Earlier this year, I joined in a LinkedIn discussion about whether its realistic to expect that senior leaders in an organisation write their own blogs. A hoary old chestnut, I know, but as a corporate communicator, I write for a number of senior managers across various traditional media and felt I wanted to contribute to the conversation. So, I threw my comment into the stream, decided to keep an eye on the conversation, and pretty much figured that would be the end of it.
Except I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Sure – this has been argued around in circles many times before, and by far greater authorities than yours truly. For other robust discussion on the matter, check out
Sure – this has been argued around in circles many times before, and by far greater authorities than yours truly. For other robust discussion on the matter, check out Mitch Joel’s post ‘The Death of Social Media,’ and his podcast, ‘The Great Ghost Blogging (and Ghost Tweeting) Debate (again),’ with Mark Schaefer. The podcast was recorded in response to Mark’s post, ‘Why its ridiculous to argue about ghost blogging,’ where he takes the pragmatist’s view that ghost blogging is simply a reality in our fast-paced corporate world, and people should be more accommodating and accepting of this necessity.
All this discussion highlights to me that there probably isn’t a straightforward answer.
My comment in the LinkedIn discussion was along the lines of there being different answers for different executives, depending on individual circumstances – but that fundamentally, blogging is about authenticity, transparency and honest interaction – and hence it is generally inappropriate to use a ghostwriter.
I added a caveat, though. I said that there is a place for the intuitive ghost writer who has a close relationship with the executive they are writing for. If that writer is capable of producing truly authentic writing that looks and feels like the the executive (and I believe this is possible), then maybe it’s ok.
But is it? Is it really? I am genuinely at a loss.
Because, even if we as communicators manage to capture the voice and the passion of our executives, is it not still a lie we are telling to the audience by pretending that it is actually that person writing the blog? By the same token, those executives aren’t in their roles because they’re great copywriters, and there’s a good chance that they aren’t good at articulating what they truly think about a topic (let alone have the time to record it). On this basis then, aren’t ghost writers simply an enabler for that voice? Aren’t we just the vessel through which they speak?
I’m not about to re-state the well-made, passionate arguments of Mitch and others of his ilk about the foundation of social media being transparent, human interaction – thus rendering ghost blogging a farce which perpetuates everything we hate about sanitised, corporate spin. Nor will I re-hash the pragmatists’ side of the coin. I just wanted to unpack this whole dilemma I’ve been having with myself – and invite you all to have your say as well.
You see, as a writer, I see my role as helping people to find their voice. I don’t want my job to be about ‘key messaging’ and taking the company line. Not everyone can write, and I see it as a privilege to work with people to help them articulate what they really want to communicate – whether that’s a note to a team from their leader, a compelling piece of editorial, or a friend’s CV.
If ghost writing for a senior executive is some form of public deception, what about the letter I write for my friend to her Mother who is terminally ill? Or the heartfelt thank-you letter from the chief executive at the end of a year of financial crisis and many redundancies?
I know I may be diluting the argument here by introducing other media. Part of the case against ghost blogging is about the platform itself. There is an assumption that blogs and other new media will be written by the person that owns it. Transparency and authenticity are the revolution that new media bring to communication. Being subjected to years of spin and sanitised corporate communication and public relations has taught us to expect that a chief probably won’t write his own speech, or introduction to the company magazine.
The idealist in me wants to believe that as a communication professional, I can shine the light on the path of authenticity. I can show them the error of their ways and help them to find their own voice of truth … or can I?
Maybe it’s all about balance.
What do you think?