SPOS #214 – The Ghost Blogging Debate With Mark W. Schaefer

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Welcome to episode #214 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. If there’s one debate that never gets tired, it’s the one about Ghost Blogging. We’ve come to this strange intersection with Social Media where companies want to Blog, but they feel like their CEO (or others within the company) would best be served if that voice was created by a ghost writer. It’s an issue that irritates me because I don’t agree with it, but I do understand why businesses do it (hence my frustration). Mark W. Schaefer (over at Grow) had a great Blog post titled, Why It’s Ridiculous To Argue About Ghost Blogging, that ran contrary to a post I had published titled, The Death of Social Media (which focused on executives now hiring individuals to tweet for them on Twitter). While the comments and conversations were/are fantastic, we decided to have a Skype chat/debate about the topic. Here it is. Enjoy the conversation…

Here it is: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #214 – Host: Mitch Joel.

Please join the conversation by sending in questions, feedback and ways to improve Six Pixels Of Separation. Please let me know what you think or leave an audio comment at: +1 206-666-6056.

Download the Podcast here: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #214 – Host: Mitch Joel.


  1. Totallu right about BP. Scumbags is a right word. These CEO need to blogging. Blooging would havesaved Tony Hayward. He would have understtod people better, he would have nevr stepped onto a stage with Obama. He would not have needed to!
    Mark W. Schaefer had a great example and it souns like he had great media facilation with this executive, he could draw out the message he had, he could help him articulate aunthentically and how the company wanted to presented.
    Ghost writing or Ghost Tweeting is a mistake. I see Obamas Facebook and Twitter as being swamped by negative comments, he swept to power on online community engagement, social media mastery. Success is about showing up!

  2. I’ll still stick with my thoughts that Social Media can be best served by thinking about “real interactions between real human beings.” If you can’t muster that up, at least be up-front that the Blog (or Twitter feed) is being done by a ghost writer (or with some help). My guess is that the public will respect it a whole lot more.

  3. Mitch,
    I wholeheartedly agree. If the blog cannot be written by the CEO personally, a disclaimer that it is written by someone else is 100% required, otherwise I’d feel duped and lied to. Typically I eliminate brands from my life if I feel like they’ve been intentionally disingenuous, or take shortcuts to reach consumers.

  4. I totally disagree with ghost blogs. I don’t believe the point Mark made that A) CEO are boring accountants with nothing to say and B) that they can’t write. I don’t think you get to be the CEO of any large company without being more than just a boring accountant – this is an excuse and nothing more. As you mentioned in the interview blogs are suppose to be personal (journals) maybe not specifically about ones personal life but by the mire definition of a blog they should be someone who owns it, who lives it and who truly thinks it. To say ” well the ghost writer talks to the CEO and discusses what they would write and say” just doesn’t cut it for me. A blog must have genuine ownership NOT own someones name. If you think your company needs a social voice and the BOSS can’t take the time to do it himself or doesn’t feel he’ll represent the company best – hire that same ghost and let him use there own name. Make it a Q&A blog… “Questions with the CEO” but don’t insult and lie to people by faking your way into you customers hearts. People expect that speeches and letters from the CEO receive some help – it’s understood but blogs aren’t suppose to be that and the fact is, the CEO with the ghost writer knows this – that’s why he’s hired a nameless ghost.
    My fear in the acceptance of this practice is like just about every other good thing that starts out with honesty – once the potential for making money unfolds so begins the BS. It becomes harder and harder to figure out who’s who and whats what. It seems the suits are finally buying what the guys and gals behind there monitors have been saying for years – “there’s gold in them there hills” and as always the ones with deep pockets want ownership of all that is golden. Nothing new here. So please please stop with the ” they just aren’t good enough to write the own Twitter or blogs.
    I wonder it the blog is going to go the way of the music industry, that is to say something as pure as a song cab now be mathematically calculated and created into the next BiG hit. Hopefully it won’t but probably will.
    The only good thing about this new/old practice of taking credit for other peoples work, is that, at least a writers getting paid and inevitably someone with true creative genius will come up with the next big great thing.
    As always just my 2 cents.
    Once again great work Mitch.

  5. Mark didn’t make up that comment about CEOs. From what I remember, he was quoting a study by the Harvard Business Review.
    I also grapple with the concept that CEOs do not have time to do this stuff or shouldn’t be focused on this. Some CEOs have people tweeting for them: they don’t have time for 140 characters? If they don’t have time for that, how do they make the time to go to a football game or watch Dancing With The Stars?
    Regardless of the platform, I agree with your fundamental argument: this isn’t the same as those other channels (or we shouldn’t let them become that), so maybe the best thing to do is not to just accept it and move on (as Mark says), but to fight tooth and nail to keep it about real people having real interactions.

  6. Mitch and Mark,
    First, this podcast saved me! I had to ride 50 miles yesterday, it was pouring here, and I had to ride on the trainer. You guys kept me completely enthralled (while typing notes as legibly as I could in Evernote so I wouldn’t forget any brilliance you said) for 40 minutes. Thank you!
    Secondly, I thought the way you both handled yourselves in this debate was professional, fun, and kind. It’s not often people disagree so vehemently, yet have a debate that is really interesting to listen to…I got at least two blog posts out of it!
    Lastly, I’m wondering if this is a Main St. vs. Wall St. debate? I, too, am idealistic and would love to have the CEOs of the businesses we work with be the ones blogging. So much so, in fact, we refused to ghost blog until this year. Mitch, I liked what you said about the big companies not having the CEOs blog, but people like Robert Scoble and Avinash Kaushik have made great strides as the face of the company. This is great IF the company has someone internal to do that…most of the companies we work with do not; we serve as the marketing department for them.
    We have three clients who are really smart, have great things to say, even are good writers, but they just don’t have (or make) the time to blog. So we ghost blog for them…but they approve the topic, they provide us a two to five minute interview for content, and they approve and publish the posts. They ALWAYS interact with their communities – we do not do that for them. And, for all three of them, the blogs have helped them achieve (and more) their business goals…even adding money to the bottom line.
    Would I rather our clients blog themselves? Absolutely! I’d even love it if we worked ourselves out of a job because we’ve taught them how to do their own marketing. But this is the real world, and it just doesn’t happen that way. Unfortunately.

  7. My head is not stuck in the sand. I know that people are doing this. I still think that there must be a better way for brands to make those human connections. Do you think the customers of those clients would think differently if they now found out that their Blogs were ghostwritten? I believe this to be the only true barometer of whether it’s good or not. Meaning, if the paying customers don’t mind and they like the content, then who cares what I think.

  8. Great podcast Mitch, I really enjoyed it. I blogged about this myself back in June: http://j0n1.com/tag/ghost-blogging/ I have since continued to take a keen interest in the debate hence my delight at listening to you guys talking about it in such a measured and professional manner.
    No disrespect to Mark – for me the polarisation of opinion still seems to be centred around the vested interest of whether or not you rely on ghost blogging for a living.
    Listening to you guys in discussion is a great example of the power of authenticity in communications, assuming that is that you didn’t employ damned good voice impressionists to speak for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Here’s my main argument (which I posted in the comment section over on another Blog):
    How about we deal with Ghostblogging in a professional and enlightened way by agreeing that a Blog is a part of the Social Media ecosystem and – if it is – then we should consider the pillars of what makes something “social”. I would argue that this begins with transparency, openness, honesty, human and real voices (not corporate mumbo jumbo) and a culture that embraces sharing between these real voices.
    Why is everyone who defends ghostblogging so afraid to state that ghostblogging’s first act is one of deceit and misdirection? We’re saying we want to be a part of the Social Media conversation, but we’re not even willing to be transparent about who the actual voice is?
    Then again, it’s easy to misdirect that point by simply saying that a Blog is just like any other form of publishing, so why should it be any different. I don’t believe that to be a valid argument. If those who defend ghostblogging do think it’s just publishing, then why not simply disclose that the Blog is the thoughts of so-and-so but they are ghostwritten by an editorial team (or whomever)? Or, do we not even believe in the spirit of what makes a Blog truly a unique publishing platform?

  10. I know I’m late to this one (really late)… but I feel that a blog post not written by a CEO, shouldn’t be authored by a CEO.
    In other words, if a CEO isn’t writing the posts, then the person writing the posts should be the author in larger companies. In my opinion, I would want to know that it’s the CEO that is doing the writing. If they aren’t willing to, why not?

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