If You Become a Ghost Writer, Don’t Become a Ghost (Part 1)

While the ethics of ghost writing is still hotly debated among legal professionals, a fact of life is that many new attorneys may find themselves in a position in which they communicate on behalf of a partner or company executive. When you are creating white papers, writing blogs, sending tweets or even sending email correspondence under a company heading or another person’s name, it can become very easy to become lost in the shadows for a couple reasons:

  1. When you write for a particular audience, you may get to know the audience, but they will not know you if you were not accredited; and
  2. When you spend a significant amount of time writing for and building online relationships for another person or company, it can be easy to forget about your own writing and social networking.

If you are getting paid to ghost write, however, there are many reasons you should care about building your own professional relationships and promoting your own identity:

  • You don’t want to feel like a stalker or creep should you ever meet one of your company or bosses’ online followers.  It’s the professional equivalent of meeting that strange guy in the bar in college who seemed to have your Facebook profile memorized before you ever met.  Not only will people have no clue why you are talking to them, you could very well turn them off while trying to bring your anonymous social networking into real-world introductions.
  • If you spend a lot of time researching and writing about a particular subject, you just might become an expert in that subject.  If you are doing all of your writing for someone else, however, you will not get any credit for your expertise, and you won’t have much proof to back up your knowledge.
  • If you plan to move up in your career, you do not want to be typecast as a follower rather than a leader.  You may make your boss or company look good by providing them with great content, but if you keep your own identity in the shadows, you may mark yourself as support staff material rather than a partner or managerial candidate.
  • You may be in the market for a new job some day.  As more qualified students graduate from college and more employers enter an already competitive job market, employers will be looking far beyond resumes to determine which candidates should get the job.  If you are not attributing any of your research and writing to yourself, a quick Google of your name might pull up a few pictures on Facebook of your last BBQ but it will not show off your professional expertise.
  • Finally, if you do not find outlets for your own voice, ghost writing can become frustrating, particularly if you have a large ego and must keep silent every time the attributed author is recognized or rewarded for your work.

Check back in a couple weeks for part two, where I will share a few tips on how to build your own web presence and credibility even if it is your job to do just that for someone else.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/athoos/89559534/)

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  • Kate: Great piece. I started off my career essentially as a ghost writer (speechwriter), and you are absolutely correct that it is frustrating. You end up wanting to write in your own voice, which I think explains why I enjoy blogging now – because it is my own. After I left that field and became an attorney, I really enjoyed having pieces in the newspaper or bar journals where I could be recognized for my own work.

  • Thanks, Joe!