It is an understatement to say that the PR and Wikipedia communities have a tense relationship. There have been several high profile cases that have drawn attention to this – including the Bell Pottinger and Roger Bamkin incidents. At the debate’s core, PR professionals want more access to control the narrative of the interests they represent, while Wikipedians don’t want that to interfere with the website’s credibility or neutrality.
As someone who has experience within Wikimedia’s communications team, Tinu Cherian is in a unique position to comment on this. He has served as a volunteer for PR/Media Relations for the Wikimedia movement in India since 2009 and is an active member of Wikimedia Foundation Communications Committee. Previously, he was on the Board of the Wikimedia India Chapter (2011-12) and was also Head of Communications , PR & Media Relations Team, driving a volunteer team ( 2011-12).
The following 10 tips by him are widely agreed upon by the Wikipedia community, although there are no official policies in place yet.
- First and foremost, respect the fact that Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia and not your client’s business page. Don’t use Wikipedia to promote or advertise your employer or client.
- Be honest, open, and transparent at all times and disclose your conflict of interests up front.
- Create a Wikipedia account for yourself as a person to interact with other Wikipedians. Strictly avoid creating multiple accounts, sharing accounts or creating an account named after a brand name, product or other trademark.
- Try to avoid editing your client’s Wikipedia articles directly.
- On article content disagreements, go to the Talk section of the article, make requests for factual corrections, better balance or other content requests based on available, independent and reliable sources. Let regular Wikipedians do the job of making editing the articles. If you don’t get any response, the next step of escalation would be the various notice boards on Wikipedia.
- If a subject article is frequently vandalized, or there are continual ‘edit wars’ occurring, then you can apply for the semi-protection of the article.
- “See you in court” will not help you or a client. You put yourself in the risk of being banned from editing at all.
- Avoid creating articles for non-notable subjects. Remember “You have to be notable to be on Wikipedia. You cannot be on Wikipedia to become notable.”
- Release good images into public domain or appropriate Creative Commons license. If you’d prefer to have the Wikipedia article of your client illustrated by good quality recent (and historical) photographs, you can release a better quality image. Don’t insist that Wikipedia should be using your image. Let the community decide which images are to be used on the articles.
- Don’t remove content, especially any negative material from a Wikipedia article. If the article has included a sentence about your company or client from a reliable source then you do not have the right to remove it at all. If you feel your organization or client is being unfairly represented and the Wikipedia entry fails to be neutral, then first raise this point on the talk page.