Sunday, September 25, 2005

The "Experts" Are Wondering About Ghost Blogging

PR "gurus" are wondering (from the website and blog of Morgan McLintic). His thoughts are specifically about PR firms, but his questions are fair. I may not agree with his conclusions, but the thought processes are fun to kick around.

I've been discussing the acceptability of ghost-writing blog posts on behalf of clients lately with other PR firms and industry insiders. Now that blogs have been on the cover of BusinessWeek, many companies I talk to are seriously evaluating their blogging strategy. However humble and niche-focused, most companies feel that a blog would help them communicate and provide an additional vehicle for interaction. The constraint is, of course, time. Who is going to update it? Many CEOs and senior execs simply don't have time. Or rather, at present, it's hard for senior execs to prioritize blogging given the benefits are hard to quantify in hard commercial terms. That may change, but for now there is a void, an unfulfilled need. And that spells opportunity for PR firms.

PR agencies already write opinion pieces on behalf of senior execs which are published in print magazines. They help write the letters to editors which are published in newspapers. They already draft speeches given directly to target audiences at conferences. They script soundbites for broadcast interviews. Is it such a leap to imagine a PR firm ghost-writing blog posts on behalf of a client CEO? But how long will that last? As the number of corporate blogs increases and new rules are made, At present, while blogging is still in its infancy, the watchword of transparency must be obeyed. The active corporate community is small enough to be self-policing and we're not quite ready for ghost-written blogs. We know speech writers help presenters, but given the intimate nature of blogs, we really want to feel like we're connecting directly with the author. It would seem a betrayal to learn that someone else crafted those words.

I wonder if we'll lose that transparency among the noise. At the moment, you'd have to state that the post was written on behalf of the author or approved by the author. In future perhaps that will be taken as given. And perhaps it's better for the CEO to have someone ghost-write a blog on their behalf based on a short conversation, than not to have one at all? Do we care if their wisdom and vision comes wrapped in another's words?

How long will it be before a high profile corporate blog turns out to be written by
someone other than the author? Will we be offended? Is it such a crime given
other common communications practices? At the moment, probably yes. In future,
maybe not.

Here's what I'm thinking. As a ghostblogger, I'm not trying to deceive anyone. I'm not trying to convince readers I'm someone I'm not. I ghostblog as the "voice" of an organization. An interested party whose desire it is to communicate. I'm not the CEO, or pretending to be. That can be clearly delineated up front. I am not speaking "for" anyone. I'm speaking as the organization, or more specifically, the heart of an organization. That's an important distinction.

I represent the people and philosophy of my clients. Agencies try to convince people that they do the same. Some do, some don't, but that's not the point. A blog should never, repeat NEVER be an advertisement for your organization. You'll lose whatever credibility you were hoping to gain from having a blog. It should never be deceptive or misrepresent. You'll probably not see any short or long-term benefit. Consumers of blogs are generally more sophisticated and will see through it. Actually, more correctly, consumers of blogs are more cynical. They know that there are loads of BS travelling the information superhighway, and they are harder to convince your 'vehicle' isn't full of it too!

So what I'm saying is that what I believe is the future of blogging, and ghostblogging in particular, is an honest conversation. Whoever blogs has to understand that, and be committed to doing it.

Let's discuss how to take your organization the the next level of communication.


At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Morgan McLintic said...


Just by way of clarification - when I say ghostwriting a blog post, I mean writing it on behalf of another individual, who then posts it under his/her name.

I don't mean anonymous blogging where no individual ascribes their name to the comments.

I think most corporate blogs will have a name ascribed to the posts. That's really the point - to show there are real people inside.

For the record, I don't claim to be an 'expert', since we're all exploring the medium and defining common practice. At best, just someone who has made more mistakes than others...

All the best,



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