Someone recently posted a discussion on Smaller Indiana, saying he didn’t recommend ghost blogging for his clients, but would write a blog post for the client as long as he could put a link to an email to his service as a way to show people the content was provided by a third party.
This is an oddly Puritanical viewpoint to have about writing, since ghost writing goes on everywhere else. Blogging is the last frontier where ghosting is frowned upon.
As a freelance writer, I have written sales letters, web copy, press releases, brochure copy, speeches for US Congressional campaigns, and of course, blogs. No one assumes that these things are written by the person who signed it, owns it, delivers it.
No one complained that I wasn’t being transparent. The client never said, “we’ll put your company URL on our press release.” I never got any credit for the sales letters or press releases, I got money. That was all the credit I needed.
Look, we outsource things in this world. Small businesses outsource their accounting to independent accountants. No one complains about that. Large companies outsource their advertising production to ad agencies. They don’t buy cameras and software, or hire full-time actors to wait around the office until they need another commercial. And of course, we’ve all been on the phone with the tech guy named “Steve,” who speaks with a thick accent. Think that’s not outsource? Think again.
So why the bias against ghost blogging? Is the only problem the fact that when I wrote it, I didn’t have an office and get a full-time salary from that client? Is that the hangup? That I don’t make 100% of my income from that particular client?
“It’s not transparent and authentic” say the so-called social media “experts” (and don’t get me started on those guys).
There’s a big difference between transparency and authenticity, and most people make the mistake of using them interchangeably.
“Transparency” means other people can see what you’re doing. “Authenticity” means you’re being truthful about what you say.
If we write a blog post for a client, the client is still being authentic. We’re echoing that client’s viewpoint. We’re saying the things they believe and espouse. We’re not making it up or giving them new ideas. We learn about the viewpoint through talking with the client, writing the information they give us, and then making sure they approve the post. (Inauthentic means I put words into the other person’s mouth, and say things that are out of character or completely contrary to their views.)
I would have to do these things if I were a full-time employee too. The only difference is I would then have to go to five hours of meetings to listen to other people blather on about the mission statement of this committee, and why it’s crucial that we use the word “provide” instead of “offer.” (Personally, I don’t think emotional torture and abuse of the soul is a prerequisite to writing authentic blog posts, but that’s just me.)
Transparency is a completely different issue. Yes, ghost blogging is not transparent. Neither is ghostwriting a book, a political speech, a CEO’s letter, or a press release. The politician doesn’t thank his or her speechwriter. The CEO doesn’t include a special P.S. shout out to their writers. Yet no one is clamoring that we need more transparency in those areas.
But speaking out against ghost blogging is like the Ladies’ Temperance Union decrying beer in restaurants, yet completely ignoring wine and liquor.
If you’re going to frown on ghost blogging, then you need to call for transparency in all ghost writing. Either freelancers need to claim credit on every ghostwritten piece of material that’s in the public stream, or we need to let go of this bias altogether. I think it’s inconsistent to take issue with ghost blogging and yet turn a blind eye to every other form of ghost writing.