Study: Most Wikipedia articles about brands have factual errors

And Wikipedia is slow to respond to PR and communications professionals who request changes, according to the study’s author.

Are you responsible for monitoring your company or client’s Wikipedia page?

If so, we’ve got some bad news.

A new study published by PR Journal found that 60 percent of organizations with Wikipedia articles contain factual errors. Making matters worse, Wikipedia is slow to respond when a request for a change is made, according to the study.

PR people, the study noted, want the ability to make corrections to these articles in a timelier manner. Currently, when they request corrections through Wikipedia’s “talk pages,” responses can take days or weeks.

“Fully 24 percent of those who used the talk pages to try to correct errors never got a response at all,” explained Marcia W. DiStaso, assistant professor of public relations in the College of Communications at Penn State University.

DiStaso’s study, “Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?” drew upon 1,284 responses from PR and communications professionals at corporations, PR agencies, non-profits, government and educational institutions.

More than half of the respondents believe Wikipedia should change its policies to allow them more direct input in editing articles about the organizations for which they work.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has what he calls the “bright line” rule, prohibiting public relations professionals from directly editing articles about their companies or clients.

Only 35 percent of respondents engaged with Wikipedia, according to the study. Many respondents who left comments said they feared media backlash, because Wales has implicated PR people who have edited articles for their clients or company.

DiStaso said:

“[Wales] bright line rule essentially allows anyone else to make edits to Wikipedia articles except the most knowledgeable people. This gives preference to competitors, activists and jokesters with the result potentially impacting public opinion.”

The study also found that among respondents familiar with Wikipedia’s editing guidelines, 23 percent indicated that making changes was “near impossible,” while 29 percent said their interactions with the volunteers who monitor “talk pages” were never productive.

The PR Journal is the scholarly publication from the Public Relations Society of America. DiStaso is co-chair of PRSA’s National Research Committee.

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