Wikipedia: 4 rules of engagement for PR professionals

The editors at Wikipedia may have a love/hate relationship with public relations, but PR pros can play a valuable role on the site if they follow these guidelines.

As PRSA chair and CEO Rosanna Fiske said recently, Wikipedia editors have a love/hate relationship with public relations—and for good reason. A select few corporations and PR firms have been crossing ethical boundaries for years to edit the world’s seventh-most-popular website.

Public relations professionals can play a valuable role on the site by creating insightful and informative content, as well as making sure existing content is accurate and relevant. The only way to do so, however, is by adhering to Wikipedia guidelines.

1. Establish notability.

For an article to be included in Wikipedia, it must be notable—that is, you should be able to verify the content with multiple independent sources. That means news articles in major outlets, not blog posts and press releases. If you want to create an article, but you’re worried about whether it’s notable, secure the proper news coverage first.

2. Be transparent.

Every Wikipedia article has an accompanying talk page that you can access by clicking the “Discussion” tab directly above the article title. If you have a conflict of interest (for example, you work for the company or you are paid to represent it), declare it here. Ask other editors to verify that your copy does not show bias either in favor of or against the article’s subject.

3. Avoid jargon.

Wikipedia has an extremely diverse audience. From journalists to investors to prospective clients, your target audience is using Wikipedia, and for different reasons.

There are times when an article might require a higher degree of specificity that employs industry terminology, but try to leave out overly complicated corporate speak. It’s not a provider of affordable and transportable dining options; it’s a fast-food restaurant chain.

4. Ask for help.

On Wikipedia, it’s more than OK to ask for assistance—it’s good policy. If you have a draft of an article you’d like someone to review, you can post your request here. Wikipedia is a collaborative project, and working with experienced editors to perfect content tone and formatting is the best way to make substantive changes.

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