Why Every Intranet Article Should Have a Byline
One word: transparency
Almost every single piece of content published to your intranet should have a real person’s name attached to it — a byline.
- Rarely should content appear bylined by nobody, an anonymous contributor, or an alias (e.g., The Benefits Team).
- Definition of rare: Infrequently occurring; uncommon; scarce: a rare event
A Word About Transparency
Being a “transparent” workplace is hip these days. Everything from glass walls to all-hands town halls to openly rating peer performance are well-intentioned measures to reinforce the notion that a company is willing to be honest about success, failure, and attempts to improve and grow.
- In reality, we know that a company is never as transparent as it claims to be. When was the last time you knew what your colleagues were paid or which lawsuits were brought against the firm?
- Nevertheless, transparency is a principle increasingly enfolded into corporate values. The spirit to embrace and foster constructive communication, which is a good thing.
“It can be difficult to convince executives to pull back the curtain on company numbers and big decisions,” writes BambooHR’s Rob de Luca. However, he says,
being open with employees about the company’s performance and future plans prevents speculation, keeps anxiety levels low, and can even offer an increased sense of ownership and trust. All of those are hallmarks of a highly engaged workforce, and it’s no secret that engagement directly impacts the bottom line.
de Luca is describing the way in which a company acts transparently at the macro or aggregate level. The same kind of thinking can be applied to a subset of company behavior, internal communications, and further still to company news channels.
Let me explain…
Transparency With News
The intranet is home to all kinds of articles, including updates and memos that ask employees to adhere to a policy change, acknowledge an activity or event, and take action on something.
Every department knows that, besides a direct email, the intranet (by way of the newsletter and other channels) is the best way to get their information to employees.
A byline on intranet content is one easy way to signal the company’s seriousness toward transparency.
Too many times stakeholders refuse to assign any one person’s name to the update or call to action. The excuses are many and valid to a degree, but it is extremely rare that a real person in any department shouldn’t claim ownership of some company news.
- An often-heard claim is that “it’s a team effort” and really, if anyone should be credited in the byline, it’s the entire department.
- The Department Name-as-byline is just one more way to obfuscate ownership and accountability.
- You must stand your ground and don’t give in to anonymous content.
In my experience, once you explain the need for transparency most colleagues will give in and find somebody’s name to attach to the article.
- Calling out the company’s values is one way to reinforce your argument.
- Sometimes the demand for a byline is enough for them to withdraw their submission or request, which shows just how “important” or “urgent” the item was in the first place.
A byline puts accountability for the content on someone’s shoulders. If they believe strongly in the request, suggestion, policy change, or profile, they should stand by it.
But…a byline doesn’t mean that the person necessarily created the news or policy or update. Rather, a byline can serve as a way to indicate that this person is the point of contact if you want to know more, a point that can be made clear with a note at the end of the article.
Besides fostering transparency, a byline:
- Allows readers to contact the contributor to learn more about the topic, to send praise, and to thank the person for writing about project X, department Y, or person Z.
- Gives authority to the person who bylined the article.
- Builds trust between the employee and the “authority” (or expert) who bylined the piece.
- Encourages others to pitch in and submit or write content. (Hey, if Meredith can write an article for company news, so can I!)
- Encourages other forms of information sharing across the company, so that material and knowledge doesn’t remain confined to one group.
- If there is a mistake in the article that needs to be corrected (e.g., a typo, a misattribution), people know who to contact.
- To pitch similar stories
If your business is serious about transparency, then adding bylines to every piece of intranet content is one way internal comms can reinforce the core value.