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

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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