Katie Moffat posted a really interesting question Twitter this morning for PRs regarding the etiquette of ghost tweeting and its got everyone joining in on the discussion. The conversation focused on is it ok to tweet on clients behalf without declaring it?
For generations PR have ghost written articles and press releases for clients but I think twitter in particular is impersonating someone’s voice, not simply writing up their opinion. I wouldn’t phone a journalist and pretend to be a client, or take a customer service/sales call and pretend to work for the client’s company so the same rules apply on twitter in my opinion. However, setting up the process for a client, running their RSS feeds, training them on how to use Twitter is all perfectly acceptable.
To me it is a question of openness and I always like to know who I am talking to and assume others feel the same.
Here are the responses Katie has received so far….what do you think?
DannyWhatmough @robin1966 @katiemoffat I agree with Robin
michaelblowers @katiemoffat does it also matter what type of tweeter – OK if a corporate entity not so good if pretending to be the CEO?
robin1966 @katiemoffat reckon you can’t impersonate someone but if running a brand twitter feed then that’s different
jordanstone @katiemoffat i agree. that’s certainly the best approach. but there is room for PR to be involved, and help manage things
LitmanLive @katiemoffat I have ghost tweeted before so looking at this from both sides. I was fully immersed in the brand and it’s values at the time.
qwghlm @katiemoffat Good point – as Twitter can be used for variety of messages, maybe that means no clear cut answer?
jordanstone @katiemoffat poor example on my part perhaps. point was though if we can manage other comms channels, or draft other comms content, why not?
jenslapinski @katiemoffat wrong
qwghlm @katiemoffat As a parallel – adverts don’t disclose which agency came up with them. Nor do we expect them to. Higher standard for PR?
jordanstone @katiemoffat chiming in. if you can run a press office on their behalf, or pen a byliner/press release, why not [jointly] manage a profile?
mseasons @katiemoffat Sorry, I meant agree with the “if you’re well-briefed and have a good boundaries of what you can do then it’s awesome” part
dr_whom @katiemoffat @mseasons kind of, I just don’t see that if it’s someone close to the person why it matters?
karenbryan @katiemoffat Would you ghost tweet for client? Could PR agency do better job than client? As long as tweets didn’t come over as merely spin
LitmanLive @katiemoffat Theoretically think you always have to disclose w/ talking about a client. In practice it’s evidently not always so clear cut.
bmcmichael @EbA @katiemoffat Yes but not in disguise….openness is key. Researching/setting up tools is fine…that’s just process…or plumbing
mseasons @katiemoffat Yes, of course. With two of our clients, we’re doing Twitter training along with, so we’re Tweeting *with* them instead of for.
mseasons @katiemoffat Chiming in if that’s ok? I agree with @dr_whom, but aim is always to have the client take over, esp. if it’s a personal account
RuderFinnUK @katiemoffat dodgy depends on you interpret the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 around professional best practice
dr_whom @katiemoffat I wouldn’t expect it to be him but I’d expect it to be someone v. close to him.
giggsthelegend @katiemoffat not sure it is right, to me tweeting is like a personal conversation – ghost tweeting is like impersonating someone
EbA @katiemoffat I don’t claim to have the answer but I think there are times when it’s ok to ghost tweet
dr_whom @katiemoffat would you really read a Virgin feed thinking Branson is tweeting though? Would it matter? I’d be alarmed if he was!
bmcmichael @katiemoffat Would we turn up to media briefings or sales meetings pretending to be the client? No..and the same rules apply with tweets IMO
dr_whom @katiemoffat but isn’t hiring an expensive and brilliant writer (me) to do it for them a way of taking it on? I think so.
ghostwhisperers @CMRLee @katiemoffat ghost blogging/tweeting stimulates opinion with no ‘winner’ to any discussion. Do what you .. http://bit.ly/4fVcZL
jangles @CMRLee @katiemoffat ghost blogging/tweeting stimulates opinion with no ‘winner’ to any discussion. Do what you believe is right.
dr_whom @katiemoffat …it properly, so why not? @topfife lives in a dream world and when I next see him I will arm-wrestle him into submission.
tommalcolm @katiemoffat I hope you’ll be writing that blog post yourself 🙂
CMRLee @jangles @katiemoffat in addition – http://bit.ly/yfT1f
dr_whom @katiemoffat if you’re well-briefed and have a good boundaries of what you can do then it’s awesome. Most companies don’t have time to do…
dr_whom @katiemoffat I ghost tweet so I have a vested interest in this – personally I think it’s the same as getting someone to write a PR for you.
CMRLee @jangles @katiemoffat ghost blogging/tweeting must be worth a fortune to the PR industry as a service. will the industry vote against it?
RichMillington @katiemoffat Agree, my thinking is if you’re happy to read ghost-written autobiographies, then is ghost-tweeting so bad? or ghost-blogging?
jangles @katiemoffat also read Paul Seaman’s contrary opinion on his blog. I disagree but his points are well argued. http://bit.ly/Xd7Td
CMRLee @jangles @katiemoffat whether ghost blogging/tweeting is right or wrong, it must be worth a fortune to the PR industry as a service
JThomlinson RT @katiemoffat @drewb I agree. You should always be transparent! Never have any hidden ulterior motives…
wadds @katiemoffat We’re starting to share feeds with clients. Pros and cons are a longer conversation than a tweet
JThomlinson RT @drewb @katiemoffat I’m having the same dilemma. Should PR agency’s poll Twitter on behalf of clients – or should the client do it?
kevindixie @katiemoffat I once had cabinet minister following me, tweeting all the time, when the PR team behind it mis-tweeted..was revealing
jangles @katiemoffat without disclosure, totally wrong. http://bit.ly/1MCqJ (Whether it’s effective communication is an entirely different matter)
PBizzle @katiemoffat True, but the similarity is that a PR person is shaping the communication – effectively putting the words in clients’ mouths
RichMillington @drewb @katiemoffat Just curious If you’re against ghost-tweets, are you also against 99% of autobiographies? Where’s the line?
jedhallam @katiemoffat I think that even Broadcast stuff should have a name attached to it
jedhallam @katiemoffat Must always be transparent, Twitter is too intimate to be done without personality, and that persona needs a name behind it…
vero .@katiemoffat I hasten to add: @campaignmonitor tweets are all from internal staff, but companies could use that for PR folks too I reckon
PBizzle @katiemoffat Doesn’t matter – PR agencies write all the releases, briefing docs, statements, messaging docs, byline articles as it is
vero .@katiemoffat No need to shout it every msg, but bio shd say who tweets. Best approach is “team behind our tweets” bg like @campaignmonitor
drewb @katiemoffat What do you mean by ghost tweeting? PR has a long history of writing on behalf of people / companies, in right and wrong ways!
EbA @katiemoffat Tricky one. A few thoughts I jotted down on it last week: http://bit.ly/2sSmrF
PBizzle @katiemoffat Corporate/brand accounts – yes. Personal accounts – definitely not. Depends what the feed is for really. 🙂
peteyoung RT @katiemoffat: Would be interested in hearing everyone’s views on PR agencies ghost tweeting for clients (without transparency) – righ …
_Colin_ @katiemoffat imo not much difference between and agency tweeting or a member of staff so long as the tweet is true to the brand values etc
AbigailH @katiemoffat we would not for one of our clients. Would certainly guide them through the learning process tho’. You?
wehttam @katiemoffat for the most part: id rather not read them, only tweeting on behalf I agree with is http://twitter.com/drew/status/2707136867
johnnyLander @katiemoffat So wrong! Twitter is all about the person isn’t it ?
timdifford @katiemoffat it’s the modern day equivalent of ‘secretarial’ autographs signed by the Beatles’ office staff.
topfife @katiemoffat ghost-tweeting is bad in any circumstance. It’s supposed to be a direct, open & honest communication tool – not a brand booster
people get so precious about Twitter don’t they? Twitter means different things to different people and isn’t ‘supposed’ to be used in just one particular way. As PRs we write by-lines, whitepapers, blogs and more in the name of clients, so why not a Twitter feed? As long as there is openness (ie not pretending to be someone else) it really doesn’t matter.
Just because people do poor practice in other arenas doesn’t make ghost tweeting right. Right off to do some ghost tweeting and then send some phishing emails to some bank customers.
Secondly brands don’t do social media, people do. I really like @guyatcarphone as a great example. I know we use @ruderfinnuk, but I see ‘brand’ ids as much more like an aggregated feed or news portal to use a web 1.0 parlance. Controversial but there you go
I’d say rather than being controversial Ged, you share the opinion of many on twitter this morning. It is and should be about people and to have an open conversation, you have to know who you’re having it with.
I think both Ged and PaulieA make good points. No, there aren’t any rules and people do get precious about these things. But pretending to be someone you’re not is just wrong, plain and simple. Ghost tweeting on behalf of a CEO, for example, is a very bad route indeed.
But, as Ged highlights, there are other ways that brands are using Twitter to build up awareness and visibility that doesn’t rely on personal connections. There is certainly a role here for PRs to guide the conversation and help companies to establish their strategy on Twitter and elsewhere.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Danny – much appreciated. I agree with you….there is such a big role for PR in the whole social media space but impersonating our client’s ain’t on the list….
I finally got around to blogging my thoughts. It’s an interesting area. And one on which I think there will be much more to say.