Forced transparency: Corporate image on Wikipedia and what it means for public relations

DiStaso, Marcia W., & Messner, Marcus (2010).  Forced transparency:  Corporate image on Wikipedia and what it means for public relations. Public Relations Journal, 4(2), 1-23.

Collaboratively edited information on social media that circumvents traditional media gatekeepers poses a challenge to public relations professionals. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia gives anyone the opportunity to shape the public image of major corporations. This longitudinal panel study analyzed the framing of 10 Fortune 500 companies on Wikipedia between 2006 and 2010. A content analysis of more than 3,800 sentences in the entries for Walmart, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, AIG, and IBM found that the negative tone of the company increased over time and the focus of the entries shifted from historical information to legal concerns and scandals. The findings show that public relations professionals need to pay close attention to the content in  their Wikipedia entries.

Method

Longitudinal content analysis of 10 companies in 2006, 2008 and 2010: Walmart, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, AIG, and IBM.

Key Findings

1)      Corporate Wikipedia articles have great potential influence ranking high in search engines.

2)      Public opinion of the Wikipedia articles in this study was formed from a high number of edits by a high number of editors.

3)      The tone and topics in these Wikipedia articles changed over time. The tone became more negative and less about historical information. Content about legal concerns and scandals have increased.

4)      Company profiles are provided for: Walmart, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, AIG, and IBM.

Implications for Practice

What is said in a corporate Wikipedia article has the possibility to influence many people. The monitoring of Wikipedia in public relations should be included in all social media plans. Simply knowing about the content on a company page will provide public relations professionals with an understanding of what the general public knows about their organization. It also gives insight into what topics are important, and how many people have something to say about the company.

Article Location

The full article is available for free at: http://www.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/6D-040201/0/Forced_Transparency_Corporate_Image_on_Wikipedia_a

Posted in [Research Library], Corporate Social Responsibility, New Technology / Social Media, Social Networking, Wikis and tagged , , .

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