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Summary:

At any given time, there is usually an ongoing debate in some blogging circle about whether ghostblogging is a good or bad thing. I say it depends on how you’re using the term, and how you are using your ghostblogger. What is a “ghostblogger,” anyway? The […]

At any given time, there is usually an ongoing debate in some blogging circle about whether ghostblogging is a good or bad thing. I say it depends on how you’re using the term, and how you are using your ghostblogger.

What is a “ghostblogger,” anyway? The better-known term is “ghostwriter,” which is defined as follows:

ghostwriter: to write for and in the name of another

So one could assume a ghostblogger is one who blogs for and in the name of another.

There are number of situations where a ghostblogger might be hired and used, such as:

  • A person hires someone to blog on their behalf, but the ideas and basic content comes from them and they are involved in the editorial process;
  • A person hires someone to blog for their company and that person poses as them on the blog;
  • A company/brand hires a professional blogger to blog as the “voice” of the company, without revealing their identity;
  • A company/brand hires a professional blogger to blog, and that person “poses” as someone from the company.

Each of the above situations have sound business rationales behind them, but each can also create problems. At what point does ghostblogging become a bad thing?

Anyone who poses as someone who they are not is potentially crossing a line from authenticity, transparency and honesty into the muddy waters of deception. Regardless of intentions, if someone is pretending to be someone they aren’t, there will always be questions about integrity and credibility.

But there can also be good reasons to hire a ghostblogger, such as a language issue. That is aromatherapist Cristina Proano-Carrion’s situation. She has a blog on her company’s web site Aromandina, but says her greatest challenge is being able to educate her clients without the ability to write well in English. She found a writer via LinkedIn and communicates with her via Skype and email. Here is how Proano-Carrion describes her writing process:

“I write some words, and she (the writer) basically pulls out my mind and my heart what I want to convey. I don’t know what I would do without her, she has helped me have a regular aromatherapy ‘Tip of the Week’ and blogs and articles that I ‘write’ for some online magazines.”

Proano-Carrion provides content — sometimes in bits and pieces — to her ghostblogger who then compiles it into a cohesive, readable format and then edits for grammar and spelling. Proano-Carrion is actively involved in the editing process, although she cites Tim Ferris’ book “The 4-Hour Work Week” and its point about the importance of delegating in areas where you aren’t strong.

Says Proano-Carrion, “I know my work, I love to teach and create and formulate my oils, but I’m not good at writing, mostly because English is not my native language. So, why use the few hours I have to work and develop my line and talk with my clients fighting to write something nice, when someone can do that for me?”

Proano-Carrion doesn’t credit her writer on her site, blog or anywhere else that the content appears. Is this OK?

It seems that in the debates about ghostblogging, many people think that blog posts should either be from the person identified on the blog or at least some sort of credit — or disclaimer, explanation or other kind of text — should be given to explain who actually wrote the content.

Here are a few simple guidelines to consider:

  1. If you hire someone to help you write your blog, give them credit on the about page — maybe something simple like “Thanks to Jane Doe who helps me craft and edit my blog posts because…” Give your reason for hiring the writer, such as “English is my second language.”
  2. If you hire someone to blog for you and you just give them free reign, don’t let them pose as you. There isn’t a disclaimer in the world that could justify this. If you aren’t going to be involved in some aspect of the blogging process or content creation process, don’t pretend it is you out there on the blog.
  3. If you are a company and have hired a professional blogger to be the “generic voice of company,” I think this is OK. I don’t believe you have to reveal their identity or the fact that they are a hired hand and not a member of your staff. This raises another issue, however, of giving credit where credit is due. Many professional bloggers are doing excellent work but nobody knows they are the ones behind some of the most popular brand blogs. My own company blogs on behalf of a number of our clients and in some situations, we are not given any credit at all.
  4. Don’t hire a professional blogger to pose as someone within the company if that person has no input into the content.

I think it all goes back to authenticity, transparency and honesty. Any form of deception, large or small, intentional or accidental, could wreak havoc on your credibility. If you’re a professional blogger, you do deserve credit for your good work, but it may not be appropriate in all contract situations to give you that. Personally, I am happy to strike a balance between the credit and the paycheck.

What are your feelings about the ghostblogging issues? And are you a ghostblogger or someone who has hired one?

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  1. Dwayne Waite Jr. Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Hi Aliza:

    Great post. Yes, with the current spotlight on transparency and being “genuine”, having a ghost blogger/writer can pose to be an interesting situation.

    I have ghostwritten before, and I will probably ghostwrite sometime in the future.

    I believe that ghostwriting is fine under certain circumstances. With those being:
    -opinion; when defending or promoting a cause or issue when the writer and “face” share the same points.

    -Branding; when the writer is creating a message for a brand of a company, brand or service.

    I would never agree to write for someone to get them a job, or anything that dealt with molding their personal life.

    And lastly, I do like your suggestion of giving recognition to the writers. Though we do get noticed financially, and it’s always fun to see our work out and about, getting a shout-out never hurt anyone.

    Cheers,
    DW

  2. Roberta Rosenberg Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Aliza, it’s so funny that you write about this today since my own blog post was about writing my first ghostblogger post for a client. I have some mixed feelings about it as you’ll see: “My Words, Their Byline – Maven Loses Her Ghost Blogging V-Card” http://bit.ly/578xWW

  3. “If you hire someone to help you write your blog, give them credit on the about page — maybe something simple like “Thanks to Jane Doe who helps me craft and edit my blog posts because…” Give your reason for hiring the writer, such as “English is my second language.”

    I think that’s fair enough. I think people care more about your passion and expertise on the subject than your fluency in English. And since readers deserve clear communication, it’s OK to hire somebody more adept for that purpose. (I remember studying a user’s guide for a software developed by an expert whose native tongue is not English. He wrote the user’s guide and it was really tough understanding what he meant. I hasten to add that he is good in what he does but it would be more helpful for him and his readers if he hires a ghost writer.)

    Thanks Aliza for this interesting post.

    Jose

  4. this is a very interesting post and i agree that if you are to be genuine, giving credit where credit is needed is the correct thing to do. i have a business where i write for business blogs, and i don’t mind not getting the credit, because the most important thing for me is to get paid so i can pay my mortgage. but i guess from a reader’s standpoint, i would want to know who was writing.

  5. The New York Times has a column that they write in the voice of who ever they are “interviewing” – I find the stories are often very interesting. If they required the person to write it themselves, I think it would never get written. But they are clear that someone helped write it.

    I think it’s ok for companies to have blogs that are company blogs that don’t credit any individual. (Not particularly useful but ok.) I think blogs that pretend to be an executive but are written by someone else (and that isn’t stated) … those are not ok.

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