If you want to unlock the express route to getting your company or your marketing team banned from Wikipedia, there’s no better way to go about it than by asking them to make direct edits and additions to your own page. To keep yourself in good standing, use these seven recommendations for intelligent Wikipedia management:
1) Search Yourself
The first rule of positive Wikipedia management is to be fully aware of your current presence on the site. According to survey data collected by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), a full quarter (25 percent) of communicators were not familiar with the Wikipedia pages on which their organizations and/or brands appeared. You need to track all the pages that reference your organization and check them regularly (a few times a year is sufficient) to make sure that inaccurate information isn’t creeping into your Wikipedia presence.
2) Learn The Rules And Follow Them
Our agency has cultivated a policy of extreme caution when it comes to any activity related to Wikipedia. You can learn a lot by taking a look at the self-defined standards Wikipedia has put in place. Based on what the Wikipedia Foundation has released, most of the site’s editors believe there is a fundamental conflict of interest involved whenever employees, publicity agents, or paid supporters create or modify articles on behalf of organizations or individuals who are paying them. If you read that statement broadly – and many editors do – it doesn’t look like there’s anything for marketers and PR professionals to do. But that doesn’t mean your hands are completely tied …
3) Suggest Edits Via The Talk Section
The same PRSA survey mentioned above reports that 60 percent of the corporate and consultant PR professionals responding had seen factual errors in the Wikipedia pages devoted to their organizations. The only truly safe way to correct errors is to ask other Wikipedia editors to do so. This policy has already cultivated strong support from the PR industry; an agreement enacted in June 2014 gathered together some of the United States’s largest PR firms and got them to agree to abide by Wikipedia’s “hands off” rules for preventing conflicts of interest.
What’s the upshot here? Your best course of action for correcting inaccurate information is to enter the page’s Talk section (via the link at the top left on any Wikipedia article) and share your suggestions for correcting or adding to the content on the page. Note that this process can take some time; it may be days or even weeks before you see a response.
4) Full Disclosure
Never try to conceal your identity or your relationship (paid employee, consultant, etc.) to a company on Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a new formal policy, enacted just weeks ago, that requires paid editors to identify themselves and describe their relevant financial relationships.
5) Know The Lingo
Wikipedia’s “Organization” page states prominently that “PR copy is almost always inappropriate in tone” when adding content to the site. Wikipedia assigns a high priority to neutral points of view and adding only verifiable information. Facts that stick around on Wikipedia pages almost always have third-party citations to back them up; the Wikipedia community is vigilantly self-policing on this. When you make your suggestions, back them up with neutral, non-partisan sources.
6) Don’t Create Your Own Pages
The best way to get a Wikipedia page created for your organization is to resist the temptation to do it yourself, says the Wikipedia Best Practice Guidance for Public Relations Professionals e-book published by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Build up your business and trust Wikipedians to pick up on it when it becomes notable.
7) Understand The Risks
Ignore Wikipedia’s rules and customs at your peril. Failing to follow the rules can result in extremely broad-based reprisals. For PR firms, getting too aggressive on behalf of one client can ruin both that client’s Wikipedia reputation as well as your own and those of your other clients. That’s exactly what happened to the UK-based Bell Pottinger agency; making their own edits to clients’ articles resulted in Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales decrying them as “ethically blind.”