As a former journalist who long ago crossed over to the “dark side” of corporate communications, I often wonder how much of today’s digital content – a majority of which purports to be thought leadership – is ghost-written. 

/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/authentic_606699.jpgThere’s no doubt it’s a ludicrously high percentage. But how did we become so accepting of this morally questionable practice that, against all logic, thrives in today’s painfully transparent media landscape?

Obviously, not everyone retains the skill or desire to be a rock star storyteller and that’s ok. But for those that do have the desire, help isn’t far away. I advise very talented people every day and help them find their writing voice. From interns, to senior executives, many struggle with the art of communicating simply.

When motivated individuals focus on what matters, and find their writing voice, an amazing transformation takes place. Marketing jargon, buzzwords and corny platitudes take a back seat to authentic storytelling.

Authenticity holds the key to unleash an employee brand journalism resistance to combat ghost written “assets” that continue to invade the media landscape. It may not satiate every marketing/communications activity, but there’s no question it’s extremely effective in building brand awareness and community engagement with employees, customers and partners.

So if a bit of authentic brand journalism mojo can help elevate a company’s visibility, why turn to ghost writing at all?

For one, content farms make it pretty easy for companies to tap into networks of freelance writers, programmed to produce and distribute content more concerned with SEO trickery wizardry than authentic storytelling.  Results from using content farms are a mixed bag and prominent publications have been predicting their demise for the past few years.

There’s also the “quality versus quantity” debate that doesn’t seem like much of a debate from my perspective. Far too many people are still obsessed with publishing high volumes of low quality, ghost written assets that create a false sense of social media traction and influence. 

These types of smoke and mirrors tactics won’t be going away anytime soon. But for this former journalist who’s been at the forefront of the content marketing trenches, it’s encouraging to see the smoke clearing and mirrors cracking.

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  1. Stephen Johannes

    So honest question, what’s your opinion on the whole Millennial Marketing campaign SAP has been running on Business Trends over the last several months on SCN?  Do you think SAP has been truly authentic in that articles really represent the views of the writers, or do you think that people are only posting these blogs to meet goals of their management.

    I only ask this because as a reader of these blogs, I feel some of them don’t look like a personal point of view, but rather achieving a quota for the job.  I even find the twitter feed of one or two SAP folks to look “robotic, as how could they really publish all that stuff without an automatic script.

    I have to pose these quetions because from my perspective a lot of the social media content coming from SAP is almost “too polished” to be authentic.  I’m not saying it isn’t authentic, but even here the messages appear too much in a command and control style.

    Finally do you think there is a disconnect between what non-SAP employees view as community and authentic and what is internally.  I honestly believe there is a gulf between this and unfortuantely at times SCN is just viewed as another “broadcast marketing” channel rather a place for communication.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Tim Clark Post author

      Stephen, thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate your honesty.

      For various reasons (some of which I detail above) many organizations simply don’t “get” why authenticity matters. That doesn’t mean intentions aren’t pure, just that objectives sometimes get muddled and priorities shift to metrics and KPI’s instead of having more real conversations like the one we are having now.

      Everyone’s in a rush to automate and streamline everything and we’re starting to understand that streamlined processes typically don’t translate well in this strange, new world we live in where marketing, communications, advertising, social, journalism, etc. are all getting thrown into a blender.

      I think a vast majority of SAP employees have a tremendous amount of respect for the SCN and that’s why we’re seeing such a huge uptick in activity on spaces like this one. They know where the real action is taking place and they simply want to be a part of it.

      Agree that some of the millennial stuff is getting bit tired and heavy handed. But I can’t imagine the intent from SAP’s side is to overdo it (even if that’s the perception). The Future of Work is a really important topic for many businesses and tapping into the millennial generation is a big part of it.

      I also posted this story on LinkedIn and some of the feedback there mentions the same points you do about the level of noise on Twitter. I think this is where authenticity matters most. Simply put, the good (authentic) content rises to the top. The rest is just noise.

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