E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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5 Reasons Why Ghost Weblogging for CEOs Is Not Such a Good Practice

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A few days ago you would remember how I actually created a weblog post commenting on a recent comic strip that Scott Adams put together around the subject of ghost weblogging and which clearly reflected as well some of my own views on the topic, specially with people rather high on the management line like, for instance, CEOs or whatever other executives who may be thinking about getting started with their own weblogs, but written by someone else.

Then a couple of days later my good friend Vincent McBurney created a rather entertaining and tongue-in-cheek weblog post around this very same subject where he referenced a recent discussion that Debbie Weil has been moderating and where the consensus, so far, seems to be that it is actually fine for a CEO to embrace ghost weblogging for themselves.

Vincent has actually got some strong points as to why ghost weblogging for CEOs is not such a good idea and so does Jeffrey Treem (One of the folks I have been reading, too, for a long while now and whom I would recommend subscribing to in case you may not have done it already), where in his Is that a ghost on your blog? he comes to share the following gem:

"Having a ghostwriter publish a post, respond to a comment or leave a comment on another blog on behalf of a CEO, without the CEO directly approving the content as coming from him or her is unethical […]"

I must say that when I first bumped into the different discussions taking place I couldn’t help but agree rather strongly with both Vincent and Jeffrey. Ghost weblogging will only create more trouble, if anything. They both provide some solutions to the main issues at hand, which I am not going to quote in here, but would certainly encourage you all to have a look into them, because there are some really good tips in there that could well be re-used all over and not just for CEOs, in order to help improve your own overall weblogging experience.

However, what I wanted to do with this particular weblog post is to actually build up further on five different reasons why I know that ghost weblogging will probably not be successful in most scenarios and which I feel touch base on some of the core principles behind each and every successful weblogger. So without much further ado, here you have got five different reasons why ghost weblogging for CEOs is not such a good practice:

1. Trust: While this may seem pretty much like common sense and rather trivial, I cannot stress enough how important this particular reason is for every weblogger out there who would want to be somewhat successful and draw a loyal, engaging and unconditional audience each and every single time. So as a CEO doing ghost weblogging, how are you going to keep high up that trust if right away people sense that it is not your own words they are reading but that of someone else’s. I can imagine how some people would say that there are plenty of other folks out there writing speeches, press releases, and whatever other articles for CEOs, so they could also actually act as ghost webloggers. Why not?

Do you really think so? I am not so sure. We are talking about a new method of reaching out, i.e. through weblogs, where relationships and connections between webloggers and an audience are key primary successful factors of interesting and relevant conversations that will keep the weblog, and the weblogger, true to its (And his) own cause. Having a ghost weblogger weblogging away for a CEO is just going to damage all of that and right from the start. Let’s not forget how much effort and energy we all get to spend on improving our trust levels with others and how little you actually need to destroy it all in a split second. And for good! Is it really that worth while?

2. Authenticity – the real you: Yes, another rather trivial reason, I know, but ever so accurate about the power of the weblog out there that I just couldn’t help mentioning it over here as well. Whenever someone decides to dive into the world of the Blogosphere they all do it, because they want to show the real self, their own authentic personality, their own unique and special weblogging voice and style while engaging in different conversations sharing whatever knowledge.

Thus from the perspective of an engaging audience, which is what, I guess, we all aim at, at some point in time, everyone reading whichever weblog expects to read about the real person behind it. The real you. That is all they want, that is all they need. That is what weblogs are all about. So how can you expect to be the real you if you have got a ghost weblogger working through your different weblog entries, editing them to ensure they look good? How authentic would those weblogs be? How long would you think people will hang out with you reading off that weblog?

I bet that not too long. I know that a few folks, like I have mentioned above already, would probably think that it would be the same thing as writing a speech, or preparing a presentation for a conference event or whatever else, and my take on that is that if I would want to get that myself I would just go out there and read it directly from those primary sources. When I go into a particular weblog I want to hear about the real person, the same person who has drafted those weblog posts, has done some research on the particular topic, who has participated in whatever other conversations and so forth. That, and only that, is what will make me stick with a weblogger and its weblog. Whatever else will have the same impact as listening to a particular speech written by someone else and then move on to the next thing. Never to come back.

3. It will no longer be your own Personal Knowledge Management tool: This is also one of the main reasons why quite a few webloggers out there are actively keeping their own weblogs: as their own Personal Knowledge Management (a.k.a. PKM) tools where they can go back again and again to re-capture and reflect on some of the topics that all of us have touched base on in the past.

Indeed, weblogs have been so popular nowadays because they empower knowledge workers to remember those knowledge snippets that they have been exposed to and which they may want to touch base on at some point in time. Or, simply, those snippets they would want to share with a wider audience to collect further thoughts, ask for different opinions, views, reviews, gather some more facts, etc. In short, capturing that know-how is what has made weblogs such a powerful knowledge sharing and collaboration tool nowadays.

So how is a ghost weblogger going to manage the content from someone else, i.e. a CEO? As if it weren’t already rather complicated to manage your own personal knowledge (If anyone manages to do that successfully please do let me know!) how can you go and venture into managing the knowledge of a CEO? Isn’t that rather utopian? I bet that the CEO him/her-self would be able to do a much better job than that any other individual managing their own knowledge. After all, they would be the ones filtering and determining what they would want to share with others and that, on its own, is already what PKM is all about.

4. Faking relationships: That, to me, is what ghost weblogging is all about. Faking relationships sharing knowledge and information that is not yours, therefore spending a whole lot of effort and energy drafting those weblog entries that, at the end of the day, you know, no matter what, those are not your proper thoughts and therefore there isn’t much to worry about. There is no risk involved to get out there, dive into the conversation, participate from it and, instead of controlling it, engage with it.

That, to me, is what we weblogging is about. Showing your audience that you care for those relationships and those connections by committing your time, your efforts and your own energy into providing authentic conversations. Yes, I know there is going to some heavy effort involved, but on the long term think about what those relationships would do not only for that particular CEO but also for the business they represent. Don’t fake the relationship, just make it as real and authentic as you possibly can. The benefits will keep pouring as a result.

5. Lack of passion, involvement (and trust): Finally, here is the fifth reason why I think that ghost weblogging is not such a good thing, not just for CEOs, but for everyone else in general. It pretty much has got to do with a weblog entry I shared some time ago where I tried to put together some of the main key principles for the successful adoption of social computing as part of your day to day job. I can imagine that several folks out there could certainly venture into suggesting that any ghost weblogger could well be very passionate and committed to make it work, but my question would be, for how long?

How long can you be passionate and committed to your weblogging efforts when you know those words are not your own but someone else’s putting them in your hands? I bet that passion, involvement and commitment will die out eventually over time because there will be an implied lack of motivation to keep things going. However, when it is the CEO him/her-self weblogging the extra motivation is there, because they know that everyone out there is waiting for their latest article where they are sharing what they have been thinking about lately or whatever else is in their minds. Thus getting ready to engage in those conversations and knowing you are making good use of your own weblogging voice and style certainly makes things a lot easier. And lasting, which is what I guess we all aim at for our own weblogs.

So, with all this said, I can imagine that people would think that CEOs are on their own when diving into the blogosphere, right? And that ghost weblogging may not be such a good practice after all. Well, my thoughts on that are that it may not need to be necessarily like that. Pretty much like Vincent and Jeffrey mentioned already over at their weblogs, there are lots and lots of tips that CEOs can follow in order to embrace weblogging without thinking that it is a waste of time of their own and their companies’ resources, but instead of me detailing some of that I will just point you to their weblog posts so that you can see that even for CEOs diving into the Blogosphere is not as difficult as it may seem and, definitely, they are not alone in achieving great results, because it is, after all, a collaborative effort.

That is right, it is perhaps one of the most powerful methods to engage in trusting, authentic, personal, real, engaging and passionate collaborative conversations not only about yourself but also the company, or the product, you represent.

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