CIPR and Wikimedia UK respond to reports of RLM Finsbury editing Wikipedia pages for Alisher Usmanov
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Wikimedia UK have today responded to reports in The Times that public relations company RLM Finsbury edited Alisher Usmanov's Wikipedia entry.
In June 2012 the CIPR, working with Wikimedia UK, produced clear and detailed guidance for the public relations profession on Wikipedia, which includes a number of recommendations, the most integral of these recommendations being that public relations professionals should not directly edit Wikipedia pages relating to their organisation or brand but should instead suggest amendments to the community of regular Wikipedia editors.
Wikipedia’s rules on conflict of interest editing are clear. Public relations professionals should not directly edit Wikipedia for a client or employer, and should instead suggest amendments for consideration by Wikipedia’s community of editors – a point which today has been clarified by Jimmy Wales, and also recognized by the team at Finsbury. Importantly, this isn’t a special rule, only applicable to those who work in public relations. This applies because they, like any other employee or consultant, would have a conflict of interest. The same Wikipedia rules would apply if you worked in finance, strategy or HR for an organisation. The difference is that reputation is our business.
I’d urge those who haven’t read our latest guidance on how PR professionals can work with Wikipedia, to do so today. The majority of public relations professionals work with transparency and openness as guiding principles and, as when working with any other community, the profession should respect, and not disregard, their rules and values. In this case, it’s quite simply Wikipedia’s ball and so it’s their rules. However, I recognise that the process can be a frustrating one for any organisation with inaccurate information on the site. Wikipedia are working on the speed and ease with which simple factual inaccuracies can be amended without compromising the strong stance on conflict, and I look forward to the CIPR working with the community closer on this.
It is vital that anyone working in PR understands how Wikipedia works and we have clear evidence once again that there are people that don't. The CIPR has shown leadership in this area by working with Wikimedia UK this year to develop clear guidelines for the PR industry. This is about ethics but it is also about having the right skill set to do your job.
Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and as such its articles should be written with a neutral point of view. To maintain this we ask that anyone with a conflict of interest, such as PR professionals, follows the guidelines we created with the CIPR. When PR professionals engage with the volunteer community via talk pages, we almost always see good results. If you need to seek an urgent correction, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance - there is a volunteer team on hand 24/7 to help.