Celebrity Ghost Tweeting. Ethical? Moral? Necessary?

As many people reading this blog may or may not be aware of, I am a Communications major with a concentration on Public Relations at the wonderful Kennesaw State University right outside of Atlanta. This summer, I made the ridiculously smart decision of not only taking five classes in a summer semester(this is sarcasm), but one of the classes having its focus being social media in today’s public relations field.

Within this course, thought by the wonderful Dr. Amber Hutchins(no shame in my brownie point game), we were told to do an InFocus topic on something concerning social media in today’s public relations field. So what did I do? Combine my shaming love for celebrity gossip(the good stuff, not the Kim Kardashian dating a new guy foolishness, I like seedy drug dens and Octomom stripping pictures. They exist. Google them.) and Twitter, which I have become recently addicted to, despite my lack of personal tweets.

I took a slightly different approach to celebrity tweeting than my classmate Laura Booker, who also tackled the subject. In my paper, and also briefly in this blog entry, I am going to be discussing the “ethics” of celebrity ghost tweeting, which is when publicists or similar tweet on behalf of a celebrity without revealing their true identity, and how that impacts celebrity culture in the age of the internet and specifically social media, where the authenticity of the individual you are interacting with is cherished much more than normal.

Why Ghost Tweeting?

As any public relations professional will tell you, no matter what their field of expertise is, that image maintenance is one of, if not, the most important job element in the PR game. Celebrities are definitely no different in this, as their image shapes the direction of their career. With the identity and image of a celebrity closely associated with, and even referred to as their brand, time spent online with computers and the internet is minimal at best.

So where does the ghostwriter come into play? The ghostwriter basically ensures that the identity and image of the celebrity, be it good or bad, is maintained at all times without direct supervision of the celebrity, but while “deceiving” the masses into thinking that said celebrity is actually tweeting, usually quelling whatever rumors or speculation may have surfaced about the celebrity “directly from the celebrity’s mouth”.

Rapper 50 Cent is one of many celebrities who have been discovered to have been using ghost tweeters.

In a New York Times article published in March 2009, writer Noam Cohen exposes well-known celebrities Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Britney Spears for not writing most or any of the tweets stemming from their accounts on Twitter. In the article, Cohen quotes a man named Chris Romero, who is better known as “Broadway”, the head of 50 Cent’s online presence, which includes his social media accounts and websites.

Frequently, Romero and others like him will tweet random lines from the singer’s songs, or lines from an interview set to be published, under the guise that it is the actual rapper tweeting them. “He doesn’t actually use his Twitter, but the energy of it is all him”, Romero says about Jackson’s involvement, or lack thereof, on his Twitter account. Most activities on these ghost tweeted streams are usually links to interviews, pictures of the celebrities working on specific projects, or in most cases, sponsored tweets that other companies pay the celebrity to make, according to a MediaBistro article written by Lauren Dugan from January 2012. In the MediaBistro article, Dugan reveals that during the height of the Charlie Sheen media craze, his search for a social media intern, essentially a ghostwriter, generated revenue for a website called Internship.com, where the applicant would apply, and Sheen was paid $50,000 to make that one tweet. You read that right.

Okay, not that much, but say it like that. It better emphasizes the point.

Rihanna. Crushing weed. On a man’s head. That she tweeted.

So it sounds like a wonderful idea, right? A publicist handles the job of tweeting for the celebrity, while that celebrity’s image is maintained in a positive light. But what happens when the celebrity tweets for themselves? Popular “singer”(okay sure.) Rihanna has amassed a Twitter following of over 22 million people, and while her account has been verified as real by Twitter, she mostly composes and sends her own tweets and pictures on her timeline. Most of these tweets and images definitely play into the bad girl persona she is most known for, but how far is too far? Frequently, she is seen battling it out online with various users who may send disparaging messages to her, something most notables would ignore and not respond to. Even worse, during this year’s Coachella Festival, she tweeted an Instagram image of her crushing what appears to be marijuana buds on top of another man’s head during one of the many live shows.

Obviously, someone in the public relations field would do the utmost in damage control to ensure that this image would never see the light of day for an extended period of time, but as I pointed out earlier, the authenticity in a superstar like Rihanna opening herself up to the internet for dozens of people to see without the assistance of a publicist or ghostwriter definitely benefits her career in a sense, with her fans having the knowledge that they are truly interacting with the singer that they adore, despite the disparaging images she places on her page. Many lesser celebrities do this, also, with the trend of celebrities tweeting on their own beginning to grow as the ghostwriters are now “exposed” more often than ever.

So tell me what you think. Do you think ghost tweeting is wrong? Think about the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Thanks for reading my post!

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