It's no secret that marketers have been using Wikipedia as a PR and link building tool virtually since it's inception. While some savvy and well-meaning publicists and SEOs actively add value to the Wikipedia community on behalf of their clients, the content hub is far too often abused by blatant promoters. However, today may mark the beginning of the end of that practice.
Several leading communications/PR firms have announced a rare and unique agreement that will help ensure content quality on Wikipedia, which is often endangered due to blantant conflicts of interest.
Beutler Ink, Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard, Peppercomm, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Edelman, Allison+Partners, and MDC Partners have all co-signed the joint statement, agreeing to respect the objectives and goals of the Wikipedia project and to seek a better working relationship between corporate communicators and the volunteer editor community that empowers the Wikipedia project.
The joint statement reads as follows:
On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia's unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors.
Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.
We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:
To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
To act in accordance with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, particularly those related to "conflict of interest."
To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.
A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia's continued success.
These participating firms represent the cream of the crop in the communications/PR space, and their commitment is a watershed moment for crowdsourced content quality on the web.
What this means for you
1. Stop abusing Wikipedia
Seriously. If you're still creating promotinal entries or editing existing entries that do not add any value to the community, just stop.
2. Let your clients know
Your clients may not understand the terms and conditions set forth by Wikipedia when asking you to add their content or information to an article entry. Let them know what is and what isn't a best practice, and reinforce your commitment to not abuse the site.
3. Join the list participating firms
Wikipedia has issued an open invitation to other comm firms to join the list. Their instructions read as follows:
If you represent a public relations, marketing, SEO, SEM, social media, or similar type of communications firm, here are the steps you can take to have your name added to this list:
Share this statement with the appropriate decision-maker at your agency, obtain their consent to follow the principles espoused and add your firm's name.
Identify one person to be the participating representative and point of contact for your firm with the Wikipedia community.