Ghost blogging? Just Say No

Do you think ghost blogging is okay? Are you looking for a ghost-blogger for your corporate blog? Are you too busy to band out the text yourself?

Er… then maybe you shouldn’t have a blog!

Ghost blogging is a Tricky Business

The whole issue of ghost blogging for corporate clients is a tricky one (Cf The Ghost Speaks).

ghost blogging

Ghost blogger not for hire!

I’m the first to admit that I’ve done a bit of anonymous ghost blogging for major corporations here in Sweden because they’ve either been overloaded with work or needed someone to write in English.

I’ve ghost blogged in the past because like everyone I need to work and pay the bills and I haven’t always been able to pick and choose clients. Especially when the credit crunch really hit Sweden.

But no more. I’ve decided that if I’m going to blog for someone, like I regularly do for Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet, then I’m much more comfortable writing under my own name. In fact, I’m love writing blog posts. There’s something inherently conversational about the medium that allows for more freedom and variety than the more formulaic journalistic writing I do.

Ghost blogging lacks authenticity


Blogging is an essentially personal communication – even for businesses. And I do feel that if you’ve got a name at the top – as many CEO blogs do – then it’s important that readers know they’re actually getting the written work of the CEO in question, not some ghost writer that’s crafted some copy from an interview or list of bullet posts.

Mitch Joel’s recent attack on the practice of ghost blogging and ghost-tweeting really made me sit up and think. If we’re going to talk about trust and authenticity through online communications, it’s not really ethical to create a fake veneer of authenticity. And I don’t think I can continue to be part of that. Not even in a small way. In the era of real human voices and real human interactions, businesses that try and circumvent this by hiding behind ghostwriters are going to come unstuck. And I don’t want to be part of that.

I’m quitting

So for the record, I’m no longer accepting ghost blogging gigs. Yes, I’m willing to blog for your company but only if I can blog under my own name.

I can see that outsourcing your blog might be necessary from time to time, but in the interests of serving your customers, I think it would be even better if you wrote it yourself. As an educator, I’d be delighted to come in (or Skype with you) to show you how to get started with a blog, and teach you the strategies to use . I just don’t feel comfortable coming in and ghost blogging for you.

So what about all you bloggers out there?

Is ghostblogging for businesses unethical ?
Am I crazy to turn ghost blogging work away?
Or are you crazy to keep doing it?

Update: Mark W Schaefer has a great piece on ghost blogging over at Grow

Image: FlickrCC

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  • http://angelaneal.com Sparklyscotty

    Hi John, interesting stance. To be honest, I never thought about insisting that I use my own name, although I have come up against the issue of “this would sound more authentic if it came from a writer working for your company, rather than supposedly some mystery non-identified voice”. I already use my own account on Facebook when managing company pages, rather than creating a fake “shell” account for each client, and this is definitely a more effective approach because it is genuine.

  • http://angelaneal.com Sparklyscotty

    Hi John, interesting stance. To be honest, I never thought about insisting that I use my own name, although I have come up against the issue of “this would sound more authentic if it came from a writer working for your company, rather than supposedly some mystery non-identified voice”. I already use my own account on Facebook when managing company pages, rather than creating a fake “shell” account for each client, and this is definitely a more effective approach because it is genuine.

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  • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    Hi! Thanks for your response. It IS a very difficult area to negotiate. For example, I tweet for a client under their corporate logo but the tone of the tweets is actually very non-personal. They decided they didn’t want a face on that channel (although I think this is actually wrong).

    It’s a grey zone, really, because as content providers we need to work and make money but at the same time it’s hard to talk about authenticity and trust and social media connections if one is ghosting.

    Only by discussing this will we get a better sense of what’s appropriate or not.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    Hi! Thanks for your response. It IS a very difficult area to negotiate. For example, I tweet for a client under their corporate logo but the tone of the tweets is actually very non-personal. They decided they didn't want a face on that channel (although I think this is actually wrong).

    It's a grey zone, really, because as content providers we need to work and make money but at the same time it's hard to talk about authenticity and trust and social media connections if one is ghosting.

    Only by discussing this will we get a better sense of what's appropriate or not.

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  • http://wrightcreativity.com/ Kirsten Wright

    I am a huge proponent of ghost blogging, and not just because I offer blog management and social media management services. I am not, however, a proponent of anyone who does ghost blogging.

    The way that I approach ghost anything is by acting like I am the marketing person, hired internally by the company – just without actually having to work in their office. Ghost blogging (or tweeting or facebooking) works extremely well for small businesses. Small businesses can’t always afford to hire an internal marketing person, so they hire an external person, teach them everything they can about the company and then use that person as their marketing person. This eliminates the cost of a full-time employee but still gives you the benefit of a top marketing person.

    Ghost blogging is not easy – it requires learning the company you are writing for inside and out. It requires learning the voice, the personality and the ideas of the person that you are writing for. It requires understanding blogging, tweeting and facebook and using what you know to help the companies you work with.

    • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

      @Kirsten,
      That’s a great response! Thanks.

      I’m all for blog management systems where we step in and help small businesses develop content marketing platforms. If you’re blogging under the company name as a hired employee or under your own name, I don’t have a problem with it. Where I do have a problem is where ghost bloggers produce content for someone else to pass off as their own blog. Say, where I write as the CEO of a particular company, taking on their persona, and crafting their bulletted points into a blog post.

      That’s not about fostering trust or authenticity. It’s wanting to come across as authentic and genuine but using someone else’s skills to achieve that.

      My aim is not to knock the kind of blog support services you mention; I’m just trying to get businesses to look at how a ghost-written blog can be construed as spurious or misleading.

      Thanks for sharing your views! It’s only by testing out my thinking in this space that I feel able to define my own position.

  • kirstenwright

    I am a huge proponent of ghost blogging, and not just because I offer blog management and social media management services. I am not, however, a proponent of anyone who does ghost blogging.

    The way that I approach ghost anything is by acting like I am the marketing person, hired internally by the company – just without actually having to work in their office. Ghost blogging (or tweeting or facebooking) works extremely well for small businesses. Small businesses can't always afford to hire an internal marketing person, so they hire an external person, teach them everything they can about the company and then use that person as their marketing person. This eliminates the cost of a full-time employee but still gives you the benefit of a top marketing person.

    Ghost blogging is not easy – it requires learning the company you are writing for inside and out. It requires learning the voice, the personality and the ideas of the person that you are writing for. It requires understanding blogging, tweeting and facebook and using what you know to help the companies you work with.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Kirsten,
    That's a great response! Thanks.

    I'm all for blog management systems where we step in and help small businesses develop content marketing platforms. If you're blogging under the company name as a hired employee or under your own name, I don't have a problem with it. Where I do have a problem is where ghost bloggers produce content for someone else to pass off as their own blog. Say, where I write as the CEO of a particular company, taking on their persona, and crafting their bulletted points into a blog post.

    That's not about fostering trust or authenticity. It's wanting to come across as authentic and genuine but using someone else's skills to achieve that.

    My aim is not to knock the kind of blog support services you mention; I'm just trying to get businesses to look at how a ghost-written blog can be construed as spurious or misleading.

    Thanks for sharing your views! It's only by testing out my thinking in this space that I feel able to define my own position.

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  • Anonymous

    Philosophically I agree.rnrnPractically, I don’t.rnrnHere’s why. It’s going to happen. It just is. And it’s happened for decades. So why not at least do it well?rnrnThe chairman does not pen his own speech, yet nobody questions that they own it. They don;t write the shareholder’s letter in the annual report, yet this is deemed as authentic. Do you thinkg Jack Welch sat there and pecked out his own book? rnrnWhy is everybody all high and mighty about blogs being in a different class? They’re not. I understand your philosphical stance but think it is a quixotic mission. Guest blogs will happen by you or somebody else, so why not be in the mix to do them well … and profit by it too.rnrnThis was a lively discussion on my own blog awhile back. It resulted in a post which basically set out the “groundrules” for ghost blogging. You might find in interesting …rnrnhttp://businessesgrow.com/2009/09/02/how-to-be-a-friendly-ghost-blogger-that-is/

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Philosophically I agree.

    Practically, I don’t.

    Here’s why. It’s going to happen. It just is. And it’s happened for decades. So why not at least do it well?

    The chairman does not pen his own speech, yet nobody questions that they own it. They don;t write the shareholder’s letter in the annual report, yet this is deemed as authentic. Do you thinkg Jack Welch sat there and pecked out his own book?

    Why is everybody all high and mighty about blogs being in a different class? They’re not. I understand your philosphical stance but think it is a quixotic mission. Guest blogs will happen by you or somebody else, so why not be in the mix to do them well … and profit by it too.

    This was a lively discussion on my own blog awhile back. It resulted in a post which basically set out the “groundrules” for ghost blogging. You might find in interesting …

    http://businessesgrow.com/2009/09/02/how-to-be-a-friendly-ghost-blogger-that-is/

    • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

      @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.

      I think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline.

      The exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting – although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today!

      I will blog for other people – in fact I do it every day – but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • markwilliamschaefer

    Philosophically I agree.

    Practically, I don't.

    Here's why. It's going to happen. It just is. And it's happened for decades. So why not at least do it well?

    The chairman does not pen his own speech, yet nobody questions that they own it. They don;t write the shareholder's letter in the annual report, yet this is deemed as authentic. Do you thinkg Jack Welch sat there and pecked out his own book?

    Why is everybody all high and mighty about blogs being in a different class? They're not. I understand your philosphical stance but think it is a quixotic mission. Guest blogs will happen by you or somebody else, so why not be in the mix to do them well … and profit by it too.

    This was a lively discussion on my own blog awhile back. It resulted in a post which basically set out the “groundrules” for ghost blogging. You might find in interesting …

    http://businessesgrow.com/2009/09/02/how-to-be-

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.nnI think I probably didn’t make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline. nnThe exciting thing about online content is that we’re learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I’m just not doing anymore CEO ghosting u2013 although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today! nnI will blog for other people u2013 in fact I do it every day u2013 but I’m not doing it anonymously anymore.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Mark, I enjoyed your response and the post you linked to. I should have guessed it had come up over on Grow! That was a great debate.

    I think I probably didn't make myself clear enough: my main problem is with ghosting for CEOs or other people trying to build a connection and authenticity by putting their name to a blog. There are differences when writing for a brand, although the journalist in me still wants my name on the byline.

    The exciting thing about online content is that we're learning as we go along, and sometimes we have to take a stand, others we need to rethink our position. I'm just not doing anymore CEO ghosting – although I will be translating four blog posts for a university Vice-Chancellor today!

    I will blog for other people – in fact I do it every day – but I'm not doing it anonymously anymore.

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