In my post calling on Wikipedia and PR to work it out I said I’d raise the issue at the next meeting of the CIPR social media panel. Well since then things have moved a bit faster than that and today the CIPR issued a statement about its intention to work with Wikipedia to provide guidance to members on how to interact with the Wikipedia community. I’ve pasted a copy of the statement below.
Another development this week is that Tom Watson MP tweeted Phil Gomes (who published an open letter to Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia) and myself offering to broker a meeting at the House of Commons between Wikipedia and representatives of the public relations profession. The CIPR social media panel is now liaising with Tom and Wikipedia to fix a date for this meeting.
Phil Gomes has followed on from his blog post by starting a Facebook group â€“ CREWE Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement â€“ to further discuss the issue.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations is to work with Wikipedia to provide members with guidance on how to interact with the Wikipedia community.
This move follows the recent suggestions of undisclosed editing of Wikipedia entries by individual public relations firms. Although many PR firms who engage with the public through online communities have policies on editing in line with the CIPR’s Social Media Guidance and also follow community guidelines, there is a need to take action to further clarify the position specifically in relation to Wikipedia.
Commenting, Jane Wilson, CIPR CEO says: ‘The CIPR has clear ethical and practical guidance on the most appropriate manner for PR professionals to work with open, online communities such as Wikipedia. It is not only important they are upfront about who they are and their intentions, but they should seek to deal openly and honestly with the public at all times. This rules out any behaviour that sets out to hide the true source or motivation for any updates. PR without transparency is unprofessional. It has less to do with the ‘dark arts’ and more to do with the dark ages.
‘I am delighted Wikipedia will be working with us on this. There is a need to develop understanding of the mutual advantages of open, transparent engagement with the public through Wikipedia.’
Commenting, Roger Bamkin, Chair of Wikimedia UK, the local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity behind Wikipedia, says: ‘Recent incidents highlighted by Tom Watson MP and in the national press show that in some parts of the PR profession, a lack of understanding on how to engage with the Wikipedia community persists. We will work with the CIPR to ensure that their members, and through them the wider PR Profession, have access to the clearest possible guidance on the best way to work with Wikipedia.
‘We believe that attempts to mask the true identity of anyone seeking to edit the site are unethical as well as counterproductive.’
Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, added his support for the initiative: ‘Wikipedia is becoming the world’s first port of call for accurate, fact checked information regarding companies, services and people. It is therefore vital that the PR industry adheres to the highest standards when representing the interests of their clients. There has been a number of negative press stories that have not just harmed the credibility of the information contained on the pages of Wikipedia, but caused reputational harm to the PR and lobbying firms and their clients who were the subject of negative stories.
‘PR professionals need clear guidelines in this new world of online information-sharing. That’s why I’m delighted that interested parties are coming together to establish a clear code of conduct.
‘I’m delighted to help in any way I can with this important initiative.’