PR firms told not to edit clients’ Wikipedia pages to avoid future ‘dark arts’ stories
In the wake of the high profile media revelations about Bell Pottinger and Portland editing clients’ pages, which led to stories about the use of “dark arts on Wikipedia, where PR professionals manipulate Wikipedia entries to favour an organisation or an individual, industry PR body the CIPR has called for all members to stop editing clients’ Wikipedia pages.
It has issued a comprehensive guide to for PR agencies advising them how to act when it comes to Wikipedia.
The guide offers a step by step guide on how to “improve” articles as well as a list of dos and don’ts. The advice reminds PR agencies that Wikipedia keeps a record of all edits and not to go into Malcolm Tucker mode and “spin things”.
The CIPR made its recommendation after consultation with Wikipedia members and the PR industry and has today issued its guidelines, which it hopes will be the start of an on going discussion.
The guidelines have been written collaboratively on an open wiki with input from PRs, mainly members of the CIPR Social Media Panel, and Wikipedians.
The CIPR says the document is “version one and we are still encouraging PR people and Wikipedians to review and refresh the guidance going forward via the open wiki“.
The Top Five CIPR Dos
1. Be respectful. Understand the rules of the road. This is one of the basic principles of engaging with
social media, and also applies to Wikipedia.
2. Disclose your interests and be transparent at all times.
3. Engage and earn goodwill with the Wikipedian community before you are seen to need it (a core
principle of social media is to ‘pay it forward’). G
4. Look at the bigger picture. If a Wikipedia article references a scandal or includes words related to
your organisation’s / client’s wider reputation it is likely that there is a need for a wider campaign
that clearly addresses the reputational issue at hand.
5. Remember that Wikipedia keeps a record of everything you do, forever, and makes it available for
anybody to see, so don’t try to hide or spin things.
The Top Five CIPR Don’ts
1. Don’t share your account by giving anyone your password: it’s a no-no.
2. Don’t include a business name or product name in your account name, this is seen as promotional
and will probably get you blocked. There is a user name policy.
3. Don’t create a Wikipedia entry from scratch for your organisation / client, brands or an individual
for which you have a conflict of interest.
4. Don’t use Wikipedia to promote or advertise your employer or client.
5. Don’t remove negative material (exception: PR professionals can remove material that violates
Wikipedia’s policy regarding living people).
Jane Wilson, CIPR CEO says the guidance is aimed at helping the public relations industry reach a better understanding of how to properly engage with one of the most visited sources of information on the internet and clearly lays out the process through which PR people can positively contribute to the encyclopaedia.
“The main theme of the guidance is quite simple – where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it.
The fact that so many prestigious PR bodies have backed the guidance is testimony to the quality of the work and I’d like to pay tribute to the CIPR Social Media panel which has been integral to the delivery of this guidance,” Wilson says.
You can read the full guide here.