More On Ghostblogging
Dear Mr. Bennett,
Thank you for including my company in your blog post yesterday about the ethics of legal ghostblogging. As a (relatively) new form of communication, blogging is still in many ways going through its growing pains, and as more and more professionals and businesses begin to see the value of blogging I know that there will be many more debates about various aspects of it, including continuing ethical debates. Like you, I think these debates are important, and I look forward to seeing (and perhaps being a part of) how the field evolves.
The ethics of having a ghostwriter in a field that is still in many ways expected to be transparent is something that I discuss with each and every one of my clients; that is why some of my clients choose to have my tagline at the bottom of each post that I write for them, and every client of mine knows that I expect them to read and approve every post that appears on their blog. Personal and professional responsibility is not something I neglect or take lightly. As you might expect, I have many of my own opinions about this subject and would be happy to engage in conversation with you if you are interested in discussion.
The reason I am writing you today is because–although I have no desire to censor the debate–I would like to ask you, as a professional courtesy, to remove your reference and link to my client testimonials page. You are welcome to leave your reference to my business and my home page (your readers can find my client testimonials page from there if they are so inclined.) As I said above, professional responsibility is not something I take lightly, and I feel it is my professional responsibility to be the “front man” in this debate, and bear the brunt of this particular criticism. I realize that in the end this is your forum and your decision, and I appreciate your consideration of my clients and of my request.
If you would like to discuss this topic further I invite you to e-mail me privately at any time.
Dear Ms. Buchanan:
Thank you for your email.
Blogging is not so novel that there are no precedents. In the original post I drew analogies to claiming other lawyers’ results and résumés; in the non-legal world it’s like putting a picture of one thing on the outside of a can filled with another. I note that, of the five “bloggers” with testimonials on your testimonial page, only two use your tagline; Gene Osofsky, Rick Law, and Kimberly T. Lee do not. Why do you suppose that is?
It is very important for the discussion of the ethics of lawyers using ghostbloggers to be conducted publicly, in full view of those who might be affected by lawyers’ marketing choices—not only the clients whose fortunes and futures might be at stake, but also the lawyers whose reputations are at stake. You take professional responsibility seriously, but your clients are the ones with their licenses and their reputations on the line.
It is crucial that those with ultimate legal and ethical responsibility for online marketing (the lawyers) realize that they have some skin in the game. Some lawyers feeling that it is okay to have a “front man” causes many of the problems with unethical online marketing: they trust a non-lawyer to do it for them, and wind up paying for spam, splogging, or ghostblogging. I suspect that when lawyers realize that they might be called to public account for the things they delegate to others (Outsourcing Marketing = Outsourcing Ethics), they give a lot more thought to their marketing choices.
I’d be happy to hear your arguments that hiring a legal ghostblogger is ethical, but I don’t think your clients should be insulated from the effects of this particular decision.