Rent-a-Ghost? Not Likely...

I heard a funny story this week from Penny Power of ecademy for a New Media Knowledge story I wrote on Digital Britain. She recalled that last week she was at London’s Heathrow Airport when she bumped into Business Secretary Peter Mandelson. She commented on how much she enjoyed his Twitter updates to which he allegedly replied “oh no, they are not me”. (As it happens, at the time we went to press Lord Mandy had only 22 updates and none since mid-Feb!).

This raises an important question for digital pros. Ghost blogging - the art of penning blogs for other people - is standard industry practice. Hell, I even do it for a living! But where we always draw the line at Hatch PR is “ghost tweeting” – that is something that simply cannot be outsourced. The three main reasons for this are:

1) Brand: Twitter demands an instantaneous response. How much time do external PR suppliers lose by waiting for sign-off on comments for the press? Anyone agency-side can tell you that only an in-house person should speak on behalf of the company on a public medium such as Twitter. It has to by-pass the approvals chain

2) Time: Outsourced PR agencies have multitudes of clients and they cannot possibly keep tabs on the Twitter chatter at the same time effectively while dealing with their other responsibilities

3) Logistics: Even if they could, I’m not aware of an application that will let you sign in under multiple Twitter IDs. I have two myself – CMRLee and CycleTourSpain, my weekend side-project/hobby – and I can tell you, it’s not easy. It needs a dedicated member of the in-house marketing team on Tweetdeck responding in real time with authority that can only come from being ‘authorised’ to speak on behalf of the organisation

We can all imagine what would happen in just one of those microblogs was off message…
And, take note New Labour, if you’re going to tweet at all, at least follow through rather than just waft a hand in the vague direction of technology by setting up a Twitter account and not keeping it (a) consistently up to date and (b) entering into dialogue/multilogue with the rest of us.


  1. I suspect what Mandelson meant was that the Peter Mandelson on Twitter is being brandjacked by someone else rather than a Labour Party advisor/PRO tweeting on his behalf.

    There was speculation Mandelson was twittering recently at the launch of LabourList - but it was flatly denied as an official account.

    But your point still stands!

  2. fair point, Simon. There are a number of Mandelson-related Twitterers, so I just figured that the most likely one to be him was the one with 'Lord' in the title, had the most followers and the most professional-looking photo.

    but you're right, if he's not, he should be, as most cabinet ministers should. it doesn't take long and it's really not that hard to do.

  3. There are a number of applications that will let you manage multiple accounts simultaneously, for example Twhirl, an upcoming version of Tweetdeck, and a number of the iPhone applications, like Tweetie, will let you do this.

    On the otherhand, as you say, ghost twittering on behalf of an individual is fraught with problems (and dangers).


  4. Ben - good stuff. Which one is best (if you know)? I don't actually like Tweetdeck that much, although saying that will probably get me lynched :-)