Thursday, February 9, 2012

ghostwriting for blogs


I recently came across this interesting blog post on the subject 'Are ghost-written lawyer blogs unethical?'

It raises some crucial points, as do the comments left by readers. Setting aside the question of whether a ghost-written legal blog offends US advertising laws for attorneys, it seems to me that having a blog of any hue ghost-written by an unrelated provider misses something fundamental about blogging. Posting your thoughts, musings and reactions to events on the internet grew out of bloggers’ personal desire to connect. The style of blogs retains something of those origins, even when transplanted into the business world. If you merely wish to give information or pontificate, that’s a newsletter. A blog has much more of the personal stamp of its author.

Which is both its strength and its weakness in the world of blogs for business. Despite my initial reaction, which I stand by, it doesn’t take much further thought to conclude that busy lawyers (for example) are going to need some help with content if their firm is to run a regular blog. Using such help is far from unusual for busy attorneys - from having the in-house marketing people draft some information for the firm’s newsletter, to co-authoring a longer article with a junior associate, collaborative authoring is everyday. A couple of things need to be highlighted, however. No such work should be done by people with no expertise in the field. And no such work hits publication without review and sign-off by responsible attorneys.

The same rules should apply to a legal blog (and the idea is transferrable to many business blogs). Certainly there is no sensible, let alone ethical, basis for hiring a bunch of students to pump out content. How is that keeping you connected with your clients?

I’d also suggest some transparency. The contributors to a blog can be identified with a brief introduction or bio. There is nothing wrong with a blog having multiple authors, so long as one person doesn’t pretend to be the lone author. That’s deceptive, and a bad look. In fact, for a legal or business blog, having reputable and interesting co-authors or guest contributors keeps things fresh.

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