Have you noticed an error in your client’s or company’s Wikipedia entry?
Don’t dive in there and correct it yourself, according to new guidelines from the U.K.-based Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
“Public relations professionals should not directly edit Wikipedia under any circumstances where they have a conflict of interest and should instead suggest amendments for consideration by Wikipedia’s editors,” the CIPR said in a press release.
The recommendations come after several high-profile instances of PR firms or departments caught manipulating Wikipedia entries, most notably Bell Pottinger in the U.K
“The main theme of the guidance is quite simple,” Jane Wilson, chief executive officer of the CIPR, said in a press release. “Where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it.
“Such an activity would be unethical and lacking in transparency and therefore potentially against CIPR's own guidance on digital communication and social media.”
[READ: Wikipedia: 4 rules of engagement for PR professionals]
Professional organizations from Europe, Canada, and Australia weighed in on the recommendations. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was noticeably absent from the list. Gerard Corbett, PRSA’s current chair and CEO, said the organization sat this one out because of “grey areas and contradictory language.”
“PRSA was given a chance to review and comment on the guidelines prior
to their release, and we appreciated the courtesy and opportunity to
contribute,” Corbett said in an email to PR Daily
. “Ultimately, PRSA felt there were some grey areas and contradictory language that could be addressed, and we look forward to seeing those and other issues resolved in subsequent versions.”
Corbett added that he sees the CIPR’s guidelines as a start to helping PR professionals “understand the complexities of Wikipedia's policies and procedures and the proper ways to manage edits and to engage the Wikipedia community.”