I get this question a lot at work. We often see inaccuracies or outdated content and want to correct the text to ensure our brand is reflected in the best light. Unfortunately, it just ain’t that simple. Wikipedia is a community run and operated site, and the members of that community take their work VERY seriously. It’s part of what makes Wikipedia such an amazing resource.
I think a lot of brands don’t realize how important following Wikipedia’s guidelines are. It’s not just a “click edit”, make change, *bam* you’re done process.
I’ve been scouring the web, pinging friends and pulling from personal experience and put together some suggestions for you. I’d also be ever so grateful if anyone else has more light to shed on this:
- Review your brand’s page, and specifically identify what sections you want to change and WHY. Now, the why is more important than you think. If the community flags a specific change for removal, you need to be fully prepared to defend yourself (graciously), with quality references. Your goal in modifying an entry should be to ensure that it’s factually correct. Forget about marketing spin. The community will sniff it out like a doberman smells fresh meat.
- Review the Talk page for your entry. Talk pages are…well…pages where people talk about a specific entry. They can discuss anything from lacks of references, to tone. It’s a good idea to see what the history is for your page, so you know what potholes to avoid. This is also where you’ll propose you changes further down. To see the talk page, just add “talk:” after /wiki/ and before the page name. Some pages don’t have talk pages. But, in that case, there’s usually a note at the top of the entry explaining what content is missing (ie references or sources).
- Identify who will be your editor. Ideally this is someone within your org who is already a Wikipedia admin/editor. They will know the rules of the road, and likely have suggestions for you. They may not be in your marketing group – but they are familiar with Wikipedia. If there’s no one who can do this, you may also have a group of folks who are friendly with your company (perhaps an editor you work with, or an evangelist) who is, and they can help direct you. Regardless of if you are the one doing the editing or if something else is, you MUST *must* MUST be transparent in your account bio that you’re affiliated with the company. Wikipedia has a serious set of guidelines that are meant to prevent conflict of interest updates. So, while many of you may have found some back alley ways of updating your page with anonymous accounts, from public computer terminals…that’s definitely not a best practice 🙂 In fact. It’s bad. And, you’re better than that.
- Propose your edits via the Talk page (mentioned above). The community of editors will tell you what they think. Be receptive to their changes. If you have evidence to prove a point, present it. But remember they can ultimately flag your content for removal so it’s in your best interest to collaborate.
- When the content has evolved and been approved via the Talk page you’re ready to apply the changes to the actual entry. If you’ve done the above steps you can still be flagged by the community, but it’s less likely, given that you’ve followed best practices.
Here are some helpful reference pages as well with more info:
- Wikipedia FAQ for businesses/orgs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Business_FAQ
- Wikipedia conflict of interest policy and suggestions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:COI and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SCOIC
- Wikipedia best practices for editors with a conflict of interest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Best_practices_for_editors_with_conflicts_of_interest
It is absolutely essential to retain a neutral tone when writing your Wikipedia entry hence it makes sense to have a third party do it for you.
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