I’ve been discussing the acceptability of ghost-writing blog posts on behalf of clients lately with other PR firms and industry insiders. Now that blogs have been on the cover of BusinessWeek, many companies I talk to are seriously evaluating their blogging strategy. However humble and niche-focused, most companies feel that a blog would help them communicate and provide an additional vehicle for interaction. The constraint is, of course, time. Who is going to update it?
Many CEOs and senior execs simply don’t have time. Or rather, at present, it’s hard for senior execs to prioritize blogging given the benefits are hard to quantify in hard commercial terms. That may change, but for now there is a void, an unfulfilled need. And that spells opportunity for PR firms.
PR agencies already write opinion pieces on behalf of senior execs which are published in print magazines. They help write the letters to editors which are published in newspapers. They already draft speeches given directly to target audiences at conferences. They script soundbites for broadcast interviews. Is it such a leap to imagine a PR firm ghost-writing blog posts on behalf of a client CEO?
At present, while blogging is still in its infancy, the watchword of transparency must be obeyed. The active corporate community is small enough to be self-policing and we’re not quite ready for ghost-written blogs. We know speech writers help presenters, but given the intimate nature of blogs, we really want to feel like we’re connecting directly with the author. It would seem a betrayal to learn that someone else crafted those words.
But how long will that last? As the number of corporate blogs increases and new rules are made, I wonder if we’ll lose that transparency among the noise. At the moment, you’d have to state that the post was written on behalf of the author or approved by the author. In future perhaps that will be taken as given. And perhaps it’s better for the CEO to have someone ghost-write a blog on their behalf based on a short conversation, than not to have one at all? Do we care if their wisdom and vision comes wrapped in another’s words?
How long will it be before a high profile corporate blog turns out to be written by someone other than the author? Will we be offended? Is it such a crime given other common communications practices? At the moment, probably yes. In future, maybe not.
[Disclosure - I don't currently ghost-write posts for any clients, and have no immediate intentions to do so, this is speculation.]