Gini Dietrich

The Ghost Blogging Debate

By: Gini Dietrich | August 16, 2010 | 

On Saturday, I was relegated to the trainer because it was pouring rain at our normal team ride start time. I had to do sprint intervals, which aren’t fun outside, let alone on the trainer, and I was not looking forward to being stuck for nearly two hours.  I was catching up on podcasts and half watching The Food Network, when Mitch Joel’s interview with Mark Schaefer came on my iPod. The debate? Ghost blogging. It captivated my attention for 40 minutes as they professionally debated why you shouldn’t ghost blog (Mitch’s position) and why it’s okay to ghost blog in some cases (Mark’s position).

They both made some very good points and you can listen to it in its entirety here. In fact, I highly recommend you do listen to it – while you commute, exercise, or have it on in the background while you work. Make a point to listen to it.

As idealistic as I am and, as much as I would love to teach our clients how to do their own online marketing and work us out of jobs, we do live in the real world and I think Mitch’s stance of not allowing old world execution into new world tools is not realistic.

This is what I think is the difference between the two opinions (and I mostly agree with Mark on this): Mitch works with Wall Street businesses and Mark works with Main Street businesses. We also work almost exclusively in the $20 million to $200 million company range and, I have to tell you, these companies (with a few exceptions) do not have people who can execute marketing for them, as Mitch says in his argument. He argues that Michael Dell doesn’t blog and Jeff Immelt doesn’t blog, but both Dell and GE have blogs. Yes, because they have people. Most small and medium sized businesss outsource all of their marketing needs and, therefore, blogging is recommended as a tool and ghost blogging is born.

I was of the Mitch philosophy even as early as this year. But, no matter how hard we tried – giving clients outlines and topics, scouring their LinkedIn groups for ideas, subscribing to and reading SmartBrief and Google alerts for them – they just wouldn’t make the time to blog, even if they said they really wanted to. There are some exceptions, of course. But most of our clients have us ghost blog for them. We do everything I mentioned above and we interview the CEO at least weekly to get his or her thoughts. Then we write the post, we add an image, we optimize it, we tag and categorize it, and then we ask the client to read, approve, and publish it. We will not publish without his or her approval. Ever. And most of our CEOs change a few things, add their own voice, and add different images…so it really becomes their own piece. We just helped get them started.

One thing we insist they do is talk to their community. They answer comments and engage in discussion. They create communities in LinkedIn that allow them to prospect and sell by adding valuable content through discussions and debate. I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind about a CEO, who blogs, answering their own comments. That’s crossing the hypothetical line.

So Mark and Mitch? I think there is a middle ground here. Sure, I’d love it if every business that sees value in blogging did it themselves, but I really do think the difference lies in Wall Street vs. Main Street…and there are too many Main Street companies who won’t ever have the time or expertise to use any marketing tool themselves, let alone blogging. It’s our job to help them grow their businesses and, if blogging works, why wouldn’t we use that tool just because their CEO doesn’t have the time to write, but will engage with its community?

What do you think? Ghost blogging: Yes or no?

Image courtesy of Ghost Theory

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • As a communications strategist who has written numerous messages for clients at all levels, I have to say that I think ghost blogging is a must and there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, perhaps I am partially biased because I would be the ghost blogger myself but here are my points to back up my thinking.

    To me, it is the exact same thing as all the more traditional corporate communications that are written for leaders across both private and public sector.

    Most leaders do not have time to write their own messaging. Just as you eloquently said Gini, that is not to say they don’t want their voice infused in it or that they don’t have an opinion about what it says. They also edit and add things into the drafts written for them.

    But when it comes to writing it in a compelling way, I think a huge number of leaders have people writing for them. I don’t think this is a secret. I think most people know that leaders have help with their messaging and even more people are thankful that they do!

    Conversely, can they afford not to do this? How many times have we heard about a leader that flubbed an important message because they rushed to get it written and sent themselves and then paid dearly afterwards? We are quick to criticize those silly individuals aren’t we? Then why question the ghost blog?

    I think leaders owe it to their people to have writers do the heavy lifting and put the time and energy into their messaging. The leaders need to spend their time walking around their companies and TALKING person to person to their employees and meeting with customers to make sure they are happy. Their time is best spent on building and maintaining relationships. Let writers spend time in front of the computer crafting messaging and the leaders can read, edit, and send them out.

    • Miri – You clearly side with Mark and me on this one! But, I challenge you to listen to what Mitch has to say about the very thing you bring up: It’s the exact same as having corporate communications write your speech or your talking points. His argument is that old world techniques do not work with new world tools and that it is our jobs to be changing the corporate culture.

      I don’t necessarily agree with this, but his point is very salient.

  • Here we go again 🙂

    In all seriousness, I think your points are equally salient and compelling.

    My two reasons for worry:

    1. These are human channels that create real connections between real human beings. These are not corporate speeches or annual reports. These are different (you can argue that, but they are different).

    2. Ask the customers. It’s just this simple for me. Ask your customers (the ones reading the Blog) if they mind that this content is not being written by the person whose name is on it. Let them know that it is ghost-written (you can even walk them through the process as you have done above). If nothing changes in terms of your web analytics, sales or level of trust, then who cares what anyone says (and this includes me)?

    I believe (and will stand by) that corporate Blogs being presented as a personal space to share insights have a predisposed and inherent understanding that the person whose name is on it is the actual author. If we agree that Blogs are supposed to be more “human” aren’t we undermining it by starting out with a lie (or undisclosed ghostwriter)?

    • Mitch, I do agree with you on disclosure. It’s not just that the blog is a corporate product, I think readers understand that. But unlike website or brochure boilerplate, it has that air of “human” or personal.

      So when it’s under the name of a CEO or other public face of the company, it is different. I agree there should be a standard disclaimer that points out that additional research, writing, comment reviews are being done by So-and-So marketing department or consultants. FWIW.

    • Mitch and Davina,

      I don’t argue that these tools are different – I agree they are. And trust me…we’ve tried and tried to get a blog up and going without a little help from the CEO’s friends. In most cases, it just doesn’t work. It makes me sad, but we’ve found their traffic, sales, request for information, or whatever their goals continue to rise every month with help.

      But we always disclose. Always. Maybe it’s because we’ve helped start most of our client’s blogs and they’ve always been ghost written that it doesn’t bother their customers and prospects? I don’t know…but I know we’re helping them achieve their goals.

  • I appreciate your practical real-world common sense Gini. As I said in the debate, I am an idealist at heart but a realist in practice. The debate is over. Ghost blogging is occurring, probably at an accelerating rate, so let’s deal with it in a professional and enlightened way! Thanks!

    • How about we deal with it in a professional and enlightened way be 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?

      • Hi Mitch,

        I don’t think you’ll see anyone afraid to state that ghostblogging’s “first act is one of deceit and misdirection.” And to be honest, that’s a pretty myopic statement – you’re basically saying anyone in this category is a liar.

        It could be argued that your blog goes against “human and real voices” since you rarely interact in the comments section afterward. So, in essence, your blog becomes a broadcasting platform – which most “social media purists” would say goes against the whole social media conversation.

        Yes, in an ideal world, everyone writes and speaks for themselves. But we don’t live in an ideal world; we live in a business world. If the mailman comes up with an amazing idea, does he get credit or does the CMO? Depends on the company, obviously. Same with blogs – some will be happy to share the “these are the thoughts of…” disclaimer, some won’t.

        Remember the hoo-ha when it became clear Guy Kawasaki didn’t tweet everything himself? Doesn’t seem to have done his brand any major harm.

        Businesses do what they can and what’s right for them at that time. If a “ghost” writer or agency can show the value of blogging to a CEO or CMO, that then gets them involved themselves, isn’t that preferable to not hearing their voices at all at some stage and missing out on some amazing thought leadership?

        All for the sake of “purism”?

        • I think you should review my Blog over the past few months as I’ve changed my ways in terms of always trying to connect and engage in the comments – because you’re right, it became clear to me that it was too much publishing and not enough engaging (which was limiting the audience and the conversation). I do enough pure publishing in newspapers and magazines, and Blogs are a different channel/type of engagement.

          Your point about Guy Kawasaki is – exactly – my point. If people love the content and it’s not affecting sales, etc… then go for it (but disclose it – as he did).

        • Oops, shows how long it is since I read you blog – fair point.

          But would Guy Kawasaki have disclosed had he not been “outed”? And why not disclose it from the start? He didn’t, and when he did, sure, there was a little outcry, but after that, nothing.

        • I don’t know if he would or would not, but my argument is: by doing it, he proved that if there is value and people like it, then nothing happens, so in a world of Social Media why not be open and transparent (again, I think we would both agree that these are some of the fundamental pillars of what makes Social Media what it is).

        • Agree on the openness, but Kawasaki is the example against that (if you take it to its natural conclusion).

          Your point (and it’s a solid one) is that folks should be open from the start, and I agree 100%. But Kawasaki didn’t; he got “caught”; then he opened up, took some flack, and then continued being successful.

          So if I’m a CEO or CMO looking at the Kawasaki example, I’m thinking, why the need to be open? It didn’t hurt Kawasaki, and folks seem to get angry then move onto something new.

          I’m not saying that’s the right point of view; but it is an understandable one.

      • Danny and Mitch – the two of you are cracking me up! I think we all agree here…disclose, disclose, disclose. And, if it helps the company reach it’s goals, then what the heck is wrong with it??

        I defend ghost blogging (though I didn’t as early as first quarter of this year), but I also make sure we disclose everywhere that we help. Always.

  • Having had several “ghost bloggers” add their content to my blog has been incredible. I think they add to the conversation that I am attempting to create by providing their “voice” to topics that I have not had exposure to.

    And as many may recall Gini – you have been pretty transparent in the fact that your readers were going to be invited to provide content to “Spin Sucks”. If they penned the article and you took credit then I would take issue – but they (and you) don’t so I personally enjoy the ghost or guest blogs that you share.

    I appreciate Mitch’s point of view…and that’s the beauty here – not everyone will agree with what is posted on our blogs but at least we understand that there are always two-sides to the coin.



    • Sorry – I think I confused many with the fact that I was talking “guest blogging” vs “ghost blogging”. I think it’s an interesting debate however and that there are merits on both sides.

      I think disclosure is key here regardless especially if it’s a personal blog or feed. I do know of several organizations who have a few people writing for their blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts but the messaging remains consistent regardless.

      Good topic though as I think it is generating some good discussion. Cheers,


  • I’ve tried both positions and have to admit it’s frustrating trying to show CEOs or non-writers how to blog. I’ve also ghost-blogged for the heads of a couple of major Swedish organizations and felt rather uncomfortable about the whole thing.

    In the end I decided I’m happy to blog under my own name, will blog for a corporation as an anonymous writer but I won’t pretend to be someone else. I stopped doing that a good long while back because it didn’t feel like authentic social media.

    If a CEO or such-like wants to appear as a blogger but doesn’t fancy writing the text nowadays I do my utmost to persuade them to look at a different medium: like a micro-blog, podcast or vlog. Just because you want to communicate with your customers and target audience, it doesn’t mean you have to blog.

    • Jon, we do the same thing…try to convince them to use video or audio. But, just like with writing, most CEOs don’t know anything about using something as simple as a Flip camera…and don’t have the time or patience to learn it. So we will stick the camera in front of their faces and ask the questions. It works pretty well, in most cases, but I also don’t think this falls under ghost blogging.

  • OK now I’m going back on what I said a bit. I read some of the comments (haven’t been able to listen to the podcast – pesky work gets in the way!) and thought about it more. I think it is a bit different than the traditional venues because blogs can be very casual and I agree, different venues may be appropriate for different leaders. Perhaps a video blog works or twitter can be an easier venue. Most people want to hear what their leaders really think (and not their writers) and a blog can be a nice way to hear the REAL voice. Perhaps coaching the leader and helping them get confident with their voice is a better way to go?

    • Coaching can be done and I believe it’s an ideal way to go to help senior managers get their voice out there.

      PR companies have always dealt with media training. I personally see blog training an extension of this.

      Empowering CEOs, etc, to engage is an important step in developing social media channels.

  • This is a tough one.

    I do see Mitch’s point…and hate the deception involved. If I were a purist, I’d have to agree with him. But I’m not…I’m a marketer…and as Seth Godin says, all marketers are liars:) Kidding, of course.

    I actually do write a ghost blog, trying as hard as I can to make sure it reflects the voice of the CEO. The problem is, as marketers, we want to use social media with our clients and love the authoritative platform a blog gives our clients, as well as the opportunity for them to engage an audience…but face it– on Main Street, lots of clients will just never do it for themselves.

    We get real…maybe we are not transparent. In the end, we provide a valuable service to clients, valuable info and opportunities to interact for the readers.

    Maybe it’s like marketing botox…it the client look a bit better, maybe helps him grow his business…and who does it hurt?

    • Rhonda – that’s my stance, too. The businesses our country is made up of just don’t have the internal resources to use any marketing tool themselves, not just blogging. Isn’t that why they hire us?

  • It’s an interesting debate, Gini and I’m sure it’ll continue. (Makes note to listen to podcast when I have a chance.)

    Like Mark, Jon.. I have always had the idealistic “just say no” approach to this.. but then, we’ve written press releases, helped clients with quotes and sound bites over the years. And like Jon, I won’t publish under someone else’s name.. ever. I think every newsletter I’ve done, the masthead has included a “written and edited by” before by name, to that end.

    I still agree with what I mentioned to Mitch, about disclosure. Think just letting customers behind the curtain and take a peak at how it works, actually may help strengthen and build relationships.

    I LOVE your “middle ground” approach with research and writing assistance; always getting input and approval; and requiring the “blogger” to engage via the comments (one their own and other blogs, too.)

    Personally I want the CEO of GM or whomever doing their job: running the company, working for the employees and shareholders they serve, and not spending too much time blogging or tweeting. FWIW.

    • Davina, I guess this will come to some sort of conclusion eventually. Maybe there will even be some law that regulates it. Like I said, I would love it if we could all work ourselves out of jobs, but I agree with you that I’d rather the CEO run the company than spend too much time marketing the company.

      • Gini, Same for a CEO or small business owners who don’t have either the time and/or the talent. I’d rather people spend their time doing what they do best, better serves the brand.

        That’s why people specialize; they have marketable skills getting a job done. For efficiency and optimal performance, you always want to task the right person for the job.. whether it’s accounting or human resources or marketing… or supervising it all.

        Like you I’ve shifting my stance on ghost writing and blogging in general, so long as that disclosure caveat is up front and clear. FWIW.

        P.S. You’re right, some nice debate here.

        • I have comments in various parts of this post, but I’m interested in your caveat. Are you saying that you wouldn’t ghost-write if the client didn’t want to do the disclosure and was willing to risk his or her customers finding out later and not caring?

          Seems to me that you could make the case for full disclosure to the client but then move forward either way. Or turn down the job if things didn’t go your way.

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  • This is a big debate in the legal industry as well. Large law firms are barely tolerant of the lawyers themselves blogging, so it may take some time before they allow for ghost bloggers.

    Smallers firms are already using ghost bloggers quite frequently though- give it a year or two and I think even the largest law firms will follow suit.

  • I think we’re making this debate a bit more complex than it needs to be. In my mind, it’s about two things: authenticity and brand value.

    For those who trade on their own personal brand, it’s more important that it be your voice and yours alone. Ghost-blogging seems less creepy if you’re doing it for a corporate brand and using someone as the “face” of that brand. Mitch Joel’s income depends on his credibility so using a ghost-blogger makes no sense; if Guy Kawasaki’s Tweets are the brainchild of someone else — with or without his blessing — then the only brand he’s hurting is his own. But if he writes his own messages and hires someone to coordinate his presence on various platforms, is that really such a big deal?

    It’s the ghost blogger’s responsibility to make the voice as authentic as possible.

    If you’re a small business and delegate the writing to a ghost-blogger because you either don’t write well enough or don’t have time, recognize that it will blow up in your face if your customers feel that you’re trying to con them. Spend some time understanding the platforms you’re communicating on and decide which ones help you achieve your goals, which I presume are to drive more business by either finding new customers or getting more sales from existing customers. You do that by differentiating your brand and social media is just one tool to engage with your customers.

  • I agree with Mark in the sense that ghost blogging is real. I agree with Mitch, in that, you can let people know what’s going on. I think, if it’s an issue, then just have a general company blog.

    I’m happy that my clients put the time in to write. I have one client who is a goldmine of information in his field. It’s great working with him because he’ll email me a couple of posts back to back. Two posts is enough for week because we’re not working on a radio show/podcast for him. For another client, I write one piece for his regular newsletter. However, it’s generic in the sense that it’s a regular feature, and I just update it with each newsletter.

    I think, as I take on more clients, this is going to be an issue because I’m a prolific blogger and it comes up fairly fast that I’m a good writer. Also, blogging is how I found my way into helping people with online strategy and day-to-day management of their social media.

    Ghost writing is something I could market, but I don’t want to channel someone on their blog. My voice is unique. I can tame it or change it to suit the goal of my writing (that’s what a good writer does), but I don’t want someone taking credit for my turn of a phrase.

    I do think it very misleading to have a ghost written personal blog. That’s not a personal blog.

    • Regina: You bring up a very good point about ghost-written personal blogs – keyword here being “personal”. Compare this with a corporate/business blog, where it’s not necessarily the day-to-day personal views of a CEO, business owner, etc.

      I don’t have anything against ghost blogging – for the right reasons. This was actually a topic I blogged about over a year and a half ago:

      There was a really great comment on my post back then from Sarah Worsham of about the practice being more acceptable for businesses rather than individuals – and I couldn’t agree more.

      I think what needs to be nailed down first is the blogging strategy and if your business blog should be written from the perspective of one person vs. a team. If it’s one person, then does it need to be the viewpoints of the owner, or can it be from the perspective of another designated company blogger? If you feel it should be the owner’s perspective, then think long and hard about whether that’s really the best strategy before moving forward.

  • I don’t think this is really an argument over whether to ghost blog / have a ghost blogger, but a question of quality.

    There is a role for professional writers in this world, even if we have a tough time getting paid what we are worth much of the time. Quality writing is almost always a matter of verisimilitude, or a touch of reality that comes from being true to the character and their perspective.

    A ghost writer who is doing their job well is, in the end, doing little more than organizing and projecting the mind of the person who employs them. The distinction between the ghoster and the byline credit is little more than the ability to render the voice clearly in text.

    The traditional role of a secretary is not significantly different in many ways. A busy executive might read correspondence and dictate a reply directly, or communicate the general gist of the reply and let their secretary fill in the details. That practice is traditional and well understood, so why should its use in a blog be somehow considered different?

    Like the traditional secretary role, the relationship between the two parties. If the voice being used is genuine but better organized the role of a “ghost” is a net benefit to both the byline credit and the reader at the same time.

    The skills needed and the relationship that has to develop are both really a matter of quality. Bad ghosting is never going to be a good thing, but properly done it is a benefit to everyone (in my humble opinion).

  • Oops, accidentally cut something in edit (damn these entry boxes!).

    First sentence of ‘graph 5 should read, “Like the traditional secretary role, the [key is the] relationship between the two parties.”

    Gotta get my Monday morning coffee to kick in here … 🙂

  • If a company doesn’t have the time or expertise to blog in the way that it would like, then it should make it very clear in the blog post who wrote the content. I am not very comfortbale with ghostwriting and think that a company should allow it’s staff to control the brand (I know there’s risk involved). If outsourcing is required then the very minimum requirement should be to be transparent and honest. Nothing quite ruffles feathers in the world of social media and online comms like a company not being honest.

    Great debate – hope the comments keep coming.

    I blogged about th same subject a few months back – may be worth having a look and seeing other points of view too.



  • The spelling mistakes were not intentional by the way – maybe I need a ghost writer 😉

  • It occurs to me that the only people whose feathers are getting ruffled here are other social-media “experts” rather than the communities where the ghost blogging is taking place. If a neighborhood restaurant or a local business tries to engage with its customers and uses a guest-blogger, they’re at least doing more than they were the day before. Baby steps. Not sure a bad thing if the business owner makes sure the content is accurate and reflects his or her view.

    • Should they be transparent though and say who is producing the content?

      • Why? If you go to Peter Osborne’s blog, then you can reasonably expect to read Peter Osborne’s work. If I own a company, then the blog should have a recognizable voice but I don’t think you need to “confuse” the matter with disclosures. The “writer” takes responsibility for the content by putting his or her name on it. My suggestion might be to put the blog in a plural tense (we do this, or we do that, or someone came in the restaurant the other night and had a bad experience and here’s what we did to resolve his/her negative feelings. Make the company feel like a living, breathing entity and you’ve accomplished your goals, IMHO.

        • Peter, you and I agree here, but I wonder what you do if you’re serving as the marketing department for a company, but as an outside expert? Should you put your name on the byline? Or is the fact that you’re disclosing that you’re helping enough?

        • I’m replying to Gini’s Reply but there was no button. I’m not clear on where you’re suggesting I disclose if I’m serving as a third-party marketing department (presumably on either a retainer or project basis).

          I would think it would be up to my client whether they disclose that I’m writing it. I would think it’s fair game — with warning to the client — for me to point prospective clients toward the blogs I’m ghost-writing on my own site. But part of the idea of ghost-writing, one would think, is that I’m not taking credit at the point of engagement.

          I still think the market for this is at either end of the spectrum — at the large company where the CEO probably isn’t going to write it but will provide input or direction and at the very small business level where a blog is a standard component of a social-media strategy plan but where that person may not have the skills to execute effectively.

  • Just out of curiosity, what do those of you who are ghost-blogging charge (or how do you structure your service — by the posting or some other way)? Thanks.

    • Paid content can often be had very cheaply for people who don’t care about quality. I’ve never been able to get more than 12 cents a word, but I’ve never had a steady, reliable gig. I would like to think that quality writing would be worth more but the market rarely seems to focus on quality the way I defined it above. All that anyone seems to care about is SEO. Blah.

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  • It would be best to get information right from the horse’s mouth but it isn’t practical. People are just too busy to handle every aspect of their business. That’s why they “have people.” PR professionals have been used to help formulate messages since the beginning of time. How many times have you asked a coworker or partner for help? OK, coworkers and partners may not be professionals, but it’s much the same process – formulating the message and constructing the verbiage.

    The line between acceptable and unacceptable is drawn for me where the ghost writer is creating concepts and ideas. This isn’t the same as a PR professional suggesting content to address specific issues but rather where the writer is creating original thought.

  • I’ve done ghost blogging and also done blogging in my own name for other sites and in either case I charge by the hour at the same rates I do for copywriting.

    I won’t ghostwrite a blog that’s meant to convey the personality of an individual rather than the general expertise of a company because I think it’s pointless: by the time I could do his or her personality, “voice,” and ideas justice, in the way I would in a book or longer article, s/he could have written the post easily. (Unless s/he is really willing to pay for that extra time, but really, using an alternative medium like video or podcasting or Twitter or just having a different person in the company blog is probably better.)

    Overall, I come down on Mitch’s side of the argument, but at least what Mark describes is *real* ghostwriting, and not “Let’s hire someone in the Philippines for $4/hr to write keyword-stuffed articles for our blog because we think it will help our SEO.”

    • Sallie, first thanks for the comment on InsidePR! We talk a bit about you on tomorrow’s episode so be sure to listen! 🙂

      I agree with you on the outsourcing of content to a foreign country. That idea makes me sick to my stomach. Talk about commoditizing our industry!

  • Gini,
    Oh phew, was my first thought. I can’t wait to listen to the debate, but I struggle with ghost blogging. I do ghost blog but urged the client to do it themselves with no luck.

    The challenges:
    1. Messaging – getting them to understand this is not another outlet for corporate propaganda.
    2. Transparency – and this is my question to you. How do you handle that? Who is the “author”?

    Thank you for sharing the debate and your comments. great topic.

    • When we ghost blog, we disclose it by saying something along the lines of, “Written by CLIENT, as told to Arment Dietrich.”

      • Yikes. At what point does this become about the PR/marketing agency? Seems to me that approach makes the client look a bit like a moron who can’t put two words together on his or her own.

        From my standpoint, I think I’d be OK with putting something on my website that lists my “blog clients” and advise my clients what the implications are of not disclosing but leaving the choice to them.

        Just out of curiosity, if a client didn’t want to disclose, would you decline to ghost-write?

        • Yeah…we would decline to do the work.

        • I admire that.

          To this point, I haven’t been ghost-writing but I have been asked by a client to consider doing it for its clients and have felt vaguely uncomfortable about it. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. thanks.


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  • Hello:

    First, let me say that I believe I adhere to high ethical standards as a public relations professional; I fully support transparency and open disclosure of information.

    That said, I am a proud ghost blogger for a leadership group within a large, prestigious professional association. I agree with Sallie’s comments above. My blogs are purely informational and inspirational; they’re designed to accentuate and shed new perspectives on leadership-related subjects. I blog for several members of the organization and convey their thoughts accurately; I strive to incorporate their respective personalities into each post.

    During my career, I have been the author of print articles, speeches and presentations that have been “attributed” or delivered by someone else.

    I find there’s nothing wrong in these practices.

  • Yours is a compelling argument, if done correctly, as you posit above. My worry is that companies will start seeing this as the norm, and a CEO will decide that he doesn’t have the thirty minutes or so it takes to deal with a single blog post in a day, and he’ll delegate to someone else that has their own agenda.

    We’re back to a version of, “Who Do You Trust?” for the 21st Century, I would imagine.

  • Had to read this three times over the course of three days to form my opinion.

    If the blog is the voice of the executive in her/his corporate role then I have no problem who crafts the piece, cause as you noted, the executive will (not may) review and adjust to their voice (the analogy of the speech writer is spot-on). Wise writers will have their business associate blogs edited and reviewed prior to publication.

    For those speaking with their own voice on their own topics – i.e., not directly associated with their business – then one should imo do it yourself.

    My blogs at Huffington Post and CSO Online go through an editorial review process, as they should. The blogs which appear on Veritate et Virtute are mine. In both instances the words read frame the messages I want to be delivered to those gracing me with their time to read my thoughts.

    Thanks for this piece.

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  • Gini,
    One of the essential questions that needs to be answered to determine the propriety of ghost blogging is: why does the company want to blog in the first place? What are their objectives?

    If the objective is to educate and inform about company or industry news, trends and happenings, then I have absolutely no qualms with ghost blogged content. It really doesn’t matter if these posts originate from the CEO or a summer intern.

    If the intent is to provide an industry platform to discuss strategic issues and comment on industry trends, then the important factor isn’t necessarily who wrote it (though no post should appear online without being read, edited and approved by the executive) but who responds to the dialogue that’s generated.

    I’ve worked with dozens of CEOs who simply don’t have the time to write thoughtful blog post. However, they can outline their thoughts and opinions for a writer to capture and expound upon with researched statistics, case studies and supportive graphics. The core, underlying ideas are entirely theirs, they just need help broadcasting their ideas to a larger audience.

    The only area I have issue with is ghost responses in the comments area. These should be written and posted only by the actual author of the response. If the CEO is out of town, other execs can craft responses, but only if they are identified as the respondents. And if the CEO cannot ever find the time to engage in the online dialogue, then he should lose his byline and the corporate blogging responsibilities should be delegated to an exec who can.

  • Catriona Oldershaw

    Hmmm. I understand the desire to keep the social media ecosystem ‘pure’ and unsullied by old school PR techniques, but it feels a little like putting your finger in the hole in a damn and hoping it will hold. It won’t.

    As Miri says, most senior decision makers simply don’t have the time to write their own messaging: be that a ‘quote’ in a press release, a speech, an article in a magazine or a blog.

    There’s also a whole industry out there selling PR and marketing services (which I’m part of) who are determined not to be written out of the equation just because a client can now, in theory, self-publish and engage with their audiences without PR assistance. In practice, ghost written blogs and ghost tweeting are natural and inevitable extensions of PR’s armoury. They are everywhere, they are here to stay, and they will very, very seldom be sign-posted by ‘As told to …’ tags or other disclaimers.

  • I believe ghost blogging do no harn to anyone. I as a copywriter do ghostblogginh all the time because people I work with have no time for writing texts, making them sound great, be readable and useful. However they take a great part in correcting the text and applying it to their preferences and opinions.

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