By Kate Frost
June 12, 2013
If students writing term papers are any indication, Wikipedia is one of the first resources people turn to when trying to get a feel for a topic or a company. The same holds true for many journalists, industry analysts and other influencers. While it’s not often enough thought of as a top communications priority, a company Wikipedia page isn’t something that should be left to the curation of the Wikipedia community editors.
In case you didn’t already know, anyone can edit Wikipedia. (That’s both wonderful… and also kind of scary.) The website doesn’t ask for account registration before allowing someone to do so. Before embarking on any Wikipedia edits, remember that at heart, Wikipedia is a resource that prides itself on community forces driving content to a neutral point of view on any given topic. As a result, verifiability and citing reliable sources are critical to developing a well-regarded Wikipedia page that stands the test of time and doesn’t get flagged as having too much “marketing speak.”
Still think it’s a good idea to include a few marketing statements? Think again—just as anyone can edit a page, anyone can flag a page that reads as an advertisement.
Read on for a primer of Wikipedia best practices that Bhava uses to help clients build out a strong presence on the world’s favorite online encyclopedia.
Building a Wikipedia page for a company from scratch
First, do a search on the company and see if they have a Wikipedia page. If they do, then you can directly edit that page. If no Wikipedia page pops up for that company, then you’ll need to create a page. This step is done simply from the returned search results page.
Building out the actual content is the slightly more tricky part. To help with style questions, Wikipedia has shared a comprehensive style guide.
Most important for company Wikipedia pages are citations. Wikipedia’s guidelines state that:
In particular, sources are required for material that is challenged or likely to be challenged – if reliable sources cannot be found for challenged material, it is likely to be removed from the article. Sources are also required when quoting someone, with or without quotation marks, or closely paraphrasing a source. However, the citing of sources is not limited to those situations – editors are always encouraged to add or improve citations for any information contained in an article.
With company pages, any claim that is not verified by a third party has the potential to be called into question by anyone ranging from competitors to a thirteen year old on a justice rant.
To guard against, Bhava recommends weaving together quotes from published articles to tell the larger company story, carefully citing each sentence back to the original article. Backlinks to independent blogs tend not to carry too much weight when put through the verification test, as you may imagine. Working with a PR team can help generate those published stories that make for strong Wikipedia references, emphasizing the critical importance of integrating good public relations strategy in your overall communications plan.
Editing an existing Wikipedia page to include company perspective
Large, abrupt changes to a Wikipedia page will flag a page to Wikipedia’s army of bots. So, if a company page already exists, be careful of over-editing. You can reframe and guide a page, but not raze it to the ground and build it from scratch. It’s OK to add in new material or revise content that needs to be updated since a previous edit and then reorder the page where necessary to place emphasis on facts and events you would like to prioritize.
So your company’s Wikipedia page is flagged as marketing material – now what?
Whatever you do, don’t just delete the flag! What you do next requires some finesse.
First, start by going through the text of the article, sentence by sentence, highlighting each unsubstantiated claim. For each loose statement, find corroborating support from existing third party materials. It’s also often useful to go through media coverage from a launch, grabbing the tidbits of press releases that reporters frequently chose to repurpose, as well as original commentary or analyst opinions. After you validate each statement through these references, your work is done. You can remove the code at the top of the editing box which flags an article, and save the page.
Ongoing Wikipedia management
It’s not enough to create a company page and then let the Wikipedia community speak for your company. Here at Bhava, we believe it’s important for companies to play a proper role in the accuracy and completeness of their Wikipedia page, adding content with each relevant announcement and compelling new milestone. Important new hires, product announcements and media and analyst coverage should all be considered potential fodder for ongoing Wikipedia updates.