Navigating Wikipedia Today

Sharing your knowledge via Wikipedia may become more difficult if the wishes of the site’s editors are put into effect.

It’s hard to imagine a better place than Wikipedia for sharing information about your area of expertise, right? After all, users come to Wikipedia looking for accurate, detailed information, and you’ve got that in spades!

But contributing to Wikipedia is not as easy as it sounds. To an extent, this is a good thing; Wikipedia takes very seriously its mission to be a factual, unbiased resource. However, if you take it upon yourself to upload material about your company, there are some rules set forth by Wikipedia that you should know. Marcia W. DiStaso with the Institute for Public Relations has quoted Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, as saying, “This is not complicated. There is a very simple “bright line” rule that constitutes best practice: do not edit Wikipedia directly if you are a paid advocate. Respect the community by interacting with us appropriately.”

So how does one respect the rule and interact with Wikipedia appropriately? This is where the problem comes in. In theory, a PR representative is welcome to place a request for edits using the Talk page of a Wikipedia article, then work with Wikipedia editors to get his or her information incorporated into the article. But when a BP company representative followed that process recently, CBS Interactive’s news website, c|net, published a story accusing BP of gaming the system. Interestingly, Jimmy Wales himself went on record defending BP, saying that they had in fact been in compliance with best practices. Whether or not BP was truly in the wrong may not be known for some time. The real fallout from this episode will not just be felt by BP, however; the way in which PR professionals interact with Wikipedia is likely to have to adapt in response to the challenge.

Research previously conducted by DiStaso has shown that Wikipedia editors are not always timely in their response to Talk page requests, while for their part, not all PR professionals fully understand Wikipedia’s rules. So, “bright line” aside, one thing does stand out clearly: you need PR professionals on your side who really understand and honor the rules set forth by Wikipedia!

Fortunately, team members at CCI not only obey the letter of the law when it comes to Wikipedia, but have great respect for its intent, too. Our team not only has expertise in launching a Wikipedia presence, but also editing existing pages.  For more information, read our marketing tip.