THE BLOG

Is It Possible to 'Ghostblog' for a Leading CEO?

21/02/2014 15:06 GMT | Updated 22/04/2014 10:59 BST

I'm about to write a new book about blogging. Really, it's about the art of ghost-blogging and the experience I have of this hidden corporate culture that allows C-level executives to be prolific commentators on their industry.

I mentioned this on my Facebook recently and a friend said I should describe the birth of the book. What's the first step? How will I plan what I want to say? So here are a few thoughts that may answer some of those questions.

I have been blogging now for over a decade. In fact, I have watched blogs mutate from the original form of 'web-logging' that was just like keeping an online diary to the present-day where most people get their news about the world from blogs.

My blogging has taken many forms. I started out just making diary notes on LiveJournal like everyone else. Then I found that a blog was actually a great way to save news stories that I wanted to refer back to later - lots of sites developed later to do that more efficiently.

I used to keep a regular blog on myspace, but since they relaunched I guess I've lost all those posts and I have hundreds of entries now on my personal blog, which is really just random thoughts and observations.

What changed it for me was when I started blogging first for the technology magazine Computing, and later on, Computer Weekly. I got these blogging gigs because I was known as a technology author - I had written several books about IT, outsourcing, and the globalisation of the technology business so the magazines gave me a platform.

Computing never paid me, and Computer Weekly paid based only on page views - which meant that to earn anything meaningful would require enormous traffic to my blog. But I'm not complaining about that; here I am blogging now for the Huffington Post and like all the other HuffPo bloggers, I don't get paid for it.

Along the way I also became a regular political blogger for Reuters and I was twice shortlisted as UK business blogger of the year by Computer Weekly. I never actually won, but it's the shortlists that count isn't it?

All this visibility as a known writer of books and blogs led to me getting calls from companies who wanted to be seen on the Internet. They could engage the services of a PR firm, but then it would be difficult to capture the real voice of their executives when a professional PR is blogging on their behalf.

It was suggested to me that as I was a writer who had also been a senior manager in the technology industry in the past and had experience of outsourcing and IT operations all over the world, maybe I could ghostwrite a blog for a technology CEO?

This happened more than once and I soon found that I was blogging away in the voice of various CEOs. When Twitter came along I even started tweeting on behalf of some of them, but never engaging people in tweeted conversation - that was a golden rule.

One day in 2008, the BBC's technology editor Rory Cellan-Jones asked me to appear on Radio 4's Today programme to talk about all of this. I argued then that it was really no different to a politician getting their speech ghostwritten and I still believe that, but it is a conditional belief.

Social networks are very personal. A CEO can be supported by a ghostwriter feeding blogs and extra content to him or her, but if the executive has no interest in using this kind of communication tool then it's not possible to fake their presence just by tweeting links to news articles and hoping that this can pass for 'engagement.'

So, I'm about to write about what works and doesn't work when executives blog. Today the wider world of corporate blogging is often called content marketing, but I'm going to focus mostly on executives who want to be seen blogging.

I sat down last week and drafted ten chapter headings, then wrote a summary of each one. Now I'm listing ideas I want to cover in each chapter. Over the next few weeks, I'll tackle each chapter one by one and hopefully have a first draft early in March.

This is not going to be a detailed academic study. I'm not going to interview or even name the CEOs I have worked with, but it will all be based on the real experience of a ghostwriter who has written online for dozens of senior executives in companies all over the world.

I'll tell you more about the process of writing the book as it happens.