This is sort of a continuation of a discussion that’s taken place at the International Association of Online Communicators blog over the last week or so. The fine Debbie Weil moderated it.

My position was, and is, “No!” and here’s what I had to say (in case you don’t feel like reading through the whole thing):

When I speak to clients, I describe a blog as a “channel”, much like radio, TV or traditional print. Except it’s fast as light and incredibly cost effective.

Operating under that premise, I think it’s fine to edit a CEO’s blog for brevity, clarity or interest. I think it’s not fine to completely ghost-write a CEO’s blog because that’s “pretending”. Would a CEO hire an actor to do a presentation or speak to the media on their behalf? Absurd!

The whole point of blogs is opening up a direct, forthright avenue of communication. Anything else just adds to the noise and is of little or no value. If it’s not really you doing the talking, you might as well issue a press release.

Finally, I’ll paraphrase Jonathan Schwartz by saying that “hiring someone to write your blog is like hiring someone to write your email”.

If you can’t, or don’t want, to own the conversation – don’t start it.

There was a lot of intelligent debate on the matter, both pro and con, with popular opinion coming down on the “pro” side (i.e. yes, it’s ok to ghostwrite) It sounded like a number of participants in fact spent some of their time as ghostwriters for corporate blogs – that may have had something to do with it!

Buzz aside, you have to remember that blogging is not for everyone. It IS for people who have something to say, who like to (and can) write entertainingly, and for people who are prepared to own the conversation. Add that to the fact that the PR implications for any CEO caught using a ghostwriter are immense: they’re pretending to be something they’re not, they’re dishonest and cynical (to name a few). And don’t kid yourself: unmasking a blogging CEO’s ghostwriter will become a major sport for reporters everywhere in short order (what a cheap and easy way to break a big story!)

However if you must use a ghostwriter, you should identify that right off the top, and Debbie had a great solution, suggesting the following disclaimer:

Hi, I’m Sally Top Dog. I’m excited about sharing my ideas, thoughts and observations with you. As you can appreciate, I’m pretty busy running XYZ Corp. So I’m delighted to introduce Bob Blogger, my not-so-secret ghostblogger. Bob and I talk frequently and you can be sure that all the content of this blog originates with me. Bob does a super job of translating my ideas into fun and provocative prose. Thanks Bob!

Finally, I came across an interesting article by Deborah Cole Micek and John-Paul Micek in the Honolulu Star Bulletin about online marketing that I think really hit the whole “benefits of blogging” thing right on the head and underscores why blogging needs to be authentic in order to be effective. I’ll quote extensively here, but you can certainly go read the whole thing if you like:

Marketing effectively with business blogs and new media requires a strategic shift in focus to people, participation, and persuasion. [emphasis mine] [As people are becoming more comfortable with Internet technology] online activity is increasingly mirroring off-line communication. This means that influence and persuasion are becoming just as essential to effective marketing online as it is in making sales off-line.

Standard Web sites and Web Marketing 1.0 cannot be used to build rapport, trust, and relationships online. It’s just not possible. The answer is found in having the right new-media strategy, using persuasion through business blogs, podcasts, social networking, and a host of other interactive tools on the Internet.

Now, does that bill sound like it can be fit by a ghostwritten CEO blog?

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3 Comments

  1. Hey Maggie. You took the words right out of my mouth. In my mind, blogs require authenticity of voice and a double side order of transparency. Ghostwritten blogs provide neither. Thanks for posting on an important question…

  2. I’m with you Maggie. Ghost written blogs are just inauthentic!

  3. Well, I think that all in all hgostwriting is ok. I mean, why not?

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