Is Ghost Blogging Your Content Cheating?
When I’ve told friends and acquaintances that I’ve won blogging awards on behalf of clients but can never share the limelight because I’m a ghost blogger, their reactions vary from the ‘bummer’ type response to the ‘that’s outrageous!’ reaction.
The ‘that’s outrageous’ response tends towards the opinion that companies should not be collecting awards for something they’ve not written: that it’s a deception. I can see their point, after all it would be outrageous if an author picked up the Man Booker Prize for a book that was ghost written.
But is this really the same?
There are plenty of examples of companies getting acclaim for achievements that they’ve outsourced to others. Would you say that a company couldn’t win an award for “best customer focus” when they outsource their customer relationship management to a specialist agency? Or win “digital business of the year” when they use marketing agencies to deliver their digital approach? Surely, the fact that they’ve identified an area of their business that they want to excel at, and put the resources and expertise in place to deliver it, deserves to be recognised and awarded accordingly?
Company blogs have evolved from a forum for ‘thought leadership’ type posts, to one that can share all kinds of content with the aim of engaging the organisation’s audience on many levels. Let’s not pretend, for many businesses the primary purpose of a blog is content marketing, as well as building the authority and reputation of those attributed to the blog posts and therefore the company brand overall.
Ghost Blogging And Thought Leadership
Attributing content to an actual person, an executive within an organisation or any other employee, instantly changes the voice of the post from the corporate, impersonal company line, to a more authoritative and insightful piece. This is where people struggle with the idea that a ghost blogger might have penned the blog post. “How do you know what to write?” is a common question I get asked, “how do you know what that person thinks?”
I have a number of clients who do write some of their own content, and when this is the case it is always the best policy to prioritise the ‘thought leadership’ posts for their attention. Ghost bloggers can then fill in the content around this, writing the evergreen posts that get regular searches, sharing the ‘how tos’ and other resources that don’t need much, or any, input from the client.
Even so these posts should always be written with the attributed author in mind, and this is why it’s important for the ghost blogger to have a good understanding of the business and what individuals within an organisation actually do.
Of course, most ‘thought leadership’ style posts come from senior executives within a business, not the office junior. Typically these are the people who have the least amount of time to sit down and articulate their ideas into a blog post. They are also the people that customers are most interested in hearing from – although insights from the office junior do have their place!
So, it’s no surprise that many of the posts attributed to senior executives have originated in the marketing department of the company or from the laptop of a ghost blogger. And although some people will question these post’s authenticity, in my opinion they can have just as much validity as if the boss had actually written them.
5 Steps For Making Your Ghost Posts Authentic
The following outlines the steps I take here at We Love 2 Blog 4 You with all ghost written content, whether it’s a thought-piece or any other blog content.
- Research the company and individuals: It goes without saying that a ghost blogger must have a clear idea of what an organisation does, what their customers want, company culture, ethos and goals. However, it’s also important to do some background research on the individuals posts will be attributed to. I often compare it to acting, if you want to write a post in someone else’s voice, you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes.
- Agree topics and blog titles: Before writing content in someone else’s name, make sure that they’ve signed off on the blog titles and subject matter. At this stage some feedback can be solicited to help steer the post in the right direction and ensure that it’s aligned with the individual’s views as well as the organisation’s objectives.
- Get approval: Naturally you should never publish anything without it being signed off by the attributed author and any other people in the loop, however the approval stage can also help to personalise the content. Having seen their ‘thoughts’ on paper, an individual may want to contribute some more. This is particularly useful if they can include their own experience, relate an incident or tell a story about an aspect of the post.
- Involve the author on social media: Once you’ve published the post it’s important that the author engages with any social media activity. This can start at the blog promotion stage. Don’t just promote the blog post from the company social media profiles; ask the author to share it on their personal profiles too. Make sure that the author is up to speed on their social media channels so that they can respond to any engagement. Even if another member of staff is managing the company social media profiles, the author should be the one to reply to comments, including any on the blog post itself.
- Ask the executive for feedback: Often a blog post can plant the seed of another idea for an insightful post, whether that’s just from reading it or from any comments and engagement the author has received. It’s a good time to ask for feedback and see whether there’s scope for another post as a result of the first. Genuine ideas from those who will be attributed to a blog post, creates the most authentic blog content – apart from writing it themselves!
You may still view ghost blogging as a bit of a deception, but surely it’s just the same as outsourcing many other areas of a business? With clear objectives for the blog overall, good communications between the ghost blogger and those who are attributed to a post, the ghost blogger expresses the views and experience of the individual, and packages them in such a way that will interest the organisation’s audience.
Although I take great pleasure in my client’s blogging achievements and awards, for me the highest praise comes with comments like this:
“I think you’ve really captured my character and the way I would have expressed it myself! – so much easier someone doing it for you …and also it’s great having an objective view on it.” Annie Pritchard, The Way Forward – Career Coach