Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 22, 2007 6:43 AM

Ghost Blogging Continued...

I'm starting to deep dive more on the fascinating topic of Ghost Blogging. You can read my original post about it from a few days ago here: What's Wrong With Ghost Blogging? Or Insights From Inside PR #59.

The following thoughts were sparked by a post on the Blog, Zest Media - Social Media In Australia, called: The Difference Between Ghost Blogging And Speechwriting (I have cross-posted these thoughts there as well).

I'm glad Zest Media - Social Media In Australia picked up on this meme. I think it's a fascinating one.

Let me start off by saying that I don't think Ghost Blogging is a good idea (as I stated in my initial Blog posting). That being said, I also don't think it's a good idea for someone else to write your speeches or make up quotes for you. I think if you're in charge of a major (or minor) corporation, one of your key skills should be your ability to speak, write, communicate, etc... But, that's a whole other conversation.

What I keep reading are thoughts like:

"My own take on it is that the difference between employing a speechwriter and a ghost blogger is that at some point a speaker has to have read the speech that was written for him. The words may not have come from his pen but at some point they have to come out of his mouth. At that point he takes ownership of the content and it becomes immaterial who wrote it."

What if we flip this formula into Blogs? A writer meets with a CEO, gets what's on their mind, writes up a few Blog postings, has the CEO give it all a quick once-over and posts it. Why does it matter at that point if the CEO did, indeed, write the Blog posting?... and more, importantly, do we need to disclose who the true Blogger is?

Again, I am one hundred percent against using a Ghost Blogger. I just think that there is a double-standard, and it seems based on two principles.

1. The other stuff has been going on for so long that it's acceptable.
2. The public knows that the person giving the quote or delivering the speech didn't say those things anyways.

Either way, both of those don't fit the models of Social Media where authenticity, human voice and transparency are the cost of entry.

I'm not questioning the activities of Public Relations or Communications. I am questioning why, as media consumers, we're fine with made-up quotes and speeches that were written and delivered by a different person, but we're taking huge issue when that same formula is applied to Blogs.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Jay Moonah
    Mitch Joel

    "I think if you're in charge of a major (or minor) corporation, one of your key skills should be your ability to speak, write, communicate, etc... But, that's a whole other conversation."

    I know this is an aside but I wanted to make a point on this. In general I'd agree but there are certainly exceptions. I like the point that Chris Penn made on Marketing Over Coffee about a guy who runs a construction company and has TERRIBLE writing skills but knows everything there is to know about construction. That's a case good case where that's exactly a guy you DON'T want blogging as it will likely only damage his creditability.

    That said, I think it should be clear who is (or perhaps more importantly, who isn't) blogging or creating any content on behalf of a company or any entity, so I'm with you there.

    Reply
  • Posted by Joseph Fosco
    Mitch Joel

    Although the public does accept that the person making the speech did not write the speech, what is arguably more surprising is that the person making the speech accepts the results this produces. So, Mitch, when you write, "Either way, both of those don't fit the models of Social Media where authenticity, human voice and transparency are the cost of entry", I believe you are spot on. What results, when this authenticity, human voice and transparency are missing, is a distance between the speaker and the audience.

    I do not believe that the audience is OK with this – they are perhaps resigned to it, which as you said in your last reply IS sad. Most audiences, I believe, have a deep desire to really connect with people they respect and are interested in. This resignation indicates that audiences feel they will never be able to have this connection. All of this resignation and hopelessness makes it difficult to communicate via many traditional means. When there is no connection the audience ignores the communication.

    This is a huge issue in the blog world because there IS a connection. The audience believes they are talking to the person who holds the ideas presented, and this person makes a difference – or that the audience member can make a difference with this person. The fact that this is present and important in the New Media space, is what potentially makes the New Media space so powerful. If this connection is eventually lost (via Ghost blogging or some other means) New Media will no longer engage an audience, but will be perceived as another interruption or something to avoid.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    Jay: I think we're in violent agreement. If the person is a terrible writer, I would recommend to not Blog. There are many other (non-writing) channels that they can use to build their business. Blogging works for people who have a unique voice and the ability to illustrate it in words.

    Joseph: I agree with your comments. I think we can't simply resign to the fact that "this is the way it's always been done" as the excuse. No great things have ever come from that attitude. I'm curious to see how some of the PR and Communications professionals resolve this issue.

    Dan York over at Disruptive Conversations also has some great thoughts here: Ghost blogging and the coming end of the Golden Age of blogging and transparency - http://www.disruptiveconversations.com/2007/05/ghost_blogging_.html.

    Reply
  • Posted by Craig Ritchie
    Mitch Joel

    I'm working on a project now which includes multiple blogs with related themes being written by families to support a community-driven brand-building web site. The families will blog, but we'll be vetting and sometimes re-writing the content to make sure it's in line with the corporation behind the site and blogs and their needs -- but also to make sure the content is intriguing! Yes, I know real blogging is better, but in this case, I agree with the company... in this case, blogs are the vehicle for entertainment and advertising.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    ...and for some reason I see no issue with what you're doing Craig.

    I wonder if the Blog Community will feel differently.

    Reply
  • I have to admit that before I started listening to all these PR podcasts, I, too, assumed that if someone was quoted in the media, s/he had actually said those words--or, at least, something resembling them, as I knew perfectly well how easy it is to be *mis*quoted.

    But making things up out of whole cloth and attributing them to someone else is not the proper business of ghostwriting. Or not to me. I can't actually speak for any other ghostwriter out there, but my job is to help people turn their own ideas and expertise into words. It's a matter of intensive interviewing and listening and cross-checking and redrafting, and a lot of work for the client--and it means that they truly have ownership of what's produced.

    I think one difference between speechwriting and ghost blogging, and between ghost blogging and other forms of ghostwriting, is that there are established conventions for crediting the ghostwriter in othe genres. (Think of the "as told to" in celebrity "autobiographies.")

    I believe that writing should indeed express the authentic voice of the person whose name is attached to it. But I don't think authenticity necessarily precludes the assistance of a professional writer.

    And lest I burden you with a comment of far too much verbosity, I'm going to go write about this on my own blog.

    Reply
  • Posted by Charles Sauriol
    Mitch Joel

    I'm constantly debating over the issue of approaching bloggers and the Social media community as a whole. As a PR consultant for a few corporate clients, there is a fine line between feeding information to bloggers and then giving them freebies in exchange for a positive comment.

    Ghost blogging is somewhat of a slippery slope because, as you mentioned, if you get busted, you lose all credibility. It's happened with Wal-Mart and Sony in the past where their agency was posting anonymous comments on a blog praising the products.

    I think it's pertinent and important for PR people to communicate with bloggers, but it's of our belief here that by becoming part of the social media community and by opening some sort of "off-the-record" dialogue with bloggers, that you can enhance your impact when the time comes to talk about products, projects or other client-related initiatives.

    Reply
  • Posted by Brad
    Mitch Joel

    I completely understand everyone's arguments concerning how ghost blogging could be perceived as being shady, but I also believe that those who disagree with the concept have an inaccurate idea of what the operations of a ghost blogger IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

    A ghost blogger who stays true to the natural definition of the profession would NEVER speak on behalf of their client. It is the ghost blogger's job to merely transcribe their thoughts - which were gathered through detailed interviews - into a readable format. Once the post is published, it is then up to the client to either interact with the comment discussions on their own or to have their ghost blogger transcribe their verbal responses in a manner that resembles the original thought as accurately as possible.

    Bottom line... Ghost bloggers who self-create thoughts on behalf of another are not ghost bloggers at all - they are phonies - and their clients are ignorant for allowing someone to put words in their mouth.

    Sorry to be so blunt with the name calling, but there are too many people out there who are tarnishing the title of what will soon be a mainstream profession.

    Reply
  • Posted by Brad
    Mitch Joel

    One more thing...

    Yes, I do believe that ghost blogging will become a mainstream profession. And yes, I believe that it will enhance the overall quality of the blogosphere.

    Why? Because with the help of ghost bloggers, thought leaders who otherwise never had a method to broadcast their thoughts on the internet will now have one. And more voices on the internet means that more valuable information will be added to the amazing data catalog that is the internet.

    Long live the spreading of ideas, and long live ghost blogging so that people who have never had a public voice can now have one.

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1376