There have been some great posts recently about how to make the Wikipedia and PR “dance” more like a waltz and less like head-banging; Stuart Bruce’s and Phil Gomes’s being two that convey solid arguments in favour of open and responsible Wikipedia editing by PRs and corporate communicators.
To rewind: agencies – most notably, Bell Pottinger – have come under fire for heavy-handed editing of Wikipedia profiles on behalf of clients. The latest furore comes to us via Stella Artois and the attempted removal of “wife beater” from their entry. The brewer, InBev, said it disapproved of the reference to domestic violence; others yet said Stella “shouldn’t look to change details that are factually correct”.
Wikipedia belongs to everyone and no one. But people do feel proprietorial about its contents. It’s not just the image police who try to re-write history: disgruntled employees or anyone with an axe to grind can also have a go. (Firefly itself was the target of some unkind editing whereby, buried in the lower levels of text and not immediately obvious unless reading the whole script, were unflattering and factually inaccurate comments about the company). Ultimately, the ‘disgruntled’ are unlikely to be successful, given Wikipedia’s official rules of engagement; but that’s where its metadata is fascinating, because it can sometimes reveal the motive behind these edits.
On matters of editing, it’s easy to say, “stick to the facts”. But in these naked days of PR, one should do exactly that. Goodness knows there are enough policies and guidelines to make that line in the sand between fact and fabrication very painstakingly clear. And if you still had doubts, more guidelines look to be on their way from the various industry bodies.
So why do PRs still get it wrong? Is it because real brand-neutrality (for a client or one’s employer) can be difficult to achieve? Personally, I don’t think this tells the whole story. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, PR is not an industry where you’re brow-beaten into submission, even when your moral compass is pointed in the right direction.
I think the Wikipedia crisis has revealed a crisis in writing. We need a re-training of the mind to write in a way that is simple, factual and is there primarily to inform –not necessarily influence. There are plenty of other vehicles for that.
Wikipedia’s importance – to companies, PRs, the media and the public at large – is not in question. But I have no doubt the quality of many entries can actually be improved with PR intervention. Of course, I would say that: but I would also put my money where my mouth is and participate in industry dialogue or training on this topic, to make sure I was doing a heck of a good job (acknowledging that “good” in this context can be subjective; in time, I hope it won’t be).
Firefly’s top six Wikipedia editing tips:
And last but not least, in true Wikipedia fashion, engage; engage in the dialogue, as there is certainly more to come in this hotly-contested space.
Firefly London has very recently been awarded the Pan-European PR briefs to promote two companies: Leaseweb and Evoswitch.
Server hosting company Leaseweb is one of the largest and fastest growing companies in its field in Europe, serving the global market. LeaseWeb handles internet traffic for clients like The Wikimedia Foundation, operators ofWikipedia, Heineken, and Hyves, the largest social media site in the Netherlands. Evoswitch is the cutting edge, next generation datacentre, based near Amsterdam that is 100% climate neutral – providing customers with advanced, state of the art, eco-friendly and secure IT housing alternatives.
Firefly’s immediate brief is to build brand awareness in the UK and manage the Netherlands execution through Dutch PR agency partner MarcommIT, before embarking on a Pan-EMEA campaign to build the brands’ profiles across Europe. Firefly’s remit covers traditional and online PR, corporate profiling, forum engagement and industry analyst relations.
Over the last couple of years, I have seen a plethora of bold new social media monitoring solutions promising to cut through the unstructured chaos of online conversations.
Are we ever going to see a consolidation? Only yesterday I came across a wiki, providing me with a list of 130 solutions, I just wonder how many will still be running in 6 months…?
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