DiStaso, M. W. (2013). Perceptions of Wikipedia by Public Relations Professionals: A Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Surveys. Public Relations Journal, 7(3), 1-23.
Wikipedia has arguably become a staple in society. In fact, of all the information sources available on the Internet, Wikipedia is one of the most widely used. The problem that public relations professionals face is what Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales calls a “bright line’ rule.” This rule requires public relations professionals to use the Talk pages to request changes to the Wikipedia articles for their company or client instead of directly editing the content. To examine the effectiveness of this rule and explore current Wikipedia experiences, this study reports the results of a survey conducted in 2013. Comparisons to a similar 2012 study are also noted
An online survey was conducted with a 1,620 public relations professionals who belong to a variety of organizations including PRSA, International Association of Business Communicators, Chartered Institute for Public Relations, Canadian Public Relations Society, Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Arthur W. Page Society, Council of PR Firms, Institute for Public Relations, and National Investor Relations Institute.
1) Potentially Reputation Damaging Errors: 28% of respondents claimed their article has had at least one potentially reputation-damaging error, and 38% of those stated that an error in a Wikipedia article has damaged their company or client’s reputation.
2) Factual Errors Still A Problem: 59% of respondents who were familiar with their company or client’s Wikipedia article indicated it currently has one or more factual errors (down from 60% in 2012).
3) Wikipedia Response Rates Improved but Remain Too Long: 13% said they never received a response to requests made on the Talk pages (down from 24% in 2012), and 10% said it took weeks (down from 12% in 2012).
4) Factual Errors Need Attention: 27% of respondents stated the longest they have seen a potentially-reputation damaging error on the Wikipedia article for their company or client was for a year or more and 23% said it lasted “months.”
5) Engagement by Public Relations Professionals has Increased: 40% of respondents (up from 35% in 2012) had engaged with Wikipedia through either direct editing or the Talk pages.
6) Some Viewed Making Changes as Near Impossible: 23% of respondents felt that making changes to Wikipedia articles for their company or client was “near impossible” in 2012 and 2013.
7) New Articles Don’t Typically Come from the Company: 24% of respondents indicated that the Wikipedia article for their company or client was created by their public relations team.
8) Wikipedia is Monitored by Companies: 34% of respondents stated they monitor their company or client’s Wikipedia article quarterly and 33% monitored at least monthly.
9) Wikipedia Matters During a Crisis: 23% of respondents monitor Wikipedia hourly for their company or client during a crisis and 45% monitor daily.
10) Low Familiarity with the Bright Line Rule: 25% of respondents were familiar and understand the rule that requires public relations professionals to use the Talk pages instead of directly editing a Wikipedia article for their company or client (an increase from 21% in 2012).
11) The Bright Line Rule Should Change: 85% of respondents with engagement experience through editing or using the Talk pages felt the rule should change.
Implications for Practice
While the 2013 survey found some improvement in response times from Wikipedia when the Talk pages are used compared to the 2012 survey, this study sheds more light on the errors in Wikipedia. Reputations of companies are on the line, so tying the hands of public relations professionals without providing an effective resolution to handling factual errors is concerning. With the goal of accurate Wikipedia content, the findings of this study indicate that the ‘bright line’ rule is still not working.
The full article is available for free at http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_DiStaso.pdf