Scott Adamsâ€™ perceptive Dilbert cartoon, first published two years ago, takes an extreme but comical look at a topic that is often discussed in the online PR community and which usually results in two schools of opinion â€“ the â€œitâ€™s ok to do itâ€ group and the â€œover my dead body group.â€
What, exactly, is â€œghost bloggingâ€? This Blogossary definition is as good as any Iâ€™ve seen:
A ghost blog is a blog run and managed by an anonymous author(s). A ghost blog can also be a blog written by a company or person on behalf of another company or person.
Example: person B is blogging on behalf of person A
A ghost blog may also be a blog about or dedicated to apparitions and poltergeists.
There has been much debate about whether ghost blogs should be taken seriously and whether they can hurt the bloggerâ€™s overall reputation in the blogosphere.
In yesterdayâ€™s CIPR workshop, we heard about an example of an organizational blog where the content ideas come from one individual, and the content itself is written by communicators, approved by the ideas-originator, and then published to the blog.
You might argue that thereâ€™s nothing wrong with that: this sort of thing happens all the time.
Communicators write the CEOâ€™s speeches. We do press releases containing pithy words of wisdom by named people which they didnâ€™t really say because we wrote those words. Prime Ministers and Presidents spout wondrous things in Parliament or Congress and yet we all know itâ€™s the speechwriter who is the eloquent one.
So why should we be concerned about whether a blog post â€“ and, bringing the topic right up to date, a tweet â€“ is actually written by Executive A or written by the communicator, someone who often has a better way with words?
I found it encouraging that during the discussion yesterday, the majority of people argued a case as to why they felt ghost blogging is not a good idea, which is all to do with authenticity and trust.
To encapsulate the discussion, I can summarize it like this:
- You as a CEO or other executive write a blog, others read your content, perhaps leave comments or write their own posts linking to yours, and so a connection develops that over time may lead to an actual relationship.
- People will connect to you because itâ€™s you theyâ€™re connecting to. Itâ€™s your commentary and opinion they read and form their own opinions about.
- Imagine how the deck of cards will come tumbling down if it turns out that your commentary and opinion isnâ€™t actually you at all but someone who writes and publishes in your name and that fact wasnâ€™t disclosed.
The bold text in 3 above is the key point.
Whether or not you think ghost blogging is a good idea â€“ and, for the clear record, let me state my view: I think itâ€™s a terrible idea (although I had a very different view in 2004 when I was still trying to figure out this business blogging malarkey) â€“ you could argue itâ€™s ok as long as thereâ€™s open disclosure.
So everyone would know that when you read Executive Aâ€™s blog posts, theyâ€™re really written by Flack B: The ideas may be Aâ€™s but the words are Bâ€™s.
And Iâ€™d agree â€“ as long as you disclose, thereâ€™s no perception of pulling the wool over anyoneâ€™s eyes and your risks of reputation damage when youâ€™re found out (there will be nothing for anyone to find out) are minimal.
Whether itâ€™s an effective form of communication and relationship-building is another matter entirely.
[â€¦] social media only works well if the communication is personal, authentic, and near-immediate [â€¦ it] requires your personal participation. You canâ€™t hire it done. You canâ€™t fake it. If youâ€™re not willing to make the personal investment, donâ€™t bother. You wonâ€™t fool anyone.