Face it; PR people editing/creating Wikipedia entries isn’t an evil practice.
Nine times out of ten, the entry is as innocuous as anyone else’s. We only tend to hear about the really blatant attempts to cover up bad news. And, trust me, getting caught covering up bad news is almost always worse than letting any bad news run its natural course.
PR people aren’t just hired to “spin” situations and beg for publicity. We do much more than pitch stories to bloggers and journalists; writing is one of the key elements of the job description.
Writing a wikipedia entry for a client organization is perfectly within the scope of PR practice and there are plenty of resources on Wikipedia that provide specific guidelines on how to create an appropriate entry. There’s even a Wikipedia: FAQ/Business that answers most of the concerns.
Sure, in a perfect world, historians, archivists, journalists and enthusiastic, non-biased members of the public would be the sole contributors to a pristine and unsullied democratically-created, organic document that is Wikipedia. However, I learned a long time ago that sometimes the choice exists between faulting the world for what it isn’t, on one hand or, getting to know the world for what it actually is…
The world in reality is full of companies and organizations that are notable enough to meet the Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, but may not have the rabid fan base of Nike, Interscope Records or Apple.
For example, outside of those who happen to be affiliated with such an organization, what arduous soul wants to write the Wikipedia entry for an organization dedicated to researching business uses for cement? Or, a company that has perfected plastic-based paint coatings for commercial aircraft?
Some might argue that companies like this don’t need Wikipedia entries. On the contrary, any company engaged in any type of business needs to be conscious of their first page of Google search results for the actual name of their company or organization. I have even heard some say that for all intensive purposes, the first page of your Google search results might as well be considered the real home page of your Web site.
Reasons companies should have a Wikipedia entry:
- Boosts number of relevant hits on the first page of Google search results.
- Helps establish the organization as relevant to Web-based information sharing.
- Strengthens business relationships with other related organizations and the communities in which they do business through links.
As someone who works in PR, I am completely comfortable with the guidelines and expectations set forth by Wikipedia to ensure that style is kept objective and consistent and that credible secondary sources are used for citations. However, what bothers me most is the ability to manage client companies’ expectations.
If a client has only a passing familiarity with Wikipedia, how can I be clear about what they can expect their Wikipedia entry to look like and convey the importance of having one. Please also keep in mind that this might be a company’s first foray into the realm of social media: how can I help make it a positive experience?
Please don’t feel like you have to be in PR to provide feedback — I would love to hear what people with a variety of experiences have to share.