3 Tips for PR Pros to Stay On Wikipedia’s Good Side

There has never been any love lost between Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales and the PR community.

Wales is less than pleased with PR pros posting on Wikipedia on behalf of their clients or their own brands. Wales believes this is a conflict of interest, period. Now the issue has reared its ugly head,  as a spokesperson from BP reportedly rewrote 44% of the oil company's Wikipedia page, including environmental sections.

As a result, Wikipedia says its considering a policy change on whether PR pros can post content on the website altogether. Meantime, BP is questioning what all the fuss is about. The spokesperson, Arturo Silva, was transparent in revealing that he is a BP employee and did not directly edit the article.

In any case, until Wales bans PR pros completely from contributing to the website, here are some Wikipedia posting guidelines from Marcus Messner, assistant professor of mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University. Follow these guidelines to ensure that you're in the clear with Wikipedia's eagle-eyed editors.

  1. Monitor first: As PR pros focus on Facebook and Twitter, Wikipedia tends to get short shrift. Double-check sources and vigilant in making sure the content you post is airtight.

  2. Be a minimalist editor: Avoid editing large amounts of content. Arguments can be made around your facts, so keep your posts short and back them up.

  3. Be transparent: Pretending to be someone else on Wikipedia can only cause headaches and is likely to get you in hot water.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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