Don’t use Wikipedia to repair your client’s online reputation

Want to fight unfavorable news about your client’s business, news that makes Google’s first page of search results, by writing a fresh Wikipedia article about that client? Think again. . .

You’re searching your client’s business name in Google. Your jaw drops. There, sitting at #3, is a bad news story about her business in a major publication. This is embarrassing. This will ruin her online reputation.

Who you gonna call?

Wikipedia!

Actually, no.

Yes, Wikipedia seems like the obvious place to turn, and I will explain why. But a new book by Wikipedia expert Mike Wood, Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool: How to reap the marketing benefits of Wikipedia, makes a compelling case not to go near Wikipedia when your client’s reputation is on the line.

You can’t remove bad news from Google unless you can get its publisher to remove the news from its site. That won’t happen in 99.9 percent of cases. Your only option is to create content to outrank the bad news.

I have buried bad news for a couple clients. I have turned others away, either because I did not think their reputations should be repaired or because I felt it would defy even their fat wallets. The hefty challenge is to create the right pages:

  1. Pages about your client, with her business name in the title tag and at least the main heading.

  2. Pages on websites with at least as much authority as the bad news site.

  3. Enough of such pages to push the bad news off Google’s top-ten first page.

There are very few sites that fit these criteria. Most pages like that are social profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Since Wikipedia pages outrank other pages on almost every topic, reputation rescuers immediately think of creating a Wikipedia page.

On the surface, it makes good sense. But you have to invest the money it takes to create a quality page that fits into the Wikipedia fabric. Any honest publicist will read clients a list of caveats. Mike Wood repeats these in his book:

  1. It’s a lot of work to get a new page on Wikipedia.

  2. If your client’s business isn’t already on Wikipedia, chances are that the business isn’t “notable” enough. Its entry will likely be deleted.

  3. PR folks have a hard time writing the neutral tone needed for Wikipedia.

The caveat even honest PR reps are unlikely to mention is one that “Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool” emphasizes: The whole world can edit the page, including editors and competitors. They are certain to add to the page all the bad news you were trying to bury:

“Adding the content will not only bring it back high in search results, but as Wikipedia will be one of the first hits in Google, all of the negative information will be there shining bright for potential customers. You will erase any reputation management work that you’ve done and shoot yourself in the foot.” FREE DOWNLOAD: How do you communicate with employees who are on their feet all day?

Wood recommends managing your client’s reputation if she already has a Wikipedia page. Adding negative content before her competitor does is the best way to mitigate damage:

“…you will have a better chance of managing the negative content by writing it from a neutral point of view. Letting someone else write negative content about you can kill your company, but writing negative content about yourself (as long as you keep it neutral and unbiased) can actually provide factual information to those who view the page as opposed to opinions from a disgruntled user.”

A Wikipedia page can really boost one’s reputation. It gives persons credibility and brings them business. But as a reputation management tool, I agree with Mike Wood. It’s like adopting a velociraptor for a pet. It’s powerful, but…

David Leonhardt runs THGM Writing Services. His team writes books and blogs, press releases and articles, speeches and screenplays. (Image via)

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