Wikipedia and the field of public relations have long had a challenging relationship. As one of the top websites in the world, Wikipedia plays a large role in defining and shaping corporate reputations. Unfortunately, due to bad actors over the years, Wikipedia has a policy that requires public relations and communications professionals to go through proper channels instead of directly editing the Wikipedia entry for their clients. I have been talking about problems and concerns with Wikipedia since 2006. In fact, my research has found that many individuals on both sides don’t understand the rules and this has led to inaccurate, incomplete, and/or outdated information available to the public.
Representing IPR, I was a part of a group who met on February 7, 2014 to discuss how best to work toward a productive relationship between Wikipedia and the public relations industry. What came out of this meeting was a joint statement agreeing to abide by Wikipedia’s rules. The original communications firms to sign this statement include: Allison & Partners, Beutler Ink, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Ogilvy & Mather, Peppercomm, Porter Novelli, MDC Partners, and Voce Communications. The Institute for Public Relations joined the list today in support of this statement.
This just may be the first time where these large agencies have worked together leading to such a statement. Additional firms can join this group by contacting William Beutler at email@example.com.
On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors.
Our firms believe 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 practices.
We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following 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 abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Service.
- 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.
We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.
A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.
Combined, the firms and individuals who have worked on and support this statement, including myself, see this as a positive step in the right direction to supporting Wikipedia’s goal of accuracy and credibility. Please seriously consider joining this list.
Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, a Research Editor for the IPR Social Science of Social Media Research Center, and a Senior Research Fellow for the Arthur W. Page Center.
Featured photo credit: Kalexanderson / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)