It 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.