“The cultivated person’s first duty is to be always prepared to rewrite the encyclopedia.”
― Umberto Eco, Serendipities: Language and Lunacy
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia began with its first posts in January 2001. Since then, the sometimes maligned site has been used by people to find out histories of and information about a dizzying number of topics, people, places and organizations. Though the fact that everyday people can edit a Wikipedia page — even with sourcing information — makes it a questionable source for anyone doing legitimate research, the fact that it can be edited by everyday people is also not lost on public relations (PR) professionals and the entities they serve. The process requires that someone not affiliated with the organization create the page in order to avoid obvious conflicts of interest. However, there are best practices in influencing what is published on a page, and this makes it a potentially valuable PR tool.
Things to Know
Before delving into the best practices of writing a Wikipedia page for your company, there are a few things to know. For starters, this article by Inc., “8 Things You Need to Know About Wikipedi,” points out that the site is one in which anyone can make edits. This means that, although Wikipedia has a community of volunteer editors, a company needs to consistently monitor their page once it has been written. This leads to another point regarding the not-so-straightforward process of addressing inaccuracies. Because the site is edited by a decentralized group of volunteers, it is a difficult process to appeal for changes to a page. This is due to the fact that, unlike a journal, magazine, or newspaper, there is no head editor to appeal to. Lastly, Inc.’s article makes it a point to say that it is not at all necessary to have a Wikipedia page, as it “ultimately has no effect on business momentum.” However, there are benefits to having a company page: the most prominent being the fact that Wikipedia is often the top search result in engines and information from pages are often the first thing a person sees during a search. With all of this said, there are some key things to keep in mind when making a company page.
Not Just a Place to Self-promote
Firstly, it needs to be understood that a company Wikipedia page is not meant to be an avenue of self-promotion. As this, “4 Best Practices for Writing Great Content for a Wikipedia Page,” from The Mather Group, eloquently explains, a great Wikipedia page is “comprehensive, well-researched, neutral, and well-organized.” In essence, a great page contains all major facts or details, makes claims that are backed by verifiable sources (not a series of links redirecting readers to your company page), remains neutral in tone, and is divided by lead and section headings. The same article closes by saying that, as long as these rules are abided by, your content will have staying power. One last thing that is paramount in keeping a page is that a company must disclose conflicts of interest. This means that if you are closely associated with the content of the Wikipedia page, that information must be disclosed, and you are not allowed to make edits yourself. More information on this can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Best_practices_for_editors_with_close_associations. The issue of editing your page once it’s been written still remains. Nonetheless, there is a process that one can go through to make changes.
To make edits to your company’s page, this article, “Wikipedia: Best Practices to Change Your Company’s Page,” from CASACOM provides great information. To briefly sum up what it says, using the “Talk” section of your page is “the only way for a business to edit its own page in accordance with the site’s guidelines.” It further explains that using reliable sources, constantly reviewing and monitoring your page, and using the “Request for comment” and “Third Option” resources when you disagree with an editor are the most effective ways to maintain a well-edited and accurate page.
Well after its founding in 2001, Wikipedia continues to be a source of easy-to-digest information on a variety of topics. While it is not necessary to run a thriving business, having a page for your company can be beneficial, as the site is well-attuned to Google’s search algorithm. If you intend to make a page, the keys to remember are to disclose conflicts of interest and follow guidelines, be comprehensive yet brief, back your claims with neutral and reliable sources, and stay active in monitoring your content.
Donna St. Jean Conti is president of St. Conti Communications, an award-winning, full-service, marketing communications agency specializing in public relations, social media, and writing support. For more information about our agency and how we can help you promote your products or services, contact Donna St. Jean Conti, APR, at dconti(at)stconticommunications.com