At the start of the year, I joined the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Social Media Panel, and one of the first tasks I undertook was to help update the CIPR’s guidance on Wikipedia (the first edition was produced in June 2012). The new edition (version 2.0) of the CIPR’s Best Practice Guidance for Public Relations Professionals was quietly released at the end of May. The 2014 update includes some case studies of corporate communicators engaging ethically with Wikipedians, an example user page (mine), and some FAQs.
However, this guidance already needed updating. As we were finalising the new guide, three new developments were brewing….
A Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms
On 10 June 2014, several predominantly USA-based participants from the CREWE group on Facebook issued a ‘Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms‘. The statement recognised Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource, and stated that it:
“is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practice.”
The statement outlined five key principles:
- To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
- To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
- To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
- Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
The statement was initially signed by representatives of 11 public relations firms, but the number quickly grew (and continues to grow). The CIPR was an early signatory.
- a statement on your user page
- a statement on the article talk page, and/or
- a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.
New escalation route for organisation articles
There is now an ‘Extant Organizations’ noticeboard where issues relating to non-neutral articles like attack or puff pieces may be flagged for wider review or discussion.
At last week’s social media panel meeting, I raised all three of these developments as worthy of inclusion in the latest CIPR Wikipedia guidance. I have since (yesterday) proposed some amendments, and – we don’t hang about on the CIPR social media panel! – the updated guidance note (v2.1) is already available here (you can download it here too).