Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Is Ghost-blogging OK? It Depends…

There’s been a resurgence in the debate about whether or not “ghost-blogging” is ok. Some say no because the expectations in the blogosphere are different than in other spaces. And ghost blogging is not “authentic.” Others say it either is fine now or will be soon as social media evolves.

I think the answer really is… it depends (as FIR listeners are accustomed to hearing).

At its worst, the writer is putting words into the mouth of someone. Readers are lead to believe that the thoughts are from the “blogger” when they are not. It’s like the PR person who writes a speech for a CEO and then stands in her place to deliver the speech while pretending to be the CEO. The expectation of the audience is to hear from the CEO, in this case. Not a stand in. The same could be said about the expectations of readers of blogs.

On the other hand, not everyone has time to write all their thoughts down. Not everyone has good writing skills (that’s another issue). So for someone to employ the writing skills of another person is not only fine, it’s appropriate. In this case, the writer is putting someone’s thoughts into words.

This is typically what we do in speechwriting. When I write a speech for my boss, we sit down together first and she outlines her main points and how she wants to make them. I go back and write a draft. She’ll review it and give feedback. I’ll have another go at it and then hand her the disk. She always makes a few changes from there. She could do it all herself, but she is after all a CEO with other responsibilities.

When she delivers the speech, the words are her words. The thoughts are her thoughts. The same would be true if it were a blog rather than a speech. (Though the process likely would have to be quicker.)

I also don’t think that in these cases we should demand there be a statement on the blog about who actually wrote it. I know this is another controversial point. But in a speech, the speaker never announces that he or she didn’t actually write every word even though many, many people don’t understand that there was probably a speechwriter. In public relations, you just get used to writing things and not signing your name for credit.

But when a PR person is blogging on behalf of someone else and practically has carte blanche authority to write whatever, that's another story -- and one I would have concerns about.

So I guess what I am saying is: ghost-blogging is deceptive when it is deceptive, and it’s right when it is right. Like most other ethical issues, it just depends on the situation. Sorry, no black and white rules here. That is why it is so healthy to have these discussions.

For more on the debate listen to or read the following podcasts and blog posts. They are much more eloquent than I.

Inside PR podcast episodes #59 and #60

Dan York’s Disruptive Conversations blog
“Ghost blogging and the coming end of the Golden Age of blogging and transparency”

Sallie Goetsch’s Author-ized Articles blog
"Ghostwriting Does NOT Preclude Authenticity"

Bryan Person’s Bryper.com blog
“PR pro blogging on client’s behalf: Where’s the disclosure?”

Mitch Joel’s Twist Image blog
“What’s Wrong With Ghost Blogging? Or Insights From Inside PR #59”
“Ghost Blogging Continued...”

No comments: