Council of PR Firms joins Wikipedia compliance pledge

The Council of Public Relations Firms on Wednesday joined more than ten communications agencies that have signed a statement outlining how they intend to comply with Wikipedia's policies.

NEW YORK: The Council of Public Relations Firms on Wednesday joined more than ten communications agencies that have signed a statement outlining how they intend to comply with Wikipedia’s policies.

Since the joint statement was released on Tuesday, Glover Park Group, the Institute for Public Relations, and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations have also added their support.

The initial group of participating firms included Beutler Ink, Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard, Peppercomm, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Edelman, and Allison+Partners. MDC Partners also signed the agreement.

The agencies and organizations have pledged to honor Wikipedia’s editing guidelines, which includes being transparent about when changes to the online encyclopedia would benefit their clients.

The statement comes after a months-long dispute between the Wikimedia Foundation, the group that runs Wikipedia, and Wiki-PR, an agency whose primary service is editing Wikipedia pages. The Foundation sent the firm a cease-and-desist letter in November after it allegedly failed to comply with Wikipedia's terms and conditions by engaging in paid advocacy editing.

Last October, Wikipedia's editor community banned hundreds of user accounts it suspected were being paid to promote products or services.

The Council of PR Firms issued a press release and tweeted about its support of the effort. It also plans to post a blog within the next week explaining why the pledge aligns with the council’s mission and principles, said SVP and communications director Matt Shaw.

"The Wikipedia relationship is unique but similar to PR firms’ work with media or bloggers – there are rules and policies," Shaw explained. "Whatever we can do to help strengthen that relationship, we are for that."

William Beutler, Beutler Ink president and one of the statement’s organizers, contacted Glover Park about getting involved, said Brian Gluckman, VP of strategic communications at Glover Park. Beutler Ink had previously assisted the firm with navigating Wikipedia for clients.

"We want to abide by [Wikipedia’s] rules, while at the same time doing the best for our clients. We think participating hand in hand with the Wikipedia community is the best way to do that," Gluckman said.

Glover Park will communicate the statement’s objectives at staff meetings and refer clients to it, he added.

The statement’s organizers want every firm in the marketing and communications industry to join, Beutler said. The pledge has already garnered a "strong" response from the industry, and some smaller agencies have also asked how to participate, he said.

"We are already discussing changing the method for joining," Beutler said. "We are going to take anyone who wants to join at their word and add their name to it if they represent an organization or an agency, but it is still under discussion how we are going to handle individuals who want to join."

Organizers are determining how to handle violations of the statement but "want to give those involved a path to getting it right," Beutler added.

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