Ben Stroup is a content activist in a post-paragraph world. He is chief broker of opportunity at Ben Stroup Enterprises which helps individuals and organizations with a message and platform disrupt, engage, and inspire others to connect, collaborate, and create change. He writes and speaks about leadership, technology, communications, business development, and fundraising and believes content should move people to action. Connect with Ben via email, Twitter, and Google+.
Q & A
One particular op-ed piece I submitted my junior year of college was so popular that it resulted in the editor of the school newspaper asking me to be a regular columnist my senior year. I knew it was the last time in my life when I could rage against the machine and not be fired or sued. I coupled everything I was learning about social movement theory with the seeming unrest of a new campus political administration and created a column that was widely read on and off campus.
It was not unusual for me to encounter groups of people reading and talking about what I had written. Further, the administration followed the textbook process of dealing with a vocal critic: silence, appeasement, etc. I knew it was really hitting a nerve when I developed a number of inside informants who were feeding me information that informed my writing. It was then I learned that words had the power to influence others to create change, and I was hooked.
Business is all about results. I’m not interested in winning awards or being recognized by literary critics. I’m interested in engaging others to inspire some type of measurable, pre-defined response. What good is your writing if no one reads it? Engaging people is the greatest chance individuals and organizations have to shape the habits and decisions of others.
Many would-be ghostwriters confuse their own personal ambition with the needs and desires of their clients. I’m not interested in living on the platform or usurping the authority of the people I work for, many of whom are very well-known and influential in the spaces in which they operate. I am at my best when I’m supporting the work of others by providing content that adds substance and consistency to their work. That means I get to make a living writing words, sentences, and paragraphs and then get to go home and be a normal person…no media spots, no keynote appearances, and none of the trappings of the public life.
I will say that one of the unexpected benefits of ghostwriting is the close relationships you build with the people for whom you write. The ghostwriter is perhaps the only other person on the planet that comes close to seeing life through the eyes of a public figure. There is a shared connection that occurs in the midst of the work that often creates an openness to share things which need to be said but are never to be written.
My presidential scholarship was tied to a major in religion, although I was just a few classes short of a double major in communications by the end of my time at Belmont. I felt drawn to the psychology and ethics side of the study of religion, not theology and doctrine. I knew if I could understand the worldview of another person, I could interpret and predict how they might make decisions. This is very valuable information in my work because I’m asked to assume the voice, posture, and perspective of the people for whom I write.
My studies also included ancient Hebrew and Greek. This taught me that there are multiple ways to say the same thing and gave me an appreciation for how fragile and complex the expression of an idea can be. Stories were the currency of the ancient world. Even today, we are sum of the stories we tell about ourselves.
I’ve been a freelance writer and editor since college, which was more than 10 years ago. My first experience was developing a training manual for volunteers after discovering an unmet need. I sold it to a local association to use with their members. I think I was paid $300. That equaled about $1 million in college currency…give or take a zero or two.
Three reasons: experience, clients, and expectations. My experience means I’ve done it. There is a lot to be said about having lived on both sides of the table, as a creative professional and also the one who hires creative professionals. The enthusiasm my clients have about working with me means that I’m able to provide what they want, when they want it, and in the form they want it. Last, it’s not about me. There is never any confusion about who has the last word. It doesn’t mean I don’t participate in the discussion, but the client gets what the client wants…every time.
I’ve lived—and been successful—in the business and creative worlds. This gives me a unique ability to understand a project from every angle and to create content that achieves a defined, measurable goal.
If Google can’t find you, you don’t exist. Delivering great content that is consistent and substantive is more important than ever. In a digital world, content that is implicitly and explicitly beneficial to the intended audience is vital to any lead generation or idea proliferation strategy. I help organizations accomplish this effectively and consistently without having to add any full-time staff. The impact of digital content continues to shape even more traditional channels such as books and direct mail. We can no longer think of any messaging strategy in one-dimensional terms because conversations occur in a multi-dimensial landscape.
Technology, Communications, Leadership, Business Development (Sales/Marketing), and Fundraising.
I’m always learning new ways to do things so I can better inform my clients of their options. I’m always interested in analyzing and understanding how and why people communicate. It’s fascinating to observe the language, tone, and tactics people use to interact interpersonally and organizationally. Most important, I’m always interested in achieving some type of measurable result. Action creates change. If content isn’t moving people to action, then it’s just clutter.
Individuals and organizations who have a message and a platform and need support in planning, creating, and managing content.
I want to cause people to move and create measurable change.