Should PR firms ghost-write client blog posts?

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.]

  • No other comments yet?
    I saw this post on my RSS feed this weekend, but didn’t get a chance to come to the site till today. I was hoping to see some feedback since I have been asked the same thing from a few of my clients.

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  • Well I think one of the major differences between a blog and any other communication mechanism (web magazine/journal) is the personal touch associated with blogs. While mainstream media writers and editors increasingly criticized for representing the ideas of the owners of respective media firms, blogs gained huge popularity at the expense of traditional media. This popularity was mainly due to the personal touch and temper associated of the write associated with the blogs. Blogs also provide good means of establishing two way communications between the author and the reader which would build up a discussion around a topic.
    If PR agencies actively involve in ghost writing blogs the very essential ingredient of blogging will be lost and the blog in subject will not be different from yet another press release from the client company. These blogs will not braw any sustainable readership over time as sooner or later readers will realize that authenticity of the blog is in question.
    Therefore I believe the most appropriate blogging mechanism for corporations would be to publish authentic blogs by employees/executives rather than hiring a PR firm to ghostwrite blogs.
    I have included the above comments in my blog

  • Ghostwriting someone’s blog seems to be stirring up some interesting discussions. I have a question for you. How is having a ghostwriter for a blog any different than a secretary cleaning up a boss’s letters, emails, or other communications? As long as there have been businesses, secretaries have been fixing errors in letters and other communications. Some bosses would simple tell the secretary to pen a letter to a particular individual and leave the specific wording to his/her discretion; meanwhile, the boss would simply read the letter before signing and make any revisions at that time. Isn’t ghostwriting a CEO’s blog similar? If the CEO talks to the ghostwriter about potential topics, the ghostwriter has some direction and focus for the postings, making sure to run the copies by the CEO for any necessary revision and the final copy for approval. Smart, effective CEOs hire smart, effective administrative assistants, so why not hire a creative, well-spoken ghostwriter?

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