Last week I delivered another webinar for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations on the subject of Wikipedia (following one I’d done in September). As usual, I updated my slides but not just to update the statistics I quote – I also included an example of best practice engagement with Wikipedians.
The CIPR Wikipedia guidelines (see June 2012 post) prohibit PR people from editing articles where they have a conflict of interest – so agency people or freelances should not add or edit articles about their clients, and in-house practitioners should not write about their employers. Instead it urges PR people, if they spot something that is inaccurate or incomplete, to contact Wikipedians either via the talk page of the article concerned, or – if they know a Wikipedian may be interested in editing articles about the subject – via the user’s talk page.
A few weeks ago, I received a message via my Wikipedia talk page:
Hello, I work in the Marketing Department at Chime Communications plc. Last year, I made some suggestions for updates to our Wikipedia page and I think you subsequently updated the page. In June this year, I posted a few more suggestions to update our Wikipedia page, following the sale of Bell Pottinger last year. There are some incorrect details which I am keen to rectify e.g. Chime Communications plc has a new Chairman. However, we have not yet heard anything and I wonder whether you could kindly give us some advice as to next steps, given that you helped us last year? Thank you ever so much…
I had a look at the article‘s talk page and the suggested edits and references, and I made a series of changes to the article to reflect what I felt were the valid points (I didn’t include all the suggestions, as I didn’t think they all related to the article, but I did use the information to make changes to one or two other related articles too).
I included this story as an example in my CIPR webinar presentation last week.
Proposing a company page
More recently, another company also contacted me via email about Wikipedia. Having worked with them in the past, I immediately reminded them that I would have a conflict of interest (WP:COI) in doing any edits on Wikipedia, so they went away, drafted some content and then asked my opinion about what had been written. The well-meaning copywriter had drafted something that was akin to advertising and included glowing profiles of company executives. I responded with some (hopefully helpful) advice and links to some relevant Wikipedia guidelines:
Sorry, but if this draft was added to Wikipedia in its current form it would be fast-tracked for speedy deletion….It would be flagged as reading too much like an advertisement (not balanced, neutral point of view). It also fails to establish any kind of notability or importance in respect of the company – and this (and most of the key facts) would need to be verified/evidenced by inline references to reputable third party publications. In short, it needs to provide encyclopedia-level, reference quality information, backed up by citations.The long paragraphs on the key executives would also be criticised and/or deleted. Some business people do have articles about them in Wikipedia, but – again – these clearly need to establish their notability and be supported by inline citations of independent sources. Company articles don’t tend to provide any significant biographical details of key staff.
CIPR Social media panel
The Wikipedia guidelines are referenced and linked from the CIPR’s Social Media Best Practice Guide, which has just been updated (see CIPR news) by the CIPR Social Media panel. I have just been invited to join this group, and am looking forward to my first meeting in January.