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Transparency And Trust

This is a note I sent out to BuzzFeed employees today.

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Team,

Jonah and I got some questions about two leaks to the press this week, something that does not happen often. It was frustrating for us, but not for the reasons you might assume. We'd like to explain why we believe in a transparent company, why it's important, and how it is core to our culture and operation.

In general, we believe that people do better work when they understand the bigger picture. Transparency allows autonomy, and if your message is the same both internally and externally, then leaks aren't really a thing. Knowing where the company is headed — talking to each other about our values and plans for the future — allows people to have more freedom to do great work without constantly consulting with a manager about what is right, strategic or possible. Indeed, the same changes to media that are central to our business have allowed us to build a better, more flat structure than the old command-and-control model, in which employees don't know why they are doing what they're doing.

We don't worry about leaks primarily as a PR matter. One reason this hasn't really been an issue for us is because we don't have a ton of company secrets. It's important to us that we say the same things internally and externally. That's why you'll see leaders at the company give the same talk at internal Brews as they do when talking on panels and to the press. And it's why we post almost every internal email — memos, challenges with diversity, standards guides to keep us accountable — publicly.

(The major exception to our view on transparency is when we are working with a partner or company who has asked us not to share information outside a small internal group.)

As we grow, we are going to work to maintain transparency wherever we can. We need your help to do it. A core part of that is your colleagues knowing that they can trust you to know what's public and what's not — and asking when you're not sure.

So we're most concerned about leaks as it applies to our culture. Anonymously tipping a reporter to something a colleague says in a meeting isn't a violation of business or journalistic ethics. It's an issue of personal ethics. It makes it harder for us to trust one another. That said, the one thing that's worse for culture than leaks is obsessing about the leakers, so we won't be launching a plumbing operation to find the holes. But breaching confidences is something we take seriously, and the sort of thing you can get fired for.

And by the way, if you're reading this blog post and work at a company with lots of secrets, do go ahead and send them to ben@buzzfeed.com at your convenience.

Ashley

(PS - too much detail for most of you but the Snapchat documents did not come from our team)