Given that Wikipedia is the first place many of us go to learn quick facts about companies, celebrities or obscure engineering terminology, it makes sense that many of our clients want to know how they can ensure that information about them is updated, complete and accurate.
But not everyone has good intentions.
Companies or agencies acting on their behalf are discouraged from creating or editing articles about themselves or clients. This constitutes a conflict of interest. In the experience of Wikpedia editors, if the page is about your company, you will try to manipulate facts, embellish or spin them.
So what is one to do?
Here are some tips and a very strong word of caution:
To create/edit an article on Wikipedia, you must create a username/account on the site; however, the challenge is that Wikipedia has a very strict username policy. Usernames that are doubtful, offensive, any that imply that more than one person is using that account, or that are promotional (associated with a company email address) are watched closely by the site editors. If you try to make edits to the company page using what would be deemed a “suspicious” username, those edits will be flagged by a Wikipedia editor and reported as inappropriate. More on Wikipedia’s username policies can be found here.
Another challenge is that in order for Wikipedia to be more likely to approve your edits, your username must be active for at least four days and you must have at least 10 approved edits in your Wikipedia account history.
Strictly technically speaking, you could create a Wikipedia account with a username associated with a personal email address and become a contributor by creating and editing articles around the encyclopedia.
THE WORD OF CAUTION: Should you choose to create or edit an article associated with your agency or client, and your entries are not 100 percent factual or objective, you run the risk of the edits becoming the story and getting caught up in Wikipedia drama.
It’s OK not to control every outpost and even every part of the message. Try not to focus on Wikipedia entries. Focus on issuing informative press releases, blog posts and on updating your online newsroom on a regular basis. Focus on maintaining a solid influencer relations program so that reporters, bloggers and analysts may become your partners in keeping key audiences informed about the latest and greatest from your company. Focus on sharing news and other updates with your employees and empower them to become evangelizers and extend the reach of your message. Share relevant content and engage social media audiences to inspire them to become storytellers as well.
Do all of these things and the Wikipedia articles will edit themselves.