MONDAY 12 NOV 2012 4:37 PM


Wikipedians and PR professionals tend not to see eye to eye. The second-richest man in Britain has launched that dissension into the public eye.

The Wikipedia page of Alisher Usmanov, owner of Arsenal, among other holdings, was edited anonymously by his PR company, RLM Finsbury, a division of WPP. Finsbury removed a reference to a free speech issue Usmanov had with reporters. While the problem is ongoing, issues such as the Usmanov page shed light on the fundamental discord between the two communities.

The CIPR has worked closely with Wikimedia to develop guidelines to rebuild relations between PR professionals and Wikipedia. The current, 20-page document runs through dos and don’ts for public relations professionals to adhere by if and when dealing with Wikipedia. Jane Wilson, the CIPR’s CEO, says Wikipedia’s rules on conflict of interest – the point of contention – are straightforward and insist that PR teams should not edit Wikipedia pages.

The PRCA takes a different stance. Director-general Francis Ingham says, “We have worked over the past year to help PR practitioners understand better how Wikipedia works. Too many of the people who edit Wikipedia still do not understand PR. Too many of them continue to have the knee-jerk reaction that information from a PR professional must intrinsically be wrong.” He also urged Wikipedia to reform its editing process.

The complex editing process was hotly debated at a CIPR event during Social Media Week in September. Wikipedia editors and PR professionals discussed the impact of the encyclopedia on corporate reputation and the difficulties involved in contributing to the community and administrators editing pages.