CIPR calls for feedback on PR guidelines about Wikipedia use

Guidelines for PR professionals using Wikipedia have been put online to gather feedback, following a row over entries being changed.

Debate: Jimmy Wales and Lord Bell
Debate: Jimmy Wales and Lord Bell

Wikimedia UK, a charity that works on behalf of the website, uploaded a draft document this week that covers best practice tips. These were developed by working alongside the CIPR.

The move follows Portland being accused of removing Stella Artois' 'wife-beater' nickname from the website, and a Wikipedia investigation into Bell Pottinger’s use of fake identities to edit pages for clients.

It also comes after senior PR figures addressed the annual Wikimedia conference on 12 May.

Jane Wilson, CEO of the CIPR, said: ‘The guidance is open to public relations professionals to offer their view, but most importantly, we want Wikipedians to give us balanced and constructive feedback on our proposal. The end result will be a set of guidelines for public relations professionals to use if they want to engage with or through Wikipedia.’

The guidelines, written by the CIPR social media panel, seek input on how much comms professionals should get involved with editing, and how PRs should relate to the website's principles of neutrality, verifiability and original research.

As well as tips on transparency and how to amend entries where necessary, included in the guide is a recommendation that those running campaigns ‘get to know the key people within their Wikipedia community, like PR professionals get to know journalists'.

However, it also states concern that the community that looks after Wikipedia  ‘are not taking their power seriously enough’, adding that efforts are being made to ‘lobby’ Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales into reviewing the site's policies and processes.

Following The Independent’s sting on Bell Pottinger late last year, Wales debated the issue of ethical editing with Chime Chairman Lord Bell, where he admitted in some cases the sites’ editors could have acted more quickly, but added that PROs had to be transparent.  

PR and social media expert Neville Hobson was joined by Meanwhile founding partner Philip Sheldrake in discussing the issues at the Wikimedia AGM in London's Science Museum.

After the meeting, Sheldrake MCIPR, said: ‘Wikipedia is a community and the public relations profession respects the community's right to set its own rules. If anyone believes the rules should be changed, then the case has to be made in a public forum for open debate, and what better forum than the community's own.’

In March, the CIPR said that social media would be a special area of focus while revising its code of conduct, as some members were still ‘falling foul’ of the guidelines.    

To see the consultation draft click here

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