The Better Social Business BlogJournalizing work in the trenches of all things web, social & interactive
On 03, Jan 2009
Ghost blogging debate continues
Socialmediaheadhunter.com blogger Jim Durbin blogged his .02 about ghost blogging not being cool on his blog on December 6, 2008. I can understand Jim’s anti-cool position on ghost authoring blogs. I definitely get where he’s coming from. However, I take some exception with his criticism of strategists, gurus and agencies providing ghosted content for clients, claiming basically that it’s really not cool, not worth the money and that somehow, we marketers or PR folks are despicable homo sapiens if we accept any money in the form of payment for such services.
I know Jim means well. I fully realize the *best* approach towards social media networking and blogging is being authentic, genuine, sincere, truthful and transparent. There’s no need to lecture me on this, I totally get it.
Not everyone is an Edgar Allen Poe
But as I shared back in October 28, 2008, ghost blogging is here to stay, like it or not. As the comment on his blog post states, not everyone likes to write. And whether you agree or not, not everyone has the time or desire to write. But these folks do recognize the value of being out there so they may opt to collaborate with someone to ghost their postings. The best scenario is for the person to openly communicate the blog is being written by a third party on their behalf. But there are plenty of times where you may just never know if the person blogging is the person blogging. Sure, it’s not the ideal situation but it’s not a crime and I would rather see someone out there trying to find a way to make it work for themselves than not trying at all.
Thou shalt not judge
Did you get the memo? It says: I am *not* pro or against ghosting. Being neutral, I can see both sides of the coin objectively and not pass judgments on other people. I have a client now, a CEO in fact, who wants to have a Facebook profile and a page for his company but has zero interest in maintaining it himself … so he’s looking to me. I suppose if I help this client out with this, knowing what he’d like posted (like company photos, videos, useful links and an occasional note or message that he may forward to me via email), I will suddenly be seen as a sleazy, rotten, two-bit-nothing marketing strategist? Perhaps by some. But being helpful to my clients, helping them to engage, have some presence, become more visible and being their social media right arm is a position that is just fine with me. And if occasionally, that means I have to ghost content something for their Web 2.0 use, I’m ok with that and despite what others think or say, I do sleep very well at night.
It’s not about identity theft
Ghosting anything for others without their consent, collaboration or approval is one thing. I am not talking about that. Clients who need stuff ghosted for them are surely going to review absolutely everything that is written, request revisions and know what is being posted on the blog or social networks before it is done. So it’s not like if you meet that person for lunch and ask them about one of their blog posts, that they would stare at you with a blank look and have to pretend to know what you are talking about. PR agencies and we marketers don’t work in a vacuum. We work closely with our clients to make them, their brands and their businesses or organizations look good and feel great. That requires teamwork. Ghost authoring content of any kind, including press releases, articles, blog posts and any other content creation to be used anywhere in our Web 2.0 world, is part of that teamwork. A client’s ideas, personalities, feedback and input is all incorporated into anything written on their behalf.
Am I in Salem?
It’s not that I think Jim’s a bad guy. Trust me, I don’t know the guy. But given his blog post, I think his point of view is limited and slanted way too negatively. But I know Jim’s not alone. Clearly, Jim referenced a Sean Bolan, who claims that anyone who ghosts is a worthless twit. Jim paraphrased Sean’s sentiments by stating that ghost bloggers should be doused in boiling pitch.
Suddenly, I look around and feel the need to validate I’m not one of the “witches” in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. I pause, look around and have to remind myself that I am, in fact, just a little marketing blogger in Charles Town, West Virginia in 2009. Whew!
Despite my quick reality check, however, I feel a ghosting vs. witchcraft persecution afoot.
Back in the day, folks used to sign petitions accusing the witches of witchcraft. Today, folks leave comments on blogs as they have on Sean’s anti-ghosting blog post. The comments are ablaze with their fires for the kill-us-all bonfire abrewing:
- “Call me crazy, but isnâ€™t that a little like asking someone to go to the party for you?”Susan from Unique Business Opportunity
- Flackery-obsessed Dean Landsman who claims that “many PR (and other such) shops see online social engagement and communication as an open platform for flackery”
- David Mullen who shares similar sentiments: “Ghosts have no place in this space.”
So are ghosters doomed to eternal damnation?
During the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, 19 men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.
In 2009, do thousands of ghosters share a similar fate? Must ghosters be hung out to dry, portrayed as ridiculous, money-hungry idiots willing to do anything for a buck? Must we also endure the harsh accusations of partaking in sleazy marketing and PR ploys and being responsible for diluting the authentic-movement on the Web 2.0 fields of “transparency”?? Must we ghosters languish in anti-ghosting negativity without trials and understanding until silly anti-ghosting hysteria that has seemingly swept throughout the blogosphere subside as well?
What is a ghoster to do amidst such push back and negativity?
I think that if a marketing person, PR agency or any one is asked to ghost author content for any on- or offline purpose, they key as stated above is close collaboration and teamwork with that client. The number one goal is to help the client with their communications goals. And if their communication goal(s) include material that needs to be ghosted, well then that decision is up to the prospective marketing provider. But it’s not like one is being asked to rob a convenience store, shoot at the cops or deal drugs in the back alleys of elementary schools.
I think the negative hype on this whole subject is overrated and just silly. Clients will have their unique needs. Each client is different. It’s up to you to discern if the client’s goals are sustainable and realistic, given the scope and scale of the project(s). Unless a ghoster is actually out there pretending to be someone they are not without a brand’s, a client’s or an organization’s consent, I think ghosters can sleep at night like little babies. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, no matter how many sticks and stones are thrown.
In between professional engagements, Mayra guest blogs and contributes content regularly to a number of publications both in and outside the Washington DC metro area. Mayra is also the editor of The Better Social Business Blog, "Pet Tech" columnist for the Virginia Maryland Dog Magazine, contributes an “e-Trends” column to the Loudoun Business Journal and is founder of the Loudoun Fairfax Local Bloggers Meetup group which mentors and helps local bloggers network, learn and exchange ideas.