve done quite a bit of ghost writing for blogs. Many worked well. Some didn’t.

Let me tell you when ghost blogging turned out to be a good idea and what derailed it during those times it didn’t.

  1. If you are blogging for a person who has a distinctive voice or is a guru on something highly technical, it rarely works to try and put words in that person’s mouth. For example, someone who knows all about networking protocols and their security implications. Reason: It’s hard to duplicate that voice accurately. This person knows their subject inside out. Their take on things is specific and unique. A ghost blogger can’t hope to mirror that easily.

I say, “easily” as it can be done. But the time consumed makes it unviable. Either the ghost blogger spends hours on the phone with the expert. Or the expert spends time fixing the blog so it reflects his or her views. At the end of the day, it is easier for the expert to write it. And for the amount a blogger generally earns, the time required doesn’t make it worthwhile.

  1. What works? Finding a more general area to write about. I have had success doing blogs about IT trends, backup, the power industry, wind power, etc. If you have a general background in an area, or can gain familiarity quickly, ghost blogging can be successful. I’ve done that many times. Ghost blogging works well if you stick to industry trends, summarizing the findings of analyst reports, offering advice on best practices, talking about new products, survey results and so on. Some companies are smart enough to pay writers to provide interesting content that isn’t all about them. That gives the ghost blogger enough latitude to come up with topics of interest to that field.

To make it worthwhile for the writer, it’s wise to work out the next several topics for a blog weeks or months in advance. I either submit a dozen story ideas via email or work them out over one call. That makes it possible to write blogs in batches and submit them. That saves time. Discussing each topic on the phone before you write it is inefficient.

I have succeeded at certain times with experts, too. I once wrote a sales newsletter for a sales guru. But to do that, I had to read his book, and attend his three-day workshop. After that, we did one call a quarter to work out topics and then I wrote for him. He reviewed material quickly and sent it out. One newsletter a month with four separate articles in each issue. But the format was clearly laid out – one lead article, and three specific shorter ones on the same areas every month. That made it straightforward.

Another way to make it work is to gain access to presentations, webcasts, podcasts and lectures done by the expert. You listen carefully, understand their way of talking and capture the essence of their communication. This is a smart way to blog.

I used to attend a show every year for a client. It consisted of about a dozen detailed presentations. These took the presenters many hours to create. Their audience? Anywhere from 20 to 50 people. Armed with print outs of the presentations in advance, my job was to listen to their talks, note the additional things that weren’t in the slides and put together articles and blogs based on the talks. Those stories reached a far wider audience than the original presentations.

Those are a few ways that ghost blogging can work. There may be others.

Drew Robb