Wikipedia for Marketing Communications Professionals (Bookshelf)
Wikipedia for Marketing Communications Professionals is a part of the Bookshelf Project that chapters and other Wikipedians can translate and print to give out to teach companies how to deal with Wikipedia. It will address some of their most common questions, and give them the tools to best engage with Wikipedia on behalf of their organization.
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You want to ensure that Wikipedia information about your clients and stakeholders is accurate and up to date. Wikipedia readers have the same goals; they want to be sure the information in the articles accurate and up to date too. All those who care about Wikipedia are invested in the quality and neutrality of the information. These Bookshelf materials show you how to avoid common pitfalls around editing on Wikipedia as a representative of a person or organization and to get your work done effectively and efficiently.
The story follow Peter, a marketing communications specialist at a well-known (but unnamed) organization, who has several questions about how his company can be better represented on Wikipedia. He is taught by colleague Diane, who is also a Wikipedian. Peter knows roughly how Wikipedia works, but has not actually edited Wikipedia before.
- For purposes of this wiki page, our main characters' dialogue are presented indented and in italics (The visual design needs to inform how they would actually speak in the printed format)
- [square brackets] are used within instructional text to facilitate communication within the project team on a specific area (for example, if there are areas that need to be fleshed out more) and to clearly mark out Peter and Diane's dialogue. Text within the square brackets will not be printed.
- Production notes are provided at the end of each module. The Production notes represent communication between the scripting and visual design. This text will not be printed.
- Peter and Diane images are being developed here
[Brochure title: Wikipedia for marketing communications professionals]
[Image: Wikipedia logo]
[Image: Marketing specialist Peter meets his colleague Diane. He is a bit frustrated. They are in some sort of marketing milieu.]
- [Peter]: Diane, did you read this on Wikipedia? There's still a section about the TPS incident in our article. If our clients read this... Should I erase it?
- [Diane]: Peter, wait. Did you know that I'm an active contributor to Wikipedia? I'll help you.
Marketing communications professionals like you often struggle to address inaccuracies or outdated information in Wikipedia articles that relate to your organizations. Wikipedia articles are often in the top search results for your organization's name. Wikipedia is visited by millions of people every day. With such large audiences, you want to be able to improve the article on your organization, but you often wonder if it is acceptable for you to make changes.
After reviewing the information below, you will be able to:
- Engage effectively with the Wikipedia community about your organization
- Handle common scenarios that you might encounter while contributing to Wikipedia on behalf of your organization
[Tip icon]: In larger organizations, you will typically find at least one experienced Wikipedian. Not only are they potentially a great resource to help you, your organization's experienced Wikipedians may already be editing the article about your organization.
[Image: Diane and Peter sit at a table. She explains.]
- [Diane]: Because Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit, all articles need to rely on credible third-party sources. Articles might have information about us that we could be uncomfortable with. Since the goal of Wikipedia contributors is to create well-balanced articles that includes different perspectives, we just have to accept that such facts will be published on Wikipedia. If you find information is inaccurate or has changed, however, it's acceptable to lead the community to third-party sources that establish that the information provided is no longer true.
- [Peter]: You make it sound as if we should not edit the article about ourselves, even if there is incorrect information about us that thousands of visitors read.
- [Diane]: Exactly. Editing your own article is not a good idea because the Wikipedia community views it as a conflict of interest. When companies do try editing their own articles without an explanation, the community might consider those edits in bad faith, and you as a user might lose your credibility in the community. Once you've lost credibility, it will be hard for you to edit Wikipedia now and later.
Wikipedia is a massive project with established norms, practices, and tools. One of Wikipedia's central policies is that articles should maintain a neutral perspective. To do that, Wikipedia requires that you reference good sources. The article's subject also needs to notable enough to be included. Such topics are talked about on Wikipedia by clicking Discussion at the top of an article.
Since there is no traditional hierarchy in Wikipedia, nor is there an official editor-in-chief, both established and new contributors participate in the decision-making process as equals. But everybody needs to follow the same rules. And anyone can see every change you make. So, before you start, it may be a good idea to understand Wikipedia.
As a marketing communications professional, you may want to fix things immediately to ensure your organization is presented well. Resist this temptation. Instead, let the Wikipedia method work, and trust the community to do the right thing in the long run. You can participate in the process, but you cannot control the end result.
According to Wikipedia's neutrality policy, you should avoid editing articles in which you may have a conflict of interest. You are not impartial enough to write a neutral article about your company. But you are ideally suited to provide third-party sources about your company to other contributors or to write about your field of work. Always remember that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a platform for marketing or advertising.
[Tip icon]: Be as open as possible when you contribute to Wikipedia. Before you make any edits, let other contributors know when you write about areas where it might be difficult for you to remain objective. Go to the article's Discussion page and explain your role.
Starting a presence on Wikipedia
The cornerstone of participating in Wikipedia is to earn the trust of the existing editing community. Earning trust may take some time, but it is crucial. The first step to building trust and having productive conversations with Wikipedians is to create your user account so that you have a clear identity on Wikipedia. On your userpage, introduce yourself and be open about your affiliation with your organization. To access your userpage, click your user name at the top of any Wikipedia page when you are logged in.
It is easy to create a Wikipedia account, and you are not required to provide any personal information: 1. Click "Log in/create account," located at the top right side of the page. 2. In the Log in box, click "Create one." 3. Choose a user name. 4. Choose a password. 5. Click "Create account."
[Tip icon]: When you are logged in to your account, additional features are made available to you. For example, you will see a star next to the search box. On any article, click the star to add that article to your watchlist. You can view your watchlist and keep track of any changes made to the article by clicking My watchlist at the top of the page.
[Warning icon]: Read the pages in the account creation process carefully. For instance, an account is for one person only. User accounts suspected of being shared by multiple users for a single purpose might get blocked by the community.
Five things you can do to improve an article about your organization
1. If an article contains blatant vandalism (for example, swear words), feel free to remove it. Click Edit, remove the text, briefly describe the changes you have made in Edit summary (e.g., "removed vandalism") and click Save page.
2. When you see something that needs to be changed in the article, remember that any direct edits you make may be interpreted as an effort to introduce bias into the article. Go to the Discussion page, and click Add topic. Introduce yourself, explaining how you are connected to the article, explain your suggested change, and provide third party sources to validate your recommendation. Other editors will look at these citations when reviewing the Discussion page. Be friendly and seek consensus; if others agree with your position, request them to make the change for you. If needed, suggest a target date for others to correct inaccuracies. Seek permission to make the edit yourself after that date. A target date 7–10 days ahead might be enough time for other contributors to make the change. Sign your post by typing ~~~~ (four tildes) — this will automatically insert your user name and the date/time of your post, making it easier for others to follow the discussion. Then click Save page. Do not forget to check back regularly for responses. Article contributors might have further questions or suggestions for you.
3. Compile a list of verifiable sources to information on the topics you know and place it on your user page. By leading other users to that list, they can more easily find correct information about your topics in order to write new articles which will make your expertise sought after.
4. Encourage employees to contribute to articles in their area of expertise in a fair and objective manner. With time, the employees, and as a result, your organization, will build a reputation that will be respected by the community.
5. Provide free (copyleft-licensed) media about your organization to illustrate the article. Photographs of executives, photographs of facilities, illustrations, or other media will help tell the story. Make sure anything you provide is offered under the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license or similar. You will be releasing the rights of the creator of the image, so be sure you have permission to do so beforehand. Images will be re-used by Wikipedians in other settings to help further describe your organization as well as other topics. [Search:] "Wikipedia: Donating copyrighted materials" for more information.
Three things to avoid doing to the article about your organization
[Image: Diane is talking and Peter is listening.]
- [Diane]: Most established editors find that new editors to Wikipedia have similar concerns and seem to make the same mistakes. To help new editors, the community created handy pages with information that new editors like yourself can access anytime. Check out Help under Interaction in the left column menu. It is a good practice to make Help your first stop whenever you need more information about how Wikipedia works.
Here are three things to avoid doing to the article about your organization:
- 1. Never edit or remove correctly cited and verified facts about your organization, even if you believe the information reflects badly on your organization or is contrary to your position. Editors will almost certainly reinstate that information and you will damage your own reputation as a fair and collaborative Wikipedian. Instead, recommend adding other or more information on the Discussion page to balance the critical points.
- 2. Do not make Wikipedia an endorsement of your organization by using colorful language or adding product/service lists. That information is more appropriate for your website.
- 3. If the article is deleted, do not try to recreate it without first learning about relevant Wikipedia policies and carefully building a case. Recreating the page directly may result in Wikipedians preventing the page from being created in the future.
Remember: Wikipedia is not a marketing tool. It is a collaborative and free encyclopedia aimed to create balanced and high quality information.
Three common scenarios for marketing communications professionals
Scenario 1: Wikipedians are ignoring my Discussion page recommendations
After you have posted on the article Discussion page requesting that Wikipedians correct false information by providing links to verifiable third-party sources, you might find that the contributors have considered or deliberated your point. They may not have decisively denied the validity of your position but have not made the changes you requested either. When you find yourself caught in a zone of inaction, try the following options to move things forward:
[Warning icon:] Before you take these steps, make sure that you are not unduly stubborn or disturbing individual editors. Ask yourself: would you want your closest competitor to get this edit accepted on Wikipedia?
1. Communicate with the most active editors who have assumed editorial leadership for your article. To leave a comment, click the user name on the article Discussion or View history page. On the user Discussion page, click New topic and request action or reconsideration. It helps if you are polite and ask for them to look at the situation, rather than stating what outcome you wish to have. Sign your post with ~~~~ (four tildes) and click Save page. After you have received their take on the situation, thank them. Do not continue writing to them with further questions, unless they invite you to do so. Try to keep the discussion on the discussion page of the relevant article.
2. Wait longer. Keep in mind that the Wikipedians you are interacting with may not be active all the time. Sometimes other editors who have been busy during the initial discussions will correct the false information. Other times, you can reintroduce your concern a month later and get a totally different response. By waiting, you signal that you respect the system and are seeking broad consensus, not just showing up and demanding immediate changes. Let some time pass, even if the incorrect version of the article is visible. Also remember that if you try to reintroduce the same subject too many times, people will tire and become less likely to help you.
3. Search for Wikipedia: Help desk and click New section at the top of the page. Post your question in the text box and sign with ~~~~. Click Save page. Any answers will appear on that page. When you describe the problem, cite a few sources, but be brief. This page is not the place to complain or blow off steam. You can also email to firstname.lastname@example.org, where a team of volunteers will look at your request and help you as best they can.
[Tip icon]: Above all, remain calm. It is very easy to become agitated when communicating with people only through the internet. But outbursts are recorded permanently and very visibly. If you communicate in an in an angry or aggressive manner, you damage your own reputation on the site, and you risk being temporarily blocked from editing Wikipedia. Getting upset will only harm your cause.
Scenario 2: My organization is notable, but it is not on Wikipedia
Most organizations are not notable enough to be included in Wikipedia. If you create articles about such organizations, they will be deleted. You will probably be more effective working on your own website's content, performing search engine optimization, or pursuing articles in news outlets.
Before starting an article about an organization, first make sure that the organization meets Wikipedia's notability criterion: the organization must have significant coverage in reliable third-party sources. A whole series of articles about the organization in a national newspaper is certainly sufficient; two blog entries in a consumer blog would not be enough. Your organization may be well-known in its field, but that does not mean that it should be included in Wikipedia. If your organization is somewhere in between, you will need to consider the matter carefully and identify the strongest available sources, to help other Wikipedians evaluate your entry. Type "Wikipedia: Notability" in the search box to find more detailed information.
If you think your organization meets Wikipedia's notability requirements and is missing from Wikipedia, search variations of the name. For example, try different spellings. Also check if the subject is mentioned in closely related topics. An organization may be listed in an article about an industry group or association.
Do not start the article about your organization, since you have a conflict of interest. Instead, start by searching for a WikiProject that covers the topic. WikiProjects are informal collaborations between Wikipedians with shared interest areas. For example, a notable medical organization could go to "Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine" and ask for help in creating the article. Present reliable sources for your information, and remember to include a reason why the organization is notable to make it as easy as possible for the volunteers to create the article. Please give the participants 7–10 days to handle your request. You can find all WikiProjects by typing "Wikipedia:WikiProject" in the search box. You can also post about your organization on "Wikipedia:Requested articles".
Scenario 3: Someone has deleted the article on my organization
The article about your organization can be deleted for many reasons. The most common reason is that the organization is not notable. In that case, you should concentrate on getting more coverage in other places, like newspapers or trade magazines, before trying Wikipedia again. Another common reason is that the article is heavily biased or out of compliance with Wikipedia's quality standards, without much indication that anyone is working to address the problems.
Search for "Special:Log/delete" and then fill in the name of your organization in the box called "Title". The search results will show you why the article was deleted (and who deleted it).
If your article was deleted for lack of encyclopedic content, request someone with interest in similar topics to create an article for you. Be sure to include the topic summary, topic notability, and corresponding references from verifiable sources. The best way to influence the community to reinstate your article is to acknowledge another user's point of view, present additional facts to assuage their concerns, and display openness to learning more about how Wikipedia works.
If there was a dispute before the article was deleted, avoid complaining to the Wikipedian who deleted the article. It is possible that the user simply responded to a request for deletion, without having a lot of detailed information available to them.
As a last resort, you can move the article to another wiki. Wikipedia:Alternative outlets has a comprehensive list of other wikis. Some articles on those wikis are brought into Wikipedia later.
[Image:Peter and Diane are talking. Peter is happy.]
- [Peter]: After listening to you, I have more respect for Wikipedia and its contributors. I now appreciate the need for the many safeguards and guidelines that Wikipedia has.
- [Diane]: And now you should aim to present the TPS incident in the broader organizational context so that readers understand that this was a minor incident in the long history of successes that our organization has had.
As a marketing communications professional, part of your job is to promote your organization in a positive and productive manner. You can still make a valuable contribution to your organization's Wikipedia article by working within Wikipedia's guidelines. Due to the conflict of interest, you should avoid editing an article on your organization. But you are welcome to watch how the article evolves, and if there are errors or problems, you can step in on the Discussion page. By creating a Wikipedia user account and introducing yourself on your user page, you identify yourself and can then help build the article. On your user page, you can list verifiable information sources (especially third-party sources) that present updated facts on the company. Using the article Discussion page, you can leave a message for those editing the article, letting them know to check your user page for references to the updated facts. Editors creating the article can evaluate your cited sources and facts and decide if that warrants changes in the article. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a marketing channel; do not try to align the article to the organization's marketing language.
Now that you have reviewed Wikipedia for marketing communications professionals, you are able to:
- Engage effectively with the Wikipedia community about your organization's article
- Handle common scenarios that you might encounter while contributing to Wikipedia's article about your organization
This educational content is brought to you by Wikimedia Bookshelf project. To download an electronic copy of Wikipedia for marketing communications and other Bookshelf materials, visit http://bookshelf.wikimedia.org". This location also houses source files that allow you to translate, customize, and reuse Bookshelf materials.