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Like death and taxes, if you’re a marketer, it’s inevitable that you’ll be asked to edit a Wikipedia page (or worse: create one).
This is an understandable request given Wikipedia’s importance on the web. The online encyclopedia continues to dominate search results due to its up-to-date, high-quality content on a wide range of topics. Its pages are frequently referenced in links from other sites, one of Google’s main authority signals. Google’s addition of code snippets and knowledge graphs further cemented Wikipedia in the top results for nearly every search.
Unfortunately, errors are commonplace on the site. However, correcting inaccuracies is not easy. All edits, especially those made to business pages, must follow certain rules to be accepted. If you do it wrong, there is also a good chance that you will be permanently blacklisted from the site.
It’s important to remember that Wikipedia is not your blog or news page. This is not a safe space for you to trumpet all the great things your law firm has done. Although flawed, it is meant to be an online encyclopedia that presents neutral factual information that can be verified and backed up with citations. This accuracy is fiercely guarded by an army of tens of thousands of volunteer editors who will not tolerate blatant, selfish marketing and other content mischief. So be careful.
Rule #1: Be transparent
Wikipedia is an unbiased and factual source of information, not a marketing channel. The site’s volunteer editors review all edits and frequently reject edits, or even entire pages, that they deem too promotional or not “notable.” Users can also be banned from the site for making edits that the editors deem inappropriate.
Wikipedia’s editors take their role in maintaining the accuracy of the information presented on the site very seriously. For this reason, any changes to a business Wikipedia page should be done in a highly transparent, non-promotional, and auditable manner.
Use a non-conflicting individual username
First, you need to create an account on Wikipedia to edit your page. Click on “create an account” in the upper right corner. You’ll have to pick a username, which is the number one way to get you into trouble.
Don’t use a username that gives the impression that the account represents a group, organization, or website. It is against Wikipedia’s username guidelines for two or more people to share an account for any reason, and its editors will block the account if they suspect this is the case.
In other words, you should not create a username with the name of your company or the word “marketing”, for example. Instead, your username should reflect you as an individual. If you mistakenly set up a username that violates these guidelines, here’s how to change it.
Declare your conflict of interest
Clearly state your conflict of interest (COI) by placing a note on your user page explaining your conflict. This step is extremely important, and without it, you risk being permanently banned from the site.
According to Wikipedia: “Undisclosed paid advocacy editing is a black hat practice that can threaten the trust of Wikimedia volunteers and readers. We have serious concerns about how such editing affects Wikipedia’s neutrality and reliability.
In other words, if you edit a page based on your work (and therefore are paid to do so) or have a financial interest in the subject, you must declare this conflict of interest. Previously, Wikipedia only encouraged users to declare their COI, but did not require it. However, after a PR firm called Wiki-PR was banned from the site for using hundreds of fictitious accounts to edit pages in a flattering way for its customers, Wikipedia changed its terms of service to require disclosure. COIs.
When you set up your user account, you will be redirected to a page that says “Tell us about yourself”. This is where you should add something similar to this:
I work in [law firm’s] marketing department and therefore have a conflict of interest as defined by Wikipedia regarding [law firm]- linked content. I am here to provide factual and verifiable information regarding [law firm].
I am aware of Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines and will comply with them. As I promise to act in good faith, any violation of Wikipedia policy is unintentional. My edits will be limited to talk pages and I will not directly engage in editing [law firm]-related page. Instead, I will offer information on talk pages and seek help from Wikipedians.
If you want to contact me, please leave a message on my talk page [insert an inline citation with a link to your talk page]or email me at [your email address].
Rule #2: Make suggestions, not changes
The first rule of editing a Wikipedia page is to NOT edit a Wikipedia page.
But seriously, don’t.
Instead, you should do suggestions via the “Talk” page of your law firm’s Wikipedia page. By communicating behind the scenes with Wikipedia’s unbiased volunteer editors, you can ask them to make edits on your behalf.
This practice is now widely accepted as the only way to make credible changes when you have a conflict of interest. In 2014, several public relations giants, including Ogilvy and Edelman, released a joint statement committing to better understand and follow Wikipedia Community Guidelines, especially those related to conflicts of interest.
The talk page is located in the upper left corner of the page. There are two tabs: “article” and “discussion”.
If a Wikipedia editor has already objected to some of your edits, you should also contact the editors directly (via their talk pages, which are linked to their bios) and provide them with your reasoning for your edits.
Rule #3: Provide Verifiable Third-Party Sources
To ensure that your suggested edits are accepted by editors, you must follow Wikipedia’s notability rule. Wikipedia defines notoriety as something that has received significant coverage in reliable sources independent of the law firm. In other words, you must provide third-party sources that verify each of the changes.
The most reliable sources are credible media reports (score one for public relations law firm). For example, if you want to claim that your company represents a major customer, you should find a news article about that representation and include the link in your suggested change. Do not provide links to your law firm’s website as third-party sources.
Also, follow Wikipedia’s simple, non-promotional style and tone. Keep your edits focused, factual, and precise. Don’t add superfluous information that can’t be justified because the editors will probably remove it.
Finally, make changes over a period of time (and not all at once) to avoid triggering a flag on the page. One final note: Even if you follow all Wikipedia guidelines to the letter, there is always a risk that an editor may consider your edits a conflict of interest. While this shouldn’t lead to an outright ban of the page, you may need to accept that some edits aren’t allowed. This is a battle you would be advised to walk away from and instead up your law firm’s content marketing game to better reach your key audience.
Michelle Calcote King is Director and President of Reputation Ink, a public relations and content marketing agency focused on law firms and other professional services companies. In addition to leading a team of 10 legal PR professionals, Michelle is the host of Spill the Ink, a brand visibility and thought leadership podcast, and sits on the Southeast Region Board of Directors. of the Legal Marketing Association. She can be reached at [email protected] Learn more about Reputation Ink at www.rep-ink.com.