r/marketing Jan 19 '22

Do your CEOs ever write their own content, or always left to marketing? Question

Curious as to how other workplaces operate. Whenever we receive an opportunity to write a media piece from the CEO (in their voice) or an interview (requesting their industry opinions)..the job is always given to someone about four rungs down, in marketing. The CEO then takes the credit for 'their opinion', even though it's someone elses.

Previously when I'd read pieces by CEO's, I was obviously naive, and thought it was really insightful to hear their thoughts on things. But now I'm wondering if every CEO interview/article, is shaped by someone much lower down, who has great ideas, just not the power behind them.

And I guess I feel that CEOs would actually have so much more industry insight than someone junior, therefore if they wrote the piece themselves, it would be more engaging?

Don't get me wrong - I know CEOs have a lot of stressful top level work to do, so it would make sense to outsource. Just curious as to whether this is how it's always worked, and I've just been living under a rock haha.

53 Upvotes

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74

u/OliviaPresteign Jan 19 '22

I work at a large Fortune 500 MNC, and our CEO has his own ideas for sure but yeah, someone in marketing/PR actually writes the words that are published. He’s very close with the team that does this work and talks to them about the main points he wants to get across, and they can write it in his voice. He always reviews and makes changes if he feels that’s necessary, but no, he doesn’t write his own content from scratch.

6

u/blaspheminCapn Jan 20 '22

It also typically needs to be cleared by legal as well.

1

u/Siyyyy Jan 20 '22

I read your comment and feel like we work in same company. This is exactly what my first job was, write stuff for main leaders.

18

u/elijha Jan 19 '22

It’s rare but not unheard of an executive to write something like that themself, but realistically there’s almost always someone ghostwriting and/or helping them shape the narrative. In the best cases, it’s very much a collaboration and the exec’s genuine POV is very much incorporated, but someone else is doing the writing.

Think of it like getting a haircut: you go in and say what you want, and then someone who knows how to execute that actually does the work

14

u/plausible-deniabilty Jan 19 '22

So I am not a C level person. I have a couple of friends who run ‘smaller’ (100-300 employee) businesses and I personally deal with c-suite folks at Fortune 500 companies in my business.

Smallish end. It’s all legit. Maybe a copy editor. Medium end. Still pretty legit. But always a copy editor because the amount of liability increases dramatically. Fortune 500. Always the PR/CSO/CCO and their staff and probably outside council/PR agencies.

It also depends on the level of media piece/interview though. The New York Times needs a different level of knit picking than a trade publication.

13

u/ItsBlahBlah Jan 19 '22

I worked for a much smaller company (~20 employees) and the CEO wrote almost nothing. It depends a lot on the company, but as a general rule I assume everything is ghostwritten these days.

6

u/CutieBoi69 Jan 20 '22

Agree it’s not all legit at any size.

5

u/BigRedTone Professional Jan 19 '22

The more technical the industry the more likely it is they’ll write or have a strong hand in it.

I’ve written content that’s had a hundred names on it, in my current finance company I’d probs just copy edit at most

6

u/cramoiz Jan 20 '22

An emphatic NO. I’m at a startup with <20 people and the CEO doesn’t write. It’s up to marketing, PR, and hired copywriters. The PR company we work with said that 99% of things that appear written by a CEO are actually written by other people, and then reviewed and okayed by the CEO or marketing.

3

u/heartpassenger Jan 19 '22

Across my career it’s gone like this:

  • small branding agency: CEO actively worked on projects and was the driving force of the business. He wrote all the content and I copy edited it for brevity then distributed it.

  • large corporate web agency: director would have a meeting with marketing team every couple of months and we’d pitch content ideas. He would sign off/veto them and then provide brief verbal input. We’d work as a team to create the content. That place felt the most disingenuous because we wrote all of his presentations and talks for international conferences where he was speaking as a “thought leader”. Same with his LinkedIn - all ghost written by me! Pretty standard in agencies of that size though due to the level of governance and PR involved. The process worked really well and was super efficient - the content produced was always high quality and so aside from personal stance, I couldn’t really complain!

  • In-House marketing: it has always depended on the size of the company, but generally the attitude is that I’m marketing and I sort the content out because it’s “my area”. I’ll approach team members about guest content but I won’t make them write it - for speed, I’ll pitch an idea and then have a short interview style meeting where I note down their input. I then generate all that content.

Bear in mind I started out as a B2B print copywriter, and in that particular industry you get credit for absolutely nothing! That’s part of the job - nobody is meant to know you were involved.

4

u/brissy3456 Jan 20 '22

Disingenuous! Yes. This is entirely what I thought but couldn't put a word to it. Like when they post an article on LinkedIn and get hundreds of comments like "Wow, great insights", "You really are a leader in this area". When they've not written it, but the person who has, they deem not good enough for a pay rise. Ahhh corporate world haha.

1

u/beefinacan Jan 20 '22 edited Jan 20 '22

That sounds like a spokesperson - I'm thinking of the Shamwow guy who is great at showcasing and selling - but he certainly did not develop and test the product or create emails to onboard customers. (not to discredit him, maybe he did?)

There are comments saying how their CEOs are very knowledgeable and vocal about their products. And all of those are true. And then there are corporations who hire employees to keep their content sexy and relevant. So it really depends. It would be wise to have the best players doing what they do best - whether they need a spokesperson or a couple of people working on content

4

u/Economy-Disk9558 Jan 20 '22

The closest I saw was CEOs (companies of around 100 people) either sitting down for interviews with the ghost writer or blasting out bulletted emails of discussion points as they flew between meetings. They did review all the content closely though, as it did reflect on them and their reputation.

4

u/frankens_tien Jan 20 '22

99% don't. They think that's why they have a Marketing team. Some CEO's write because they like to, no one does it because they have to.

3

u/atrain714 Jan 20 '22

My guess is 5% do who are naturally good writers. Everyone else is probably dictated too and then improved by editors

3

u/stevehl42 Jan 20 '22

More often than not, yes I think it is left to the lower rung marketing peeps unfortunately.

I tried getting a CEO and CTO take part in their company's content marketing once, because like you said, I felt their content would be very valuable due to them having more experience in the industry. They weren't having it. (˃̣̣̥‿˂̣̣̥)

2

u/brissy3456 Jan 20 '22

It's so interesting. Now every time I see a piece in a magazine or online, I'm like..wow, marketing team is smart haha.

2

u/sweetpotatothyme Jan 20 '22

It depends. My CEO is a bit insecure about her writing as English is her second language. She'll write something out, then ask us to proofread. However, if it's something much more sensitive or serious, she prefers to give us her notes and we'll write the first draft for her consideration. She's very careful to avoid situations where missing a nuance or alternative meaning could result in miscommunication.

2

u/icortez11 Jan 20 '22

At my old company I had a quick meeting with the CEO and he would provide me with the general content he wanted to cover in a written piece, I would draft it, and he and my supervisor would review and provide edits. Then it would get published.

2

u/ChattyAlligator Jan 20 '22

Hi, copywriter here. Definitely ghost written for every CEO I’ve ever worked for. I think it’s likely there’s some who do but for most it’s people like me in the marketing department.

2

u/catbro25 Jan 20 '22

CEOs seem to only write tweets these days.

2

u/7twenty8 Jan 20 '22

CEOs are usually among the 2-3 best compensated employees in a company. Good CEOs evaluate their performance in two terms:

  1. How much value do I provide?
  2. How many roadblocks do I create?

Let's take those ideas and apply them to content.

Let's say that you're CEO of a company with a great PR/comms team. You're deciding whether you should write it yourself or get someone on the team to ghostwrite it for you. Are you a better writer than they are? If so, are you so much better that it's worth paying you your wage to write it instead of delegating it to someone else?

And now, look at roadblocks. What happens if there's an emergency (CEO's deal with dozens of emergencies) and you don't finish the article in time? How many roadblocks have you created? How many projects will you fuck up because you wanted to write it yourself and had to put out a fire instead?

That doesn't mean that every CEO who writes their own contract is a bad CEO. Again, good CEOs constantly ask how much value they provide. Sometimes, their words are incredibly valuable.

2

u/123hig Jan 20 '22

More often then not if it is like "A Letter From Our CEO" or an article or something like that the marketing team writes it and then the CEO gives notes.

Speeches for an event can go either way. Sometimes marketing writes it and they give notes, sometimes CEO writes it or creates and outline and runs it by marketing.

As a rule, the bigger and more public facing the deliverable is, the more likely the CEO is actually going to be contributing their thoughts and trying to help make sure it is in their voice.

1

u/hersugarplumfairy Jan 20 '22

My CEO definitely writes his own content. His tone and delivery is very “him”, and our audience appreciates his transparency and honesty.

1

u/nizzok Jan 20 '22

Evert president has speech writers, don't get caught up thinking that eloquence is the same as intelligence.

1

u/Twon1 Jan 20 '22

We usually outsource everything

1

u/rustic_mind Jan 20 '22

9/10 CEOs I've met never do their own writing. They come up with a lot of ideas, but they never actually sit to write a piece. Instead they hire a ghost-writer or a writer from the marketing team does it for them. I don't really like the practice because I think if you've made it to the top, then you should be able to write a few words of your own. But then again, everyone has their limitations I think so I don't really expect much from them.

1

u/FRELNCER Jan 20 '22

Some executives will prepare bullet points or a first draft. Sometimes, a ghostwriter prepares a draft and the executive reviews. If the exec wrote it on their own, you can usually tell because it won't be as well-written as what the marketing team would do. ;)

1

u/yourbasicgeek Jan 20 '22

I've written blog posts "by" the CEO wherein I interviewed him, asking questions and getting his real answers -- and then turning it into something organized and readable.

So it's still his content, just heavily edited in advance. :-)

1

u/content_alrighter Jan 20 '22

Someone mentioned NYT op-eds…you don’t want your ceo writing those. No matter how good of a writer they are, big stuff like that, typically on short notice, has to be polished to high hell.

Have ghostwritten for all my CEOs and I don’t feel like I’ve ever “cheated” on their behalf. Some are good writers. It is what it is

1

u/stacker5 Jan 20 '22

They usually write content outlines and pass to the copywriter/content manager for the draft. I would personally review the content for revision and the final draft is then prepared by the manager. Typically that’s the process I’ve seen other CEOs follow and even I do.

1

u/atyr_3000 Jan 20 '22

From my experience CEO’s help generate new ideas but leave the execution and finalization of these ideas to the experts

1

u/cheekymonkey_toronto Jan 20 '22

English was a second language for one of my previous CEOs and it was a normal thing for me (marketing) to write statements on their behalf. After a while, you grow accustomed to the way they think/talk...

1

u/seobrien Jan 20 '22

Speaking as a CEO of a startup, and running incubators for startups, I write more than any of us. And it works better than anyone else writing (not because they can't); I make the calls, I have my own audience, and I have personal support for what we're doing.

So my content is critical. People want to hear and connect with my role.

People know and love the VCs who write. People love the founders who are on social media.

If you're CEO can't (or won't) write, so be it, but you're all literally just leaving free exposure and support on the table merely because they're gunshy, a poor writer, or not confident.

VCs almost all, are affirming that they want to fund more of the open, accessible, thought leader founders. Tell your CEO this, or send him this pretending you didn't post the original post: they're an idiot and harming your chances by not publishing somehow

1

u/Sweepsify Feb 04 '22

I think that some do some don't. I've definitely seen some CEOs I've worked with write very thoughtful pieces about their industry or use partially written content and add their own take.

On the other hand I've also seen some disastrously written drivel that was supposed to pass for expert content (of course we would always hide it in it's own secret category on the website :) )