Corporate Blogging: a Load of B.S.?

January 24th, 2008 by Bob Bly

In an article in the New York Review of Books (2/14/08. p. 18), Sarah Boxer implies that the idea of corporations paying people to write (or help write) blogs for them is doomed to failure.

“Bloggers are golden when they’re at the bottom of the heap, kicking up,” writes Boxer. “Give them a salary, though, and it just isn’t the same. And this includes, for the most part, the blogs set up by companies.”

Why? “When you write for pay, you worry about lawsuits, your boss, and your superego looking over your shoulder. And that’s no way to blog.”

Does this mean that “corporate blogging” is at best, an oxymoron, and at worst, an outright fraud?

Or is it perfectly legitimate for corporations to hire bloggers, blogging coaches, and blogging consultants, just as they hire ad agencies to create ad campaigns and ghostwriters to pen speeches for executives?

Your thoughts?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2008 at 5:20 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

58 responses about “Corporate Blogging: a Load of B.S.?”

  1. john cass said:

    I personally don’t agree with the idea of hiring someone to ghost write a blog, it lack authenticity, and if people find out, the person with their name on the mast loses trust and credibility.

    There are as many reasons to blog as there are business goals. the companies that appear to do best with blogging are those that use it for customer service and product development. Concentrating on your customers needs is much more likely to turn ordinary customers into evangelists. I can think of Dell, Microsoft, Macromedia (before the merger with Adobe) and several more.

  2. Bill Hilton said:

    Depends on the corporation.

    I was once hired to write a blog for six months to promote the launch of an anti-spam product. The brief was to be as outrageous, obscene and way out as I wanted.

    (Dangerous instructions to give a copywriter, I’m sure you’ll agree.)

    Anyway, it was fantastic fun because I could look at all kinds of crappy spam emails and try to be even more wild than they were.

  3. The Word Wrangler said:

    I’ll just second what John Cass said.

  4. John Fenton said:

    Agree 100% with John Cass on ghost writers.

    But, I have no problem at all with the idea of coaches, consultants, proof readers, etc.

  5. Chris Chariton said:

    I disagree that corporate blogs with paid ghost writers are doomed to fail. It sounds like a purist view that someone who is paid can’t write engaging content. There are many individual bloggers who are in it to promote and sell their services. I see the corporate blog as another legitimate marketing tool which if executed well can accomplish traditional marketing goals. Success of a corporate blog won’t be dependent on whether or not the blogger is an outside writer or company employee. Interesting content relevant to the intended audience will make for an effective corporate blog.

  6. Lyndon Antcliff said:

    To be emasculated by the corporate dollar is a sad thing indeed, but people gotta eat.

    I love blogging for grey suited individuals and watching their reaction when I propose a piece that will curl the toes of your average Maxim reader, but then I tone it down and get something through that’s still juicy but has been slightly sanitised by an exec who has the faint odour of failure about him and is about to be up for promotion again.

    But it’s the nature of the beast, corporations are not fleet of foot and have the attack speed of a soporific elephant.

  7. Ken said:

    How can anything that requires use of the creative mind be categorized as “doomed to fail?”
    We’re writers…and as such will always find a way.

  8. Gloria Hildebrandt said:

    Ghost writing blogs is inevitable. It happens now and will continue to. I would guess that most execs are simply too busy to blog, or don’t have the skill. If they did, they might be writers. I ghosted a blog for a while, but the problem was that the company owner did not pay enough attention to the blog world. We were trying to raise his profile in his area of expertise, but he thought it could happen without his participation. Uh uh. You can ghostwrite a blog but the person has to be closely involved. When that happens, the benefits can be endless.

  9. Yvonne DiVita said:

    Okay, let’s separate ‘ghost writing’ from ‘blogging for a corporation.’ They can be two different things. I get paid to write and maintain a blog for Purina, the pet food company. I write about my pets. I sometimes write about stuff Purina does. There is a vet who answers readers questions (former Purina researcher) and all of this is totally above board.

    Purina is happy with my blogging, readers are happy with it, and the world has not stopped moving.

    So, upfront, authentic blogging, while being paid, is a new career path. Ghost writing on a blog is another story entirely. I wouldn’t do it, and I’d have issues with anyone who did.

    Mind you, I help clients post…by adding THEIR writing, and I council them on how to handle comments, even what links to put in their posts. But, I don’t write the posts. They do.

  10. becky said:

    I have to agree with Yvonne. I think there’s a big difference between blogging for a corp and ghostwriting. One of my friends blogs for Ty’s Toy Box and it’s been a popular feature of their site. While she doesn’t sign her name to each post, there’s no secret to who she is. Heck, I’d love to blog for a corp as long as it’s aboveboard.

  11. Bob Yokl said:

    Let’s all face it, it is all not part of the blog-O-sphere and some will be obvious and some will not be obvious. To me taking off my blogger had and thinking as a reader, all I want is good information and if a ghost writer or actual person provides it then I am ok with that. It’s the information we want and if the blog sucks then we wont read it anymore!!!

    Hey our President’s all had speech writers, all the TV Commercials, movies and TV shows we like and love all have writers (ghosts??). Hey even reality shows have writers when you think they don’t. Even podcasts have writers and I guess you could call them ghost writers because the host of the podcast may not write their own stuff.

    Is it all that much different?

  12. Joel Heffner said:

    The best blogs are spontaneous. If a corporate exec has something to say and has the guts to say it…he or she will. If the exec is too timid or the corporation is restrictive, the blog probably won’t work, especially if a someone else does it. Unfortunately, even some of the best and apparently enlightened companies frown upon those who speak for the company. There’s an interesting comment on the subject at http://www.marketingapple.com/marketing_apple/2008/01/apple-and-a-blo.html concerning Apple, Inc.

  13. John Cass said:

    @Gloria One interesting phenomenon with blogging is that that the medium can connect people within a professional community in a way that was not really possible before the web. I think many professional associations have had ethics codes for many years, but unless a code violation is particularly bad most codes a pretty dusty affairs. A blogging community in contrast polices itself. If the community disagrees with the idea of ghost writing, the blogger who uses a ghost writer faces a reduction in credibility and disapproval from the community. I don’t know the % of people who don’t approve of ghostwriting in most blogging communities, however, if the majority of voices are against ghostwriting I think there is a greater chance of people understanding that the practice is not something the community wants you to do. I hope more people in the community speak out against the practice.

  14. Les Leslie said:

    Oh, Good Grief!

    When did we become such snobs that Ghostwriting is OK in one forum but not another? Maybe I’m missing something here. What does virtually everyone do when they want a certain amount of writing done but have not the skills or other resources to do it? They hire someone to do it. Isn’t a Copywriter just a Ghostwriter with a label? We certainly (in most cases), are not writing copy solely for our own products. What advertisement or sales letter contains the author’s name?

    It seems to me that the only real issue is whether the writing accomplishes a purpose.

    What is “doomed to failure” is poor quality writing or writing that does not accomplish its purpose.

  15. Myra said:

    I do believe corporate blogs are effective, but I don’t think you need to end every post with a question. It comes across as trite.People are clever enough to know that they can comment on a post without your having to prod them each time.

  16. John Cass said:

    Leslie,

    The difference in perspective regarding ghostwriting on a blog, and for other speeches is that in the culture of blogging the blogger is writing personally. The words they write are supposed to be the real words of the blog, authentic not those of another person. Ghostwriting on blogs is the equivalent of meeting an executive at a business meeting, and having someone else speak for them. You would not think very much of the executive, you probably would not be very impressed with them.

  17. Brad said:

    When it comes to ghost blogging, what’s so harmful about a person merely transcribing another person’s thoughts and ideas. The content is the same. It’s only the typist that is different.

    It’s my opinion that ghost blogging becomes shady only when the words written within the blog were not originally created by the subject of the blog.

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