Can you outsource your corporate blog?

A corporate blog is PR isn’t it?  And few companies have a problem outsourcing PR.  So why would they have a problem getting a blog written on their behalf?  After all, outsiders write sales and marketing collateral, press releases, company newsletters and a whole lot more.

But there’s a big difference in how blogs are viewed and how PR is socially accepted.   Blogs are supposed to be personal. Remember, they evolved from ‘web logs’ or web diaries.  And you can’t get more personal than that.  Which is why corporate-style speak in a blog doesn’t go down well.  

We like to know the people we’re engaging with online.   We have no problem with company blogs, so long as they are written by people not the corporate PR machine.  The corporate blog is an oxymoron.  It should be called an employee’s blog, the CIO’s personal blog and so on.  The blog has to add value, not sell or hype.  It could be for instance by techies to techies, about giving perspectives on the firm’s sector, or simply on life behind the scenes at firm x.  It can be a composite blog of several staff, or a sole voice.  Dell, for example, has key bloggers like Lionel@dell (Lionel Menchaca) who is billed as the chief blogger.  He is a personality blogger in his own right and also Dell’s main man on Twitter.  

So if we know we’re following a blog, penned quite clearly by identifiable staff, how would we feel if we found out that the blog was written not in house but by anonymous PR hires?  Well, we’d no doubt feel cheated because the spirit of the web – honesty, freedom and sharing – would have been usurped by harsh corporate realities of control, cash and time.  

But the argument for and against hiring others to pen your blog isn’t quite that clear cut.  There are several camps here: those who believe only blogs reviewing products or giving technical advice can be outsourced as there’s nothing intrinsically personal about their content; and there are those who believe more or less any blog can be outsourced, so long, and here’s the caveat, that the writer is as passionate and clearly informed as the supposed author; a heartbeat away from the client in other words.    

I have written for all sorts of companies and individuals over the past 20 years. Speeches probably come the closest to blog writing as a speechmaker always needs personal asides and anecdotes.  So I believe it is possible to ghostwrite blogs for clients if you have empathy, can draw their ideas out, know their voice, know their business and know what the blog medium demands.   

The blog is the corporate client at home; off guard, relaxed and chatty.  So long as the ghost writer understands this space and doesn’t get it muddled up with PR, sales, marketing and other forms of corporate speak, there’s every reason the blog will do just fine.  There’s nothing wrong in writing for people who just don’t have the time or the turn of phrase.  The pro-blogger can add value by letting clients get on with what they’re good at rather than wasting time starring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration.  

But is the blog deceitful if it’s ghost written?    That depends on the professionalism of the hired blogger more than the reality of the blog being ghostwritten.  A rose can smell as sweet by any other name.  So long as the ghostwriter knows how to describe the rose in the first place, the outsourced blog has its place.

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