wikipediaCritics claim that Wikipedia has become too powerful and that it operates without the recognized processes or oversight common for more traditional media. While errors in traditional media can be dealt with swiftly through well-established processes, the process of introducing changes to Wikipedia’s pages is different. This is the issue that puts Wikipedia in conflict with the public relations industry.

However, engaging with Wikipedia correctly represents a massive opportunity. Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website in the world according to web information firm Alexa; beaten only by Facebook, Google, YouTube, Yahoo and Baidu.com. It is a crowdsourced online encyclopaedia of more than 20 million topics in 285 different languages and is frequently the starting point for online research.

Changes or additions to a Wikipedia article require engagement with the community and, crucially, adherence to its rules. These are summarized below:

  1. Anyone can join the Wikipedia community and edit and contribute to content on the site. Register a personal rather than a corporate account and disclose your conflicts of interest on your user page.
  2. If you are concerned about the accuracy of a Wikipedia article but have a conflict of interest, you must address this via the community. Don’t edit any page with which you have a conflict of interest.
  3. Head to the Talk page for the Wikipedia article concerned and draft your response. This works in almost all situations. However, if you don’t get a response, then raise it on the relevant noticeboard.
  4. Escalate with kindness and don’t be an idiot. When faced with a situation where you have a choice to be an idiot or not be an idiot, choose to not be an idiot.  Following this rule will mean you will very rarely get into difficult situations.
  5. You can freely contribute articles related to your profession, hobbies and interests, where you do not have a conflict of interest. In fact, Wikipedia actively encourages this and it’s a great way to get to know how Wikipedia works.

Stephen Waddington has contributed a chapter to the recently published book Share This Too that provides detailed guidance on working with Wikipedia. If you are interested in discussing issues related to your organisation and Wikipedia please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds