Business

Thursday 21 September 2017

PR firms warned about dangers of editing Wikipedia pages

DON'T edit Wikipedia pages. That's the message from the UK's Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to its member firms.

There has been a glut of pages on the online encyclopaedia that have been allegedly edited by PR firms, apparently in order to portray their clients in a favourable light.

Last December, in one of the highest profile cases, the website suspended at least 10 accounts linked to the PR giant Bell Pottinger, prompting Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to accuse the firm of "embarrassing" their clients.

Now the CIPR has published a guide for its members and Wikipedia, advising them to never amend pages relating to their firm or clients, but rather to suggest amend-ments which will then be accepted or rejected by the editors on the site.

Institute chief executive Jane Wilson said the guidance was intended to help public relations practitioners "reach a better understanding of how to properly engage with one of the most visited sources of information on the internet.

This clearly lays out the process through which PR people can positively contribute to the encyclopaedia.

"The main theme of the guidance is quite simple -- where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it."

Those comments were echoed by Danny Whatmough of the British Public Relations Consultants Association, who described the measures as "an important step forward in improving the relationship between the PR industry and Wikipedia".

"We would encourage PR professionals, and PRCA members in particular, to review the guidelines and get involved in the discussion. This collaborative process will ensure PR agencies have clear guidance when using Wikipedia and will also help them to develop better relationships with members of the Wikimedia community," he added.

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