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How marketers and PR professionals can contribute to Wikipedia

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 - 7:24pm IST | Agency: DNA

This is the first of a three-part series by Manan Shah, a Wikipedian from Mumbai, on guidelines for public relations professionals and marketers on how to contribute to Wikipedia. Part 2 and 3 would cover important dos and don’ts.

Wikipedia was started by Jimmy Wales with the intent to let everyone share their knowledge: “No one knows everything but everyone knows something.” Wikipedia is an online free encyclopaedia where everything is user generated. Present in 285 languages, Wikipedia is the world's fifth most-visited website. Wikipedia users get a customizable profile page, a personal talk/ discussion page, emailing features, online and offline region-wise communities called projects, interest-based projects, and technical projects. Sister projects of Wikipedia include a media repository (Wikimedia Commons), a news portal (Wikinews), an e-book portal (Wikibooks), a learning portal (Wikiversity) and a lot more features and portals where “Wikipedians” interact with each other with the motive of sharing and, of course, gaining knowledge. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, now doubles up as a knowledge-based social platform.

There is no doubt among marketers and PR professionals that Wikipedia and its community are very influential in the online space. But there has always been a conflict between marketers and Wikipedians, for the reason that marketers would have a vested interest to promote their organizations, clients, or individuals whereas Wikipedia needs every editor to maintain a neutral point of view (NPOV) and avoid conflict of interest.

Here are a few realistic and practical methods that a PR or marketing professional should follow while contributing to Wikipedia:

Avoid Conflict of Interest
Let’s make this the Universal of Rule of Marketing. One should not edit articles about clients, employer’s brands, employers or competing organizations and their associated brands, all of which present a conflict of interest.

The best way to interact is to request for the changes to be made via the Talk Page, a discussion page that exists with every article. However, there are exceptions. Correcting or adding factual information such as statistics or dates, updating new business services, products, or achievements while adding verifiable references to them is okay.

Principles of Wikipedia
Here is a complete overview of the basic principles of Wikipedia, which are called the Five Pillars of Wikipedia.
1.    Wikipedia is an encyclopedia
2.    Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
3.    Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute
4.    Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner
5.    Wikipedia does not have firm rules.

Content Guidelines
It’s very important for every contributor to understand the following content guidelines and directives to interact smoothly with the Wikipedia community.
1. Neutral point of view (NPOV): The tonality and the intent of the article should be neutral. One needs to report the information without bias. For example: One needs to have NPOV when writing about a controversy that a brand is involved in.

2. Verifiability: Content added to Wikipedia needs to be attributed to a reliable, published source. Fellow contributors should be able to verify it independently. The types of acceptable sources are news portals, websites, books, and journals.

3. No original research: Wikipedia does not publish original idea or thought. Any new analysis or synthesis should have been previously published.

I strongly believe that PR and marketing professionals can play a valuable role on Wikipedia by creating informative content, as well as making sure that existing content is accurate and relevant. However, the only way to do so is by adhering to Wikipedia guidelines.

Information Sources and Bibliography:
•    Wikipedia guidelines and policy
•    Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)
•    Public Relations Society of America

Manan Shah profile photoAuthor: A marketing enthusiast by day and experimental cook by night, Manan Shah is the world's pickiest ghass-phuss eater, with interests in stock markets, green energy, books, and pebbles. Email him at m.m.shah04[@]gmail.com or tweet to him @mananshah_15

Edited by Rohini Lakshane: rohini at Wikimedia dot in

Cross-posted at Convonix.