I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how important it is to be authentic in social media (including blogs). I’m even in the midst of writing an ebook on the subject with my good friend, Ron Miller. And, yet, I’m on the deep end of a controversial debate about blogging itself.
The debate looks like this: is it okay to have someone else write your blog? And it sounds just plain UGLY.
I’ve got to say I ride the fence, see both sides, struggle intensely and feel many things when this gets discussed. But, if I had to choose, I’d say it’s okay (and I have some guidelines that I follow).
I absolutely ghostwrite blogs for certain clients, I’m proud of my work and I feel good about the services I offer. My reasons for doing so:
1. I love blogging and think it is an incredible and beneficial practice that everyone should have the option to enjoy.
2. Some people seriously can’t write. Why is it that writing is taken for granted and design isn’t? Is it because we all learned how to read and write in the 1st grade, but only some people learned graphic/web design. There is a difference between being able to literally write letters and being able to write skillful copy or prose. The ‘I can write, so I’m a writer‘ assumption is inherently flawed.
3. I don’t think a writing inability should exclude a person from the power and joy of blogging.
4. Time. Many people want to focus on their business and don’t have the time to write their blog. The number one reason for blog failure is time and commitment.
5. As best as I can, I approach blog ghostwriting like I approach all marketing writing: I listen to my client’s voice, personality, passions, business mission/goals/philosophy. I do market research and immerse myself in their industry. We talk regularly so that the blog really is theirs, I’m just the writing vehicle. (Disclaimer: This last part does not always happen, but it is always my goal to educate the client about its importance and then move in that direction).
6. I love blog writing – it is my all time favorite writing platform, so the work gives me great (and steady) work that I simply adore.
7. I wonder if there are two levels of blogging – or maybe a million, maybe there are as many levels as there are bloggers. The level is determined by the desired result. Are you looking to showcase a portfolio, write, hear your voice, connect with others, sell something, document a process, establish yourself as an expert, be public, be private, build a business, offer services…?
In some of these scenarios, it makes no sense, and in effect, would be detrimental to have someone else blog for you, in others…not so much. Can an architect document their process for a project with pictures, plans, etc. but have me write the accompanying text so that it sounds good? Can they tell me their philosophies and have me create copy that will be readable so that they can widen the net they cast? I’m going to say yes.
1. I understand the other side. The side that says that any blog value will be lost when the owner is not the author. I get it because it is all too true for my own blog. No one else could write this blog for me and get the same results (most definitively, because I’m a writer – so it would just be wrong. But if I was a prize-winning baker that was dyslexic? Different story).
2. This scenario was pitched to me: what if someone came up to one of your clients at a cocktail party or networking event and started talking to them about a blog post and they had no idea what they’d said (really, what I’d written). Of course, I see that this poses a problem. If someone writes your blog for you, you need to read it – and, as I mentioned in #5 above, it’s best if you are involved in the ideas and philosophies that stand behind the blog.
3. But, just two days ago, someone started talking to me about something that I wrote and it took me (someone literally married to and consumed by this url) a bit of discussion before I could locate the exact post they were talking about. It’s not out of the question that a blogger might need some time and help to identify each of their posts.
4. Back to #7 above, I think there are so many different kinds of blogs – some would be decidedly wrecked if they were written by someone else.
5. There’s also an honesty issue at play here…I know and understand that some people, if they found out that a blog they read was written by someone else, would feel lied to – that the blog was misrepresented. One of my clients insisted that we be transparent about the fact that I wrote for her – and the whys and hows – it was quite interesting, not to mention fun, to be a tag team visible to the world.
Wow – I’m rereading this and seeing that I’m heavy handed on the ‘it’s okay to ghostwrite a blog’ side…maybe it’s because I feel good about the how and why I do it. I’m not just filling someone’s blog with salesy, impersonal ‘crap’ (‘scuse my French)…see how there are so many levels to this debate?
I know that a lot of you feel very differently and quite strongly about this topic – so let’s hear it! Because on this blog, there is plenty of room for discussion…we’re looking at the world through multi-lensed (and rose-colored) glasses ’round here.
FYI, for the record, I do not think it’s okay for a ghostwriter to write someone’s social media (Twitter, for example) conversations or to respond to blog comments (though if a client really can NOT write, I will edit the text). I know there has been a lot of conversation about how you can draw a line here, but I think it’s simple – a post is an article, a conversation or content posted on a social media site or as a comment on another blog is different. Regardless, this post is about ghostwriting blogs.
Update: I love what Alisa Bowman added to the conversation below in the comments. She is a ghostwriter and she puts this soooo well:
“I see it as an exchange of skills: One person has the idea (ideal world) and I have the skills (way of putting that idea on paper).”