Approach with care! Ethics and transparency are the keys to Wikipedia

Consulting Wikipedia for information has become a daily reflex for all of us. Having a page on Wikipedia affords a company the opportunity to explain its history and activities to the general public. But Wikipedia is a very special place within the online world: it is a collaborative encyclopaedia with very strict rules for writing and transparency.

Google knows its business: when you search for information about a company, the official website of that company and its Wikipedia entry almost invariably return as the top two search results. Because of their high visibility, corporate entries on Wikipedia have become a key communication portal for a variety of audiences that include journalists, students, investors and customers.

However, a Wikipedia entry is first and foremost a public good. It is important to remember that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, albeit written by volunteer contributors. The content of a Wikipedia entry must therefore be pedagogical and informative above all; all forms of marketing are banned. And it is largely due to ignorance of this guiding principle and its rules that so many companies fail when they attempt to create or modify their Wikipedia entries themselves.

What you need to know about Wikipedia:

  • Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopaedia. Everyone can contribute by adding to the collective endeavour.
  • The creation of an entry is subject to eligibility. In most cases, a subject is deemed eligible as long as at it has been the subject of at least two articles in the press, published more than two years apart. Not every company will be eligible on Wikipedia.
  • The content of a Wikipedia page is never fixed. At any time, another contributor may add information based on a reliable source (book, study, press article, etc.). If this information is correct, it cannot be removed.
  • The contributions of some are reviewed by others. Information in an article can be immediately challenged or deleted if it does not meet Wikipedia’s criteria for quality of sources or neutrality of the comments made.
  • The contributors constitute the ‘Wikipedian community’. The various editors regularly talk to each other, especially to discuss their differing views on the content of the articles. All exchanges are public and take place via dedicated discussion pages.
  • Intervening on Wikipedia implies that the contributor accepts its rules, its collaborative spirit and its ethics. It is impossible to extol a company’s services or products on Wikipedia or to ignore the opinions of other contributors.

How to alter the Wikipedia article of one’s company?

  • When a company’s involvement in its own entry involves remunerating an employee or a communications company, Wikipedia considers this a ‘paid contribution’. In this case, contributors must comply with the rules governing conflicts of interest on Wikipedia.
  • Paid contributions must be reported in a transparent manner. The contributor must have a specific ‘user account’ on Wikipedia, declared and certified on the Wikipedia community as being the account of the company or communications company that accompanies it. With this account, the company or its communications company may freely change the article in question, assuming they respect the usual rules governing submissions.
  • Companies must accept changes to their entries by other contributors. If a company is involved in a scandal and another contributor mentions the case on Wikipedia quoting reliable sources, it will not be possible to remove this information.

Experienced assistance can help avoid pitfalls

It is an extremely challenging exercise for an employee to write the Wikipedia entry for the company they work for. Among other issues, a lack of experience often leads to beginner’s mistakes that are judged harshly by the Wikipedia community. This can easily become a tragedy: a challenge is lodged, the article is deleted, the user’s account is blocked and all the discussions that led to the deletion of the article remain public. After such an incident, it becomes difficult to rectify the situation!

For this reason, working on Wikipedia requires, above all, being accompanied by people with experience. Working with a specialised communications agency ensures you have the necessary know-how to create an article, modify it, update it, translate it and monitor it in a spirit of serenity.