Can Public Relations Professionals Do Right By Their Clients AND Wikipedia?

wikipedia-event-logosDiscussion Overview

In the decade since Wikipedia rose to become one of the most influential websites in the world, the site’s volunteer community and corporate communications/public relations professionals have eyed each other warily. Wikipedians believe PR pros misunderstand their project, and PR pros think Wikipedians don't always get the facts right. Both have a point. And for Wikipedia is to be as accurate, as objective, and as comprehensive as it can be, these two communities need to work things out.

In February, a number of representatives from several leading communications firms together came together in Washington DC conference room with individuals from Wikipedia’s volunteer community and academics who study the topic to talk candidly about the strained relationship. These agencies—who, combined, manage well more than a billion dollars in annual fees—have adopted a statement, published today, which emphasizes their respect for the goals of Wikipedia and outlines a community-friendly approach to Wikipedia engagement they seek to make an industry standard.

In this webinar, hear from several participants who helped craft today’s statement, as they discuss why the tensions exist between the Wikipedia community and communications professionals, what they hope to accomplish with this statement, and how the rest of the communications industry can work together to improve the relationship our industry has with the Wikipedia project. Most importantly, they seek to encourage a strong awareness of, and commitment to, an ethical engagement with Wikipedia on our companies’/clients’ behalf.


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William-Beutler-Headshot-LogoWilliam Beutler


Beutler Ink

William Beutler is the president of Beutler Ink, a content marketing firm based in Washington, DC. He has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2006, and has advised companies on best practices for Wikipedia engagement since 2008. In February 2014, he organized a roundtable discussion focused on the challenges of "paid editing" on Wikipedia, attended by volunteer Wikipedians and representatives of several of the top global PR firms.



Sam-Ford-Headshot-LogoSam Ford

Director of Audience Engagement


Sam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement of strategic communications & marketing firm Peppercomm. He is co-author of the 2013 NYU Press book Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture and a research affiliate with MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and Western Kentucky University’s Popular Culture Studies Program. Sam is also co-chair of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Ethics Committee. Sam is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc.





Phil-Gomes-Headshot-LogoPhil Gomes

Senior Vice President

Edelman Digital

Phil Gomes is a senior vice present with Edelman Digital, serving as a senior counsel to the firm at large. He is a co-founder of the Facebook group “Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement” (CREWE) and frequently gives talks about the intersection of PR and online culture.




About the Statement on Wikipedia from Participating Communications Firms


PR’s Answer to the Camp David Accord

SteveCody224x188By Steve Cody, Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Peppercomm, Inc.

Our industry has frequently found itself embroiled in a battle with the volunteer editors of Wikipedia. At this point, the tension is akin to that of two rival nation-states. And, in this case, we, the people of PR, are guilty of causing the conflagration.

That’s because, in an ironic twist of fate considering the countless missives about the need for greater transparency from the likes of the Arthur W. Page Society, PR Week, and others, too many practitioners in our field have been gaming the Wikipedia site from day one.

To be more precise, some PR firms overtly sell their ability to create and fix Wikipedia pages for their clients and violate the very spirit and purpose of the Wikipedia project.

Click here to read the entire post on RepMan.


Can Wikipedia and PR Just Get Along? Here’s a Possible New Way Forward

William-Beutler-Headshot-150-150By William Beutler, Publisher, The Wikipedian

I think there is a good chance that today will prove to be a significant one—a dangerous thing to hope for, perhaps—but I’m optimistic that it will be, and for good reasons. I’ll explain. As a number of folks in my Wikipedia orbit have been aware for some time, in February of this year I organized a roundtable discussion, held in a conference room at the Donovan House hotel in Washington, DC, comprising: a) representatives of digital practices at some of the world’s largest PR and marketing firms, b) individual members of the Wikipedia community, and c) academics who follow Wikipedia closely. The conversation was intended to build on the dialogue begun in early 2012 via the Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE) Facebook group. Indeed, several participants in our conversation have been longtime contributors to that one.

Click here to read the entire post on The Wikipedian.

Multi-Agency Wikipedia Statement

PR Leaders Today Affirm a Commitment to Abide by and Evangelize Wikipedia Community Norms

Phil-Gomes-Headshot-150-150By Phil Gomes, Senior Vice President, Edelman Digital

Last February, William Beutler, principal of Beutler Ink and publisher of The Wikipedian, convened a meeting of digital leaders from multiple agencies, as well as notable Wikipedia volunteers. The topic: PR’s oft-contentious, well-publicized relationship with Wikipedia.

Today, Edelman joins other agencies — including Ogilvy & MatherBurson-MarstellerFleishmanHillardKetchumPNConnectPeppercomm and Allison + Partners— in affirming a commitment to abide by Wikipedia principles and ensuring that employees and clients do the same.

For me personally, this has been a topic of consuming interest. In short, I believe that public relations people who engage in ethical practice have a lot to contribute to the great public resource that is Wikipedia.

Click here to read the entire post on Global Practices.