PR agencies promise not to secretly edit Wikipedia pages

The 11 firms who have signed a statement affirming that they’ll go through proper channels to edit clients’ pages include Ogilvy & Mather, Edelman, and Ketchum.

Nearly a dozen of the world’s biggest PR firms have signed a statement promising they won’t edit clients’ Wikipedia pages without going through proper channels.

The statement stems from a February summit about the relationship between PR agencies and Wikipedia, which itself was a response to concerns about firms such as Wiki-PR, which was accused of using “sockpuppets” to make edits to company pages on the online encyclopedia, which anyone can edit.

The statement—which was signed by Beutler Ink, Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard, Peppercom, Burson-Masteller, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Edelman, and Alison+Partners—reads, in part, “it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia.”

Wikipedia included some comments of its own on the page with the statement, such as:

For the first time, these agencies have articulated a clear message: they intend to do right by Wikipedia as well as their clients. While only the first step in what may be a long process, this clear statement is also a necessary one.

The firms promised to abide by these principles:

• “To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.”

• “To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to ‘conflict of interest.'”

• “To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.”

• “To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.”

• “Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.”

Other entities that have signed on as participants are MDC Partners and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the PR industry’s United Kingdom professional organization. Organizations that wish to sign on can do so by following instructions at the bottom of the page.

Bill Beutler, president of Beutler Ink, told Advertising Age that firms such as his can strike a balance when working with Wikipedia: “If you are a paid advocate, then you should refrain from editing articles directly,” he said. “But PR people can contribute by making sure correct information is made correct.”

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Topics: PR

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