Is Ghost Blogging Ethical?
Ghost blogging is not a new topic. In fact, the moment “blogging” became a practice, it’s safe to say that someone less interested in writing a blog probably asked a friend, colleague or freelancer to write their blog for them. There could be any number of reasons given, including not enough time; writing was never one of their strengths; outsourcing the blog writing can let them focus on other business building activities; and they weren’t a subject matter expert so they really didn’t have much to say. The concept isn’t the issue. The practice is. Why?
The simple explanation is it goes against the grain of what those who “practice” and/or “participate” in social media activities, including blogging, feel is important: transparency and authenticity. Many would argue blogging, including personal blogging, isn’t about anonymity. It’s about sharing insights, opinions and ideas in a particular format. It’s about engagement. Those that read blogs want to know that there’s someone behind the ideas that are being shared. And, most importantly, they want to participate in the conversation that the blogger may have started.
For those of us communications practitioners, our job is best served to advise those in how best to communicate. Blogging is just one channel. The hang up that many have in who’s writing what and when only seems to permeate the social media communities. However, would we be asking the same question when scrutinizing an earnings call transcript? Do we hang on the question, who wrote which word? Would, or should, we annotate who supplied the language for each sentence? The answer to that question is obvious.
However, as to the original question and the ethical debate it engenders, effective blogging like most, if not all, communications disciplines requires a large dose of common sense sprinkled with healthy opinion and a common cause. The role we as communications consultants offer is how best to engage in the blogging process. That can take on any of a number of methods, but when looking at those that blog on behalf of companies, it should involve the following:
Active listening: tapping into relevant conversations that are happening in a particular industry. This role is particularly important as more communications channels are being leveraged by customers, partners and competitors.
Balancing insight and perspective: tired of trying to explain a point to someone? Take it up on the blog. The blog is both a creative and effective medium in shedding light on a particular topic. And, it doesn’t have to be lengthy. Just take a look at JetBlue for a good example, and something covered in a prior blog post.
Creating conversations: just as Katsumoto said to Captain Algren in the movie The Last Samurai, it should be about the art of the conversation. An effective blog should be about generating and participating in conversations.
Practically speaking, collaborating, copy editing and/or counseling a blog writer are just a few ways to help the blogging process. But at the end of the day, there will be times when any blogger may need help in blogging, and that help may be ghost written.