Today, I was privy to a debate on the ethics,(or as some assert, the lack thereof) of ghost blogging. The person who prompted the debate, often gives talks on ethics in social media and from a, “the world is strictly black and white,” view, may have a point or two. But as with anything in this uncharted land of the grid (yes, I did just see Tron: Legacy), nothing is black and white.
The Ghost’s Perspective
As a professional freelance writer, I write for newspapers and magazines as well provide online content. This includes website content (Home, About pages etc.) and ghost blogging. It also includes e-books, white papers and traditional marketing materials, whatever a client needs written. Because of the changing economics of print media and traditional publishing (making room for new technologies and new reader habits) many freelancers have had to be increasingly flexible, expanding our repertoire to include writing for social media, blogs, integrated marketing campaigns etc. in order to survive in this shifting paradigm.
As my brethren bemoaned the death of their institutions (traditional publishing and print media) I quickly realized that writing (and reading for that matter) were not dying arts but rather being re-imagined in a new realm, one to fit the needs of this generation. I got my certification in SEO and hit the ground running in the brave new world of social media (quickly becoming a go-to-gal for advice.) I didn’t do this to change my career track from writer to Web 2.0 Guru, but rather to make my writing more valuable, better serving the emerging needs of this new medium.
I want to write. People want to read and learn and share — online, in real-time. As a writer there is nothing more exciting than researching and learning something new, digesting it and reformulating it for an audience in a way that is entertaining and informative. By ghostwriting, I get to explore different voices, tones and topics. I get to learn something fresh everyday and I get to share my words (and what I learned) with the world. Hopefully, in a way that helps someone else pursue their goals.
For me, the question of ethics here is a funny one. Every layman nowadays knows the term social media marketing and most understand that this realm includes blogging. Now, there are firms all over the country that are providing, not only copywriting services (such as ghost blogging) but integrated marketing campaigns that include status updates, discussions and yes, even ghost tweets.
Furthermore, most blogs do not have a byline. Those that do are making specific claims as to authorship, much like a byline in a newspaper. Those blogs that boast no byline, may not necessarily be written by the blog owner, but instead represent the overall voice or opinion of the company or owner, much like a newspaper’s editorial column. Therefore, for those that employ the use of a byline would be best served by disclosing the use of ghosts or by removing the byline.
Web 2.0: The Land of Hybrids
This is a world that has merged creatives, marketers, computer nerds, PR pros and even journalists into a hybrid of bionic wordsmiths, emboldened with the super powers of casual engagement, info-tainment and peek-behind-the-curtain marketing techniques.
No one expects that the CEO of Old Spice was penning the words tumbling out of Isaiah Mustafa‘s mouth, nor did they believe that Isaiah, himself was responding to those tweets (via Youtube), unscripted. That’s because we all understand the world of marketing. Not everyone is creative enough to come up with these types of entertaining concepts. This is why companies hire marketing firms to come up with compelling campaigns to advertise their brand.
Blogging, itself, has become a hybrid. No longer are blogs just a place to share your opinions or insights, they have become a strong marketing tool – increasing your Google juice, establishing expertise and creating a pulpit from which to preach your brand’s message.
So You’re Not a Writer
But what if you’re not a great writer? What if you’re the kind of person who is better at doing your business, than
talking (or writing) about it? What if you just plain hate writing? You outsource it to someone like me.
And it would serve you well to do so.
Because the clients I work for, fully control their message. They send me topics and links and I get to know their voice and opinions and what sites they find to be credible. Their message goes out – and it IS their message but it is the best version of their message – a polished, well-researched, engaging, keyword-peppered, linked, optimized and typo-free message.
My clients hire me because they may be experts in their chosen field but they are not experts in writing, blogging, SEO or social media — that’s what they need me for.
Just because you’re not a plumber doesn’t mean you have to skip fixing that overflowing toilet. You can outsource it to someone who is qualified to fix it on your behalf and you’re not required to post a sign in your yard saying that someone else fixed your toilet. Because no one will call your ethics into question for not being an expert on everything.
What do you think?