I recently reported on a new initiative called Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE), a group of PR professionals trying to sort out a better arrangement with Wikipedia.
And I’ve been trying to figure out how to cover the group’s development.
The potential symbiotic relationship between PR professionals and Wikipedia is obvious.
PR is in the business of obtaining the very authoritative third-party sources Wikipedians are asking for more often than anything else. Most company articles are ranked as low priority, but for us they are high! These articles are mostly incomplete. We can fix that.
Some greater awareness and education on how we can improve the neutrality, completeness and quality of articles on Wikipedia is long overdue. That being said, I think the elephant in the room is being intentionally ignored.
PR pros are sucky Wikipedians.
I know from experience. I’ve made bad edits too, shameful ones even.
Like a good Silicon Valley innovator, I’ve owned up to my mistakes, learned from them, and became better for them. I invested the time to learn the Wiki language, collaborate better with others and follow the rules.
I feel there’s a great adversity to accepting a tough pill to swallow. That Jimmy Wales is right when he said:
“What I have found – and the evidence for this is pretty comprehensive – is that people who are acting as paid advocates [PR pros] do not make good editors.”
This is the single greatest source of friction between the PR and Wikipedia communities.
It’s not about who we are, but what we do.
To investigate the case, I investigated the edits made by IP addresses and usernames associated with the top ten PR agencies by revenue.
Wikipedia Content Removed by Top Ten PR Agencies
- “had the mission of creating anti-Serb sentiment in the West.”
- “Vitamin Supplement Sales Controversy” (5 paragraphs were removed here)
- “competes fiercely with CA and HP.”
- “is now under investigation by federal authorities for his role in the accounting fraud scandal at Peregrine Systems…”
- “has recently seen some high profile departures, notably two executives being groomed to be future agency heads…”
Content added to Wikipedia by Top Ten PR Agencies
- “developing creative, results-orientated campaigns for market-leading brands”
- “brings determination and zeal to its communications campaigns”
- “is a leading technology partner”
- “provides distribution and technology solutions to help its customers adapt, grow and succeed in the fast changing travel industry”
- “that offers IT solutions to”
- “No business traveller would be without their mobile phone or handheld device to stay connected whilst on the move… a range of mobile solutions for both the traveller and the travel manager, to provide them with benefits at all stages of the journey, as well as to deliver fast, clear communications when they matter most.For more information, go to: http://www.amadeus.com/corporations/x155838.xml”
- “has a well established internship program, regularly attracting outstanding students from accross the country. In particular, the room “The Ice Box” is noted for its 4 brilliant interns.”
Wikipedia Vandalism by PR Employees at Work
- One PR pro from a top ten PR agency called a reporter a “professional troll” on his entry
- “ANYONE CAN EDIT THIS PAGE” (posted four times)
- Jennifer Aniston filed for divorce in 2005 citing “her infatuation with Kevin King.”
- Seren loves Jono LIKE RABBITS!” (posted three times)
- “Elif is horny” (posted four times)
- “When Derya gets wasted, she thinks she is a fish.” (posted twice)
- “Unfortunately at that point a large part of the populace was slaughtered, raped, or enslaved”
A volunteer editor on Wikipedia told me:
What I can’t accept though, is a paid “professional” who wants to work in a certain subspecialty, but is unable or unwilling to make the effort to learn ahead of time how to do the job right.
That’s the trick.
We need to do the job right.
Image source: Shutterstock.com Pencil erasing