Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s twice-monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Send us your questions!

I’m a Ghostwriter Who Wants That Elusive Byline!

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been a content marketer for a well-established brand for several years, and I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing. However, one thing has been bothering me: the lack of bylines. The brand either doesn’t give anyone a byline or they give it to high-level executives. While I understand the reasoning behind this approach, there’s a specific project coming up on mental health awareness. This is a deeply personal issue for me, and I poured my heart and soul into creating content that is not only informative but also empathetic and supportive. I believe that my personal connection to the subject matter brings a unique perspective and authenticity to the content, making it more relatable and impactful for our audience. How can I make a compelling case for why this particular project deserves a byline? — ASPIRING FOR A MEANINGFUL BYLINE

Paul Chaney: Bylines are important, especially for building a portfolio of identifiable work. And it’s clear that this particular article holds special meaning to you. 

Have you talked to your manager about your feelings? Unless there is a hard-and-fast policy against it, there’s no reason you a) shouldn’t make the case for a byline or b) your manager shouldn’t grant that request. 

But it does come down to policy — and that’s the first place to look. Does the company forbid bylines exclusively? Are your contributions expected to be ghostwritten? 

If a “no byline” policy exists, it’s likely the company prefers to promote the brand rather than individuals or may choose to have a consistent voice and style across the board. Also, it could be that the company wants the flexibility to have various writers cover the same content areas — all of which are valid reasons. 

If that’s the case, regardless of your emotional connection to the article, you may have to satisfy yourself just knowing you gave it your all and that it will help others. 

However, I don’t want to stop you from pursuing the byline. If you want to make the effort, here are some ideas that may help: 

  • Start by emphasizing your connection to the article. Your argument is more emotional than logical because it may go against policy. 
  • Propose that your personal connection may foster a deeper relationship between the brand and the audience. A byline can promote transparency and authenticity, two valuable commodities in digital marketing today. 
  • Prepare to address their concerns or objections. Like a good salesperson, you must prepare to offset the supervisor’s objections or concerns with valid arguments. Brainstorm all you can think of, and perhaps use an AI tool like ChatGPT to assist. 
  • Suggest a test case. Ask for an exception to the rule to analyze the impact of bylines on certain types of content. Offer to track engagement and conversion metrics. Positive results could make the case for using bylines more widely where appropriate.
  • Communicate that you aren’t trying to build a personal brand on the company’s dime but that you feel a byline is appropriate in this case. 
  • Be humble in your approach. Arrogance or taking offense won’t help your cause. 

Help! My Team’s Forming Cliques Instead of Clicking!

Dear Content Therapist: I am in a tricky workplace situation and could use your advice. Lately, I’ve noticed a clique forming among a group of employees on my team. They frequently go out for lunch together and engage in after-work activities, but they seem to exclude certain individuals, including those I manage directly. As a manager, I’m concerned about the impact this dynamic might have on team morale and overall productivity.

I want to strike a balance between respecting employees’ personal relationships and ensuring a harmonious and inclusive work environment. But it’s not like I can unilaterally tell all of these employees what to do since I don’t supervise most of them. Should I even intervene? Or should I let employees navigate their social dynamics independently, even if it potentially affects team dynamics and overall cohesion? Most importantly, how can I approach this situation delicately and effectively? — NAVIGATING WORKPLACE CLIQUES

Paul Chaney: And just when you thought cliques ended in high school, right? Unfortunately, cliques exist in all strata of society, so it’s not surprising to see them in the workplace. But I don’t think you need to presume that it’s all bad, aside from excluding certain individuals. And to your point, you don’t oversee all the members of this group. 

So, what do you do? 

  • The first step is to show concern but don’t overreact. Monitor the impact on team morale, particularly for employees under your supervision. What if this bonding works to improve morale and interdepartmental teamwork? Monitoring will help you distinguish between harmless social gatherings and those that are exclusionary. 
  • However, if you see that it’s having a deleterious effect, approach the other group members’ supervisors and make them aware. Set a time to meet and discuss the issue — just because it concerns you doesn’t mean you should carry the weight by yourself. You may find they share the same concern. Plus, brainstorming together could surface some helpful ideas. 
  • Talk to the team members you supervise who are part of the group, asking for their thoughts on the matter and sharing your concerns over how excluding others may affect morale.
  • Organize inclusive team-building activities, such as a luncheon, volunteer effort or group outing. Leading by example and expressing that inclusiveness is a value all team members should espouse may help. Also, emphasize the importance of empathy and compassion. 
  • Reward team members who show inclusionary behavior publicly; address exclusionary conduct privately. 
  • Hold an educational workshop on diversity, equity and inclusion. Bring in a member of HR to lead it. Allow time for questions and comments. 
  • Show support for an inclusive work environment, but at the same time, don’t arbitrarily discourage personal friendships. That, too, could harm morale. Start with monitoring and take these other steps if needed. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.