This post was written by Stevie Benton, head of external relations at Wikimedia UK
Over the last few months I’ve been receiving a spate of telephone calls over from comms and PR folks who were looking for advice on how to engage with Wikipedia to try and ensure that articles about their executives and companies were accurate and up to date.
Understanding that this is a live issue for the comms industry, I made contact with the editorial team at Corp Comms magazine which is, as the name suggests, aimed at in-house communications professionals. I suggested that I could write an article for the magazine giving some hints and tips on how Wikipedia works, how the community works and the best ways to engage. The editor, Helen Dunne, agreed, and so a feature has appeared in this month’s edition (and will appear online next month).
As well as the article, I was invited to speak at a conference on Managing Online Reputation, which happened on 20 May in London. I’ve spoken publicly at events before and never been especially nervous, but when the audience is made up of 70 or so of your peers – very senior comms professionals from some of the UK’s biggest brands – it’s a different thing entirely, especially as many people spoke to me to let me know that my session was their main reason for attending. As I was speaking at the end of the event, it gave me plenty of time to reflect not only on the calibre of the earlier speakers, but to begin to get nervous. Thankfully, the nerves passed and the presentation went well.
Following the presentation I was part of a panel which included Paul Wilkinson, long-time Wikipedian, and Neil Brown of the RICS, who has recently been engaging with the Wikipedia community. We took plenty of intelligent and thoughtful questions from the room and the audience went away with a really good understanding of how Wikipedia works and how to effectively engage with the volunteer editors. Most of all, they understood that under no circumstances should they edit about themselves, their brands, products or executives and to always use the talk page.
Several people got in touch after the session and asked for further help and guidance, which I am in the process of making available. On the whole this was a rewarding experience for me personally, but also very worthwhile for the charity. The fact that there was great willingness from the audience to learn how to respect Wikipedia’s rules and editing community is very encouraging – and some may even become Wikipedians themselves.
To get a sense of how the event went, visit Twitter and search for the hashtag #CCConf.