A study by Prof. Marcia DiStaso of Penn State has found that 60% of Wikipedia articles about companies contain factual errors but even more “shocking” to her was that 25% of PR people responding were not familiar with the articles about their own companies.

Wikipedia study

“WP articles need to be monitored,” she said, citing a flow chart created by Corporate Representatives for Ethical WP Engagement, a website created in January by Phil Gomes, head of Digital for Edelman, Chicago.

The chart (PDF) provides guidance on how to navigate the “challenging” WP editing process, she said.

David King, a longtime paid contributor to WP, has said that satisfying WP’s stringent sourcing rules is like “putting together the shards of glass from a broken glass.”

WP does not recognize original research or documents. All materials must come from articles that have appeared in “reliable media.”

Participating in the survey were 1,284 members of the PR Society, Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators, Word of Mouth Marketing Assn, Institute for PR, and the National Investor Relations Institute. Funding came from the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State. Donors to the Center include Larry Foster, former VP-PR of Johnson & Johnson.

PR People Inexpert about WP

Marcia DiStaso
Results were that fewer than 21% percent of PR people were familiar with the editing rules and that 35% have engaged with WP either to make edits directly or through the “Talk” pages. The result of this engagement left 23% feeling that making changes was nearly impossible, said DiStaso.

Complete results are in an article in PR Journal of the PR Society. A further explanation of the problems with WP editing rules for PR is in an article published by the Institute for Public Relations. See the infographic on the PRS blog for highlights of the two articles.

DiStaso, a Ph.D. who is assistant professor of PR, is chair of the PR Society Financial Communications Section.

“Bottom line,” she says, “is that the editing of WP by PR people is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed. The status quo can’t continue. A high amount of factual errors doesn’t work for anyone, especially the public, which relies on WP for accurate, balanced information.”

She notes that PR people can join CREWE by visiting its website.