Wikipedia and Public Relations: A Possible First Step in Repairing a Troubled Relationship


Today Beutler Ink is proud to announce the outcome of a project that has been months in the works—and which will be in the works likely for years to come. For the first time, 11 of the top public relations and marketing companies have come together to release a joint statement expressing support for Wikipedia's goals, an interest in understanding the community better, an intention to follow its rules, and openness to a broader dialogue. This effort began in February 2014, when I convened a roundtable discussion at the Donovan House hotel in Washington, DC, bringing together members of the Wikipedia community with representatives of several top firms. These individuals, for the first time in a real-world setting, began talking through their differences—and identifying common interests. I believe both sides were surprised to find that there were more of the latter than either expected.

And so I began leading an effort, primarily on the agency side but with input from interested Wikipedians, to craft a joint statement along the lines described in the first paragraph. We succeeded, and today we have made this statement public on Wikipedia. If Wikipedia and public relations professionals are to work better together in the future, I believe a first step of this kind is a necessary one.

The full statement, list of participating agencies, and news coverage follow:

Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms

On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia's unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors.

Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.

We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, particularly those related to "conflict of interest."
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use.
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.

We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.

A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia's continued success.

Participating firms and their representatives, as of June 10, 2014:

  • Beutler Ink (William Beutler)
  • Ogilvy & Mather (Marshall Manson)
  • FleishmanHillard (Sam Huxley)
  • Peppercomm (Sam Ford)
  • Burson-Marsteller (Patrick Kerley)
  • Ketchum (Tim Weinheimer)
  • Porter Novelli (Dave Coustan)
  • Voce Communications (Dave Coustan)
  • Edelman (Phil Gomes)
  • Allison+Partners (Jeremy Rosenberg)
  • MDC Partners (Michael Bassik)