What's Wrong With Ghost Blogging? Or Insights From Inside PR #59

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I Blog often about my good friends, David Jones and Terry Fallis, who co-host the most excellent Podcast, Inside PR. In fact, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing David Jones tomorrow when he presents: Engage! How Social Media Can Build Brands Through Consumer Connection at the CMA – Canadian Marketing Association – National Convention and Trade Show 2007. On this week’s episode of Inside PR #59, their main topic of discussion is Ghost Blogging. Here’s how Blogossary describes Ghost Blogging:
“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.”
As always, the Inside PR guys provide nothing but the best (and most honest) perspective. This episode, in particular, really got me thinking: Why is it OK for a communications professional to write a speech for a CEO of company or make-up a quote from a CEO that goes into a press release, but be totally flamed if said CEO uses a Ghost Blogger?
I just don’t get the difference.
If we live in an age of transparency and authenticity, why are some forums perfectly fine for using a Ghost and others not?
I’m not saying that I think it’s fine for companies to Ghost Blog (I don’t), but then it should be equally unacceptable to make-up quotes for a press release or write their speech as well.
Are we simply down on Ghost Blogging because the whole channel of Blogs has not matured? I wonder if we’ll feel the same way about Blogs in five years as we do now – knowing that no executive actually gives a specific quote for a press release – or if our world will shift towards demanding that employees are accurately quoted and write their own speeches because of the values found in Social Media.
I highly recommend you take a listen to the latest episode of Inside PR here: Inside PR #59 – Tuesday, May 15, 2007.
I would hate to think that Ghost Blogging is bad but Ghost Writing is acceptable. There’s something in my gut that hopes for equality and transparency across all channels. Wouldn’t it be great if a CEO from a company did stand up at a Chamber of Commerce event and say, “this speech was written for me, but hang tight… there are some great insights here that someone else wrote, but I will pass them off as my own.”?
Because, at the end of it all, if you can’t write, maybe you should not Blog. Just like you should not be giving a speech if you’re not skilled at addressing a group, or giving a quote if you’re not great at communicating your thoughts. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate what skills we do look for in our leaders and expect them to deliver, instead of just making it up for them.


  1. I think the maturity of the medium is the key. I don’t think anyone really believes that Stephen Harper writes his own speeches…maybe way back when PMs did. Much like I’m sure nobody at the CMA conference really believed that the PM, Premier or Mayor penned those thoughtful letters welcoming everyone to the conference.
    I suppose it has become acceptable to have support in certain communication situations, otherwise it wouldn’t get done.
    Blogging will likely go the same way. Though, I’m hopeful blogging retains the personal authenticity it’s clinging to now. We all know nobody reads press releases as gospel, or really believe scripted speeches are the authentic musings of our leaders. Blogging may go the same way, but I’m hopeful there is at least a large contingent that keeps the flame alive and attracts the most readers.

  2. To me, it seems what we are dealing with are expectations. At this point in time, readers generally expect blogs to be written by the person who owns the blog, and that the blog’s contents are a personal expression of the writer. This is a large part of what makes the blog valuable. When it is not the case, and it is not made clear, readers feel fooled. They accepted something as “genuine”, or as I said before, “a personal expression of the writer”, and it wasn’t.
    If, however, the blog starts with “I just want you to know that this was written for me by professional communicators, but I believe and stand behind every word”, the blog can easily be perceived as just another corporate communication, and these are easily available elsewhere.
    The other forms of communication you mentioned are generally not expected to be written by the person presenting them. At best, the communication is received as an expression of the presenter, but at times even this is not believed. This is why a CEO doesn’t start a speech stating that they did not write the speech – most people did not expect that they did.
    As a matter of fact, it might be more interesting for a CEO to actually start by stating, I just want you to know that I wrote every word I am about to say”. Can you imagine? It might actually be difficult to get an audience to believe this.
    Mitch, this is an excellent topic, and has significant and potentially far reaching implications concerning any type of communication.

  3. David and Joseph, thanks for adding colour to this conversation, but I am still struggling with why we find one (but not the other) acceptable?
    Why is it OK to have a CEO give a speech that they did not write, but not OK for them to use a Ghost Blogger if they are transparent about it?
    I’m having a hard time digesting that the answer is simply because the general public doesn’t expect them to write their own speech. That’s apathy… that makes me a little sad.

  4. I think part of the problem is that it is communicators talking about what expectations are. Sure, we all know that quotes are not actually spoken by the person quoted in a press release, however I expect that when the average person picks up a paper and reads an article based on the release that they expect that it was genuinely spoken to the interviewing reporter.
    Before I got involved in PR I had never really given much thought to politicians or CEOs NOT writing their own material or issuing their own quotes. Now, of course, I know better.
    I agree with Mitch that not supporting ghost blogging is a bit of a double-standard with made up quotes and speeches. And that this is likely just because we haven’t all become jaded enough to expect it yet.

  5. Doug: as always you bring color to every conversation.
    “And that this is likely just because we haven’t all become jaded enough to expect it yet.”
    I am hopeful that Social Media will turn the jaded back to reality… and that people will see the authentic voice of the company and brand regardless of channel… I know… I dare to dream.
    The conversation continues here: http://sixpixels.mirumagency.com/blog/archives/000970.html.

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