What is Your Wikipedia PR Strategy?

What is your Wikipedia PR strategy? Wikiped, the free encyclopediaIt is borderline heretical to imply that there is such a thing as a Wikipedia PR strategy. After all, Wikipedia is the pure, unimpeachable source for information that cannot be manipulated or influenced by outside forces – that is the presumption of its founder, Jimmy Wales, and its legions of near-fanatical volunteer editors. Perception, in this case, is nowhere near reality.

Why do PR professionals need to bother with Wikipedia?

Search Google for “wikipedia web traffic data” and the top two results are links to Wikipedia entries on web analytics and traffic. Not only does Wikipedia control a vast amount of information on the web, they exert tremendous control on what is said about them. Wikipedia ranks 13th for overall web site traffic, according to Hitwise. Wikipedia receives between 25,000 and 60,000 page requests per second. The growth of Wikipedia has been fueled by its dominant position in Google search results; about 50% of search engine traffic to Wikipedia comes from Google.

Chances are that Wikipedia has an entry about your client. Chances are just as good that the entry is inaccurate, skewed, perhaps even destructive to your clients business and there is nothing you can do about it. Wikipedia has no editorial board and no editor who is assigned and accountable for a particular entry. Wikipedia does not claim to be accurate, they only require that a claim in an entry be certified by a verifiable outside source, which can itself be manipulated.

Microsoft felt the wrath of Wikipedia when it tried to pay an editor to correct inaccurate information on their entry which, they felt, had been manipulated by a competitor. Microsoft was publicly chastised for this gross violation but I felt their pain (maybe the only time I have felt Microsoft’s pain). I tried to correct a simple typo in a client entry and it was reversed within minutes because of the dreaded COI- conflict of interest. That leaves you to either mask your identity (destructive and not recommended) or find workarounds to ensure accurate information on clients.

If you do not have a Wikipedia strategy there is a huge hole in your PR program. The way the web works, Wikipedia will only get stronger and more powerful as Google solidifies its dominance in search. One positive aspect of Wikipedia is its adherence to NPOV (neutral point of view) in its entries. This ensures lack of hype and a consistent flat-line style in its writing. This is a useful guide when producing web content on clients. Is Citizendium a viable alternative to Wikipedia?

From Wikipedia: Critics of Wikipedia accuse it of systemic bias and inconsistencies, and target its policy of favoring consensus over credentials in its editorial process. Wikipedia’s reliability and accuracy are also an issue. Other criticisms are centered on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information, though scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.

Comments

  1. Pete Forsyth says:

    If you want to edit Wikipedia in an area where you have a potential or perceived confilct of interest, what you need is a (consultant who has a) solid understanding of the policies, guidelines, processes, and above all the culture of Wikipedia.

    The conflict of interest guideline is not a prohibition on editing anything that relates to your business; it’s a set of suggestions about how to approach such a situation.

    But also, it’s only one of many policies and guidelines you’d need to know about.

    I’m not familiar with the Microsoft situation you mention, but I’m almost certain they felt that wrath because they hired the wrong consultant. Specialized knowledge and experience would be key to such a project.

    In fact, the consultant has a blog post about the offer, that doesn’t mention any experience with Wikipedia editing.

  2. Steve Lynch says:

    Citizendium doesn’t have the search visibility that Wikipedia has – the fact that Wikipedia entries routinely appear as a top result for person/place/thing searches means that everyone has to be aware of what their Wikipedia entry says about them.

    hat having been said, there are plenty of white-hat tactics for engaging Wikipedia’s users and getting your entries updated with factual information.

  3. Mark Rose says:

    So what are these ‘white hat’ tactics – please tell.

  4. duh says:

    Editing Wikipedia to be more accurate is easy. Just take the effort to learn the guidelines, and follow them. And don’t be stupid enough, like the writer of this article, to name your editing account something related to the subject, PR, or your real name. Makes it pretty obvious you have a conflict of interest, and other editors will happily, and properly, crucify your biased edits.

  5. Mark Rose says:

    Interesting that this gets a comment 2 yrs after the post. I’m the idiot of stated his real name, company and intentions and expected to correct inaccurate information on Wikipedia. So, to post or edit on Wikipedia you have to disguise your affiliation and your bias? Otherwise, you’re ostracized and publicly rebuked? Is that how it works?

  6. David King says:

    I’m a professional Wikipedian that’s been supporting corporate participation in Wikipedia for three years.

    It’s not really about who writes the Wiki, but what they write and how they write it. The guy from Microsoft probably didn’t disclose his COI or follow Wikipedia’s rules for neutrality, verification, wikification, etc. This kind of behavior is not only extremely risky on Wikipedia, it creates this kind of PR catastrophe and is legally risky regarding FTC’s rulings on online anonymity for commercial organizations.

    Even being knowledgable about these rules requires an understanding of Wikipedia’s HTML style code to put them into practice and most organizations aren’t wired for the community’s standard for encyclopedic content.

    So yes, just hire someone, but pay for an actual professional Wikipedian instead of some freelance writer and dodge being the next Microsoft. There’s only a handfull of is in the country (that I know of) and we each target different areas.

    One does education, another is focused on politicians and celebrities, I’m focused on corporations.

    So if anyone is looking for a referral, I’m happy to point you to the most appropriate person. I do companies and their executives.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] What is Your Wikipedia PR Strategy? At close to 60,000 page requests a second, Wikipedia is a highly utilized source of information. Mark Rose from PRBlogNews.com shares reasons why agencies should consider establishing a strategy for dealing with clients and Wikipedia. [...]

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