As part of my work with the PRCA’s Digital Steering Committee, I’m part of a consultation process that is trying to create a set of guidelines for the PR industry to help it better understand and interact with Wikipedia.
PR people shouldn’t touch Wikipedia. This is a common viewpoint amongst Wikipedians. And, considering the negative press that has often surrounded PR dealings with the encyclopaedia, and the bad practices that are all far too common, it is easy to see why.
Time and time again, PRs and PR agencies have become unstuck. So the CIPR and PRCA have both made efforts over the last few months to engage with Wikimedia and begin to develop a series of guidelines to help the industry.
Philip Sheldrake has been a chief advocate of this work and, on the latest issue of CIPR TV had some good advice for PR professionals. Essentially Wikipedia is a community and, as with any community, you have to abide by its rules. That might mean you don’t end up with the decision you initially were after, but that is just the way it goes. PRs in particular should be familiar with this type of relationship having worked with journalists!
Wikipedian David Gerard was also on the show and made the point that Wikipedia is not owned by anyone and all Wikipedians are striving for is a neutral point of view. If you don’t have a neutral point of view (e.g. PR), you shouldn’t edit. You should go to the talk pages and participate there. If that doesn’t work, then there are escalation procedures in place that can be used.
Get involved in the consultation
The consultation process is on a Wiki on the Wikimedia site and the initial phase will end this Sunday. I’d encourage anyone in the PR industry to get involved, share your viewpoint and think about how this might affect your own dealings with Wikipedia.