POLL & Discussion: Is it wrong for others to write your company blog?


I recently came across the following tweet from LinkedInQueen:

“Writers block? We set up and write blogs starting at $100! http://bit.ly/8PanVX

I was pretty astonished at first. How could someone else possibly know the ins and outs of a company when they have never stepped foot inside Head Office? Why would a company want someone else to speak to their customers? Why would a company be misleading and pretend that they created the content of a blog or that it is their voice?

After clicking on the link I discovered that the “Social Media Service” could write content around 3 areas of the company’s choice, as part of the basic plan. So, it may work like this: I give the brief…hand over the money…ask for blog articles around marketing, finance and skills…they produce the content…content is discussed and mutual changes are agreed…I give it the OK…it then gets posted to my company blog (which they have created) as my own content.

I am actually a little uncomfortable with this. In the vast majority of cases a company’s blog content should be controlled by the people that work for the company. They keep the cogs going round, they know the business inside out, they engage with customers, they are the experts, they are the company.

After stating that I did not agree with the approach, the author of the tweet responded: “There are clients who really need help & we work closely to translate their words w/ their approval”.  So, is this a way of saying it is a copywriting service? Or does this service write blogs for companies?

In an extreme example, there may be an extremely creative, self-employed entrepeneur who has very poor literacy and no computer skills, but wants to use the internet to share his ideas under the company brand. If his ideas were translated word for word after a discussion, then this may be copywriting. If there is any element of control or creativity being handed over to the agency, then would the blog content be 100% his? Translating and writing are two very different things.

After racking my brains, and after a brief discussion with Kimmo Linkama, the only times I can think of when it may be OK for a company to have blog content produced and then genuinly passed on as their own, is as part of promotional blog articles (Press Releases, Interview Transcripts, etc). Readers may expect other contributers in thse instances. However, an outside agency writing articles to display a company’s level of expertise and knowledge, or even just their opinion, just doesn’t sit right. That is not blogging to me.

  • When do you think it’s OK for a company to have blog content created for them and then displayed as their own?
  • Do you think it is wrong for others to write your company blog?

Vote in the poll below and share any opinions you have on this subject. It would be really interesting to hear your thoughts and experiences. If I am looking at this the wrong way, tell me.

Is it wrong for others to write your company blog?

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  • http://www.juusmedia.com/ Jason Stanley

    Interesting post and something I wasn't aware of until now.

    I guess it doesn't really surprise me that a company would hire out someone to write their blog posts. That's not to say I agree with it totally but I certainly understand why they would do that and I think you touched upon this within your post.

    Social media/blogs etc have essentially become the latest platform for businesses to advertise themselves. Having someone write out your blog (following a particular brief) is yet another way to promote your business. It's essentially another form of advertising for example hiring a graphic designer to 'sell your brand'. The designer isn't part of the company and yet they create material for the company to use.

    The issue here is that a business is taking advantage of a specific platform used to express opinions on a more personal level and twisting it into a marketing campaign.

    As a frequent blogger I'd stay away from this method mainly because I'd like to be responsible for my own content, thoughts and opinions about the business I work for. I can imagine some businesses setting up a blog are under the impression that blogging is perhaps a little unprofessional at times. They may be worried that it could end up being very 'chatty' and that hiring someone to do write the blog can add a professional touch.

    As I said I don't really agree with the practice as its not what blogs were designed for but I can recognise the value of social media and totally understand why a business would try this.

  • http://twitter.com/daleGmoore Dale Moore

    This is a interesting issue. Personally, I don't have a problem with who writes the blog, it's what's written that counts. It's true that no one external to the company knows all the ins and outs of what goes on in the business, but do they have to? Many blogs are specifically written to promote some aspect of the company concerned and are therefore no different from any other promotional copy. In fact, blogging for companies is a growing area in the copywriter's portfolio and is a very lucrative market for good copywriters. I know of several copywriters who write excellent blogs for some well established companies.

    This though is the nub of the matter. If the person writing the blog takes time to get to know the company's business and can write well, they'll produce good, crisp text which is relevant, readable and accurate. Like any other service though, the company will need to pay for this.

    Problems usually arise when blogs are produced quickly by people who don't know what they want to say or can't be bothered to understand the company's business. The all too familiar, “Hey look guys. Here's a new cheap, quick way of enlarging our internet presence. Let's get someone to bang out some words for us and we'll soon be pulling in some new customers when they see how web savvy we are”. But we know it's not that simple and good blogs, like good anything else, take time, energy and effort to produce.

    The web is now awash with blogs and sifting the good from the bad takes time. Companies should treat this just like any other communication channel and give it the time and attention it needs to acheive its stated goals. And that's the key. If the blog has a clearly defined point and a target audience in mind then it doesn't really matter who actually writes the words.

    I guess – ideally – many companies would like to write their own blogs but may simply lack the time or the necessary expertise. This shouldn't deter them though. If they percieve that a blog would genuinely benefit their business and they're prepared to spend a little time thinking about what they want it to do for them, they can quite easily find a decent copywiter to write their content. It's what the best copywriters do best!

  • banksy6

    My personal opinion Robert is that it depends on the situation. We have some very busy clients at Optix who ask us to form the basis of blog/news articles for them based on short telephone calls and then our guys turn these into copy. They are then passed back through the client before ever publishing. I guess this is more down the copywriting route. Most are just glad to get the writing part of their back and get on with what they are good at. On my own blog I would feel uncomfortable with someone writing for me. Im happy with guest bloggers but no-one impersonates Banksy – ha ha :)

  • Sue_Windley

    I don't think it is wrong if you have a brand to protect. “But staff should do that…” you might argue, but surely you should have the best person for the job to present a verbal image of a business (which is what a business blog should be doing)… and a good writer may not necessarily work for the business. That's why copy-writers etc have a role. This is particularly relevant to smaller businesses where employees often end up doing several roles, not all of which they are best suited to.

    And those that think an outsider doesn't get the sense/values of the company – well, then the outsider is not doing their job properly! If a company wants it quick and cheap, then that's what results they'll get. But if a writer makes sure they know what image/message the business wants to get out there, they will probably do a better job than an employee as they will see the business from the outside… which employees often forget to do!

  • http://www.mukaumedia.co.uk/ Sam Deeks

    Having someone write your company blog for you would be like sending someone to have all your personal relationships for you because you were either too busy or scared to do it yourself. That bit from 'Hook' where hyper-corporate Peter Panning (Robin Williams) sends a dweeb from the office to videotape his son's big game comes to mind.

    As far as I'm concerned, people can 'offshore' and 'outsource' as much of their public persona as they like. All it does is help me pass over their websites or products and go where people are more real.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks for the comment Jason.

    I don’t really mind a company using others if the post is part of a promotion – I suppose it is when the business is trying to demonstrate expertise and build relationships with customers, but is using someone else to do this, which is the part that doesn’t sit quite right.

    Maybe I see blogging as a way for businesses to connect with their audience, rather than just providing static content is a way similar to many corporate websites. Blogs can be used with whatever boundaries are set.

    I totally agree that letting someone else write a personal blog is a big no no! It is about being responsible for your content. Businesses may argue about reputation, cost and time being deciding factors – but is trust of staff the biggest factor of all?

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Hi Dale,

    If a blog post is being produced to promote a company then I agree that an outside agency doesn’t need to know the ins and outs – they can be briefed fully and the message can be produced to hit the original brief. The promotional side is an area I am ok with and I think an area most blog readers would be ok with too. If a blog is being used to connect with its readers, rather than just inform, then I am not sure asking someone else to produce a message of your behalf is the best way of connecting.

    I agree that company blogs, like most other activities, need to have clearly defined goals. If promotion with a specific style is the aim of the blog, then maybe seeking help from others with more experience is the way to go. If building relationships and communities is the goal, then I don’t believe it is.

    Maybe the reason that there are many similar blogs to sift through it because they all have similar information and because they don’t have large communities. Blogs which produce great content and engage with readers tend to stand out – these are areas that copywriters do not directly contributing towards.

    You will need to be point me in the direction of some blogs produced by copywriters – I would be interested to see what types of companies are using them.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks Sue.

    I would be really interested to see good and bad examples of copywriters not doing their jobs properly – I will try and track down some examples. Do you know if companies that use copywriters state that they use them on their blog? I would imagine the answer is no.

    Protecting a brand and presenting a professional image is really important and I can see why a company may use a copywriter for these reasons. What happens if the blog receives comments? Would the response be from a copywriter or from a member of staff? If content is posted onto a blog without trying to encourage engagement then I can see why companies would opt for using the method that best protects their brand – but if the purpose of the blog is to encourage discussion and engagement, then is using copywriters to write the original post and subsequent responses the best course of action? That is a little more tricky.

    Also, many companies allow staff to send email and post to customers without the content being checked each time. So, are employees being trusted to maintain the credibility of a brand when they are speaking directly to customers, but not when posting content directly onto the internet?

    Sorry Sue – I am firing lots of questions back at you which wasn’t my intention – they just popped into my head as I read your post!

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    I have not seen that scene in Hook – I will try and track it down!

    I am sure there are plenty of blog readers like yourself who also bypass company blogs if they do not believe the company is being real and speaking from their core.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks Banksy.

    What would happen if the client’s blog received comments? Would they reply themselves or would you reply with their input?

    I agree – don’t let anyone near your personal blog – the Banksy brand is being pitched at just the right level and doesn’t need outside influence!

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  • http://linkama.wordpress.com/ Kimmo Linkama

    You raised an interesting point, Robert, and beat me to writing about it :) Let me elaborate here for a little more than the 140 characters on Twitter:

    Some of the commentators seem to approach the issue from the viewpoint of personal blogs, and were that the case, I would have to agree with them: don't impersonate another person.

    Company blogs are a different kettle of fish. My comment on Twitter was intended to point out much the same as Dale says above: companies hire the best talent available to make their message resonate with the audience they're after. This is a lot like producing advertising, press releases or similar materials.

    Admittedly, it's largely a one-way street. And your point about connecting and handling comments is very valid.

    Still, I think it is understandable that companies use outside help to write their message, whatever the platform. Not only from the point of view of talent and skill, but also time and money. An outsider billing on a project basis or even on a retainer is a lot more cost-efficient than an in-house staffer in most cases.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Hi Kimmo,

    The more comments that are being posted, the more questions I have and the more I am understanding both viewpoints. I am quite getting into this!

    What do you think a company should do if they get comments on their blog post? Do they let staff respond or does it go back to the copywriter? Going back to the copywriter would brake the flow of engagement and is not really the company themselves engaging – allowing staff to respond would be a risk of reputation. Saying that, most organisations allow their staff to email and write to customers with being copywritten – why not online? Is it because everything is much more public on the internet?

    I would be really interested to see examples of blogs that you know have been copywritten.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • banksy6

    Fair point, if people did comment then we would always revert back to the company to engage in the discussion. In many other cases we find ourselves consulting clients on the importance of blogging and social media and then holding their hands while they get used to it. I must emphasise that I don't believe that microblogging can be outsourced entirely – that truely is a discussion

  • Sue_Windley

    In answer to your first question, Robert – you're quite right – no, as I can't imagine any business wanting to promote the fact that its blog is ghost-written – unless the ghost-writer was more famous than the business! Could this be a new trend?

    2nd question re replies – it depends how responsive a business wants to be seen. I do know of businesses that use external sources to write & reply – and part of the process is monitoring the blog. I can imagine this would cause concern for some of your other commentators but remember I am talking only about businesses, not individuals. And what type of blog they produce must sure depend on who the target audience is (remember the bigger marketing picture!) and it may be that if a reader doesn't like the style of a business blog, then they're probably not the target audience of the business. If you're in business, then ultimately EVERY form of communication and every message in the public domain is aimed at selling more to make money – else why be in business?

    And yes – all employees should be aware of every message through any medium they put out on behalf of a business – that should be part of their “psychological contract” with their employer. I know the whole point of social media is to form relationships & communicate in a more personal way – and to create a feeling of immediacy. But how many have lived to regret putting a comment out there “on the spur of the moment” or sending an e-mail written in an emotional state.

    A business is a corporate entity and whilst it may not have control over what is said about it (and quite right too!), it does have a duty on behalf of those it represents (such as its customers!!) to be professional in everything it says and does. You can be informal, relaxed and sociable and still be professional!

  • SaraLancaster

    Don't want to repeat too much of what others are saying, but it is my opinion that nothing should ever be written without a thorough discussion between the writer and whomever within the company is responsible for marketing communications.

    It's the company that should provide the blog post idea and an outline for the post. With those two things the writer can eloquently say what the company doesn't have time to do or is not able to do.

  • http://www.joshuapr.com PatrickatJPR

    Sorry to come to this discussion so late.

    My view of social media (and what I tell my clients) is that you should do what is right for you – while maintaining transparency. With regards to this discussion that means that there is no problem with having an external agency writing the company blog – as long as they don't pretend to be the CEO. But they can only do this if it works for them and their audience.

    An external writer can know as much about the company as anyone that works internally – that means both factual content as well as the tone and personality of the brand. And if comments and questions are raised would anyone really mind if the answer was “Good question. I'm not sure, but I'll find out and get back to you.”

    As I said, you just use social media in the way that suits you best and if that means someone else writing the blog posts I see no issue with it.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks for your comment, Sara. I agree that if a company does take the route of using outide help then the discussions need to be very thorough and the company needs to have total control over the creation of the blog idea. I wonder how long this process typically lasts?

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Hi Patrick,

    No worries about joining the discussion late. It's great to have your input.

    Pretending to be a CEO or any other person in an organisation's blog is playing with fire. The smoke would spread across the social media world pretty quickly if the truth was discovered (that sounded so corny!). Forgetting the risk, it would be wrong to do this anyway.

    Using social media to achieve outcomes should be at the forefront on all companies engaging online. If it isn't then it should be – they need to know why they are doing it. Their method of acheiving these goals is completely down to them and if they choose to use someone elses help then that's their call. Like you said though, transparency is very important. No audience likes to be kept in the dark. Saying that, if the audience doesn't know the company are not writing the blog, and targets are being hit, then a company would probably argue it made the right decision. Bottom line is bottom line.

    Every comment that comes through gives me more to think about, so thank you! Out of interest though, how did you come across this blog post? Was it on Twitter? Just curious.


  • http://www.joshuapr.com PatrickatJPR

    I agree about pretending to be the CEO (or anyone else) being akin to playing with fire and the smoke spreading – I also agree that it's a corny line!

    I think we need to be aware that for many brands getting into social media for the first time there can appear to be many 'rules' and they don't understand why they are there. My view, as I said before, is that brands should do what works for them. And if it works for them, but breaks the 'rules' we should embrace and learn from that and maybe revise the rules.

    I found the post from a tweet by @banksy6 – and had been meaning to comment for a couple of days.

  • http://www.writecombination.com/ Andrew Knowles

    I don't see a problem with penning a business blog on behalf of someone else. But as a freelance copywriter I would say that, wouldn't I?

    I'd expect a business of reasonable size, with its own marketing team, to keep it inhouse. But small outfits who can't afford dedicated marketers would be justified in paying someone to blog for them, in the same way they might pay an outside agency to design and manage their website – another key marketing channel.

    The blogger would need to understand the specific business and the commercial environment in general. They'd spend time listening to what people inside the business say and they'd understand the industry sector that it operates in.

    Which means the blogger can't simply be copywriter. They need to know what it's like to run a business and they need to have strong bias towards towards journalism and research.

    So no, it's not wrong to pay someone else to write your company blog. But it's probably very easy to get something that's bland, templated and could be extremely similar to that of other clients of the copywriter.

    It's all down to the business to find the right blogger. But I'm a freelance copywriter, so I would say that, wouldn't I?

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks for the comment, Andrew. You mention that writers need to have a strong bias towards journalism and research. I think the demand for writers may increase over the next couple of years as more and more companies understand the real benefits of maintaining a blog. Do you think this demand will create many more writers with lower levels of skill, making a good writer harder to find? Or do you think the general standard of writing will improve as more and more companies look to blog.

  • http://www.writecombination.com/ Andrew Knowles

    If I were able to make accurate predictions I'd be in a different business, Robert! But you ask a good question.
    I believe that as the economy picks up the number of people trying to earn from writing will drop as they get back into 'real' jobs. This should mean that the number of professional writers will fall, with an increase in quality.
    Whether companies will choose to outsource their blog writing remains to be seen. But I have come across some business blogs that are merely a stream of product reviews and news updates relevant to their sector; this is very easy to outsource because it requires much less knowledge of the business running the blog.

  • http://www.writecombination.com/ Andrew Knowles

    If I were able to make accurate predictions I'd be in a different business, Robert! But you ask a good question.
    I believe that as the economy picks up the number of people trying to earn from writing will drop as they get back into 'real' jobs. This should mean that the number of professional writers will fall, with an increase in quality.
    Whether companies will choose to outsource their blog writing remains to be seen. But I have come across some business blogs that are merely a stream of product reviews and news updates relevant to their sector; this is very easy to outsource because it requires much less knowledge of the business running the blog.

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  • Maria Gandara

    If you're bad at writing then do try a video blog or a podcast. There are millions of blogs around so if you want to stand out, your blog – in whatever form – must be extremely interesting and provide real insight into the company. I don't think that a “blog-writing” company can do it.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Thanks Maria. That is a really good point. Adding visuals and audios is a great way to draw interest to a blog and keep readers hooked once they are there. Many bloggers don't seem 'brave' enough to do this (me included!). A 1 min video from the Chief Exec of a company would be very interesting to customers, and would provide an insight and personality that blog-writers arguably can't do.

  • http://www.phil-duncan.com Phil Duncan

    Hey Rob,

    SEO can be outsourced, PPC can be outsourced. Heck, a creative agency can even come up with your brand and logo! Why would blog articles would be any different?

    Put it this way, if you’re company is expanding, you might hire someone to look after social media and produce blog posts, is this any different to outsourcing it to a copywriter who can create awesome content to your specifications?

    Of course it all depends what you are trying to achieve with your blog. I wouldn’t dream of putting my name to someone else’s work on my personal blog, but it’s totally different for a company.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com Robert Pickstone

    Hi Phil,

    I need to be careful with what I write here (for obvious reasons!)

    SEO, PPC, designing logos etc are a different kettle of fish – they are one way. Social media is two way.

    With the vast majority of social media, if a company is capable of being social themselves (staff, skills, money, time, organisation, understanding) then it should try to keep processes and activities in-house. If a company is not capable of delivering certain parts of their social strategy, outsourcing may need to be considered (amongst other things).

    I’ve just read back all the discussions and comments below – so many great and interesting points to consider.

    Thanks for your views.