IABC raises more awareness of PR and Wikipedia

wikipedialensYesterday, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) published its latest edition of CW Bulletin, the monthly online supplement to CW, the association’s printed monthly magazine for members.

Each edition of CW Bulletin presents articles, case studies and additional resources on timely topics in communication.

The September edition is no different, with its focus on the issue of Wikipedia and public relations:

[…] the complexity of connecting with this online collaborative community poses challenges. The debate about whether, and to what extent, PR professionals should edit their organization’s or client’s Wikipedia entries brings up ethical questions about transparency and conflict of interest. This issue of CW Bulletin looks at the situation from a variety of viewpoints: examining ethical concerns, offering guidance on how to effectively engage with the Wikipedia community, and looking at how to overcome the chasm between the PR profession and the Wikipedia community.

Almost all of this edition covers this topic. I’ve written the anchor piece and there are op-eds from Phil Gomes, founder of the CREWE community on Facebook and David Gerard, a volunteer Wikipedia editor, and many others.

The full content line-up is this:

  • Bold Steps in Connecting PR and Wikipedia by Neville Hobson, ABC: While Wikipedia is described as something anyone can edit, the reality of doing that is a challenge for many communicators. Two initiatives this year are addressing that challenge.
  • A Lesson in PR Ethics and Wikipedia by Mark Estes, ABC: Shouldn’t conflict of interest and other ethical considerations prevent PR pros from writing about clients and client companies for a venue such as Wikipedia? And other burning questions.
  • Ethical Wikipedia Strategies for Brands by David King: Examining a safe and ethical way to make improvements to content that is valuable both for the organization and Wikipedia.
  • To Edit or Not to Edit: PR firms and Wikipedia by Austin Buckley: Some best practices for Wikipedia use, as well as some general guidelines for working with the site’s editors to ensure your clients’ pages are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
  • How Corporate Representatives Can Work Better with Wikipedia by David Gerard: Those who put in the effort to participate and engage with the Wikipedia community properly will find editors who are willing to spend their time helping them.
  • Public Relations and Wikipedia: The unnecessary impasse by Phil Gomes: Fostering an environment in which a group with access and motivation to pursue accuracy is actively discouraged from participating is not only a flawed strategy in the long term, but ultimately quite contrary to the public interests that Wikipedia professes to serve.

While CW Bulletin is aimed at IABC’s worldwide membership – over 14,000 communication professionals in 90 countries – it’s openly accessible on the IABC website for anyone to read.

.In June, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) published the first version of Wikipedia Best Practice Guidance for Public Relations Professionals, a document that sets out a formal picture on how the CIPR believes public relations practitioners should behave when it comes to content on Wikipedia.

At publication, the CIPR’s initiative was supported by the Canadian Public Relations Society, the Public Relations Consultants Association in the UK, and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

Last month, IABC publicly stated its support for the CIPR’s work in announcing the formation of a volunteer taskforce, chaired by Shel Holtz (my podcasting partner), with this objective:

[…] The task force, chaired by Shel Holtz, ABC, IABC Fellow will investigate the growing concern related to news reports of inappropriate editing of Wikipedia entries by individuals and public relations firms. The task force will support efforts to educate and share information through articles and professional development to shed light on this multi-layered topic.

I’m a member of this taskforce (and, for the sake of clarity in this post, a long-time and active IABC member).

Providing information to communication practitioners to help them become aware of all the issues surrounding this broad topic is essential. One controversial issue raised by the CIPR – that practitioners should not directly edit content in Wikipedia that is about their clients, their employer, related brands and issues, or competing organizations and associated brands when there is a conflict of interest – deserves considered, 360-degree debate.

What’s your opinion? If you’re an IABC member, log in to Memberspeak on the IABC website and join the conversation. Or in any other place where you want your voice heard.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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