back to article PR mag: Let promoters edit clients' Wikipedia entries

PRs feel that they are excluded from making edits to Wikipedia even when they are trying to correct factual errors, a survey by the journal of the Public Relations Society of America has found. Twenty-three per cent of the 1,284 public relations professionals interviewed found making changes to Wikipedia "almost impossible". …


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  1. Antony Riley

    The bans there because PR firms don't seem to know the difference between factual and fanciful.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Ah, but

      ... neither does Jimmy Wales, who has doctored the truth in his own entries several times. Thereby setting a precedent for "the encyclopedia anyone can edit"

      If it's sauce for Jimbo, then it's sauce for the gander.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >"the most knowledgeable about a topic"

    The condition for getting information into wikipedia is that it can be cited from a reliable source, not that one possesses an overweening self-regard.

  3. crowley

    confident, aren't they?

    They have issues with factual information in criticisms. (27.1%)

    Surely the libel court is the best place for such complaints then?

    Put up or shut up.

    1. frymaster


      Are you honestly saying that the FIRST THING someone should do if they find factual errors in a wikipedia article criticizing them is to sue?

      1. crowley

        Re: Seriously?

        No, I'm saying "b) that when they did attempt to request changes through the Talk pages, a quarter (24 per cent) found that they did not receive any responses to their requests." and so they are thereafter rightly done with their polite direct navigating of the matter, and may seek greater efficacy by having a lawyer write a polite letter pointing out the seriousness of the matter, and so forth.

        Having a belated whine to a survey seems to me to undermine the credibility of their complaint about the accuracy of criticism on Wikipedia. If it was valid, they'd walk the walk, not gossip like a little bitch.

        1. crowley

          Re: Seriously? NO

          I said NOOOOOOO!

          So what are you all upset about?

          Is it 'we love PR guys, those impartial defenders of truth, week'?

          1. Tom 13

            Re: So what are you all upset about?

            Well, let's start with assuming distinctly British-centric viewpoint and extending it to the entire world. 'Merkin laws certainly aren't as strict as British laws with regard to libel and slander, I'm sure some places are more strict than British laws and others are even less strict than 'Merkins. Since wiki is everywhere, it simply isn't a suitable solution.

            Gawd, I'm defending wiki and I don't even like the site.

    2. Tom 35

      Re: confident, aren't they?

      "They have issues with factual information in criticisms."

      It said they have issues, not that the facts are wrong.

      Something like say reference to drunken parties and prostitutes might be something a government official might "have issues with" even if true.

  4. Naughtyhorse

    public relations professionals.....

    that just broke the little needle off of my oxymoronometer and caused some of the magic blue smoke to escape from it's innards.

  5. JimC

    Hmm, difficult

    I certainly don't trust PR droids as an information source for an encyclopedia, but they may be more reliable than the extreme end of wikipe-fanaticism...

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I wouldn't trust a PR 'professional' as far as I could throw him/her/it. Their idea of facts never seems to match anyone else's

  7. ratfox

    Risk is too big

    Sorry, I prefer the minor errors in dates to letting PR people edit articles. If you are not happy, create another wiki and compete.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Risk is too big

      Good idea - PRi(c)kipedia it is, then!

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Risk is too big

      Since anyone can edit wiki, if the PR flack inserts bad info, others can fix it. Since the PR flack as an obvious potential conflict, if he causes too many problems he can be booted with a public explanation on why. In short, if the "many eyeballs" philosophy is correct, there is no reason to exclude people just because they have a financial interest in what is said. It's not like anything written on wiki is written by someone with no interest in the subject. Frankly, knowing a PR flack edited something is probably better than the usual anonymous edits because at least you KNOW what the PR flack's interest is.

      1. Spleen

        Re: Risk is too big

        Ideally yes. The problem is that most of the pages PR companies tend to edit do not have many eyeballs on them. There aren't many people who will be naturally attracted to edit articles about companies. A few big multinationals in the popular consciousness - McDonalds, Exxon, etc - will attract attention, but that is a minority. Most companies don't have any contentious issues for editors to hash out a consensus over, or interesting events that require the page to be updated regularly. They don't attract academic or hobbyist interest and aren't something that will ever appear on Mastermind as someone's specialist subject. So they aren't on many people's watchlists.

        One of the more tiresome wiki-arguments is "you shouldn't just delete what people add even if it's naked PR guff, you should try to edit it into an encyclopaedic state". If someone dumps a barrowload of shit on your doorstep, most people won't bother to pick through it looking for undigested bits of cereal, because it is not a productive use of your time. When someone C&Ps several paragraphs of text from the company website going "Bellend Inc is globally recognised as one of the leading producers of high-quality brass clappers, with a proud history... shared ethos... years to come" etc etc, it's just going to be deleted because rewriting that sort of thing requires as much effort as writing it from scratch. And the reason no-one wrote up the company's history in the first place is because nobody cares.

        One thing the article also doesn't mention is that, as a lot of the PR dumps are copy-and-pasted from the company's promotional literature, they are copyright violations, and must be binned immediately, regardless of merit.

  8. P. Lee


    Email the corrections to the company involved.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    PR's editing

    If Tim Westwoods PR was let loose on Wikipedia he would probably list his birth date as 1980 rather than the more accurate 1957.

    Big shout out to El Reg from the big dog! Boooooom!

  10. Shakje

    Come on guys...statistics..

    "Those who made direct edits to pages of clients found that the edits "always stuck" 31 per cent of the time."

    is just plain wrong. It clearly should be:

    "31 per cent of those who made direct edits to pages of clients found that the edits "always stuck""

    It's a little disingenuous to say it the first way, as it changes the whole focus of the article. E.g. almost 60% of people said that their edits stuck most of the time, with only 25% saying that their edits occurred less than half the time. Doesn't really seem like such an issue any more does it?

  11. Nihiltres

    The statistics are shoddy

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Read the original paper: .

    In it, the relevant paragraph is this:

    "When asked if there are currently factual errors on their company or client’s Wikipedia articles, 32% said that there were (n=406), 25% said that they don’t know (n=310), 22% said no (n=273), and 22% said that their company or client does not have a Wikipedia article (n=271). In other words, 60% of the Wikipedia articles for respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s article contained factual errors."

    This is abuse of statistics. First of all, it measures *whether PR people say there's an error*, not the actual error rate—and it begs the question of the reliability of that proxy. Second, the people who say they're not sure about their article are left out of that ridiculous 60% statistic. A more reasonable interpretation of the same results is that *about 30% of those whose employers have an article alleged an error*. That's still too high, but it's an entirely different statistic.

    This error is magnified by the nature of the sample: this research was done by *online survey*. Since presumably only those interested in answering answered, there's a possibility that the sample is biased to begin with towards those with an interest in Wikipedia—say, because they're aware of an error in their article.

    1. Shakje

      Re: The statistics are shoddy

      Didn't bother to read the paper because it's not really something that interests me much, but seriously, what a joke.

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