SIX out of 10 entries about businesses on internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia contain factual errors, reveals a new study.
Often used when people are trying to figure out what that guy in the film they are watching has been in before, a new study reveals the majority of Wikipedia articles about companies are inaccurate.
Although anyone with an account can enter an article on Wikipedia, businesses tend to use public relations professionals for their entries, but researchers found 25pc of firms do not check the articles.
And those who wanted to change the entries found it difficult to do so, with two-thirds (65pc) unable to engage with Wikipedia through their 'Talk' pages to request factual corrections.
Researchers surveyed 1,284 PR professionals from PRSA, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, the Institute for Public Relations and the National Investor Relations Institute to assess their working relationship with Wikipedia.
Results indicated a gap exists between the PR experts and Wikipedia concerning the proper protocol for editing articles.
When participants used the Talk pages to request corrections, 40pc said it took days to receive a response, 12pc said weeks, while 24pc did not receive any type of response, despite Wikipedia stating their standard response time is between two and five days.
The 35pc who were able to engage with Wikipedia through the talk pages, or with direct editing of the article, said the figure is low because some fear media backlash over making edits to a clients' entries, while others were unsure how to properly edit the entries.
Of those who were familiar with the editing process, 23pc said making changes was near impossible, while 29pc said their interactions with Wikipedia editors were never productive.
Professor Marcia W DiStaso, of Penn State University, US, is now hoping her results will help PR professionals and Wikipedia editors work together to fix errors in their clients' entries.
Using targets available from the Institute for Public Relations, she hopes Wikipedia rules, policies and guidelines will be clarified so PR professionals know what they should and should not do.
Companies and PR experts should regularly review their employers' entries and check for mistakes, bringing any errors to the attention of Wikipedia editors through the Talk page, and keeping regular contact with them.
She also stresses if errors are found or content needs to be added or changed, they should use the Wikipedia Engagement Flowchart on Wikipedia Commons for guidance.
Writing for the Public Relations Journal, Professor DiStaso said: "It does not surprise me that so many Wikipedia entries contain factual errors.
"What is surprising, however, is that 25pc of survey respondents indicated they are not familiar with the Wikipedia articles for their company or clients.
"At some point most, if not all, companies will determine they need to change something in their Wikipedia entries. Without clear, consistent rules from Wikipedia regarding how factual corrections can be made this will be a very difficult learning process for public relations professionals.
"The editing of Wikipedia by public relations and corporate communications professionals is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed by everyone.
"The status quo can't continue. A high amount of factual errors doesn't work for anyone, especially the public, which relies on Wikipedia for accurate, balanced information."