The Market Value of Wikipedia
Wikipedia entries show up on the first page of search results for nearly every business or brand. It’s the one source of SEO you don’t have to hire someone to write (though some do). Given a choice between your Wikipedia page and your website, customers will often click on the peer-edited encyclopedia because it carries credibility.
Your website will have plenty of content… the usual product details, fact sheets, press releases, customer testimonials, company history, executive bios, etc., but people want to read what others say about you to validate your brand. That’s where a well-referenced and approved Wikipedia article can help. Wikipedia articles are as sought after as a spot in the New York Times.
But first, a few words of caution…
Playing By the Rules
Many PR firms are starting to offer Wikipedia placement and correction among their services. They’re walking a tightrope of Wikipedia guidelines, which strongly discourage contributors and editors from working on articles where they may have a conflict of interest. In fact, in their “best practice guidelines for PR,” (1) it’s pretty explicit: “PR professionals should not edit articles about their clients, their employer, related brands and issues, or competing organizations and associated brands.” This is called paid editing. (2)
Ever since Wikipedia appeared 8 years ago, corporations and governments have been called out for conflict of interest editing. It’s an embarrassment that’s hard to live down. Yet companies big and small do it all the time. Even a couple of Wikipedia’s own trustees and editors have been caught in the act of paid editing.
That said, Wikipedia makes a number of exceptions that allow PR pros to satisfy their clients. You are permitted to add or update the straight facts. If there’s an obvious error, like your founder’s name is wrong, you can correct it. If the financials listed are a decade old, you can update the data. If you’re embarrassed by misspellings and poor grammar, you’re welcome to fix it. Just be sure you keep a neutral tone and back it all up with solid references.
Getting Your Own Wikipedia Article (Or Working with What You’ve Got)
While some people wish they could erase their Wikipedia page, others are doing everything they can to get one. If you’re feeling left out, there are several steps you can take to land your own credible and respected article. These suggestions are all totally by the book, and were offered by Wikipedia’s own spokespersons. (1)
1. Focus on a traditional PR campaign
Before a Wikipedia article is ever going to be accepted, you’ll need plenty of articles in the press and blog mentions to use as references. The more the better; The Wikipedia community wants to see that you’re details are both valid and noteworthy.
2. Write a “stub”
A “stub” is a very short Wikipedia article. Think two sentences to a paragraph tops. The volunteer editors scouring Wikipedia will often seek out stubs and improve them. On the flip side, they’ll likely flag a lengthy article that appears all at once. Stubs help you remain neutral, and show others you want to play fair. Include links to third-party sites and your own so editors have material to work with.
3. Use the “talk pages”
While Wikipedia is supposed to be accurate and neutral, misinformation finds its way in more often than not. There is a dedicated talk page, or discussion page, for every article. This is where you can point out inaccuracies and raise concerns, prompting others to make corrections. Be completely transparent about your connections to the company to build trust with editors. And paste links to better articles, missing information, or supporting evidence, because they won’t just take your word for it.
If you’ve been using a talk page and no one is responding, be more direct. Writing “requested edit” in your post will signal editors to take a look at your talk page and get in on the discussion. Don’t be shy about describing the changes that you think are essential. As long as you disclose possible conflict of interest, and aren’t making the changes yourself, you’ve got nothing to hide.