A recent class discussion on CEO blogging brought the topic of ghost blogging to my attention and lead me to further research the subject.
First off, I feel that a simple definition of ghost blogging is necessary. It is the practice of writing blog posts for others and is becoming increasingly common in the corporate blog world.
Why does this happen? Executives may not have the time to write their own posts, they may be terrible writers, or they may not be well versed enough in one particular aspect of the company to feel that they can construct a meaningful post. Although this may seem like a great idea for your organization, there is a huge debate going on about whether it’s an ethical practice or not.
All of the key points in the debate are articulated in an excellent podcast by Six Degrees of Separation. The host of the podcast, Mitch Joel, argues against ghost blogging (and ghost microblogging on Twitter) whereas Mark W. Schaefer, author of the popular post “Why it’s ridiculous to argue about ghost blogging” plays devil’s advocate and argues for the corporate use of ghost blogging. To make the 40-minute podcast simple here’s the basic bullet points from the arguments:
- Allows executives to express their opinions and give a public face to the company even if they do not have the time in their schedule to blog themselves.
- Some CEOs may be terrible writers. Expressing themselves in writing may not be their expertise.
- Opinions and statements can be monitored and controlled through a ghost writer. There is less risk involved of the CEO saying something out of line.
- Usually chairmen don’t write their own speeches; so what is the difference between that and blogs? It’s a well known practice that usually isn’t questioned by the public.
- Along the same lines, CEOs may see personal connections and community as lesser aspects of their jobs. These then take a backseat to other tasks.
- Social media is all about transparency. If it is found out that your CEO isn’t actually authoring his own blog then your company will lose credibility.
- Ghost bloggers ultimately do not know as much about your company as the CEO. For a wider knowledge base on all things your company it is better for the CEO to blog.
Note: While it may seem like the pros outweigh the cons, remember the worth of transparency, credibility, and trust in your company by publics.
Another post by blogger and PR professional, Gini Dietrich, summarizes the two points of views from the podcast and gives the arguments greater contexts. As she points out, one of the main reasons for the differences of opinions lies in the fact that Joel works with much larger companies than Schaefer.
Smaller companies may not know exactly how to go about blogging or using any form of social media and for that reason would hire another company to do it for them. In Gini Dietrich’s own experience she has found that, generally, regardless of the amount of coaxing and preparation given, smaller executives just won’t make the time to blog. Instead, she ghost blogs for her clients but makes sure she includes their views. She does this by talking to the CEO at least once every week and then creates the post from this conversation. However, she always sends the drafts to the clients first for approval and editing and finds that they usually end up changing at least a few sentences of their own in the post. She also stresses that questions on the posts need to be answered directly by the CEO; her company will not respond to the community for them. In this way Dietrich believes she has found a middle ground with the ethics of ghost blogging.