Wikipedia celebrated its 11th birthday Saturday throughout the world and one of the events included an all-day conference and birthday party at New York University.

We attended the event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. when the birthday cake was cut and Wikipedians sang “Happy Birthday” to the organization that Phil Gomes of Edelman says “is on the first page of search results for nearly every company, brand, product, personality, captain-of-industry, etc.” in the world.

Peter Coti
Peter Coti of Wikipedia's New York chapter
(Photo: Saabira Chaudhuri )
PR pros talk a lot about “social media” (which is only a tiny corner of the web) when they should be spending a lot more time learning how to correct and place materials on WP.

The complaint of Gomes, who started the CREWE Facebook discussion on WP and PR is that “many (WP) entries are derelict, even for important topics and well-known industry bellwethers. Financial data is often years old.”

A chief participant in the discussion that has drawn hundreds of posts is Keith Trivitt, associate PR director of the self-proclaimed world’s largest organization of PR people—the PR Society.

However, no one from PRS attended Jan. 28 although the media relations dept. had a payroll of $406,453 in 2010 and total cost of $620,292 (up 42% from 2009).

Trivitt and others have come up with a nine-part plan to get WP to change its policies that includes a dozen global PR groups working together to put “pressure” on co-founder Jimmy Wales; contacting “politicians” worldwide to do the same, and publishing a list of mistakes on WP involving the Fortune 100 and the Global 1,000 companies.

PRS has yet to post the minutes of the four board meetings last year nor the minutes of the Oct. 15, 2011 Assembly. Its posting of the 17 members of the 2012 directors does not identify who are the five at-large directors nor what districts the other directors represent. Bylaws say that only two directors are to be at-large but no one ran last year from the Southeast, Southwest and North Pacific districts.

Fastest-Growing Charity in U.S.

The Wikimedia Foundation (EIN: 20-0049703) saw its revenues climb from $8.1 million in 2008 to $16.2M in 2009 and expected this to rise to $20.4M for the year ended June 30, 2011, according to its annual report (PDF).

The Charity Navigator said the 106% spurt in 2009 revenues made WP the “fastest-growing charity” in the U.S. Expenses of $20.4M were forecast for the 2011 year leaving cash/investments at $13M.

There were 680 million unique visitors to WP in that year. Revenue goal for 2011-12 is close to $30M.

WP is Cool to PR People

Wikipedia crowd
(Photo: Saabira Chaudhuri)

Co-founder Jimmy Wales has been cool to PR people since 2006 when he said he frowns “very very strongly” on them making direct edits to WP pages.

On Jan. 11 of this year he said of PR pro William Beutler that Beutler “has done the single best job of abusing our assumption of good faith and illustrating why it’s so critical that people in your position be completely restricted from making edits in article space…”

WP, as several Wikipedians told us Saturday, prefers that PR people uplink materials to “Talk” pages that don’t appear on main WP or in the “Articles for Creation” area for proposed new topics.

WP administrator David Goodman said WP is not opposed to PR pros making factual corrections about earnings, sales or discontinued corporate entities.

He said PR pros are not totally banned from editing WP’s “live” pages but they are discouraged from doing so.

“In practice,” he added, “either they do damage control or write about an organization from the point of view of writing a web page. PR people write about what they want the public to know but an encyclopedia is about what the public wants to know.”

Like Putting Together “Broken Glass”

He said there is a “large overlap” in these areas and PR pros can contribute as long as they keep in mind that all content must be “objective.”

Richard Knipel, president of WP/New York, said PR pros often approach content from a commercial standpoint and should make article suggestions on WP’s Talk pages where editors will decide whether they can go “live.”

This website feels the quickest route to obtaining recognition on WP is employing those who are familiar with its rules. Some do this on a full-time basis including David King of Raleigh who says putting together an article for WP, including proper sourcing and avoidance of copyright issues, is like putting together the “shards of glass” from a broken glass. “Sourcing to their satisfaction is very difficult,” he said.

Wikipedia crowd
Bulletin board outlined the event agenda
(Photo: Saabira Chaudhuri)
A Wikipedian who didn’t want his name used said PR pros use too many adjectives. “Expert people from companies can be very useful once they get the idea that they should write up the basic facts and then leave the article alone,” he said.

Told about "The Tylenol Mafia," which author Scott Bartz has been unable to get mentioned in WP, Wikipedians said Bartz must first get it mentioned in national media.

Thus far he has only been able to get notice in local Chicago newspapers and local stations of network and cable TV news shows. We told the Wikipedians that the book is one of the finest pieces of journalism we have ever seen. It charges that the poisonings in 1982 and 1986 took place while the ingredients for Tylenol were in Johnson & Johnson’s distribution chain.

The event, which drew about 70 attendees, had a panel on how students can learn to edit and create WP entries that will get past the volunteer editors, of which there are about 10,000.

One panel discussed the need for a greater “gender balance” among WP editors who were described as being “largely male.” Attendees also discussed the proposed “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect Intellectual Property Act,” both of which WP and others oppose.

Another topic was the impact of WP on prescription drugs.

PR pro Bryce Tom asked the Wikipedians how PR people can more actively participate in changing WP’s live content.

Wikipedian Paul Robinson, who has the user name “AstroCog,” said PR people could obtain “credibility” by linking to secondary sources that talk about their employers or clients.

Peter Coti discussed plans for building the New York chapter of WP which now has about 70 members.