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3 ways for public relations pros to earn respect on Wikipedia

For more info:Read our ebookThis post was originally published on SocialFresh.

Everywhere I go, public relations professionals are asking for more “respect” from Jimmy Wales and the Wikipedia community.

4 ways for PR reps to respond to brand antagonists on Wikipedia

BalancaJusticaOne of the most frequent complaints we hear from clients and PR representatives is the belief that their Wikipedia page is being controlled by brand antagonists.

And sometimes they are.

Creating a Wikipedia article about your employer or client

Find more informationon this topic in our ebookIf a person or company wants to create a new Wikipedia article about themselves, they should do so through the site's Articles for Creation  tool. Here, marketers can disclose their affiliation with the company or individual and offer a draft article for consideration by the site's editors. If the content is neutral, properly cited to independent sources and the topic meets Wikipedia's requirements for an article, a Wikipedian will approve it.

There are a few things you should consider before preparing a submission.

Can I edit my company's Wikipedia page?

JanitorAn honest, straightforward question: Can I edit my company's Wikipedia page? As of writing this, Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline mentions the Talk page 25 times, and specifically tells public relations, social media, SEO, marketing and other professionals not to edit the page. However, to make matters confusing, there's debate within Wikipedia's editorial community on whether editors like PR professionals should be able to edit the page and a plethora of blogs on the Web providing tips and best practices that seem to suggest it's ok to edit away. Some of them don't even mention legal and ethical requirements to disclose your affiliation with the company and engage the site's editors.

Jimmy Wales advocates for "the bright line," a single simple rule that marketing professionals never directly edit articles they have a conflict of interest with; a rule enforced through media humiliation for those that violate it. This has been re-inforced by best practices established by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a common sense application of social media disclosure laws. Marketing editors that edit Wikipedia pages are routinely humiliated in the media, blocked and ridiculed on Wikipedia, create contentious relationships with the site's editors and in some cases have even found themselves in legal trouble.

In general the ethical approach to Wikipedia is to leave important editorial decisions up to the site's editors, who serve the reader's best interest. Use common sense when it comes to fixing grammer, cleaning up citation errors and edits that have been clearly approved by the site's editors. When in doubt, defer to the community.

How to handle bias or controversy on your company's or client's Wikipedia page

Marketing professionals are routinely embarrassed in the media for attempting to whitewash their employer or client's Wikipedia page, but often the article is genuinely unfair. Because Wikipedia is driven by volunteerism, editors write about things that peek their interests - stuff they're passionate about - and often strong opinions about a controversial topic drive them to Wikipedia. As a whole, Wikipedia articles tend to favor controversial topics more than they should.

First things first, stay calm and keep a cool head. The more impeccable your conduct is, the easier it will be to get the problem fixed if the content is not compliant with Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View Policy. Don't just remove it, but start engaging editors on the Talk page of the article. Take a look at a few things.

6 ways to ask for a correction on Wikipedia

Wikipedia Talk pageQorvis recently joined the ranks of PR firms like Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications and Finsbury that have been exposed for manipulating Wikipedia entries for their clients. Something that stood out from the summary at The Daily Dot  was that Qorvis is defending their actions with a familiar tune - accusing Wikipedia of not providing reasonable processes to correct errors and have their clients' reputations treated fairly.

That inspired me to write on the six ways to correct errors on Wikipedia safely and ethically as a PR/marketing participant. Avoid becoming the next media embarresment by following these steps:

What to do about tags on a Wikipedia article about your organization

Wikipedia multiple issues templateIf you work in marketing and have been editing the Wikipedia article about your client or employer, perhaps without realizing there are legal and ethicalimplications, an editor may eventually place a tag that says:

      A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject.

Why the PR industry should support Jimmy Wales' "Bright Line" rule

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has long held the "Bright Line" rule that public relations professional not directly edit articles on behaf of their employer or client. The rule, enforced  through media humiliation for those that violate it, requires that corporations do public relations with Wikipedians by offering content, requesting corrections and discussing the issues, instead of writing ourselves in. We've covered before how the rule is also a common sense application of social media disclosure laws and it's been ruled in courtthat editing a crowd-sourced website like Wikipedia anonymously, without disclosing your financial connection, may be an unlawful form of covert advertising.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the Corporate Representatives of Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE) have opposed the rule. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations relunctantly accepted it in their guidance for ethical Wikipedia engagement. And it's a regular complaint among PR practitioners that the rule is too strict, prevents corrections from being made quickly and represents a general distrust of the professional practice on Wikipedia due to "a few bad apples."

Beware of "Best Practices" for PR on Wikipedia

It's human nature for the field of public relations to develop best practices based on what "works." However, what's most effective and what is proper, ethical and legal to do doesn't always go hand-in-hand. Astroturfing review sites works and in some countries the press can be bribed. However, your company may have higher standards of ethical conduct, especially if the legal department has a say.

Three Principles for Following Social Media Disclosure Laws on Wikipedia

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