Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wikipedia and PR: how to retain your integrity

I just read this article in The Independent about PR agency Bell Pottinger allegedly editing its clients Wikipedia entries. (If you want to read more about Bell Pottinger I suggest you start with their own Wikipedia entry.)
If this is true then this practice brings the whole sector of communications into disrepute.
The wonderfulness of Wikipedia is that it is exactly that: an encyclopaedia of wikis, where anyone can edit what anyone else has said with honour and integrity so that we all become better informed as a result. All entries should be neutral and based on fact (which can be referenced). By manipulating information on Wikipedia, you lower the bar for everyone.
So what can you do if you want your organisation to be on Wikipedia?
What I did for Wolverhampton Homes was ask tenants (our customers) through our newsletter, if they would like to write one. This would be the ideal solution because then someone who uses your services and has an understanding of your business writes the entry.
When none were forthcoming, I approached an esteemed Wikipedian I know and asked for his advice. Andy Mabbett knows pretty much all there is to know about Wikipedia and has a great sense of neutrality. He advised that I write the entry as neutrally as possible, with references, and submit it for comment to the Wikipedia community before it was posted.
Wikipedians are a helpful bunch and value being asked to check posts because they know it ensures the information is high quality. Andy kindly helped me by reading, editing, formatting and further referencing my article. Only then did it go live on the site.
In an ideal world, your communications team wouldn't have to write your Wikipedia entry but if you feel your organisation is notable (and it has to genuinely be notable, not just that you think it is) and that it should have a Wikipedia page, that would be the way I'd advise you getting one.
You can read Wolverhampton Homes Wikipedia entry here.

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