“What I write represents you, your business, and your values. As far as anyone on the receiving end is concerned, what they are getting IS from YOU, so it needs to be poised as such.”
I’m often asked by potential clients (or by other writers who are just getting started in the copywriting/ghostwriting space), “How do you write in the other person’s voice?”
I tell them: by magic and osmosis.
I tell them the obvious answer: through study and practice.
Yes. Like anything else you want to become exceptional at, it requires attention, effort, and repetition. If I’m going to be generating someone else’s copy or ghostwriting for them, I need to parrot their voice on the page unbeknownst to their most loyal follower/fan/audience member.
This means I need to be paying attention to how my client communicates, then attempt it, and then keep refining it (through repetition and the collaborative process with the client).
While this post could dive into methods of practice or the process of working with the client collaboratively to ensure their voice is captured, neither practice or process will matter if the client’s voice hasn’t first been studied. When I start working with a new client, I study them. I’m looking for two forms of ‘how’ and one form of ‘what’ in the way they communicate. Each of these helps me to succeed in ghostwriting their voice and establishing their essence on the page.
Those three forms are: how they sound/deliver (tone/personality), how they look on the page (format), and what they say (content).
TONE/PERSONALITY: How they sound/deliver
Your voice is uniquely yours, yet most of us don’t know how to describe our own because to us it just “is.” I had a client recently who asked me to meet with her intern to help them understand her voice because she didn’t know to describe it herself. “And you’ve nailed it,” my client said. Truthfully, this client has made it easy. Not only does she have a bold and flavorful personality that distinguishes her, but she had a ridiculous amount of prior content for me to review – some of which was audio or video. In having plenty of previously written and spoken content, I could study how she speaks and writes.
Studying whatever prior content is available provides me (or the ghostwriter you’re working with) the opportunity to learn the cadence of your speech and what gets you fired up. Now I know where you would likely emphasize a point. In digesting an abundance of your content, I’ll notice the words or phrases you use frequently perhaps out of preference or perhaps because they are a part of your brand foundation or messaging tenets.
Likely, I’ll discover whether your natural tendency is toward long, winding, digressive explanations, or a short clipped matter-of-fact approach. Are you anecdotal? Witty? Serious? Intense? The way you swear or use contractions. If you have favorite sayings and expressions, they’ll likely be there, even if you don’t realize you’re using them. An exceptional content writer can capture these idiosyncrasies on the page so you hear your own voice in the content they create and so does your audience.
FORMAT: How they look on the page
In being able to read all those blog posts you wrote yourself, I can see how long you go on before your break for a paragraph. Or how long, generally, it takes you to make the point you want to make. I see whether you have a particular formula you’re following if your openings and closings are always similar. I can also see how you choose to show emphasis on the point you want to make – with bolds or italics or exclamation points or cuss words.
In reviewing your emails, I can see if you have a certain approach to how you want those to come across. Are you using bold typeface to make them scannable? Are you keeping paragraphs to no more than three sentences? Do you always use a P.S.?
Whatever it is you expect me to write (blog posts or email or newsletter), if there are content examples, I want to review them. The transition from you writing your own content to me writing it should be smooth. It’s not enough for me to sound like you, I must also ensure that whatever I write also looks like it came from you.
CONTENT: What they say
The third piece to copywriting or ghostwriting for someone else is to not only know how they sound or what it would look like on the page but also to know what it is they’re saying. So if I’m going to take on your voice, I can’t just sound like you. I need to sound like you talking about the thing that you’re the expert in. I need to understand your primary messages (at the very least) and be able to deliver them with the same enthusiasm and energy as you would.
I don’t need to go and get a degree in whatever it is you’ve positioned yourself as the expert in. And I don’t need to have the same years of experience. But I do need to be invested and take enough interest in what your content is about to do the research necessary to speak intelligently and accurately about your topics. More than anything else, I need to verify that what I say is aligned with your perspective, position, and brand. What I write represents you, your business, and your values. As far as anyone on the receiving end is concerned, what they are getting IS from YOU, so it needs to be poised as such. Which is why I recommend certain onboarding elements to help make this relationship successful.
A lot of good writers could put together some well-written content that would align enough with your business goals and establish a consistent presence across your channels. If, however, you’re looking to entrust someone not just with your content but with your voice, find the copywriter/ghostwriter who will study you, be attentive to the ‘hows’ and ‘whats’, and continually practice getting your voice perfectly on the page. They need to sound and look like you on the page so that whatever your audience receives they believe (without a doubt) came genuinely from you.