Is it a crime to be a ghost?

As I scanned what my Twitter friends were saying today I saw a tweet expressing shock at hearing about ‘corporate ghost blogging’. I noticed a few tweets mentioning the subject today, probably as a result of the discussion going on at the Dell B2B huddle in Bracknell.

Ghost blogging elicits a shocked response from many in the online community, who believe that it’s no longer real or engaging if a corporate blogger has had all the work done for them by a writer.

It’s certainly true. There is a lot of corporate spam out there – particularly on Twitter. Accounts that just advertise various products or services are not what I’m focused on at all – or interested in.

What interests me is where do you draw the line and say that a blogger is no longer a ‘real’ blogger because his/her material is ghosted?

I work with companies in several sectors, including IT, law, consulting, and in many cases I am involved in drafting blogs. I see it really as an extension of the corporate writing work I’ve been doing for ages. Companies used to ask writers like me to come up with ‘Thought Leadership’ or material they could use in ‘white papers’.

For corporates, blogging is a natural extension of this earlier thought leadership. They want to be seen with a voice, an opinion, and some knowledge about the industry in which they operate – and all without a direct sales pitch.

So when we talk about ghost blogging online in shocked and horrified voices, let’s start drawing a distinction. When I do it, I’m taking rough blog drafts from executives and turning their copy into something worth blogging, making their use of language more direct, making the comment more open-ended to encourage debate. I’m not writing the blog for them, I’m just polishing up their own efforts because most execs either have a shortage of time or a shortage of writing experience. To a journalist, cranking out 200 words is easy. To a busy exec with no journalism experience, that’s half a day sitting and writing then improving the copy.

Sometimes I will write an entire blog, but that will be based on a conversation with the exec – who is normally rushing around somewhere in a taxi or limo. It’s not crafted from the depths of my own mind.

So, if I’m polishing up some executive thoughts and making them worth blogging, then is that really cheating?

If people think it is, then they might want to have a look at the serious press. Take a look at all those guest columns where captains of industry have sent 800-words to the editor on a burning issue. Do you really think that CEO sat down and crafted the newspaper column without running it past someone to tidy up?

Twitter is another topic entirely. As many companies have found, it’s difficult to create a corporate account and expect thousands of avid followers to come and follow a stream of press releases. Executives making Twitter work well are doing so because it’s short, direct, and personal – and written by the person on the profile.

So where do we draw the line with ghosting and blogs?

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