By Anonymous. By a Character.
After the recent spate of character blogs in the PR space, I started thinking about character and anonymous blogs. Which are not that terribly different, in concept and in execution.
There are good reasons to use both forms. And both can be abused, to the overall detriment of blogging.
Let's start with the good reasons. Anonymity. If you are in real danger.. for your life. If your company discourages blogging of any sort, on or off the clock (boo hiss), but you have something to say. Not about your company but maybe your life or your hobbies or your politics. Doesn't matter. When attribution is dangerous, anonymity makes sense.
It also makes establishing credibility a bit harder. WHO are you and why should I trust you? More on that in a minute.
Character blogs are not that terribly different from anonymous blogs (and vice versa). Someone creates a character as the blog voice. Or they leverage an existing popular character as the voice. The writer isn't "real." [To some degree, all of us create a blogging persona, but the more closely aligned your true self is to your blog self, the better off you will be in the long run. ]
A character blog is extremely hard to do well. The blogosphere is conditioned to expect a real voice, and when it is a created persona, it reacts. Sometimes belatedly, but in the end, characters with unclear attribution are not well accepted. Bloggers want to know who you are. Are you credible? Do you have real authority in your blog-space, or is your authority as imaginary as you are?
Now, in my opinion, character blogs can work, although we haven't seen that many examples. Yet.
But they have to be honest. At a minimum, they have to be up front that this is a CHARACTER. And clear about the objectives. The best example is Manolo the Shoe Blogger. Manolo is all about the shoes. Yes, there are gossipy type posts, but everybody who reads this blog knows: it is about selling shoes. Full stop.
So anonymity and characters can work. They can also fail spectacularly.
Anonymity and characters fail when they are used as a screen for venom and bile. When the writer uses the form to deliver criticism without credibility. Absent being in danger for their life, when someone criticizes something, we want to know who they are, and what gives them the right.
That's why companies typically frown on anonymity, even in internal blogs. A student in one of my recent workshops shared that her company actively encouraged internal employee blogging but would not permit anonymous blogging. Employees had to have the courage of their convictions.
By far, the worst evil is the character blog that does not admit it is a character nor provide us with information about the people behind the character.
When a blog is anonymous, we evaluate the content and make an assessment about credibility. When someone starts a character blog, and tells you upfront that it is a character, we make a decision about information and entertainment value.
But a blog that pretends to be written by a real person. Clouded in pretense and falsity? A fake persona? Crystally clearly false, and definitely far from honest and transparent.
So, blog anonymously or as a character if that is your best or only choice. But if you can, speak up as yourself, or at least as the author of your character. And don't use your blog to advance a vendetta, settle a score or just to stir things up. Try to contribute a positive voice to the conversation.
Truly, it is just as much fun.
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