I've been thinking about an item in a recent survey that says only 20 percent of senior business executives write their own blogs.
While I take this survey overall with a little pinch of salt as apart from geographical facts it doesn't provide any detailed information breaking down the survey group, nor say how many actually sent back responses, the item in question about executive blogging is quite interesting as I think it shows the tip of an iceberg as to what is already happening in some organizations.
Let's look at the specific survey questions re executive blogging and the posted results:
- Do you write your own blogs without advice?
- Yes 17%
- No 83%
- Why don't you write your own blogs?
- Too time consuming 48%
- Difficulty in expressing themselves in writing 39%
- How would you describe a 'ghost written' company blog?
- 'A sham' 8%
- 'Totally misleading' 5%
- 'Marginally misleading' 43%
- 'Acceptable' 44%
The answers to questions 1 and 2 don't surprise me a bit. This would be broadly in line with what you'd expect in many organizations where senior executives don't produce their own communication material. That's one of the reasons why those organizations have communicators!
Communicators devise, plan and write the content and messages that CEOs and others will use and deliver. Press releases, speeches, presentations, etc. Why should an executive blog be different?
Before you say "Yes, but..." in relation to those phrases we hear all the time about blogs (authentic voice, personality of the author, etc), let's look at question 3 - the interesting one.
The answers are quite telling and, in the absence of any other detail, must be based on one crucial assumption - that there is full and clear disclosure somewhere as to who the author is. I cannot really imagine that the 44 percent of those senior executives who say it's acceptable to do this would have said that otherwise. On the other hand, this view is countered by 43 percent saying it's marginally misleading (although I'm not sure what the word 'marginally' means - it's either misleading or it's not).
Let's be clear on what we mean by 'ghostwritten.' Consider this definition from Wikipedia:
A ghostwriter is a writer who writes under someone else's name, with their consent. Ghostwriters are often employed by celebrities to write autobiographies in situations in which the celebrities themselves may not be talented writers, or are too busy doing other work.
Other writers are also employed, with proper billing, by authors whose names alone will sell a book, such as Tom Clancy, many of whose recent works bear the names of two persons on their covers -- Clancy's name in larger print and the other author's name in smaller print. Sometimes a professional writer will receive partial credit, signified by "with" or "as told to". Credit may also appear as a "thanks" in a foreword or introduction. Strictly speaking, if the less famous writer's role and name are clearly acknowledged in the work as published, this is not ghostwriting but collaboration.
Just because a book is ghostwritten does not necessarily mean that the credited author did not make a significant contribution to the work; a ghostwriter is often employed to polish and edit existing material, or to work directly with the credited author to shape the book from start to finish.
You can simply substitute 'blog' for 'book.'
So with clear disclosure, I don't see any problem at all with an organization having someone write a senior executive's blog. I'm willing to hear any persuasive argument to the contrary, though.
A trend, Steve says. I agree. I think the picture he paints is something we will see much more of.