The CIPR has updated its guidance for public relations practitioners working with Wikipedia.
The document has been developed by Stuart Bruce, Gemma Griffiths, Rachel Miller, Paul Wilkinson and me, from the Social Media panel.
Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website in the world according to web information firm Alexa; beaten only by Facebook, Google, YouTube, Yahoo and Baidu.com.
It is a crowdsourced online encyclopedia of more than 20 million topics in 285 different languages and is frequently the start point for online research.
Critics claim that Wikipedia has become too powerful and that it operates without the recognised processes or oversight common for more traditional media.
This is the issue that often puts Wikipedia in conflict with the public relations industry. Errors in traditional media can be dealt with swiftly through well-established processes. Changes or additions to a Wikipedia article require engagement with the community and, crucially, adherence to its rules.
Just as you wouldn’t expect to be given access to the production environment of a news organisation to make changes to online articles you can’t jump onto Wikipedia and expect to be able to start hacking the content.
The relationship between the public relations industry and Wikipedia is an uneasy one although there have been numerous efforts in recent time to bring the two constituencies closer together.
The update CIPR guide is intended to provide clear and detailed advice on how public relations professionals should engage with the Wikipedia community. The 18-page document has been completely updated and now includes case studies from BP and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
It highlights best practice and equips public relations professionals with the advice needed to navigate Wikipedia engagement and with an understanding of how to protect an organisation’s or client’s reputation openly and transparently.
The list below from the guidelines document provides a quick reference summary of how to join and engage with the Wikipedia community.
- Anyone can join the Wikipedia community and edit and contribute to content on the site. Register a personal rather than a corporate account and disclose your conflicts of interest on your user page.
- If you are concerned about the accuracy of a Wikipedia article but have a conflict of interest you must address this via the community. Don’t edit any page you have a conflict of interest on, except to remove vandalism.
- Head to the Talk page for the Wikipedia article concerned and draft your response. This works in almost all situations however if you don’t get a response then raise it on the relevant noticeboard.
- Escalate with kindness and don’t be an idiot. When faced with a situation where you have a choice to be an idiot or not be an idiot, choose to not be an idiot. Following this rule will mean you will very rarely get into difficult situations.
- You can freely contribute articles related to your profession, hobbies and interests, where you do not have a conflict of interest. In fact Wikipedia actively encourages this and it’s a great way to get to know how Wikipedia works.