Commschat on CIPR Wikipedia guidance

Wikipedia logoI missed last night’s #commschat with Philip Sheldrake on the Wikipedia guidance that was published by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) last week. I think the CIPR guidance is a great first step and is currently the best way for public relations professionals to engage with Wikipedia on behalf of clients and employers. However, it’s essential that this is just the first step.

My personal view is that PRs must play by the rules of Wikipedia as they stand today. But, that doesn’t stop us from engaging in dialogue to say that the rules need improving. And they do need improving as what should be of paramount importance is the ‘public interest’ and this is best met by striving to ensure that Wikipedia entries are as comprehensive and accurate as possible.

The guidance in its current form is mainly in the interests of Wikipedians (i.e. those who edit and write entries) and PR professionals when what we should care about most is the readers and consumers of the Wikipedia entries. The main reason it matters is that Wikipedia entries rank so highly in search so people can get a false or distorted perspective if entries aren’t up to scratch.

One final thought is quite a few people have suggested that PR people should edit entries about things they are interested in personally, but where they don’t have a conflict of interest. Couple this with the issue that the explanation why many corporate and business entries aren’t up to scratch is that many Wikipedians aren’t interested in those subjects.

One possible solution is therefore for PR people to edit corporate and business entries for companies and products that they have no professional connection with at all. If enough of us did that then it would surely improve the quality of Wikipedia and we’d all be happy? Discuss.

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About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.

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  • http://twitter.com/ClaireatWaves Claire Thompson

    I’d urge you to think very carefully before trying to game Wikipedia by editing for each other. It will, eventually, be found out. The juniors who are asked to do it will take the fall have their careers ruined. Good agencies’ reputations will be damaged, along with those of their clients. And the industry will have lost one more rung on the trust ladder. 

    Why not do things the right way: earn the trust and respect of Wikipedia by being open and transparent and going through the system they’ve asked us to? Takes longer, but better for the profession all round to demonstrate some understanding of  – and respect for – what Wikipedia is trying to achieve. 

  • http://www.stuartbruce.biz/ Stuart Bruce

    Thanks Claire, but I’m not talking about gaming the system by deliberating editing for each other. It actually is ‘going through the system’ to learn how to use it properly by editing entries for things you’re genuinely interested in. I chose to work for certain types of clients because I enjoy it and am interested in their sector and issues. If I work for a government agency that has an dangerously incorrect Wikipedia entry then the only recourse is to go though the procedure in the hope that it works. However, if I spot an incorrect entry about a government agency I’ve never worked with or even know people at then I’d pass both the neutral point of view and no conflict of interest tests. By improving that entry I’d simply be providing a service to the public and taking a problem away from a fellow PR professional that I even don’t know. If enough of us did that then the problems I’m trying to solve would hopefully be resolved faster to everyone’s satisfaction.