Wikipedia and Public Relations: Real PR’s Guidance for Clients

Posted by Joe Walton on 05/07/2012

Last week an important announcement was made defining the relationships between public relations professionals and Wikipedia. As reported in the Independent new guidelines have been been published recommending how we should approach Wikipedia on behalf of clients.

The relationship between Wikipedia and PR

You might be wondering what is the relationship between Wikipedia and Public Relations?

If you are looking for information on business, person organisation you are more than likely to first turn to Google. The first page of results are key to forming your thoughts about the object of your search. If they have a Wikipedia entry then it will probably be towards the top of the results and therefore have a strong influence on the information you hold and the opinion you form about the subject.

In Digital PR, the first page of Google is your reputation and a Wikipedia entry will be very high up in the results.

In addition Wikipedia is source for researchers and mistakes here can be multiplied over generations of articles and sites. An inaccurate Wikipedia entry can cause problems further down the road.

Picture by Kristina Alexanderson - stromtrooper tackling Wikipedia

(Picture by Kirisina Alexanderson - Used under Creative Commons License)

Helpfully, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (all of our consultants are members) has released a first draft of guidance for people looking to work  with Wikipedia. Many other international PR organisations have backed the guidance. They are now up for discussion ahead of future revisions.

Read the CIPR's Wikipedia Guidance for PR Professionals

In short, PR professionals (or anyone acting on behalf of client or organisation) should tread very lightly and with absolute respect for the Wikipedian's who give up their free time to improve Wikipedia. You should not edit a page in which you have a conflict of interest directly but you can engage with the Wikipedia community to improve or correct an entry.

These guidelines are not about legalities, paid or unpaid editing, nor which discipline/department is responsible for online engagement. They are about legitimate action and respect for a community which has it’s own rules.

Real PR’s Guidance for clients

We will continue to follow the debate and discussion but in the meantime we can recommend the following:

  • Don’t panic. Change is possible but you need to approach the Wikipedia community in the right manner.
  • Never ever go in shouting or making legal threats. If the entry contains something truly libellous then there are procedures to escalate the complaint. If it is just unfair/inaccurate then work with the community to fix it.
  • Never ever go in shouting or making legal threats (2).If you are perceived as a bully then the community will close to you and you will find positions become more entrenched. In can be counter productive. Remember less haste; more Speed.
  • Look to engage through the talk pages and use evidence that chance is required.
  • It is possible to get an new entry created - provided the subject is  notable enough – but someone with a conflict of interest should not do this directly.
  • Do not expect immediate results. Wikipedia is run by volunteers and moves at a paste appropriate to the time they can donate.
  • Be humble and ask for help. The wiki community is about positive change; helping each other is integral to the approach.
  • Wikipedia is looking for verifiable facts. Having a records on note in the public domain (e.g. annual results, press articles and third party reports) can be very useful. However, your own website and publications are not respected as independent reference material (at least in relation to you own entry) as it is too easily manipulated.

If you remember to show respect for others and the Wikipedia system then there are ways to work with Wikipedia.

Do you have any comments or questions about dealing with Wikipedia please leave a them below or get in touch directly.

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Existing comments

Excellent guide. I work in the online marketing industry specialising in improving search engine rankings. I’ve found it difficult to get information on / edited on Wikipedia so information like this is very useful.

By Gordon Campbell on 2012 09 19

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About the Author

Joe Walton is a consultant at Real PR and Secretary of the CIPR Scotland. His main interests sit between communications, psychology and technology.

You can follow him on multiple social networks including twitter and Google+.