The assignment: Craft a piece of content for the CEO. Yes, you’re a good writer—that’s why they asked you to do it. But how do you apply your writing chops when the assignment means writing for someone else? The best and most effective B2B content marketing writers are chameleons, who can flip the “me-to-them” switch and successfully write in someone else’s voice. But it’s a learned skill. Here are some ways to make your work sound like theirs.
Record, listen, repeat
I’ll preface this suggestion by saying that getting on a busy executive’s schedule—especially the CEO—can be tricky. So if there’s no way to talk with the subject beforehand, try to find every piece of content attributed to them and study intently. To be clear, you should do that even if you get to talk to them.
If they do have a window of availability, even one chat can give you a feel for their tone of voice. It’s important to record those conversations and listen to them multiple times, even if the subject matter expert (SME) is someone you interact with on a regular basis. If you can, take advantage of transcription services, so you can also see the words they use in black and white. The audio and visual will give you a deeper understanding for how they express themselves and lead to a more well-rounded piece of content.
Nail the details
There are nuances that will make the content uniquely theirs. Here are some things you should always try to incorporate into ghostwritten content:
- Level of formality: Some people speak in a more buttoned-up fashion while others are conversational. Most are somewhere in the middle. A great way to replicate your SME’s voice is to incorporate their use of contractions. For example, do they say “we will” or “we’ll”? You’d be surprised how that seemingly minute detail changes the tone of a blog or article.
- Personal details: You can add a lot of color to your SME’s article by incorporating personal details that come up during conversations with them. If they drop a quick anecdote, ask them to elaborate on it. Very often, the follow-up questions yield tons of insight. You may be able to use the anecdote, but even if you don’t, you’ll get more information about your SME, which will highlight their tone of voice.
- Figures of speech: There are specific phrases and expressions each of us use that make our communication style unique. Identify colloquialisms your SME uses and find intuitive ways to use them in your writing. But don’t overuse them. Think of figures of speech like salt—use just enough to bring out the flavor, but avoid cooking a salt soup.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of details you should focus on, but it’s a good start. If you write multiple pieces of content for your SME, you’ll recognize a lot more nuances over time.
Strike a balance
Where the content will appear has a huge impact on how much or little tone of voice you’ll use. Your skills will be tested when the landing spot for the article has a style that contrasts with the SME’s tone of voice. But remember that even the most buttoned-up publications want unique writing, so find smart ways to interject the SME’s personality and style wherever it makes sense to do so.
Before you write a single word, find similar articles on the publication and note how other authors have incorporated tone of voice. You can also reach out to the editor of the publication to discuss style—it’s in their best interests for the article to be as close to “putting distance” as possible. And if the content is for the company’s blog, make sure you’re reviewing their editorial guidelines.
Capturing someone else’s voice isn’t easy. Like any other skill, it requires a ton of trial and error to get it right. Even when you think you’ve hit the nail on the head, the SME may have a series of “this doesn’t sound like me” comments. It’s worth noting that there are instances where you hit the nail on the head, but the SME still doesn’t like what they’re reading. That’s OK. Sometimes what you’re really trying to do is capture the voice they aspire to have. The key is using phrasing that they like and incorporating it in future iterations.
B2B companies need content to show off the expertise their executives possess. Being able to play different roles in your writing is key to gaining content program ROI. Does your organization’s content need a boost? Check out the Look Left services page to see how our team of talented writers and content strategists can help.