Though Wikipedia may not gain as much attention as its social networking cousins, professional communicators may find that it carries a lot more weight and garners a lot more attention than one-off tweet-fests or short-lived Facebook campaigns.
It is virtually impossible to do a Google or Yahoo search without having the site turn up. In just 10 short years, the not-for-profit encyclopedia has grown to encompass more than 3.5 million English language articles and pulls in almost 4 million unique visitors a month. In the United States, Wikipedia now outranks sites such as Apple and The New York Times in terms of page views.
For professional communicators, Wikipedia also distinguishes itself as a pure-play PR opportunity. The site does not accept advertising and will quickly remove any entries that are seen as being overly promotional in nature. But in this arena, PR pros are the masters: We know how to walk the fine line between informing and promoting.
Given the devout neutrality of the site, communicators must tread carefully or they risk having their content pulled down by Wikipedia’s “cabal” of editors. Even so, there are multiple ways that using Wikipedia can help you achieve your communications goals. Here are three:
Post news items: Did you know that Wikipedia has built a collaborative news portal? Anyone can contribute an original story and, if it passes the editorial review, post it onto the site. Though the site hasn’t yet rivaled Reuters or Bloomberg, it will provide a growing opportunity for communications professionals who want to put some legs on a story.
Add or edit your company: Unbiased articles and descriptions about companies and organizations are fair game on Wikipedia, so it is important that communicators closely manage their corporate entry on the site. But be warned, negative criticism and bad press from the past will invariably find its way onto your company’s entry, and there is very little you can do about that (unless the entry is factually incorrect, in which case there may be some recourse).
Update articles: Many companies today see themselves as not only product and service providers, but also “thought leaders.” For these organizations, Wikipedia offers an unsurpassed opportunity for experts to share their insight and reference their research in a trusted yet open forum. For example, Cancer Research UK announced that its experts would update Wikipedia entries related to cancer and got some great PR in the process.
Peter Schram is the author of The Communicator, a weekly blog series focused on sharing best practices to help professional communicators navigate the challenges of an ever-changing world. Peter is also the owner of Communications Unlimited, a Toronto-based writing and communications strategy shop. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.