Is Ghost Blogging Ethical?

Posted on September 8, 2010

I See Dead Ghost Bloggers

Foreword to 4/4/4 Four Communications Issues. Four Perspectives. Four Weeks. Blog Series

This is part 1 of 4 of this series that I am writing with Todd Defren, Lou Hoffman, and Paul Roberts. Do we agree? Maybe, maybe not. You can read Todd’s Here, Lou’s Here, and Paul’s Here.

For some great additional perspectives on this topic I encourage you to visit Hans de Groot, Larry Jones, Steve Lamb, Don Jennings, and Benjamin Ellis.

Is Ghost Blogging Ethical?

By Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

One of the genuine surprises I had in my career was learning how many great business leaders were bad communicators, socially awkward, bad public speakers, or were a media disaster waiting to happen.

However, when they were willing to be trained I have been able to prepare them to avoid embarrassment with 100% success….okay maybe 99%. Often they go on to excel in the same area(s) they needed improvement. They are human. Sometimes they need help: for me ghost writing or blogging typically falls into this category.

I think abstract questions like whether or not ghost writing is ethical is an intrinsically flawed premise. Inflexible ideas can easily be taken to their extreme, logical conclusion and become just absurd. An absolute good/bad approach frequently ends up hurting more people then helping. I think the merits of using a ghostwriter for your blog depends on the circumstance and your well-reasoned judgment. It is easy to imagine scenarios where ghost blogging would be deeply misguided or outright unethical. However, I think that is not the case with most situations.

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What Would POTUS Do?

Are you a bad person for using a ghostwriter? Normally, I don’t look to politicians for ethics. However, this might make a good exception. When a president of the United States addresses the public his remarks are typically written for him. Anyone smarter than your average bear knows that he has dedicated speechwriters on staff in the West Wing. Now, if you are a CEO, and are weak writer, you may not want to announce that to the world. However, whether your issue is writing skill or just time management there are ways to incorporate a wordsmith ethically into your team. Just like the president.

What are the practical considerations? I think if you are asked directly about whether you write your posts, or any content with your name on it, you should be honest about the process. In the age of social media truthiness is compulsory. So, choosing a process is important, and it should be one that you feel comfortable sharing publicly when you are asked, and you will be.

Keeping It Real

I have used one of several scenarios when I have had to write something on behalf of a client. The one I used was based on what they were the most comfortable with.

1) Interviewed them to get their thoughts, then wrote it, and then have them review and give feedback.

2) Have them write a first draft, I would then edit or rewrite as needed, and then have them review and give feedback.

3) Have them bullet point or outline their thoughts, I would write it, and then have them review and give feedback.

It was always their ideas, often their words, and they always read, gave feedback, and approved the final copy. Not rocket science, but it worked.

Larry Jones