Digital Marketing Strategy

3 ways for public relations pros to earn respect on Wikipedia

Everywhere I go, public relations professionals are asking for more “respect” from Jimmy Wales and the Wikipedia community.

PR pros are advocating against the “Bright Line” rule of not directly editing your own Wikipedia page and portraying the field as victims of excessively incriminating media sensationalism.

Because Wikipedia is openly editable, PR pros feel that we are entitled to contribute to the page, just like anybody else, even though the law suggests that participants on crowd-sourced websites with a financial connection (such as marketing professionals) must be treated differently.

To participate effectively and ethically, marketing professionals should prioritize building trusting and respectful relationships with editors interested in their page over short-term content outcomes, but how to go about earning respect isn’t always an obvious path. Here’s a few tips.

1. Contribute as a volunteer
PR agencies that establish internal Wikipedia expertise should have that expert commit a substantial amount of time to edit Wikipedia as a regular volunteer.

Wikipedia’s editors will have more respect for anyone willing to show this level of commitment and gaining experience as an editor will help you make more valued contributions in order to better serve your clients.

2. Be human
Trust in corporations among the general public is at an all-time low. Wikipedians, who cope every day with harmful and misleading activities by corporate interests, are even more distrusting.

Additionally, Wikipedia’s policies don’t allow for corporate usernames and each user account is suppose to represent an individual. Volunteer Wikipedians want to work with people, not corporations. Be yourself, be honest, be casual, and speak for yourself. Talk page comments approved by the legal department come off as stuffy corporate-speak and will promote distrust.

3. Shoot yourself in the foot
One of the first things Wikipedians look for in engaging with a public relations rep, is what you’re not saying.

It’s seen as a dubious form of spin, cherry-picking and misleading communications to suggest adding everything positive about the company, while “hiding” information that is counter to your objectives to improve the company’s reputation.

While the media expects public relations professionals to be advocates for their employer’s point-of-view, Wikipedians expect us to attempt to be neutral about ourselves, and that means sometimes adding content you and your employer don’t necessarily agree with.

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