10 Tips for Managing a Brand’s Wikipedia Page

Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D.

Wikipedia has arguably become a staple in society. It is the sixth most popular website in in the world following Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo! and Baidu.com. Research has also found that Wikipedia articles for companies typically load in the top five search results. This means that people do not have to go searching for your Wikipedia article, but instead have to decide between your website and Wikipedia.

Long gone are the days where you can ignore Wikipedia page. Not only does the public use it, but so do journalists. The current Reuters Handbook of Journalism encourages journalists to use Wikipedia as a “good starting point,” and research has found that 61% of journalists claim to use it.

The problem that PR pros face is that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has what he calls a “Bright Line Rule.” The rule indicates that PR pros cannot directly edit the Wikipedia pages for their company or clients. In Wales' view, public relations professionals have a conflict of interest that prohibits their ability to remain neutral in editing. Instead of direct editing, public relations professionals are to make requests for edits through the article “Talk” pages. While the appropriateness of the policy is open to debate, it must be followed. Direct editing in Wikipedia can put your reputation at risk.

In a survey I conducted last year with 1,284 public relations and communications professionals I found that among those with an article, 25% of respondetns indicated that they were not familiar with its content; 60% of the respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s Wikipedia article indicated that the article contained a factual error and 24% of respondents who used the Talk pages never got a response.

However, this does not mean you should ignore Wikipedia. If there is content that you believe needs to be changed, the best course of action is to follow the rules. Here's 10 best pracitces for managing your brand's Wikipedia page: 

  1. Be familiar with the content in your Wikipedia article. Because content can change all the time, checking back frequently is important. Consider making it part of your standard social media monitoring. Any logged-in user can keep a watch list and receive notifications of changes to the pages you are watching. See Help: Watching pages for directions and details.

  2. Track your popularity to keep an eye on changes. This can be found by clicking on the “View History” tab on the top right corner of the article page to bring up the revision history for your article. Click on “Page view statistics,” on the right in the top content area, to see a chart of the total number of views for the article during the last 30 days.

  3. Monitor contributors to familiarize yourself with who is creating public opinion about your company. While anyone can edit Wikipedia, most articles have a small number of frequent editors. Often this includes past employees and community members. While you can’t typically see their real name, since Wikipedian’s don’t use real names, you can get a feel for what aspects of your company that people are focusing on. To do this, click on the “View History” tab on the top right of the article page to get the revision history for that article. Then, click on “Contributors” in the middle of the top content area to see the full list.

  4. Be Transparent. Create a Wikipedia ID that clearly identifies who you are and your affiliation. Use your name, not your company’s name, and identify your affiliation and any conflicts of interest on your user page.

  5. Request changes when necessary. If there is a factual error on your article, you can use the Talk page to identify what needs to be changed. If you do not get a response within 48 hours, the next step is to go back to the Talk page and post an indented reply: {{request edit}}. Then, after another 48 hours of waiting, if you still do not have a response, post your issue to the COI noticeboard. Unfortunately, if you still have not received a response, you can continue to wait or contact one of the more frequent editors of your article and ask for assistance. If this does not work, your last option is to leave your request on Jimmy Wales’ page.

  6. Use objective, credible published sources to support all change requests. Keep in mind that while your online and published content may clearly identify the correct information, company sources are not preferred. Instead, support your change requests with reliable third-party sources such as academic peer-reviewed publications and “well established” news sources.

  7. Use the CREWE Wikipedia Engagement FlowchartThis will help you navigate making factual or emphasis changes.

  8. To create a new Wikipedia article, be sure the topic is “notable” as determined by Wikipedians. For an organization to be notable, it has to have significant coverage in reliable, independent secondary sources. The best way to handle it is to write the full article making sure to use third party sources, host it on your own site, license it under Creative Commons and link to it on the Wikipedia: Articles for creation page.

  9. Build a relationship with Wikipedians. It has been suggested that a good way to demonstrate that you understand how Wikipedia works is to make at least 10 edits to Wikipedia articles that you do not have a conflict of interest. You can also request a mentor on the Wikipedia: WikiProject Cooperation page.

  10. Don't buy into paid editing firms. Hiring an agency that will edit Wikipedia for you does not follow the ‘Bright Line Rules’ unless it uses the “Talk” pages instead of direct editing.

Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of public relations at Pennsylvania State University. Her consulting and research focuses on social media and financial communications. She has conducted research on Wikipedia since 2006.

  • http://andvertising.com/ David Wojdyla

    Thank you, Dr. Marcia DiStaso, for sharing these concise tips—and for giving me the courage—to harness the power of Wikipedia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thekohser Gregory Kohs

    Rule #10 is simply not good advice.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sterling-Ericsson/100001609443027 Sterling Ericsson

      Because you want people to pay you money, even though you are banned from Wikipedia?

      • http://www.facebook.com/thekohser Gregory Kohs

        No, Sterling. It’s because I recognize the exigencies of businesses that are beset by problematic content that has been placed in an antagonistic way on Wikipedia. I have found through experience on Wikipedia (considerably longer than you, I might add) that the “Bright Line Rule” is a farce. It was set up to legislate the cudgeling of corporate participants on Wikipedia, while pseudonymous foes run wild over their content. Hiring a paid editor who works within the legitimate rules of Wikipedia (that is, NPOV, RS, and NOTE, but *not* Bright Line) is an extremely effective and efficient way for a business to proceed. My “want” of money from editing Wikipedia is hardly my biggest motivation, as it constitutes less than 1% of my annual income.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sterling-Ericsson/100001609443027 Sterling Ericsson

        You’re coming back to this discussion quite a bit after the fact.

        The “Bright Line” isn’t a policy or rule, so people don’t necessarily have to follow it. However, clear explanations on talk pages for all edits made would be a good idea to allow openness to one’s editing.

        However, there are plenty of COI editors or paid editors on Wikipedia that follow the “Bright Line” and do just fine. That’s why the Paid Editing Noticeboard was created, after all. And, in most cases, it avoids the conflicts that one has the possibility of facing by directly editing an article.

        But that doesn’t change the fact that most “paid editing firms” should not be dealt with. They too often try to work behind the scenes and to surreptitiously add content, often non-neutral content to articles. And once their editing is revealed, it will hurt both the firm and those that it is editing for.

      • http://www.facebook.com/thekohser Gregory Kohs

        “They too often try to work behind the scenes and to surreptitiously add content, often non-neutral content to articles.” That has rarely been my experience. Most of my clients, and those of other paid editors I’ve worked with, are seeking to add legitimate, factual, neutral content to articles. Those who have disclosed their efforts are typically regretful of having done that, because (as I’ve already said) too many Wikipedians delight in using that as a cudgel to antagonize the corporate editor. I guess we can just happily agree to disagree, because I know that my efforts provide Wikipedia with what it wants — good, neutral content — with very little anguish for the client, and really very little risk of reputational damage if my editing is “revealed’. In fact, over the past three years, I’ve created 26 new articles for paying clients. Only 3 have been deleted or significantly reverted — and all three of those clients have communicated with me that no significant “harm” came from our good attempts. Conversely, I know of one case where you yourself sabotaged an article that you felt was a paid editing culprit, and you added highly biased, politically-charged content back into the article, which didn’t do any Wikipedia reader a net benefit. So, there’s a bit of irony seeing you handing out advice to clients of paid editing firms, when you’re exactly the sort of problematic, agenda-driven editor that causes them concern.

      • Sterling Ericsson

        It should be pointed out that just because the articles you’ve made (against Wikipedia’s rules, as you are banned from the site) haven’t been deleted or reverted doesn’t mean at all that they are proper neutral content.

        As for the article you are referring to, you must mean Aburizal Bakrie. And considering that there were a number of new accounts and IP addresses trying to remove any negative factual information from the article because of the upcoming election for the subject, it is funny that you are calling the information biased. You do realize that the criticisms on his election for his party and for the natural disaster in 2006 were highly connected to him in the news for years, even before the election for the latter.

        There is nothing biased about it when the subject received international criticism for his connection to the event. The fact that any evidence of the event was attempted to be removed from his article is rather telling.

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  • Paid Editing

    Ethical paid editing isn’t banned on Wikipedia!