How do you handle blog posts written by people no longer with your organization?

Posted February 3, 2021 in
Content Managers Content Managers

Adam Stahl

I like to say that I put the "information" in information technology.

This is something I've gone back and forth about for a while now.

We have a number of blog posts written by folks that are no longer with our company.

The way I've currently navigated that is with the following rough guidelines but I'm not sure if that's the best way to go about it:

  • If it was "written" by someone who is still notable in the industry and they actually wrote it or heavily contributed to it, I leave it in their name.

  • If it was "written" by someone who isn't notable in the industry and they contributed to the writing of it a bit but not entirely (perhaps answered a few questions for more info in an interview but wasn't involved in editing or approval), I've typically absorbed it into a general company-named generic author profile. An amendment to that would be if I was the ghost writer on the post and I'm more read into exactly the writing process that went on then I might pivot it to my author profile.

  • If it was basically entirely ghost written and the author on the post had no input on it, I'll just "assign" it to a different SME.

When I can, I'll historically optimize the higher-performing and higher-priority of these pieces and overhaul enough within that I'm comfortable giving credit to a new author - which seems to be the cleanest process. Unfortunately there's a good number of these posts and I don't have the bandwidth to just take this route.

Ideally, I'd like to stop using the generic company name author profile because that feels impersonal but my opinion there could be wrong.

How have you handled a scenario like this and what are your thoughts?

(and thank you!)
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Kevin Phillips
I love this question because I can see both sides of it. 
When I left Alaska Sleep Clinic, I had written 175+ blog articles. 

They went through most of my blogs and changed the author name to someone else in the organization. They didn't even bother updating the content. 

I was annoyed and wished they would have said something to me, but it was also good move on their part. I was never really an expert on sleep medicine. When Google's EAT update came out later, they didn't take a huge hit by having my name attached to all the content.

The way I look at it is: I was hired to write for the company. Even though I love seeing my name on my work, those articles are theirs to do with as they see fit. 
Adam Stahl
Thanks for the insight as someone that has experienced it from the other side,  Kevin Phillips  !

I haven't changed authorship when someone completely or primarily wrote a piece and the feelings you shared about being annoyed when it happened to you is part of why I won't. It's their creation and I won't take that from them.
Liz Moorehead
When someone leaves IMPACT, we update their company author profile to reflect their new place of work -- if that's not known, we'll move it to the past tense. We leave it in their name, and if a hist opt warrants it, we will overwrite with the new name. But when someone puts the work in, we do try to make it work so their name can still be reflected. For instance, we're on good terms with most former IMPACTers, and they like still being able to say they're published on our site.
Adam Stahl
Thanks for the insight,  Liz Moorehead !

I've been doing something similar with the author profiles that have actually written pieces and left. Though we only general clout (X years in the industry, awards, accolades, etc.) and not their new positions.

Fortunately, the majority of the pieces that need this treatment are from when we were still outsourcing our content completely (we were young and new to inbound and content creation, we made mistakes, we've grown 😇). Many of the "authors" of those pieces didn't have anything to do with them and probably didn't have ties to them.

When it comes to those those middle category ones (they weren't completely or majorly written by the author but they had some interaction with them) is where I'm stumbling most. The way that you shared has given me more to chew on there. Maybe even after historical optimization we add a line at the bottom that the post was originally written by X in 201X or something like that. 🤔
Liz Moorehead
If someone else takes it over the line from someone else who started it, here's a thought. Give the person who finished it the byline. Then at the bottom put a writer note of "Thank you to NAME for contributing to this article."
Chazz Hirschfeld
So cool, Liz! I wish I'd thought of this! We did do this with articles at our newspaper sometimes. At the very end, in italics and within parentheses, we'd note, (Lucy Kelly contributed to this article.)

But I really like the way you worded it better! It's a thank you AND a notice of their work!

I'm so glad you found some answers, Adam!
Adam Stahl
Ooooooh, I love that! Thank you!
Chazz Hirschfeld
Hi Adam,

It looks like you have some good input from Liz and Kevin, and perhaps you'll get even more great advice. 

This is not that. This is probably just silly, but I can't help thinking of Alan Smithee. His name may be familiar to you. He's a famous movie director. Except he's not.

Alan Smithee is the name film directors use when they don't want their own name attached to a project. Perhaps, for some reason, the project went south (i.e. bad) due to subpar acting or editing.

Of course, this is not the case for your blog posts. They're certainly above par due to your skills and talents, but perhaps you could choose a pseudonym like Alan Smithee and use that name for the "general company-named generic author profile" instead?

We did use our company name on a lot of our older blog posts, mostly because--at that time--that's what I'd been told was the best practice. I know much better now... I know a lot of better things now (Thanks, IMPACT!), but I still sometimes use that category of author if the blog post is a sort of "roundup" with input from multiple staff members.

I don't think you are wrong in your opinion. I believe the latest "best practice" is to use a personal name, not the company name. 

When I ghost-blogged for a national company for a few months, it was understood that another person's name would be used. Yes, it was a little weird to see my work under another name, but that was just part of the job.

When I worked for a newspaper and a staff member left, their work went under "From Staff Reports." 

So, different places have different policies.

I wish you the best of luck in making your decision on which policy to follow. If you go the Alan Smithee route, we'll be glad to help you choose a name, lol. And if you can--follow up with this later and let us know your final decision. We definitely learn from each other. Thank you!
Adam Stahl
I've heard of the concept but had no idea about "Alan Smithee" specifically - very cool, Chazz Hirschfeld !

I think that could be a good middle ground but then I worry about the authenticity and trust.

You did give me the initial idea to maybe use one of our "other support staff" like Lucy Kelly (pictured below) as the author for those but that might be a bit too whimsical (which I hate that I just put that in writing 😅).
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Chazz Hirschfeld
Awwwwwwww, so cute! I LOVE Lucy! You'll figure it out, Adam. I have no doubt. Thanks ever so much for making my weekend by sharing this photo of your hardworking support staff member, Lucy Kelly. I believe she deserves a treat now for giving us all a smile. Laters!
Connor DeLaney

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