DOKK Library

Wikipedia and the Communications Professional — A primer

Authors William Beutler

License CC-BY-3.0

Wikipedia and the
A primer


PAGE 2                                                                        WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

03 ---------------------------   Introduction
04 ---------------------------   Acknowledgments
06 ---------------------------   Wikipedia’s best practices—and why you should care
07 ---------------------------   Why you should consider engaging on Wikipedia
08 ---------------------------   Why you might choose not to engage on Wikipedia
09 ---------------------------   How to work with Wikipedia
                                          } Getting started
                                 		Creating an account
                                 		                Setting up a user page
                                          } Preparing a request for editors
                                          } Tips for following the above steps
                                 		The right way to ask for help
                                 		                What if I need to ask for help again?
11 ---------------------------   How to deal with specific issues
                                          } What if I just want to make a few simple, fact-based updates?
                                          } What can I do if an article is overly negative or derogatory?
                                          } What should I do in the event of vandalism?
                                          } A Wikipedia editor disagrees with me. What can I do?
                                          } What if there isn’t presently an article about my company or client?
                                          } Are there circumstances in which an article may be removed entirely?
                                          } What if I want to add an image?
                                          } What if I’ve made mistakes in my approach to Wikipedia in the past?
                                          } Do “conflict of interest” rules apply only to entries about my company?
                                          } Can I just find someone I know without a paid conflict of interest to make edits for me?
14 ---------------------------   Implementing an organizational Wikipedia policy
15 ---------------------------   Identifying a Wikipedia specialist
17 ---------------------------   Wrapping up

18 ---------------------------   Appendix I. A guide to Wikipedia’s most important rules
19 ---------------------------   Appendix II. A glossary of Wikipedia terminology
21 ---------------------------   Appendix III. Further reading

                                     2014, William Beutler. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                                                    PAGE 3

01                                Introduction
                                  A quick backgrounder on the history and continued confusion around the volunteer
                                  encyclopedia and its professional influences, and what you need to know to get the
                                  most out of this primer

                                  It’s perhaps both ironic and fitting that the first               site’s editorial community later developed a set
                                  widely acknowledged example of someone being                      of w protocols for engagement by professional
     Shortcuts                    called out for editing Wikipedia to enhance their                 communicators. These rules are not widely known,
                                  own reputation is none other than Jimmy Wales,                    nor are they always easy to follow, but they have
 u WP:CONFLICT                    Wikipedia’s famous co-founder.1                                   been drafted, modified, and ratified through the
     Conflict of Interest                                                                           daily work of Wikipedia editors.
                                  In a series of edits in late 2005, Wales adjusted
                                  the wording in his biographical entry to better                   This primer attempts to address the information
 v WP:ORGFAQ                      match his own interpretation of his career. The                   gap between the Wikipedia community and PR
     FAQ / Organizations          changes were flagged by a prominent tech blogger,                 professionals who want to engage with Wikipedia
                                  and the subsequent uproar led Wales to apologize.                 on its own terms. While the advice ahead will not
                                  “People shouldn’t do it, including me,” he told                   answer every question you may have, it will put
 w WP:PSCOI                       Wired at the time. “I wish I hadn’t done it.” And                 you on the right path to working with Wikipedia
     Plain and simple
                                  yet the magazine also quoted him making the                       both ethically and effectively.
     conflict of interest
                                  following entirely defensible point:
     (essay)                                                                                        } HOW TO READ THIS PRIMER

    WP:SCOIC                      “IF YOU SEE A BLATANT ERROR OR                                    This primer is meant to be read from start to
    Suggestions for COI                                                                             finish. Throughout, you will find “Wikipedia
                                  MISCONCEPTION ABOUT YOURSELF,                                     shortcuts” in the margins. These are simple
    (essay)                       YOU REALLY WANT TO SET IT                                         phrases intended to help you find salient
                                  STRAIGHT.”                                                        information on Wikipedia. Enter a shortcut
                                                                                                    into Wikipedia’s search field, and you will be
                                  Jimmy Wales
                                                                                                    immediately taken to the relevant page. Several
                                                                                                    types of pages are included: mandatory site
                                                                                                    policies, widely recognized guidelines, generally
                                  Almost a decade after Wales’ controversial edits,                 accepted essays, as well as others, including
                                  the issue of self-interested editing remains                      project and information pages.
                                  unresolved. Wikipedia has long maintained a
                                  guideline titled u Conflict of interest—also                      In addition, occasional snippets of Wikipedia’s
                                  commonly referred to as “COI” which strongly                      code, or markup language, are included. These
                                  discourages v companies and organizations                         will be apparent as such because they are
                                  from editing articles about themselves. Because                   rendered in this typeface.
                                  this guideline is primarily a list of don’ts, the

1. Jimmy Wales: Revision history, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, October 20–November 9, 2005.
2. “Wikipedia Founder Looks Out for Number 1”, Rogers Cadenhead, Workbench, December 19, 2005.
3. “Wikipedia Founder Edits Own Bio”, Evan Hansen, Wired, December 19, 2005.
PAGE 4                                             WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

         } WIKIPEDIA IN OTHER LANGUAGES                     } ONE MORE THING

         You should be aware that this primer was written   This primer is released under a Creative Commons
         specifically with the English Wikipedia in mind,   Attribution 3.0 license and, like Wikipedia itself,
         and the rules of engagement may vary across        is a work in progress. If you have any suggestions
         language editions. While the advice contained      for improvement, please contact William Beutler
         herein can be considered a safe way to engage      at
         with editors of any language Wikipedia, the
         best thing to do is look for specific guidelines
         governing those communities and look to previous
         case studies to determine the best course of
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                                                       PAGE 5

02                                 Acknowledgements
                                   Big thanks are owed to veterans of the communications industry and Wikipedia
                                   community for their feedback, as well as those who have contributed to the broadening
                                   of this discussion

                                   Wikipedia and the Communications Professional                      Advice and feedback for the development
                                   builds on previous efforts by Wikipedia editors and                of this primer was provided by:
                                   PR thought leaders, including a “Wikipedia and
                                   Public Relations”4 guide published by the UK’s                     •     Melissa Carney, Fahlgren Mortine
                                   Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR),                    •     Dave Coustan, Voce / Porter Novelli
                                   and a Facebook discussion group, Corporate                         •     Marcia DiStaso, Penn State University /
                                   Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement                         Institute for Public Relations
                                   (CREWE)5, created by Edelman SVP Phil Gomes                        •     Sam Ford, Peppercomm
                                   in 2012. Research published in 2013 by Marcia                      •     Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick
                                   DiStaso, a professor of communications at Penn                     •     Preethi Jayapathi, MSL Group
                                   State University, demonstrated that Wikipedia is                   •     Patrick Kerley, Proof Integrated
                                   a serious matter of concern to public relations                          Communications
                                   professionals.6                                                    •     Arne Klempert, FleishmanHillard Germany
                                                                                                      •     Andrew Lih, American University
                                   More directly, this project is an outgrowth of an                  •     Jake Orlowitz, Independent Wikipedian
                                   effort led by the author of this primer, Beutler                   •     Jeremy Rosenberg, Allison+Partners
                                   Ink president William Beutler, to reinvigorate                     •     Andrew Ross, Chartered Institute of Public
                                   the conversation between PR practitioners and                            Relations
                                   Wikipedia editors. This dialogue led to the                        •     Matt Shaw, Council of Public Relations Firms
                                   creation of the “Statement on Wikipedia by                         •     Max Tatton-Brown, Augur
                                   participating communications firms”,7 ratified by                  •     Paul Wilkinson, Chartered Institute of Public
                                   35 firms as of September 2014—including eight                            Relations
                                   of the 10 largest global PR agencies.
                                                                                                      Thanks are due to several individuals at Beutler
                                                                                                      Ink, including: Robyn Baker, Sheri Cook, Chris
                                                                                                      Doty, Pete Hunt, Jenny Karn, Jehoaddan Kulakoff,
                                                                                                      and Morgan Wehling. Special thanks as well to
                                                                                                      Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez and Oliver Ruff.

4. “Wikipedia and Public Relations”, CIPR, July 2014.
5. Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE).
6. “Perceptions of Wikipedia by Public Relations Professionals: A Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Surveys”, Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., Public Relations Journal Vol. 7,
No. 3.
7. Wikipedia:Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
PAGE 6                                                                    WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

03                        Wikipedia’s best
                          practices—and why
                          you should care
                          Just because any edit to Wikipedia is possible doesn’t mean that any edit is advisable

                          If your goal is to contribute to Wikipedia in a            1. The moral case:
                          professional capacity—on behalf of your own
   Shortcuts              company or on behalf of a client—and maintain              Wikipedia is one of the most important
                          good standing with its community of editors, the           information resources in the world. By respecting
 u WP:CONFLICT            best way to seek revisions to an article where you         community norms, you will contribute to its
   Conflict of Interest   might have a u conflict of interest is to request          overall success.
                          changes on the v discussion page for the article
                          in question.                                               2. And the practical one:
   Talk page
                          The principal challenges to this approach include          Not only is any risk of “blowback” significantly
                          determining what types of changes are compatible           reduced, you’ll earn respect as an honest broker,
                          with w Wikipedia’s rules, posing requests in               leading to more productive discussions.
                          a way that’s persuasive and easy for editors to
   List of policies and
                          evaluate, and making sure your suggestions are             Another good reason involves taking an even
   guidelines             reviewed in a timely manner.                               longer view: if the broader dialogue between PR
   (information)                                                                     professionals and Wikipedia is to improve, it will
                          Given these obstacles, you might wonder why you            require the industry to demonstrate that following
                          can’t just edit a given article directly. After all, the   the rules—and enforcing them—is in fact the
                          simplest and quickest way to update a page is to           recognized standard practice.
                          make the edits yourself. In theory, Wikipedia can
                          be edited by anyone at any time. In practice, you
                          should be very careful when dealing with articles
                          where you have a financial interest.

                          Here are two reasons to take the long view and
                          follow the rules carefully:
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                                                         PAGE 7

04                                 Why you should
                                   consider engaging
                                   on Wikipedia
                                   Many organizations are wary of getting involved with Wikipedia,
                                   but here is why it should matter to yours

                                   The case for Wikipedia’s influence is simple: it is                 Wikipedia editors gravitate toward articles of
                                   the fifth-most visited website in the entire world,                 personal or academic interest, which typically
                                   with nearly 450 million monthly visitors accessing                  excludes business subjects. This means it is
                                   more than 20 billion pages.8 It is arguably                         actually quite unlikely that someone will write
                                   the world’s most important reference website,                       an article about your company, unless it is very
                                   following Google, which displays Wikipedia on                       famous—or becomes embroiled in controversy.
                                   the first page of search results more consistently                  A new article or addition may in fact objectively
                                   than it does any other website. Although far                        qualify for inclusion, but simply waiting for it to
                                   from perfect, Wikipedia is an unrivaled resource                    happen is not much of a solution. And even if an
                                   for information on virtually every topic of public                  independent editor does so, the addition may not
                                   interest. For companies and organizations, it                       be accurate, comprehensive, or even neutral. It’s
                                   usually ranks in the top two or three search                        very much in Wikipedia’s interest that its articles
                                   results. Wikipedia is simply too important to                       meet these standards, and that includes entries
                                   ignore.                                                             about companies and organizations.

                                   To the extent that most companies have any rule                     Yet Wikipedians tend to be concerned that
                                   for their employees about editing Wikipedia, it’s                   contributors with a financial interest, or those
                                   usually to avoid it; the possibility of negative                    representing clients, will privilege marketing
                                   publicity outweighs whatever value there may be                     goals over building an encyclopedia. This is not
                                   in getting changes made.9 Likewise, Wikipedians                     an unreasonable worry, but it’s also not good
                                   have sometimes advised businesses and                               enough reason to discourage them from getting
                                   organizations that might be eligible for an entry                   involved. Rather, it’s a reason to make sure these
                                   but do not yet have one—or who would like to                        contributors understand their proper role.
                                   see a new initiative, product or service added
                                   to an existing entry—to be patient. As they say,
                                   if your subject is indeed worthy, someone will
                                   write about it before long.10 Both of these views
                                   are understandable, but we suggest a further

8. “Wikimedia Report Card”, Wikimedia Foundation, August 2014.
9. “Corporate editing of Wikipedia revealed”, Katie Hafner, The New York Times, August 19, 2007
10. “Wikipedia: What is the way to register your business name with Wikipedia?”,,
PAGE 8                                                                                  WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

05                                 Why you might choose
                                   not to engage on
                                   Frustrating as it may be, sometimes you’ll actually be better off staying out of the way

                                   The “Streisand effect”11 describes how efforts to                 However, you should probably leave well enough
                                   conceal obscure but publicly available information                alone, if:
     Shortcuts                     only serves to amplify interest in the matter. (The
                                   phenomenon is so named because of Barbra                          •     You don’t have a reliable source to back up
  u WP:RELIABLE                    Streisand’s memorably unsuccessful attempt                              your claim
      Identifying reliable         to remove photos of her Malibu home from the                      •     The correction is more trouble to explain than
                                   Internet.)                                                              it’s worth to you
                                                                                                     •     The change you want to make is incompatible
                                   This effect is often cited as a reason to avoid                         with Wikipedia guidelines
  v WP:LOP
                                   editing—or attempting to influence the content                    •     You don’t have time to participate in a
      List of policies
                                   of—Wikipedia articles in which one may have a                           conversation about your proposed change
                                   personal or financial interest, especially about                  •     Raising questions about existing content
      WP:LGL                       clients. When prominent organizations try to                            might lead to the addition of legitimate
      List of guidelines           remove or change information on Wikipedia                               criticism not currently included
      (summary)                    without a valid argument, or through means
                                   incompatible with Wikipedia’s rules, it often                     Although there are circumstances when getting
                                   makes headlines—just ask British PR firm Bell                     involved in a Wikipedia entry may not help your
                                   Pottinger12 or the entire United States Congress.13               cause, in most cases your expertise can help
                                                                                                     to improve Wikipedia. The rest of this primer
                                   But the Streisand effect is hardly a fait accompli.               explains how you can do that without creating
                                   If you have identified an error, inaccuracy,                      unnecessary headaches.
                                   omission or similar problem—and you can
                                   demonstrate this by citing u reliable sources
                                   and Wikipedia’s v policies and guidelines—you
                                   should not be dissuaded from seeking to change it
                                   through the proper channels.

11. “Streisand effect”, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
12. “Wikipedia investigates PR firm Bell Pottinger’s edits”, Dave Lee, BBC News, December 8, 2011.
13. “WIth Twitter’s Help, Watch Congress Edit Wikipedia”, Derek Willis, The New York Times, July 14, 2014.
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                          PAGE 9

06                         How to work with
                           Are you ready? Let’s get started

                           First, a disclaimer: the procedures described in       does not imply the account represents an entire
                           this section are absolutely necessary—but not          company or organization. A username such as
    Shortcuts              solely sufficient—for constructive interaction         BestComms is likely to be blocked for violating
                           with the Wikipedia community. Each and every           this rule. A better option is Jane at BestComms, or
 u WP:USERNAME             question about a Wikipedia entry is unique,            BC Jane Smith.
    Username policy
                           influenced by factors such as:
                                                                                  v Creating an account takes very little time.
                           •   What has been written about the subject in         Although including an email address is optional,
 v WP:SIGNUP                                                                      it is strongly recommended. If you lose your
                               reliable sources
    Why create an
                           •   What Wikipedia currently says about the            password and do not have an email on file, there
                               subject                                            is no way to recover your password; you will have
                           •   How Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines apply      to create a whole new account.
    Conflict of interest   Understanding how these factors affect a par-          Setting up a user page
    (guideline)            ticular article or topic makes all the difference
                           in whether a request is likely to be successful.       After you’ve created an account, it’s time to create
 x WP:RELIABLE             Remember that Wikipedia editors are looking to         a user page. At a minimum, it should include your
    Identifying reliable   create (and approve) reference-quality information     name and your employer. If you participate on
    sources                written from a neutral point of view.                  Wikipedia on behalf of clients, list them here as
    (guideline)                                                                   you begin to do so. Stating your intention to follow
                           } GETTING STARTED                                      Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, especially
 y WP:NPOV                                                                        those about w conflicts of interest, x reliable
    Neutral point of       The very first step to participating on Wikipedia is   sources, and y neutrality, can also go a long way.
    view                   the creation of a user account. While it’s techni-
    (policy)               cally possible to contribute without creating an       Previously existing accounts
                           account, you will be well-served by establishing an
 z WP:CLEANSTART           identity within the Wikipedia community.               You may already have a Wikipedia account, and
    Clean start
                                                                                  wonder if you should start over. You certainly can
                           Creating an account                                    do so, as z Wikipedia’s policies expressly permit.
                                                                                  However, unless your previous edits are simply
                           A very important rule to understand and follow         too embarrassing, just make a note of previous
                           is that Wikipedia requires each account to be          edits on your user page and recommit to following
                           controlled by u one person. For this reason,           Wikipedia’s best practices.
                           you should be careful to choose a username that
PAGE 10                                                                 WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

     Shortcuts              Getting your bearings                                 improve your chances of making a quality sugges-
                                                                                  tion, think about your proposed contribution from
 u WP:TUTOR                 If this is your first time on Wikipedia as anything   both the perspective of a reader seeking useful in-
     Tutorial               but a reader, two resources to help you get you get   formation, and of a volunteer editor trying to serve
                            started are the u official tutorial and a guided      the interests of that reader. If you can articulate
                            tour called v The Wikipedia Adventure. Take           how your proposed edits will benefit Wikipedia’s
 v WP:TWA                   some time to read the w Simplified ruleset for a      intended audience, your proposed updates are
     The Wikipedia          concise explanation of the community norms that       more likely to be accepted.
                            Wikipedians observe.
     (project)                                                                    The right way to ask for help

 w WP:SIMPLE                } PREPARING A REQUEST FOR EDITORS                     Writing an effective request requires a basic
     Simplified ruleset                                                           understanding of how Wikipedia works and a
     (information)          Once you’ve established an account, you’re ready      much better understanding of the subject you
                            to start seeking assistance. As complicated as        wish to address. Here are some key points to think
 x WP:CITET                 Wikipedia can be, the process of asking for help is   about when seeking assistance:
     Citation templates     relatively straightforward:
     (information)                                                                •   Make sure you’re logged in before you start
                            •   Identify your goals for a specific Wikipedia      •   Keep the message as concise as possible
 y WP:CHEAT                     article                                           •   Link to sources and guidelines that support
                            •   Locate independent sources to support the             your point
     (information)                                                                •   Include a descriptive heading on your request
                                point(s) you wish to make, and turn them into
                                x formatted citations
 z WP:MOS                   •   Familiarize yourself with Wikipedia’s y           •   Disclose your professional interest and how it
     Manual of style                                                                  relates to the entry clearly
                                markup language—the HTML-like code
     (guideline)                                                                  •   Just below the heading, add an { edit
                                behind all Wikipedia pages—and its z
                                Manual of Style                                       request template so editors can find it:
 { WP:EDITREQ                                                                         {{request edit}}
                            •   Write your own version of what you think
     Edit request
                                should be added, or clarify what should be        •   Don’t forget close with the snippet of code to
                                removed and / or modified                             add a | signature: ~~~~

 | WP:SIG                   •   Locate the discussion page for the article
                                to which you wish to propose an edit—it’s         What if I need to ask for help again?
     (guideline)                behind the “Talk” tab at the top of every
                                entry—and make your best case for why the         Trust us, you probably will have to ask for help
                                change would benefit readers                      more than once! Wikipedia editors are volunteers
                            •   Be aware that you may have to ask in more         who prefer to spend most of their time working
     There is no
     deadline                   than one place before you receive help;           on topics related to their own interests, and are
     (essay)                    take your time, look for editors who have         frequently busy offline as well.
                                already shown interest in the topic, and don’t
                                                                                  Finding a balance between persistence and
 *   WP:COI/N                   bombard numerous editors with requests
     Conflict of interest   •   Once a particular issue has been resolved, be     patience is key, and being respectful of volunteer
     / Noticeboard              sure to thank the editor(s) who helped you,       } editors’ time is a must. A good rule of thumb
                                and close any outstanding requests                is to wait 48 hours after your first posting to start
                                                                                  looking for help again, and to limit any follow-
  # WP:TEAHOUSE                                                                   up requests to one or two new messages every
     Teahouse                                                                     5–7 days. You may find editors willing to help by
                            } TIPS FOR FOLLOWING THE ABOVE STEPS
     (project)                                                                    visiting projects such as * Conflict of interest/
                            Think carefully about what you ask for                Noticeboard or the # Teahouse.

                            Wikipedia has far too many rules for you to un-
                            derstand every nuance before you get involved. To
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                                           PAGE 11

07                                How to deal with
                                  specific issues
                                  The following pages provide a starting point for how to work
                                  through common Wikipedia questions

                                  What if I just want to make a few simple,                         seeking changes that might be seen as an attempt
                                                                                                    to “whitewash” the entry. Although the temptation
                                  fact-based updates?
     Shortcuts                                                                                      to remove information that you believe to be
                                                                                                    misleading or misconstrued can be very strong—
                                  It can be very tempting to make an edit that
  u WP:UNDUE                      seems obvious or uncontroversial, such as
                                                                                                    and the pressure you may face internally can be
     Due and undue                                                                                  powerful—patience will pay off in the long run.
                                  correcting a spelling error. While it’s entirely
     weight                                                                                         Instead of trying to get it right immediately, focus
                                  possible that you will face no immediate
     (policy)                                                                                       on getting it right eventually. Eventually lasts much
                                  objections for making a small update, consider
                                  that, in the future, you may wish to make more
  v WP:RCP
     Recent changes               substantial changes. If you wish to propose a new
                                  section or a rewrite of an existing article in the                What should I do in the event of vandal-
     (project)                    future, you will have an easier time if you don’t                 ism?
                                  face the possibility of volunteer editors asking why
                                  you did not use the discussion page previously.                   Unfortunately, Wikipedia’s official guidelines and
                                                                                                    recommended best practices are at odds here.
                                  In short, you’re best served if you go above and                  The former explicitly lists undoing vandalism
                                  beyond what is necessary to make sure not only                    as an “uncontroversial edit” that anyone can
                                  that you’ve never engaged in direct editing but                   make. On the other hand, Jimmy Wales’ advice—
                                  also that you’ve made no edits that might be                      often called the “Bright Line”14—is that PR
                                  construed as COI edits. “I’ve never edited the                    practitioners should never edit articles directly.
                                  article directly” is a much stronger position than “I             You have a judgment call to make. Consider the
                                  have, but only a little”.                                         following:

                                  What can I do if an article is overly negative                    1.   If the edit has just appeared, give it about
                                                                                                         15 minutes. Wikipedia editors are v always
                                  or derogatory?
                                                                                                         watching, and may fix the problem without
                                                                                                         you doing anything.
                                  To bring a biased article back toward neutrality,
                                                                                                    2.   If they don’t, think hard about whether
                                  expect that you will have to explain your specific
                                                                                                         the material is “true” vandalism—e.g.
                                  concerns and present solutions that would bring
                                                                                                         nonsense or profanity—or merely inaccurate
                                  the article closer to Wikipedia’s guidelines than its
                                                                                                         or contentious material. If the latter, find
                                  present state. Oftentimes “negative” information
                                                                                                         another editor to review it.
                                  belongs in the article, but it may be given u
                                                                                                    3.   Decide how damaging the vandalism is, and
                                  undue weight, in which case you will need to work
                                                                                                         whether it is worth risking a slap on the wrist
                                  with editors to find the correct balance.
                                                                                                         for editing the page directly, even if editors
                                  Remember the “Streisand effect” and avoid

14. User:Jimbo Wales/Paid Advocacy FAQ, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
PAGE 12                                                                                  WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

      Shortcuts                          eventually decide you are right. Wikipedians                 is sourced almost entirely to trade publication
                                         are extremely concerned about possible                       and mainstream news articles. Are you willing to
  u WP:BLP                               defamation, and the u Biographies of living                  include information that a reader may expect to
      Biographies of                     persons policy may apply. If you decide your                 find, even if it is not entirely favorable? Are you
      living persons                     best option is to go ahead, leave a note on                  prepared for this entry to be forever available for
      (policy)                           the discussion page explaining what you did                  anyone to edit at any time?
                                         and why.
  v WP:DISPUTE                                                                                        Are there circumstances in which an article
      Dispute resolution           A Wikipedia editor disagrees with me.                              may be removed entirely?
                                   What can I do?
                                                                                                      Typically, an article may only be removed when
  w WP:3O                          Occasionally you may find an editor who, for                       the subject clearly does not meet the Notability
      Third opinion
                                   whatever reason, strongly opposes a suggestion                     guideline. However, editors often disagree on this
                                   you have made. In such a scenario you have to                      threshold, which is why Wikipedia’s z Articles for
                                   decide whether a reasonable editor would take                      deletion process is both lively and unpredictable.
                                   your side, and also whether it is worth pressing
      (guideline)                  the point. In these cases, remain calm and try to                  Just because an article may be outdated, biased,
                                   find an acceptable compromise with the editor.                     poorly written, or poorly sourced { does not
  y WP:Drafts                      You may find that it will be more constructive                     mean it should be deleted. In many cases,
      Drafts                       to modify your suggestion. However, if you find                    these shortcomings are | opportunities for
      (project)                    yourself stuck on an issue with a single editor,                   improvement.
                                   seek a v dispute resolution forum such as w
  z WP:AFD                         Third opinion to find another viewpoint. Don’t get                 What if I want to add an image?
      Articles for deletion        stuck, get help!
      (project)                                                                                       Wikipedia is published under a Creative Commons
                                   What if there isn’t presently an article                           (CC) license and, in most cases, original images
  { WP:ATA                         about my company or client?                                        you wish to upload should be as well. You must
      Arguments to                                                                                    own the copyright or receive permission from the
      avoid in deletion
                                   Creating an entirely new article can be a                          copyright holder to do so. If you are unfamiliar
                                   significant challenge. Among the reasons why:                      with this license, think of it as halfway between
                                   Wikipedia’s x Notability guideline makes clear                     “all rights reserved” and “public domain”. }
                                   that not every topic is eligible for a standalone                  Image use policy on Wikipedia is complicated, so
                                   entry; writing a new article from scratch requires                 make sure you understand how it applies to the
      Article development
                                   a substantial amount of work, not to mention                       type of image you want to add. In most cases,
                                   expertise; and the process of submitting a new                     “Attribution” (or “CC-BY”) is the specific license
                                   article can be confusing.                                          to choose.
  } WP:IUP
      Image use policy
      (policy)                     Outlining the steps for writing a new article would                What if I’ve made mistakes in my approach
                                   require more space than this primer allows. But                    to Wikipedia in the past?
                                   let’s say you have written one and believe it meets
  *   WP:COI
                                   Wikipedia’s content guidelines: you’ll still need
      Conflict of interest                                                                            Fear not: it is exceedingly common for an em-
      (guideline)                  to find a volunteer editor to review and approve                   ployee or representative to have edited a company
                                   it. The good news is that Wikipedia has existing                   or organization’s entry without following—or even
                                   processes to assist you, such as the new y Drafts                  being aware of—Wikipedia’s * conflict of inter-
                                   project.                                                           est guidelines. If you or someone you represent
                                                                                                      has made unconstructive edits in the past, or
                                   Before you begin, think carefully about whether                    otherwise have made substantial COI edits—even
                                   you can provide a balanced, accurate entry that                    if well-intentioned—you’d be well-advised to

15. “Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)”, Creative Commons.

    Shortcuts           acknowledge that fact when you ask for help on a
                        discussion page, or ask a specific editor, for the
 u WP:NOTE              first time. In our experience, most editors will be
   Notability           pleasantly surprised that you are up-front about
   (guideline)          the fact, and this may encourage them to assist

                        Certain kinds of mistakes are worse than others,
                        of course, and historical obliviousness will
                        be forgiven much more readily than repeated
                        attempts to circumvent Wikipedia processes. If
                        repeated attempts have been made to restore
                        an article deleted following community review,
                        for example, re-creating it once the topic has
                        achieved u Notability can be more difficult than
                        it would have been otherwise.

                        Do “conflict of interest” rules apply only to
                        entries about my company?

                        These guidelines apply to any article that is
                        materially relevant to your organization or client,
                        not just the main profile, or articles about its
                        products, services and employees. It also includes
                        articles covering competitors, industry-related
                        subjects, and any topic in which your organization
                        may have a vested interest. Although it may not
                        always be clear to you what counts, it’s best to err
                        on the side of caution by disclosing your interest
                        and starting on the discussion page first.

                        Can I just find someone I know without a
                        paid conflict of interest to make edits for

                        Wikipedia’s COI guidelines cover not just paid
                        but also unpaid potential conflicts. While unpaid
                        conflicts are not as strongly discouraged, asking
                        a relative, a friend, a customer, or a former intern
                        to make changes is not a good long-term strategy.
                        Not only is this approach ethically dubious, the
                        pattern of edits may give editors reason to suspect
                        an undisclosed COI, and similar problems may
                        result. Bottom line: it just isn’t worth it.
PAGE 14                                                WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

08        Implementing an
          Wikipedia policy
          These days, almost every organization of any          2. Lead a training initiative
          significant size maintains a social media policy
          communicating acceptable online behavior to its
                                                                Identify someone within your organization to lead
          employees. However, anecdotal evidence suggests
                                                                a training initiative, or to identify and work with
          that Wikipedia is usually overlooked in these
                                                                a Wikipedia consultant who can help you do so.
          policies—perhaps because Wikipedia is not always
                                                                Even if there is someone within your organization
          considered to be “social media”—even if a policy
                                                                who already edits Wikipedia, it is likely they will
          is intended to cover it. Here are some starting
                                                                need to put in some additional time to research
          points for creating a Wikipedia policy for your
                                                                this particular topic.

                                                                3. Join the “Statement on Wikipedia from
          1. Include Wikipedia in your social media
                                                                participating communications firms”
                                                                If you work for a communications agency, consider
          If your social media policy does not currently
                                                                joining the “Statement on Wikipedia from
          address Wikipedia, consider amending it to
                                                                participating communications firms” on behalf of
          include it specifically. This addition can be very
                                                                your firm. Joining means that you agree to follow
          simple, for example:
                                                                Wikipedia’s rules, understand its best practices,
                                                                and promote compliance within your organization.
             If you choose to contribute to Wikipedia on
                                                                Note that we only recommend joining the
             your own time, take care to follow the site’s
                                                                statement if, and when, you have policies and
             policies and guidelines at all times. If you are
                                                                procedures in place to ensure you will do all you
             not authorized to participate on Wikipedia
                                                                can to uphold your participation in the statement.
             for work purposes, avoid editing any articles
             which may be construed as relating to your
                                                                4. Dissemination

                                                                Determine the best plan for dissemination of
          Consider including advice not to edit from an
                                                                these rules and guidelines. If Wikipedia is likely to
          office location, as your organization’s IP address
                                                                be an ongoing area of interest—e.g., if you are a
          may be tied to these changes. Once the policy is
                                                                marketing or public relations firm—you may wish
          in place, take any violations as seriously as you
                                                                to seek formal training via webinar or an in-person
          would bad behavior on other social platforms.
                                                                workshop by a Wikipedia specialist.
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                                  PAGE 15

09                                Identifying a
                                  Wikipedia specialist
                                  Some issues may just be too complicated to solve on your own—here’s how
                                  to begin looking for help

                                  Although this primer should help to solve small          3. Are you an active contributor to
                                  problems and give you a basic of idea of how to
                                                                                           Wikipedia yourself?
                                  interact with Wikipedia editors, you may wish to
                                  consider hiring a consultant who specializes in          It’s a good idea to ask the specialist whether they
                                  Wikipedia to advise your efforts or even engage          are a member of the Wikipedia community outside
                                  the site on your behalf. However, one should be          of any paid consulting they may do. Chances are
                                  very careful: the complicated (and even opaque)          very good that someone who edits Wikipedia on
                                  nature of Wikipedia has given rise to a cohort of        their own time will supply you with better advice.
                                  “black hat” consultants—and even some firms—             Ask them to provide you with their username so
                                  who circumvent Wikipedia’s rules as a matter of          you can review their profile.
                                                                                           4. Can you provide references to
                                  Here are five questions you can ask to determine         previous clients who have been satisfied
                                  if you’re talking with a “white hat” specialist:         with your work?

                                  1. What is your approach to disclosure of
                                                                                           As in any specialist field, ask to speak with
                                  your work on Wikipedia?                                  previous clients to confirm that your consultant
                                                                                           actually does what they say. Ask to see the
                                  If a consultant suggests that they will not
                                                                                           Wikipedia article(s) they worked on, and do
                                  disclose their connection to you on Wikipedia, or
                                                                                           your own due diligence: look at the article’s talk
                                  recommends that you do not declare a conflict of
                                                                                           page to see if there is evidence they discussed
                                  interest, this is a major red flag. Non-disclosure
                                                                                           changes with volunteer editors. Have there
                                  is a violation of Wikipedia’s Terms of Use16,
                                                                                           been substantial changes to their work since
                                  and an NDA will not be seen as a legitimate
                                                                                           completion? If there have been disagreements
                                                                                           over content, how were they resolved?
                                  2. What kind of timeline can I expect?
                                                                                           5. Can you help me [do something this
                                  Fixing just one section may take a few weeks;            primer tells you is contrary to Wikipedia’s
                                  proposing substantial changes to an article, or          rules]?
                                  creating an entirely new entry, can take months.
                                                                                           Don’t be afraid to play a little dumb, and ask a
                                  There are two reasons for this. First, your
                                                                                           question that you know the answer to should be
                                  consultant should research the topic themselves
                                                                                           “no”. If the specialist advises why not to do this,
                                  so they can be confident that any proposed edits
                                                                                           and offers another solution instead, you can be
                                  are aligned with the goals of Wikipedia. Second,
                                                                                           more confident you are hiring someone with a
                                  your consultant should be working through
                                                                                           solid understanding and ethical stance regarding
                                  Wikipedia’s community, almost all of whom are
                                  volunteers with limited time to help. Be wary of
                                  anyone who promises a quick turnaround.

16. Terms of Use, Wikimedia Foundation.
PAGE 16                                                                                WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

10                                Wrapping Up
                                  Remember that if you put Wikipedia first, you’ll rarely go wrong

                                   Although there is no way this primer can cover                   Remember that your value to Wikipedia lies in
                                   everything you need to know about Wikipedia, we                  helping it accomplish these core goals: to be an
                                   believe the above should give you the knowledge                  objective, accurate, and up-to-date collective
                                   and confidence to get started in the right way, and              information base. Look for suggestions to make
                                   the necessary background to learn further, and to                not merely based on what your company or
                                   make more significant contributions over time. As                organization would like to see, but what the reader
                                   complex as Wikipedia can be, engaging with it in                 who comes to Wikipedia to learn about a subject
                                   a professional capacity simply requires the time                 would want to know. Think carefully as well about
                                   and commitment to do it right. It also requires                  how to interact with the community that is already
                                   internalizing its mission and figuring out how you               engaged in this practice, and how to have the
                                   can help advance it.                                             patience to work with them in the collaborative
                                                                                                    spirit that makes Wikipedia unique. These are
                                   This guide began with a quote from Jimmy                         Wikipedia’s best practices, and they will serve you
                                   Wales that he would perhaps like to forget. Let’s                well.
                                   conclude by invoking the one he is actually best
                                   known for:17

                                  “IMAGINE A WORLD IN WHICH EVERY
                                  SINGLE PERSON ON THE PLANET IS
                                  GIVEN FREE ACCESS TO THE SUM OF
                                  ALL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. THAT’S WHAT
                                  WE’RE DOING.”
                                  Jimmy Wales

17. “Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds”, Robin Miller, Slashdot, July 28, 2005.
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                          PAGE 17

I                          Appendix I
                           Among Wikipedia’s most important rules

                           One of the reasons Wikipedia can be so difficult
                                                                                  y Reliable Sources:
                           to understand is the sheer breadth and complexity      Trade publications, newspapers, magazines,
    Shortcuts              of the rules governing it. Even longtime Wikipedia     academic journals, and government filings are the
                           editors do not know all of them, and they              among the kinds of sources most useful in writing
 u WP:AGF                  sometimes interpret particular rules differently.
    Assume good faith                                                             about companies and organizations, and they
                           Here are some of the most important ones to            should be appropriately cited.
                           familiarize yourself with:

 v WP:NPOV                                                                        z Verifiability:
    Neutral point of       u Assume good faith:                                   Closely related to the rule about sourcing,
    view                   Wikipedia contributors have many diverse and           Wikipedia requires that any material added to
    (policy)               divergent views, so it is imperative that they agree   Wikipedia be publicly verifiable. If a fact is true,
                           to get along in order for Wikipedia to work. As long   but you can’t demonstrate this to editors beyond
 w WP:COPYRIGHT            as you act in good faith, others should extend the     your say-so, leave it out.
    Copyrights             same courtesy to you.
                                                                                  { What Wikipedia is not:
                           v Neutral point of view:                               Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, but what does that
 x WP:NOTE                 Wikipedia guidelines require a given topic be          mean? One way to explain this is by identifying
    Notability             covered by only one entry, so articles must be         what “is not”. On this (very long) list: a dictionary;
    (guideline)            even-handed and consider all relevant viewpoints       a directory; a mirror site; a manual; a textbook; a
                           fairly.                                                general repository for information.
    Identifying reliable
                           w Copyrights:
                           Plagiarism and copyright violations are a big
                           problem for Wikipedia, and you should be very
                           careful that you avoid contributing to it. Always
                           make sure that new material for Wikipedia is
                           original at the time it is being proposed. This
                           applies equally to copyrighted images.
    What Wikipedia is      x Notability:
    not                    One of the thorniest questions for companies
    (policy)               and organizations is whether a company meets
                           the requirements for a standalone entry. The
                           general rule is that a topic must have “significant
                           coverage in reliable sources that are independent
                           of the subject” before it is considered eligible.
PAGE 18                                                            WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER

II                 Appendix II
                   A glossary of Wikipedia terminology

                   As you have surely realized, Wikipedia has its own         effectively. You may also wish to try the u Visual
                   jargon that can rival almost any technical field.          Editor, which you can turn on in your account’s
    Shortcuts      Gaining fluency can take a long time, but this list will   user preferences.
                   help you understand several of the most common
 u WP:VE           terms:                                                     Templates: Snippets of markup that create more
                                                                              complex Wikipedia layout elements. Warning tags
                   Article: A Wikipedia page that is part of the              on articles and edit request templates are two of
                   encyclopedia portion of Wikipedia. Also informally         the most common you will run across.
                   called an “entry”, or sometimes just called a
                   “page”.                                                    User contributions: Similar to the History page
                                                                              for articles, every change to Wikipedia made by
                   Bright Line: On Wikipedia, the phrase has come             any user is visible in a list on a page associated
                   to mean Jimmy Wales’ advice for PR pros that one           with each user account.
                   should never directly edit articles where one has
                   a financial interest. It’s not a policy or guideline,      User pages: Once you have an account, this
                   but we recommend following it.                             is basically your “home page”. If you wish to
                                                                              represent a company, organization or other type of
                   Conflict of interest: Not a concept unique to              client on Wikipedia, it is very strongly advised that
                   Wikipedia, but one that you should always keep in          you declare these interests here.
                   mind. Financial relationships are usually viewed
                   as the most critical.                                      User talk: Just as Wikipedia articles have a dedi-
                                                                              cated discussion section, so do user accounts.
                   Discussion page: Every article has its own                 When you have a question for a specific editor, the
                   forum for editors to discuss the content and               best thing is to find their personal discussion page
                   development of the article, interchangeably called         and ask there.
                   a “talk page”.
                                                                              Wikimedia Foundation: The nonprofit parent
                   Editor: Who is a Wikipedia editor? Pretty much any-        organization of Wikipedia and related projects
                   one who decides they are. Another common term you
                                                                              such as Wikimedia Commons, abbreviated “WMF”
                   will see in formal cases is “user” and, less formally,
                                                                              or called “the Foundation”. Know that it usually
                                                                              avoids getting involved in content questions.

                   History page: Every article is accompanied by
                                                                              WikiProjects: Self-organized groups of Wiki-
                   a page where you can find all previous changes.
                                                                              pedians who are interested in similar topics, and
                   Remember this: every edit made to Wikipedia is
                                                                              cooperate on article-improvement projects. They
                   saved, forever.
                                                                              might be a useful resource for you, if you can find
                   Markup language: This is the term for the code             one that’s active.
                   underlying all Wikipedia articles, similar to HTML.
                   While easier to learn, it still requires study to use
WIKIPEDIA & THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL: A PRIMER                                                                     PAGE 19

III                     Appendix III
                        Additional resources

                        Corporate Representatives for Ethical               Perceptions of Wikipedia by Public Rela-
                        Wikipedia Engagement                                tions Professionals
                        A Facebook group launched in 2012 for the
                        purposes of discussing issues involving PR          A comparison of research surveys conducted in
                        and Wikipedia. It’s a closed discussion, but        2012 and 2013 by Penn State Professor Marcia
                        requests to be added are usually honored. Often     DiStaso, creating a detailed picture of how the
                        abbreviated as “CREWE”.                             public relations industry views Wikipedia.

                        Statement on Wikipedia from participat-             Wikipedia Signpost
                        ing communications agencies               
                        participating_communications_firms                  A weekly “newspaper” about Wikipedia and the
                                                                            Wikimedia movement, by and for the Wikipedia
                        A statement of intention to follow Wikipedia’s      community.
                        rules joined by 35 (and counting)
                        communications agencies. The creation of this       Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia
                        primer is a project led by the organizers of this
                        primer, also called the Donovan House group.        editing_on_Wikipedia

                        Wikipedia and Public Relations                      Yes, Wikipedia has an article about people editing
                   Wikipedia articles to serve their own interests.

                        A best practices guide similar to this one,
                        created by the Chartered Institute of Public
                        Relations in association with Wikimedia UK.