Frankly, the whole situation has developed into a negative public relations experience for Blizzard. I agree that Ghostcrawler has done a great job of acting as liaison for the company. But the hue and cry that greeted his initial announcement reveals the chaos going on at Blizzard.
One of the most fundamental principles of management is that you never let a person become identified with or essential to a position. Everyone is replaceable. Effective organizations are run as systems. That doesn't mean that they are uncaring or unfeeling; it doesn't mean inflexibility. But it does mean that if someone dropped dead tomorrow someone else should be able to step in and take over with little or no loss of core performance. Actors know well how being identified with a famous role can destroy their career; it's called being typecast. When an employee becomes closely identified with a position it came be difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to replace them. Experience shows that whatever the short term benefit of having that "special person" in a job it's not worth the long-run damage.
The real problem is that Ghostcrawler has done his job too well. There was such a hunger among the fan base for someone, anyone, to communicate to them the underlying rationale and philosophies of the developers that Ghostcrawler has become a celebrity. When WoW.com did their tee shirt spoof "Ghostcrawler promised me a pony" the demand for the shirts was so heavy they simply posted the graphics file online so that people could make their own. One only needs to do a Google Image search for 'Ghostcrawler' to see the problem.
He's an employee. It's very bad when you middle management employees are showing up in Google search results.
If I were Ghostcrawler's boss at Blizzard I'd pull out the ban hammer and use it on him. The role of being the developer spokesman has turned into a role much larger than what anybody thought. Right now, intentional or not, this has become a situation about Ghostcrawler. The focus should be on Blizzard. It needs to be clear that while a developer liaison speaks for the developers it's Blizzard the company that is doing it as part of its customer service and/or community relations effort. This perspective has been lost.
Once a situation becomes about what's best for one person and not what's best for the team something has gone seriously awry. Someone high in the company needs to step in and clean up. It's time for someone else to do the job.
Oh, I’m tickled by Ghostcrawler. But my position is quite the opposite of Elnia’s.
In my view this guy, or should I rather say phenomena, is everything a PR manager could wish for. How many companies and organizations don’t try to give their brand a human face, to reach out to the audience, to communicate? And how many of those don’t fail since the assigned person clearly lacks charisma, talent and a genuine interest for the task?
Ghostcrawler has all of this – and above all – he’s got a persona that the audience can identify with. While the costume dressed top-managers of Blizzard-Activision would turn off the target audience whenever they appeared (everyone thinking: “they’re only in it for the profit”), Ghostcrawler has the opposite effect. He shows up slightly overweight, a little bit geeky, in some badly fitting out-of-fashion t-shirt. He could easily come up in the how-I-look-in-real-life thread on our guild forum. There’s no doubt that he’s “one of us”.
What adds to his credibility is his writing style, which has a flavour of authenticity. Even if his texts may have passed under the eyes of a PR person, it isn’t obvious; they aren’t overly polished or diplomatic until boredom. You get the feeling that he writes whatever comes to his mind. He’s sharing his personal views, sometimes with a spice of humour and a little bit of edge. While making a clear border of how much the community can expect to influence the game (we don’t always know our own best), Ghostcrawler also displays a genuine interest in what we have to say, as long as we express our views in an intelligent, non-insulting manner.
He is performing an act of balance, where every single comma he utters may be discussed and analyzed. And he’s doing it excellently.
In short: Ghostcrawler is a gem. He means far more than Ozzy Osbourne for the promotion of WoW and I wouldn’t be surprised if the marketing specialists at Blizzard took part in the decision to let him become a spokesman. For what I know it could even been on their initiative, to make sure that Blizzard wouldn’t appear too distant and anonymous to their customer base.
But what about the danger of depending on one person that Elnia warns for? Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Ghostcrawler isn’t the only celebrity at Blizzard, not the only employee who players know by name. And if he one day would find another employer and leave, I’m pretty sure they would scan their human resources and see if they could find someone willing to take his dropped mantle.
I can’t help wondering though why he’s called by his nickname and not by his real name. Is it for security reasons only? Tradition? Actually it opens up for new possibilities. I come think about the comic series The Phantom, who is said to be “immortal”, but in fact is a persona, taken by several different persons.
What if there would appear a new Ghostcrawler the day when the current one has had enough and left the scene? Just hand over the t-shirt, make sure he’s got the right body shape and send him out on his mission.
Ghostcrawler – the ghost that never dies. It isn’t likely to happen, but I must admit that the thought tickles me.