Pros and cons of ghost blogging for your accountancy firm

Enter (2)

One of the ways to get your accountancy firm noticed in terms of expertise is to be blogging regularly. Yes, I’m still harping on about blogging, and that’s because despitecontinual recommendations by myself and other marketing experts, it’s still a very open opportunity to accountancy firms.

Of course, it makes sense. With all the time you need to spend on tax law, CPE, new accounting regulations, issues with your team, issues with your partners, administrative items, and Everything Else, writing a blog every week falls so far down on the to do list that it disappears completely.

In addition, the skills that make you an excellent accountant do not often lend themselves to making you a writer. (Although I know at least one accountant who studied English at university, and it helped his blogging efforts in a massive way.)

But just because you don’t have the time or skills to blog regularly doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Enter ghost blogging.

We all know what ghost writers are – even famous speeches and books are not usually actually written by the person themselves. So why shouldn’t the same apply to your blogging?

For most of you, I’d highly recommend ghost blogging. It will save hours of time, and may even give you far better results than if you blogged yourself. Here are my tips if you’re going to venture into this ghostly world:

Try a variety of writers.

Hiring a ghost blogger is just like hiring someone else in your firm, in that you’ll want to do your research, ask good questions, look for evidence of experience, and perhaps use a trial period. But, even better than other hiring situations is the fact that you are welcome to hire multiple people for the same job, and try them all out at the same time until you find the one you want. Ghost blogging is normally done on a per-hour or per-article basis, so you can try freelancers and team members and a marketing consultancy and many other options. (You could even do it all in one day!) Naturally you’ll want to give each of them different assignments, so on the off chance it goes really well and you like what each person has written, you’ve got four or five excellent blog posts already (rather than that many of just one topic). If you get a complete dud, don’t despair. There are bad writers out there (and sadly you pretty much get what you pay for), and ‘okay’ writers, and writers who just don’t match your personal style. Try everything that’s out there until you find what suits you best.

Provide good raw material.

Even the best writers need something to go on, and a generic topic such as “How to get more business” is too vague for your writer, and also for your audience. Think about who you’re writing to, the audience of your website. A topic of “Three ways to address IR35 in your construction firm” is much more specific – and it’s even better if you provide bullet points or links to articles you like to help them get started. (Naturally you’ll want to check your ghost blogger’s writing to ensure that they aren’t simply copycatting – or worse, plagiarising.) One of the ways we help our clients with this is by recording a quick 20 minute phone call with them once a month. Out of that phone call come 4 written blog posts, 2 videos, and sometimes a few new website pages as well. It’s like a “brain dump”. You talk about things you know a lot about, and we compile your words and your expertise in content that sounds like you. Request some info here.

Do it consistently.

I’ve covered this times without number. Whatever you do in marketing, keep it up. It absolutely applies to blogging. Start, and don’t stop. Even if it’s just once a week, or once a month, keep sending that information to your writer (or writers). Set up a good habit and then keep it going. As with all habits, it will get easier and easier as time goes on.

Consider the cost.

It used to be that hiring a good writer would cost more than most accountancy firms would ever be willing to pay – or would be bundled into a marketing package that your firm isn’t ready to invest in, either. But the online revolution has resulted in massive new opportunities for writers, and for you. Sites like Odesk, People per Hour, Elance, and hundreds of others are available to make your life easier, and to provide a world of opportunity to excellent, talented writers. Naturally, also to poor copycat writers, but you’ll be able to tell those immediately. And sites like People per Hour don’t release the funds to your writer until you are completely happy.

Don’t neglect your in-house writers.

Just because most of your team members are accountants, tax experts, and number-crunchers does not mean that they don’t want to write. At least give your team the opportunity. Let them write about anything they like. It’s very important to let your website reflect your personality, not just your services. If you have a team member who plays for a local rugby club, and they want to write a post every once in a while on how the club is doing, let them. It adds an element of community and personality that most other accountancy firms in your area are missing. Have a quick glance over what your team member has written, but don’t become an English professor. Let them be part of the team in the way they want to be.

Engage with your audience.

Even if you do have a ghost blogger to do your writing for you, there’s still an element of engagement with your prospective clients that many firms are still missing. This concept comes from social media, and again accountancy firms in general are not truly grasping this concept. I’ve had a few accountants ask me if we could “manage their social media” for them, or “give them a social media package”. Social media is useless without two things – content, and engagement. First, you have to know what you’re going to say – at least in concept. Topics, industries, opportunities. But all the best content in the world won’t do you any good if no one is responding to it. And just as some of your clients want to deal with you personally because they know and trust you, those who read your blog posts will want to engage with you in comments and shares in a personal way. One of my bugbears in social media is the “instant DM”. The direct message that you get thirty seconds after you followed someone, that says “Thanks for following me! Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook too and sign up for our email newsletter and buy our products!” It’s pushy, it’s sales-y, and worst of all it’s generic. Engage with people in relation to who they are: people.

Do a little writing yourself.

We do ghost writing for some of our accountancy firm clients, and the better we know the firm, the better our writing becomes. We’ve even had firms tell us that their clients loved their new website because it “sounded just like them”. Words, phrases, and terminology that the clients are used to hearing were sprinkled throughout the site, because we took them down verbatim. But no matter how good your ghost writer is, there is nothing like a genuine article written by yours truly. I write all my marketing tips myself –because I love writing, and because it’s easy for my expertise to flow out of my fingers, because I want my personality to shine forth in any writing with my name on it…and because I type at over 100 words per minute. (Seriously, it’s the best skill I ever learned.)

So, I’d highly recommend getting yourself a ghost blogger (or two or three), and I look forward to seeing your results!