This move follows the recent suggestions of undisclosed editing of Wikipedia entries by individual public relations firms. Although many PR firms who engage with the public through online communities have policies on editing in line with the CIPR's Social Media Guidance and also follow community guidelines, there is a need to take action to further clarify the position specifically in relation to Wikipedia.
Commenting, Jane Wilson, CIPR CEO says:
The CIPR has clear ethical and practical guidance on the most appropriate manner for PR professionals to work with open, online communities such as Wikipedia. It is not only important they are upfront about who they are and their intentions, but they should seek to deal openly and honestly with the public at all times. This rules out any behaviour that sets out to hide the true source or motivation for any updates. PR without transparency is unprofessional. It has less to do with the 'dark arts' and more to do with the dark ages.
I am delighted Wikipedia will be working with us on this. There is a need to develop understanding of the mutual advantages of open, transparent engagement with the public through Wikipedia.
Commenting, Roger Bamkin, Chair of Wikimedia UK, the local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity behind Wikipedia, says:
Recent incidents highlighted by Tom Watson MP and in the national press show that in some parts of the PR profession, a lack of understanding on how to engage with the Wikipedia community persists. We will work with the CIPR to ensure that their members, and through them the wider PR Profession, have access to the clearest possible guidance on the best way to work with Wikipedia.
We believe that attempts to mask the true identity of anyone seeking to edit the site are unethical as well as counterproductive.
Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, added his support for the initiative:
Wikipedia is becoming the world's first port of call for accurate, fact checked information regarding companies, services and people. It is therefore vital that the PR industry adheres to the highest standards when representing the interests of their clients. There has been a number of negative press stories that have not just harmed the credibility of the information contained on the pages of Wikipedia, but caused reputational harm to the PR and lobbying firms and their clients who were the subject of negative stories.
PR professionals need clear guidelines in this new world of online information-sharing. That's why I'm delighted that interested parties are coming together to establish a clear code of conduct.
I'm delighted to help in any way I can with this important initiative.
Jane Wilson's recent blog post: Professionalism key to our industry gaining greater respect.
For general queries, please contact Phil Morgan, Director of Policy and Communication, on 020 7631 6926 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the CIPR
The CIPR is the professional body for PR practitioners in the UK. With 9,500 members involved in all aspects of PR, it is the largest body of its type in Europe. The CIPR advances the PR profession in the UK by making its members accountable through a code of conduct, developing policies, representing its members and raising standards through education and training.
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. Wikimedia UK is the Wikimedia chapter covering the United Kingdom. Their aim is to help collect, develop and distribute freely licensed knowledge by bringing the Wikimedia community in the UK together, and by building links with UK-based cultural institutions, universities, charities and other bodies. Wikimedia UK is a registered charity and is supported entirely by voluntary donations.