I’ve got a few interesting clients at the moment and the work I do for each of them is very different. Currently I am writer, editor, proofreader, designer, branding consultant, content migrator, content strategist and user experience consultant for a variety of people and organisations.
So I thought this might be a useful point at which to take a snapshot. (Meaning that, hopefully, this post will be the first in a series!)
This post, then, is about the work I do for my main client: blog post writing*.
Gateway Family Services is a social enterprise whose work includes pregnancy outreach, health and wellbeing consultations and employment training. They’re the organisation I’ve been the most involved with for the longest period since I went freelance. You’re not supposed to have favourite clients, I know, but [stage whisper] they’re my favourite.
I work with managers and staff at Gateway to write regular blog posts about their work, particularly around vulnerable people and clients whose stories wouldn’t otherwise be heard. We use audio and video to show how Gateway’s interventions and support directly affect people’s lives. We use clear, simple language and write in a way that we hope is as relevant, interesting and accessible to Gateway’s clients as it is to those in the city council and the health service. Links to the blog are circulated via Twitter and Facebook but they’re also sent directly to service commissioners and other influencers in a weekly “Friday story” email.
I call this sort of writing “ghostwriting”, because the name that appears on the blog post isn’t Emma Wright; it’s the name of whoever I work with to write the story. It’s something that we used to do on 4Homes all the time, with articles and guides written on behalf of presenters, but at Gateway I have a much closer relationship with the credited author.
I don’t know what you think when you hear the term “ghostwriting”. It’s possible that you assume it’s a bit of a cheat – perhaps even unethical – but that really isn’t the case with Gateway. The fact that the credited author “has a bit of help” is no secret and the blog posts we write are truly collaborative.
Every week I visit the Gateway offices and immerse myself in their culture for a few hours. I sit with pregnancy outreach workers and hear what they’ve been up to. I chat with health trainers about the latest fad diets. I dig through anonymous reports from clients to see if there’s anyone it might be interesting to hear more from.
Usually, though, Gateway’s managers come to me directly with story ideas. Sometimes the story is written already and just needs a tidy. Often, though, there’s just an acorn of an idea – a client whose story they think needs to be shared, something in the news they’d like to comment on, or a new aspect of their work that they’d like to publicise. It’s my job to round out the ideas and give the story a focus, or an angle, as well as making sure there are common themes and a bit of a strategy behind the timing and frequency of the topics covered.
Just a few weeks ago Gateway’s CEO Vicki Fitzgerald came to me after she found out that there was a proposal to decommission the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). She wanted to use the blog to educate people about the benefits of the service, so we wrote a story that emphasised the financial savings the service was making for the city. We called it POWs save Birmingham money.
The following week, after taking into account the conversations that Vicki was having with Councillors, commissioners and other service providers, I suggested that we should go in harder and directly question the decommissioning process itself. That week we published Budget Consultation: is it asking the right questions?
A week later, the proposal to decommission the service was withdrawn.
I really enjoy writing blog posts in this collaborative way and it seems to really benefit the organisation, too. For staff and managers who might have found the idea of blogging a bit scary, it allows them to be creative without having to worry about “the techie stuff” (or their spelling!) The repetition of key themes not only hammers the message home but is good for SEO. Involving staff at all levels with a single blog post is an engaging internal communications tool.
Everyone’s a winner.
*Yes, I’m aware of the irony, given the little I write on my own blog.
Postscript: Despite my best efforts, writing this blog post has given me an earworm. And an earworm shared is an earworm halved, or something, so…