Talk:Draft best practice guidelines for PR

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Please use this page to discuss the draft guidelines. Please comment in good faith! --Stevie Benton (talk) 17:15, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Volunteer time is precious

One thing I'd want to see added to anything PR people have to read, regardless of what policies we have on Wikimedia projects is simply this...

Volunteer time is precious. Wikipedia backlogs are enormous, and there's a strong feeling in the community that there aren't enough volunteers to cover the amount of work that needs doing: the number of administrators isn't growing to handle the backlogs and we tend to find ways to increase the amount of work we have to do.

Couldn't agree more. Excellent point. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Most volunteers come to Wikipedia to work on interesting encyclopedic topics. That might be some very academic topic like economics or psychology or literature, or some more geeky topic like trains. PR people need to be aware that the volunteers they are dealing with came to Wikipedia with no desire to spend their time dealing with PR people or other paid corporate representatives. Nobody wakes up and thinks "you know what I want to do today? I want to ensure that Edelman's clients are fairly represented on Wikipedia!". Most Wikipedians would rather be spending their time reading up on and editing on Victorian poets or obscure military leaders or the history of political ideologies or the Roman history of some small English town than having to deal with PR people.

Even on the more meta side: if I'm going to spend however many hours training someone to edit Wikipedia (or fixing their errors or cleaning up after them in the administrative processes or whatever), and that person is going to go off and write articles about military history or Lady Gaga singles or whatever, that's fine. That's a valuable use of my time. Spending the same amount of my time teaching a PR person, even if they are nice and enlightened and grok the whole markets-are-conversations Cluetrain stuff, it's still a waste of time to train them on how to edit Wikipedia as the most we are going to get out of it are improvements to client articles.

We (CIPR, other industry/professional bodies) can do this - we exist to provide learning and development to PR professionals. There is both a need and an appetite to do this. Phil Morgan (CIPR)

I've always wondered why Wikipedia requires not inconsiderable training, and yet is so busy regardless. But the risk of Wikipedian cliques and decline in active editors is tangental here. Or perhaps not. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Even the good PR people can be a massive timesink and distraction from the primary work that Wikipedians are doing, namely building an encyclopedia. This may be misguided of me, but I don't think it's irrational: if the community are being asked to collectively and individually put time and resources into helping and working with PR people, it's perfectly reasonable to ask what are we getting out of it? —Tom Morris (talk) 18:09, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

And therein lies the crux of the matter. You're needed to help PR people with verifiable accuracy because they are "paid editors", at least I think that's the phrase, and so cannot readily feel at ease making edits without your help. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Agree with you, Tom. If you are going to spend hours training a PR professional, you need to know it is going to be time well spent. The guidelines should make it clear how PR professionals can contribute to the movement and help edit articles that lie outside of their work interests. --GemGriff (talk) 16:04, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

(Tom asked me to look this over in my capacity as "en.wp admin who is not all that hostile to PR people and sometimes even tolerates them!" I'm not a member of WMUK, just an opinionated American.) I think the core of what Tom's saying here, that PR professionals should remember that volunteer time is valuable, is good. It is absolutely the case that, even among those of us who are willing to work with "paid editors", we're still not getting paid for helping them do a job that they are billing for. However, the point of this, as far as offering it as guidance to PR people, should not be "we hate you, stay away", or even "you're a waste of time, but we're nice enough to put up with you." It should be, "Our time is valuable too. Please spend some of the time you're being paid for anyway familiarizing yourself with the way Wikipedia actually works, so that we don't have to spend the time we're not being paid for repeating to you beginner's stuff that anyone who wants to touch Wikipedia ought to know."
That's so how I feel about this. (Still, it would be better all round if the Wikipedia UI could be updated a bit.) --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

To that end, one of the first steps in any set of best practices we provide to PR professionals should instruct them to read our guidelines. Obviously, just a blanket "read our rules" isn't going to be all that helpful - we have so many policies, guidelines, and essays that I doubt even the most experienced WP admin can say they've read all of them - so what we're (you're) going to want to do is lay out those policies that are most relevant to the issues PR professionals are going to be addressing. At a minimum, I'd say that prior to their first edit, all PR professionals who want to interact with Wikipedia should be reading: WP:5P, WP:COI, WP:NPOV, WP:RS, WP:COPYVIO, WP:NOT, WP:USERNAME, and WP:TALK. Many of these are neatly encapsulated in en:Wikipedia:Plain and simple conflict of interest guide, and that's a very good jumping-off point, but people who want to use us in the course of their work really ought to do us at least the courtesy of reading through all the actual policies.

The key thing I want to distill from Tom's comment, really, is that PR people may perceive us as a means to an end, and that's not always a hanging offense if they're willing to work with our rules in the process. However, if they want to make use of our encyclopedia space and our users' expertise, it's their responsibility to come into that having done their homework. We're here (those of us who are willing to work with PR people) to assist and guide them, not to do their jobs for them, and one of the best things they can do to represent "PR people" as an industry to us is to show us that they're willing to do their work themselves, not splatter some press releases on a page and wait for us to fix it up. The trade-off, the "what we get out of it" when they do things right is that we get high-quality, comprehensive content that's being provided to us, with only minimal assistance and guidance by our volunteers. Fluffernutter (talk) 18:37, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

I wrote this and then had an edit conflict. I think Fluffernutter also makes some good points which I hadn't considered

Great point re what you get out of it, Fluffernutter. The CIPR social media panel’s aim is to provide PR people with comprehensive guidelines (a practical / trusty handbook if you will) on how to improve articles and ‘do things right’, as you say. Hopefully this will lead to high-quality content without draining too much of a Wikipedians' time.--GemGriff (talk) 16:16, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Tom's remarks. All sorts of problems apply. Cash donations sound good, but would they compromise independence. Should we make Wikipedia a w:en:supportive selling environment - I don't think so. Having had a brief skim through, I already find my hackels rising:

  • "There is also conflicting advice within the Wikipedia community" - what "conflict" - what there actually is constitutes a range of views as you would expect in a community. We are not a corporation and a lot of this draft is trying to bang us into that sort of square hole.
  • "Wales tells PR professionals not to edit directly but a small concession on the FAQ on a Wikipedia page . . ." OK, but it would be nice if they put in some interwiki links rather than expecting people to hunt stuff down. Also it is not a small concession but an alternative opinion. We are not a corporation!
  • "The CIPR needs to work with Wikipedians to define what is meant by “minor” edits." I do not see why we need to this: if there is any doubt then it's not a minor edit, straightforward eh?
I have a well developed feeling for what constitutes a minor edit. But now you've mentioned it, I have no idea if this aligns with yours. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
  • "And others, such as Lord Bell, believe just because PR professionals are paid advocates, it doesn’t mean they are “lying” and not in a position to edit effectively." This is classic strawman argument (worthy of an edit war!). It is not whether paid advocates are lying, it is the matter of being biased. Also as being constrained by contractual obligations - whether as a direct employee or through another form of contract - everything they do takes place within the context of these additional legal factors which do not affect other editors, who are acting as free individuals. I do not think wikipedians want or need to be weighed down by a whole series of extra considerations when dealing with fellow wikipedians.
Definitely up for avoiding an edit war! Let's agree that a paid advocate is biased, although capable to varying extents at recognising such bias and throttling it as needed. Not all PR practitioners are made equal. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

In the end perhaps professionals from the PR industry should consider whether its a simple matter that wikipedia is not their cup of tea ("its consumption is strongly associated with a calm but alert and focused, relatively productive (alpha wave dominant), mental state in humans") while at work, and just give it a miss. Perhaps they should reconcile their concerns with the epithet "no-one trusts wikipedia anyway" and edit pages on Startrek or Napoleonic military uniforms when they are not at work.Leutha (talk) 19:17, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Best practice PR seeks to build mutual understanding and goodwill (ie, not the 'spin' definition). So on that basis, I'm afraid as long as Wikipedia remains a community and media through which understanding goes around comes around, you're stuck with the constant attention of the PR profession. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:25, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

In this sense, the success of Wikipedia has meant it has a role, intended or not, in the formation of reputations. Phil Morgan (CIPR)

I am confused by "...but a small concession on the FAQ on a Wikipedia page..." in section 'The Right to Edit', which I think is referring to w:User:Jimbo_Wales/Paid_Advocacy_FAQ. If it is referring to the FAQ, it should link to it, however it should also be clear that it is still a WIP. Overall I like this guideline. I agree with Tom's point about volunteer time, and that most volunteers would rather not work on articles about current people and corporations, and I would go as far as saying that a large segment of the community is opposed to indepth coverage of 21st century people and orgs, per w:WP:recentism and w:WP:NOTDIR, and also the English Wikipedia community efforts are most needed on non-Western pop culture as that is where our biggest gaps are. In short, engaging PR people is an opportunity cost, draining our resources (and enthusiasm) from the 'important' parts of the encyclopedia we would otherwise be working on. John Vandenberg (talk) 23:11, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

We have a long list of worthy educational or scholarly charities lining up to work with us, as well as schools, and informal gatherings such as Girl Geeks. By getting together with these groups we get some academic credibility, access to learners in schools and universities, and the personal reward of helping two charitable causes at once. We don't have enough volunteers to service all these requests. If it weren't for that scarcity, it would make sense to give lots of free help to the commercial PR industry. But given the scarcity, I think the community should give priority to charitable and educational partners, and psychologically I think volunteers will anyway.
We have an ongoing relationship with Cancer Research UK in which we provide them training and advice and they devote some time to improving articles related to cancer. CRUK raise money from little old ladies selling secondhand clothes in charity shops... and they're curing cancer! Of course WMUK volunteers like helping them. Does helping (admirably well-intentioned) PR firms have the same appeal?
I applaud this effort to collaborate on a set of guidelines (and particular plaudits to GemGriff who's done a lot of valuable voluntary work for WMUK), but I think if the PR industry wants more substantive help it should actually pay: there should be a mixed economy in which commercial clients buy time to, in effect, subsidise the free help given to purely charitable clients. A lot of Wikipedians will be hostile to the mixed economy idea, saying people should never be paid for Wikipedia expertise. I (currently) think it's the way things will inevitably go. MartinPoulter (talk) 11:25, 21 May 2012 (UTC)
MartinPoulter, interesting stuff! I for one would never propose such a 'mixed economy' model for fear of attracting some serious criticism, being perceived, I guess, as on the public relations side of this discussion. I actually think I'm neutral over all, being such a huge fan of Wikipedia, but I still wouldn't risk it! Perhaps this is a well worn debate, but this is the first I've learned of it, so I will tread very lightly here by treading no more. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:47, 24 May 2012 (UTC)-- 22:46, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Comments from Charles Matthews

Needs to be completely rewritten. Really. Anything to do with "conflict of interest" in the Wikipedia sense has to be handled in precise language. 20:05, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

In more detail: the five pillars are not the key thing here. Neutrality and verifiability are. Linking to pages categorised as "basic information" is not really enough. The actual wording of the neutrality page matters greatly. 20:33, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Basic confusion. A noticeboard is not a WikiProject. 20:38, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

I think the talk about "escalation" is potentially misleading. Certainly the first thing to do is to document an issue on a relevant Talk page, and/or use the OTRS system (the info@ email address). It is significant that OTRS is manned by volunteers. Then it is a question of getting outside involvement. The BLP noticeboard is a reasonable route in the case of information about living people (which need not be in a biography). An editor active on the page in question is a good person to discuss with, or an uninvolved admin. I don't think Jimmy Wales's Talk page is a solution that scales, however tempting it is to think that dealing with the top guy is the right approach. What you need usually is an experienced old Wikipedia hand who isn't moved by "noise". Dispute resolution, which is what comes next should be avoided, and it is unlikely that a case involving PR editing would get to the ArbCom. AN/I is the place for getting rough-and-ready community action in quite bad cases of edit warring. 20:50, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Re sections 3 and 4: these are clearly not directed towards the "community". But there is something basically misleading about the idea that Jimmy Wales could change "Wikipedia's policies", even if he chose to. The things that matter here appear to be three-fold: official policies; the community's attitude; and actually the terms of use of the site, which I think are nowhere mentioned. 20:56, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

I also agree with removing Jimmy Wales's Talk page from the escalation path. PR people need to learn how to use WP properly, escalating problems through DR slowly, engaging assistance by talking to the most interested set of people; not bypass community norms by skipping DR methods and escalating quickly to the top. If PR people escalate quickly, they may find someone fixing the problem quickly, and the PR person may find that the quickest fix is to block the PR people involved. I think the basic DR escalation path should be summarised, simplified and explained for the PR context; escalate to relevant WikiProject first if the problem is not urgent, then a noticeboard as it becomes more urgent or tensions rise, etc. PR people should be encouraged to find community members who want to work on their topic, and work with them. John Vandenberg (talk) 23:24, 14 May 2012 (UTC)
Good point. I just checked and it's gone. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

The new terms-of-use, and the particularly relevant section thereof: 05:42, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

I think it would be very helpful to add a "Do" along these lines:

Do remain professional in approach at all times. In editing Wikipedia you are working alongside a volunteer community. Participation means you accept that.

In fact that point and respecting neutrality are in some sense the key ones. 05:59, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Wikiproject Cooperation

This seems to be a bit of a fork of Wikiproject Cooperation. Should we move it to a daughter page of that? Filceolaire (talk) 21:44, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

That link appears to be broken..? --Sheldrake (talk) 22:06, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Fixed Filceolaire (talk) 19:36, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
Well, this is an initiative of WMUK jointly with some other people, and the objective isn't to produce a WP page, but a document that is effective outreach. By all means induce folk from the WikiProject to contribute. 16:31, 17 May 2012 (UTC)
I've posted an invite for them to comment on this draft. I put it on the Talk page of their Paid Editor Help page Filceolaire (talk) 18:48, 18 May 2012 (UTC)

They are only welcome if they are here to make the encyclopedia better

This was the sentence that irritated me "PR professionals can use their communication skills to make a case for a different point of view to be included." We need to make it clear that if PR professionals are here to "Make a case" then they are wasting our time. They should only come here to help make the encyclopedia better. This is the very heart of what they need to understand. They are only welcome if they are here to make the encyclopedia better.

I may not be a seasoned Wikipedia editor, just a dozen or so tweaks over the years, but I do know that talk pages are peppered with editors making their case. In my opinion, every multi-author Wikipedia entry is the result of editors striving for mutual understanding, which is part of the very definition of best practice public relations (ie, not 'spin'). --Sheldrake (talk) 22:35, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

A lot of the time this will not align with their contract with their clients and, in those cases, they should stay away.

PR professionals should educate clients about how wikipedia works and try to adjust their expectations. If a client is asking for a part of their history to be erased from wikipedia that is unrealistic. But if they would like facts included that will improve the entry, should they consider engaging with the community to seek such alterations? --Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 10:16, 4 June 2012 (UTC)
Yes. The way to get these included is to engage with the editors of that article on it's talk page. The best way to do this is to point them to reliable sources independent of your client, where they can check the facts. If you don't have independent sources then link to the best sources you have. If the information is unpublished then publish it elsewhere (even a press release or a company blog) so the original source can be checked. The better the source the more likely the information is to stick. Filceolaire (talk) 13:24, 4 June 2012 (UTC)
It's a small point of detail, but not all public relations is carried out by agencies. I have worked in public relations for more than a decade and have always worked in house. I think your point about the reliability of the source is very good. Would you trust, for example, audited financial reports as a source of information? --Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 09:06, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Remember that an organisation that works day and night to make the world better and is loved everywhere has little need of PR (e.g. the WMF). If this is you then chill. Your article may get vandalised from time to time but it will get quickly fixed and you have a reputation which can survive a minor blip on wikipedia.

This is a very useful point because it belies the reputation problem best practice public relations has. You are saying that the Wikimedia Foundation does not engage in 'spin'. I agree. It most definitely employs the skills of best practice public relations professionals however. I'm going to insert the CIPR's definition of PR on the page for clarity. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:36, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

An organisation which wishes to conceal what it does, because it believes the world would not approve, needs lots of PR. PR to give journalists your spin on events, lobbying to make sure the politicians don't make what you do illegal, astroturf to create a false equivalency between you and your opponents. The campaigners who oppose you will flock to your page and add lots of purple prose attacking you and wikipedians will hack it back to neutral statements then delete those because they don't have references. The activists will buckle down and get the chapter and verse for exactly what you did, every single incident, with references. Wikipedians will format it as a list. You will get an award for environmental responsibility and get a long article in a real newspaper telling about your new headquarters. Wikipedians will take a look and will smell something funny (You work in PR. You can smell a planted article. So can we.) They will quote the facts from the article. The activists will track down the author as your employee and get the quotes pulled as it is not a reliable source. The wikipedians will put it back but framed as "An employee said".

My personal opinion is that the best thing to do is to make your web site a wonderful reliable source for all kinds of educational materials about your industry (not just you company); all CC-BY-SA licensed:

  • photos of buildings you built, roads you made, your factories, machinery, products - especially ones over a hundred years old
  • historical information on when things happened
  • basic technical stuff
  • anything else we might possibly want to use.

This should be done by your librarian and some volunteer staff - not PR professionals.

If wikipedians like your company and it's employees they will be quicker trust you when the crisis happens, at least for a while. Filceolaire (talk) 22:38, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

On the being able to smell PR stories... see churnalism. There's so much crap that gets published in the press, and as someone who has written press releases only to see them published pretty much verbatim in the local press, I often struggle with the idea that local press is in any way a reliable source. See this blog for examples of these kinds of stories in the national press.
I'd hope any guide to PR engagement on Wikipedia would include strong discouragement on this front: no getting OnePoll to rustle you up a badly-written poll that pays someone a few pence to answer it, then paying an academic to put on a lab coat and pretend to be a scientist in order to impress some journalistic half-wits into running bullshit stories, then wanting said stories added to Wikipedia. WP:UNDUE and WP:FRINGE will come into play. —Tom Morris (talk) 06:06, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Agree - Good public relations depends on the timely provision of accurate, reliable, credible information. Phil Morgan (CIPR)

Comment from WereSpielChequers

As Charles has pointed out a major rewrite is needed. Whilst this approach isn't coming across as badly as the CREWE approach, there are several elements of it that put you on a collision course with the community.

  1. Timing. You are keen to implement something in the next two months. My suggestion is that in the wake of CREWE's "research" survey it would be best to back off and wait perhaps a year before approaching the community again.
    We are keen to get a first version to PR practitioners so they can annoy Wikipedians less! Over all, I guess I see this as an ongoing piece of work, not something that's done and dusted in two months. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
    Agree with Sheldrake's view that this should remain work in progress. It should be kept under review and updated if necessary. Paul W (talk) 14:21, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Agreeing a definition of minor edits or trying to change any Wikipedia rules. We already have a well established set of rules. An approach from the PR industry to find out our rules and to reassure us about any additional rules that your members sign up to would be more appropriate than an approach that sought to modify our rules to your convenience. And yes we have a help page that explains what a minor edit is. Creating "a full version which reflects the views of Wikipedians and the PR industry" implies that there is some sort of negotiation between Wikimedians and the PR industry as to what Wikimedians are prepared to allow PR people to do on Wikimedia. I'd suggest "a full version which explains the rules of Wikipedia to the PR industry" would be less contentious.
    Point taken about minor edits. Thanks. And we not striving for our convenience at the expense of yours. We're trying to see how we can work better together to both parties' advantage. Hopefully we'll find at least one or two improvements between us, even if they're tiny! --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
    Well we've just got one tiny improvement out of this. I've changed the edit screen so that if you've chosen GB English as your preferred language version, you now see a link to the help minor page (those who used default English already had that). WereSpielChequers (talk) 07:06, 20 May 2012 (UTC)
  3. Transparency. Lord Bell may think that "the same level of transparency is not demanded from the site’s editors." But actually it is. If you have a conflict of interest then the same COI rules apply whether you are an employee of a company or an unpaid trustee of a charity. We don't need to know your real name, but we do want to know the conflicts of interest you have about the subjects that you edit. What he may be concerned about is that the same level of transparency is not required of editors who don't edit articles where they have a conflict of interest. Wikipedia has a policy of allowing anyone to edit, much of it was written by people who didn't even register a user account, and many of those who have edit under pseudonyms. That may be unsettling to the PR industry, but it isn't going to change, you are not the first to suggest this, in fact it has been suggested so often that it is listed under perennial proposals and has been at the core of various unsuccessful attempts to create a rival to Wikipedia. Paid editors and others who would like to identify those Wikipedia editors who choose not to be identified should be aware that when you say "We'd like the transparency of knowing who the volunteers are who write your articles" what we hear is "You know the secret sauce that made your organisation so successful? We'd like to take away one of the main ingredients".
    Personally, I think I agree. But I'm aware this is difficult to communicate. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
    A somewhat OTT analogy is with a policeman. Most of the admins who get involved in deleting spam and protecting articles aren't personally interested in our coverage of business topics, I'm far more interested in archaeology, others are into canals or NASCAR, blocking vandals and deleting attack pages is just a chore that I take on part of in order that my hobby as a whole is a success. The price of deleting loads of attack pages is that I get the occasional death threat. So for me, editing under a pseudonym is a sensible precaution. Others who don't spend so much time deleting attack pages may feel far more relaxed about disclosing their identities. WereSpielChequers (talk) 14:34, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
  4. Attending meetups. The Wikimedia movement runs various conferences and other real world events, some of which are formally open to anyone including the PR industry. Others are informal events for wikimedian volunteers and staff. If PR types attend these it may not be considered appropriate, especially by those who don't attend but suspect those who do of collusion.
    Seriously? You don't want to talk face to face? --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
    I think that's a personal view from WSQ. Wikimedia meetups are public events. But they are informal social events, not business networking, so that has to be borne in mind. I organise the series in Cambridge, and everyone is welcome. 09:18, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
    I agree with above - we do not want our meet ups swamped by people paid to attend and paid to manage our viewpointsLeutha (talk) 09:42, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
    I have been to three wikimanias and many London meetups as well as the last two UK AGMs. At some of those I expect to meet people from outside the community, at others I'd rather not. So it isn't a matter of not wanting to talk face to face, it is a matter of which events are and are not suitable for this. To put this in context the London meetup is our oldest and one of our largest, it takes place in a very large city and the regulars have had more than one experience of attendees being non-wikimedians who have taken the opportunity to "cultivate" or otherwise lobby the community. I'm very happy to spend my time helping out fellow volunteers or indeed Wikimedia staff, even if that means I'm sometimes editing stuff that interests others and not me. But at a meetup I want to spend my time talking with other wikimedians, not with people who don't share my hobby. WereSpielChequers (talk) 14:17, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
    Fair point. Maybe it would be better to hold some Wikipedia workshops specifically for PR people. WSC, do you think some Wikipedians would attend if we did this? I think the PR community would benefit from the type of training sessions that Wikimedia UK ran for Cancer Research, for example. GemGriff (talk) 16:20, 20 May 2012 (UTC)
    Potentially, yes, but there's also the risk of quite a big 'but'. There is only a limited amount of volunteer time, energy and goodwill in the Wikimedia movement. It's easier to inspire people to spend that time and energy on helping CRUK than it is to inspire them to help public relations agencies. Not to say it's impossible, just that the proposition needs to be pretty clear for the volunteers involved. The Land (talk) 17:05, 20 May 2012 (UTC)
    The idea of people volunteering to help commercial organisations seems very odd to me. But there are other ways to organise that. For example if a deal was negotiated with the UK chapter or a Wikimania such that a PR trade body was going to sponsor one of our conferences, and in return some Wikmedians would attend one of your events and supply some training. I suspect that some of our people would volunteer their time in return for money being donated to Wikimedia. WereSpielChequers (talk) 19:37, 20 May 2012 (UTC)
    I recently arranged for a Wikimedia volunteer to come to a workshop at the Institution of Civil Engineers to help staff and members (including some occasional Wikipedia contributors) learn more about Wiki projects, including the Commons. The aim was to improve people's knowledge of Wikipedia, help them avoid some common pitfalls, and engage their support in improving content on civil engineering (not the ICE per se). The initiative is ongoing and I hope will involve ICE releasing some archive material to the Commons and inviting Wikipedia volunteers to One Great George Street.Paul W (talk) 14:37, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
  5. Lord Bell may think that “It’s important for Wikipedia to recognise we are a valuable source for accurate information.” Wikipedia however is a tertiary source - an encyclopaedia written using facts sourced from reliable secondary sources. So a polite response to Lord Bell would be to explain that Wikipedia is concerned with verifiability not truth. That means that if the world's press are reporting that your client's chief exec has an allergy to your client's product, then don't expect Wikipedia to say that he has merely given up one of his favourite things for Lent; Convince the papers that they got it wrong and Wikipedia will follow suit.
    Public relations has a reputation (and here for example you chose 'spin' over anything that the PR participants here would recognise as best practice). And Wikipedia has a reputation. It's not so much what you, in the minority, think Wikipedia is, it's what the average user in the vast majority thinks it is. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
    That would be a relevant comment if we were discussing the WMF's image management needs here. I feel, rather, that we are trying to bridge the gap between the "insider" view of WP, and the the PR pro's take. Since participation in WP means dealing with the "community" in a getting-hands-dirty way, this meeting of minds is key. 09:18, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
    I do not think that "Public relations has a reputation" any more than any other sphere of activity. It is individuals and organisations within PR who have reputations. Thus it is wikipedia which has a reputation rather than "on-line open source encyclopedias". As for what "you" (presumably wikipedian editors) think, this is what determines how edits are made. As for the "average user in the vast majority" this seems to simply be the ole spin term silent majority as used by Nixon. I would certainly like to see a more critical approach amongst internet users whether they read wikipedia, PR copy or anything else for that matter.Leutha (talk) 09:52, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
    I'm happy to concede that the vast majority of the public would be surprised to hear that Wikipedia has a policy of verifiability not truth. If they read the explanation and ponder the alternatives I would hope that most would come to accept and respect the policy. But the policy is not negotiable. One of the implications is that Wikipedia will not accept the PR industry as a source of accurate information. Individual PR people may gain a reputation for finding reliably sourced information, but only if the sources they provide are ones that we consider reliable. A newspaper might well be impressed by a PR person who can tip them off to stories before they go live, but Wikipedia is a tertiary source not a secondary one, and we don't want exclusives. WereSpielChequers (talk) 13:52, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

What I think you should consider doing is giving PR types useful practical advice for dealing with the community. For example, If the images that we are using to illustrate the article on your client are dated and low quality, then why not commission some good quality images, release them on Commons and then tell people on the article talkpage. Secondly, don't just read the rules and start editing in your area of COI, if you want to edit Wikipedia start in areas that you care about and or know about, but don't have a COI about. So give your PR people a couple of days to write about things that they enjoyed studying or know about through hobbies. You know how some organisations have corporate social responsibility programs that include things like sending teams of people to lay a hedge on a nature reserve? Well that isn't so far from having some of your people improve our articles on nineteenth century music hall performers or third century BCE battles. WereSpielChequers (talk) 22:40, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

In modern parlance – absobloodylutely. --Sheldrake (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
As Sheldrake knows, I have been a Wikipedian since 2003, and as someone employed in the construction sector, I have an enthusiasm about my industry. However, I have sought to avoid any COI by contributing to historical content (lots of 18th and 19th century artists, engineers and architects, their buildings, tunnels, bridges, etc), but also a lot of football, cycling, etc. My PR role is largely irrelevant to my Wikipedia contributions; I have many other interests, hobbies, passions that stimulate me to edit Wikipedia, and on occasion I have, yes, written about 19th century music hall performers! Paul W (talk) 14:46, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps you can improve technical terms from the field of PR: Supportive selling environment? Leutha (talk) 09:52, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
I'm pretty well schooled in PR theory, old school and new, and this term is a new one on me! It appears to have only been used in one text. Does such rarity breach a Wikipedia rule? --Sheldrake (talk) 23:04, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

'.. a PR operatives fantasy', Bell and other grievances about this draft guidance

Just as a first comment; It would be a very good idea to not mention Lord Bell in the way it currently does. As an example of the sort of disaster misuse can cause, sure. To relate a viewpoint of PR editing, not such a good move. --ErrantX (talk) 10:22, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Given that Lord Bell said explicitly and publicly after being shown his employees editing Wikipedia in completely egregious ways (lying about their identity, sock puppeting, etc.) that he thought that they did absolutely nothing wrong, it is ludicrous to treat him with such respect. The entire document is a joke - a PR operatives fantasy of what the community might accept. Nowhere does it put forward what is the most important best practice of all: don't edit Wikipedia article space directly except in emergency situations. Without that, I will fight this with every resource at my disposal. It's disgusting and immoral.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 21:51, 24 May 2012 (UTC)
I will have a chat tomorrow with some of the people involved from the public relations side of things about your points here Jimmy, and get back to you asap. For now, I'll add my personal response if I may; quite simply, I'm very sorry that you feel this way. The draft guidance stands this evening following hundreds of diligent edits by Wikipedians, and several dozen from the public relations community. (We're encouraging more to participate here, but Wikimedia turf was always going to be more familiar to Wikipedians of course.)
We have no agenda here other than trying to improve understanding between the two communities and provide unambiguous, definitive guidance to anyone involved in looking after the reputation of any organisation. While I think they'd benefit from such education and training personally and professionally, I actually think Wikipedians would benefit more for the straight forward reason that public relations people would finally start to understand all the points made here so earnestly by Wikipedians, by the volunteers who - gawd bless'em - have to deal with some of the crap "paid editors" throw at them.
If we're showing our feelings here, I feel closer affinity to Wikipedia than some of the points of view expressed by some CREWE participants for example. And then of course there's the vast swathe of PR practitioners who have no idea about any of this.
So to your point about Lord Bell. I understand that he believes his staff corrected inaccuracies and therefore did no wrong. I have no idea what was accurate or inaccurate, and that does not matter. I believe his staff did something wrong when they broke the rules of the Wikipedia community. Simple as. Moreover, for what it's worth, I don't think breaking the rules of the very community you want to have a dialogue with represents public relations best practice.
I sincerely hope we can respond tomorrow to allay your fears. Having invested many hours here, I think that existing guidance to PR practitioners is ambiguous, and indeed your recommendation in your comment above appears to conflict with the relevant Wikipedia FAQ. If it does not and I am wrong then that's exactly why we need this guidance and why we need your help to get it in the right shape so we can get it to the people who need it.
We work in the same neck of the woods as I think you may know (although you'll be more memorable to me that vice versa!) So if you'd like to give me the lowdown verbally, I'd be delighted to put the kettle on or come over to you.
(BTW, just for the avoidance of any doubt, I'm a volunteer on some CIPR work but I am not a CIPR spokesperson on this topic (or indeed any other than measurement and evaluation on occasion). I'm participating here voluntarily. Unpaid.) --Sheldrake (talk) 23:48, 24 May 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps if you both took your blinkers off and stepped down from your respective soapboxes, you might realise that arguing with each other is possibly the least productive course of action at this point. Jimmy, Philip et al are attempting to extend an olive branch, which is a good opportunity for us to start working with them as far as our goals coincide rather than against them (and going to war with these guys would be a huge drain on the community's resources). As to the last portion of your comment, you are a wonderful advocate and spokesman for the movement, but you should not presume that your views are those of the community, nor to dictate site policy. Philip, your post above illustrates that you have not got to the heart of the matter that has always caused conflict between your colleagues and the Wikipedia community. Wikipedia is not some mere extension of social media, nor is it a reputation management tool. It is an encyclopaedia which aims to give impartial, purely factual information about noteworthy topics. The only way in which it differs from traditional encyclopaedia (as far as is relevant to this discussion) is that it can be edited by anybody. If your industry treated it with the same respect you would afford a publication such as Britannica (even when such a publication included factual errors about your client), we wouldn't be having this discussion. Harry Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 03:08, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Harry. You are totally right in saying that we're holding out that olive branch. If I ever implied that Wikipedia is a reputation management tool then I got my words wrong. The entry for an organisation or a brand or a person most definitely contributes to the way that entity is perceived in the world. Wikipedia has influence. ie, it informs and changes the way people think. And therein lies the crux of the matter. I do not want the 'spin' variety of PR practitioner trying to present an image / a facade via the relevant Wikipedia entries. No way. Never. But sometimes there are inaccuracies that are deleterious to the entity's reputation, and we're trying to work out here how 'best practice' PR practitioners should engage with the Wikipedia community to sort out inaccuracies. Hey, and you never know, do some good NPOV, no-COI editing to boot.
To your point about Britannica, their rules are well understood by PR practitioners and they have paid employees. Right now, the guidance to PR practitioners with respect to Wikipedia is unclear, and PR practitioners are not sufficiently well versed, and we have to be respectful that Wikipedians are volunteers. --Sheldrake (talk) 12:36, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
The outstanding level of discussion on this wiki is hugely encouraging and underlines the need to maintain the interaction. Personally, I am learning a great deal from it and am actively encouraging my industry peers to engage in the debate. Harry hits one of the many nails on the head – respect, which is why the CIPR set about this project with two aims in mind. Firstly, we want to increase understanding of and respect for Wikipedia and the community which created it among public relations professionals and build towards mutual understanding between both communities. Secondly, there is a need for guidance on ethical engagement with and through Wikipedia. Through this process of discussion I am even more confident that the draft guidance can evolve to be of real value to both PR practitioners and Wikipedians.
I am a CIPR Spokesman, for the avoidance of doubt. --Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 09:03, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Note: I do need to check that it's actually Jimmy who left this comment... Have just checked, and the comment was left by Jimmy. Richard Symonds (talk) 11:55, 25 May 2012 (UTC) Richard Symonds (talk) 10:22, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Richard. Really hoping to hear from Jimmy again, and of course hoping to hear from you Wikimedia chaps too about the points Jimmy raises. --Sheldrake (talk) 12:36, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Sheldrake: I understand that a discussion of the place of Wikipedia in PR might want to include Lord Bells opinion however it has no place in a guidance document for how PR professionals should behave on Wikipedia. His comments display some basic misunderstandings about how Wikipedia operates and following those comments will lead PR people astray.
You have had some very direct advice from Jimmy Wales. I suggest you incorporate his suggested wording prominently into the guidance. Suggesting there is disagreement among Wikipedians on the ban on COI editting (as you do by raising the 'minor edit' loophole) is disengenuous and will undermine confidence in the rest of the document among any wikipedians reading it.
If you must mention the COI minor edit loophole then this should be done much farther down the page; additional information for people who have read through the general guidance. Filceolaire (talk) 14:04, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Filceolaire, if I may be so bold, you are attributing points of view to me that I haven't expressed and do not hold.
I agree re. references to Bell. I didn't say I didn't, did I? The guidance need not reference Bell, or any practitioner or agency, in my opinion. If we're all agreed, let's edit out the two references now. Re. "direct advice from Jimmy Wales", I'm not sure this thread has reached a conclusion yet. I for one am hoping for a productive outcome that helps improve Wikipedia ('improve' defined in Wikipedian terms lest that be read wrongly), relieves some of the hassle Wikipedians get from PR practitioners, and addresses some of the genuine concerns PR practitioners have about inaccuracies.
And to your last point – at no juncture did I say there was disagreement among Wikipedians about the ban on COI editing. Nor did I appreciate that any Wikipedian, such as yourself, would refer to minor edits as a loophole. I said I thought there was conflicting advice and that if it isn't conflicting then please help us remove this confusion. I'm confused, and I'm supposed to be amongst the more expert of the PR profession in getting to grips with this stuff. Hope this response answers your concerns? --Sheldrake (talk) 14:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Sorry. I could have phrased this better. I was referring to the main page where section 5 - The_free_encyclopedia_that_anyone_can_edit - does say this. If you agree with a comment here on the talk page then could you edit the main page with your (=CIPR's) revised wording so the main page can track the discussion. I have found this to be the best way of moving the discussion on. If the first few paragraphs on the main page are not part of the CIPR guidance then this needs to be made clear, or any such paragraphs need to be deleted or moved.Filceolaire (talk) 15:15, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
I've clarified in the intro where the draft guidance starts exactly. And I'm not the CIPR, but will give them a nudge accordingly. I think they're rightly tenderfoot here; and who wouldn't be after Jimmy's contribution! I'm still struggling to reconcile his contribution with the work that preceded it here. He hasn't taken up my offer to chat in person, or indeed to jump in here again obviously, and I appreciate he's probably a rather busy chap. But I do hope he does because I'm dying to understand his perspective, his experiences and his analysis of each part of the draft guidance to date.
It is cheering however to see some Wikimedians defend our joint endeavour here, and I hope more do so. I know the CIPR has called again for wider input from the public relations fraternity, but you might have to put up with the same four or five of us for now. When "version 1" emerges (see edit to intro on the main page), and we have the opportunity to present the guidance to public relations professionals more widely than we might achieve here, I hope more will pop on over here to check out the ongoing discussions. --Sheldrake (talk) 23:02, 31 May 2012 (UTC)
Although Jimmy has some good points here, particularly when it comes to the actions of the Bell Pottinger Group (which I agree with completely - those actions really were despicable and I trust that they are isolated actions rather than being representative of the PR industry as a whole), I have to disagree with his later comments. In particular, I very much disagree with his idea of "the most important best practice of all". I believe that there are a number of situations where PR organisations should feel able to directly edit Wikipedia articles that aren't necessarily 'emergency situations'. If a PR organisation can provide NPOV, referenced material for Wikipedia articles, then we should be welcoming that content, not rejecting it out of hand. Two of the principle aspects of Wikipedia articles are verifiability and accuracy. These are both areas that PR organisations can help with, whilst (I trust) not sacrificing the truth (since presenting the truthful reality is generally, but sadly not entirely, in the best interests of both the PR industry and the Wikimedia community). I note that I have raised this issue (as have others) with Jimmy a number of times on closed mailing lists such as wmfcc-l. I trust that Jimmy is willing to participate in a rational, logical and public discussion about the issues here, rather than simply opposing it without providing a logical rationale. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 23:35, 31 May 2012 (UTC)
Thank you Sheldrake for removing the Lord Bell quote. The replacement wording
Others can't reconcile the fact that some consider them liars just because they are, in Wikipedia speak, paid editors.
will still be considered offensive by many wikipedians (such as me). We expect you to Assume Good Faith. We (mostly) don't say that PR professionals are liars. We do believe they have difficulties in writing from a Neutral Point Of View and because of that we ask them to work via the Talk page and the various noticeboards as described in these guidance notes. Filceolaire (talk) 12:07, 3 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Is there a link, on this page, to Bell's comments? I'd be very interested in someone pointing me to those comments.
I am the contributor who started the article on the en:Dahabshiil remittance company that Bell Pottinger executives bragged was an example of their successful management of a client's wikipedia account. I am the contributor who first added to the article how a Guantanamo captive's employment as a Dahabshiil agent was offered as a justification for his long detention.
I think I can offer some additional useful information here. Lord Bell has apparently informed us we shouldn't assume public relations agents are "liars". For the sake of argument I can appreciate how someone can put forward something that is not true without being a "liar".
During the edit warring that now seems to have been the result of Bell Pottinger's efforts the Guantanamo captive was labelled a "former" Dahabshiil employee. While in the coverage of Bell Pottinger's covert manage" the article the captive is referred to as a former employee, this is a quote of how Bell Pottinger employees characterized him. I do not believe there are any reliable sources that describe him as a "former" employee. This claim is in contrast to his own testimony, and to the descriptions of him in press reports that predate the recent controvery.
There is something I would like to suggest to Lord Bell. If the claim the captive was a "former" employee was introduced into the article without any attempt to find a verifiable source wasbecause it was what his client told him, and was a change his client contrated him to see done, does it really matter if he genuinely believed his client; or if knew his client's version was unverifiable?
No wikipedia contributor, who was a genuine volunteer trying to comply with our policies, would knowingly introduce an unverified claim like this into an article. Oh sure, this kind of mistake does get introduced into article space by good faith volunteers -- but only due to good faith mistakes, like when contributors are tired, distracted. I'd like to think any good faith volunteer who had the lack of references pointed out, who had the references that contradicted the claim pointed out to them, would graciously own up and agree to retracting the unverified claim.
Now maybe some of the other public relations people participating here will set our minds at ease, and tell use the general industry best practices is to hold off agreeing to help a client put forth a narrative about their company without first checking to see if the narrative is credible. But, don't the Bell Pottinger edits speak for themselves? Don't they show that the Bell Pottinger edit team were prepared to make the article say what the client paid for, without regard to whether the client's narrative was verifiable?
I suggest public relations firms that are prepared to treat their client's narrative as if it could be taken at face value, without verification, can never be trusted to edit article in ways that comply with wikipedia policies. Geo Swan (talk) 20:14, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Geo. The objective here is to help the CIPR and the PR industry come up with some best practice guidelines, endorsed by the PR industry themselves, for how to interact with Wikipedia. I doubt if every PR pro will abide by these guidelines but when they transgress we will at least be able to point to this page as a description of what they should do. Filceolaire (talk) 20:32, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
The (now deleted) Lord Bell quotes seem to come from here: Wikipedia: Friend or Foe? (may require log-in), Kate Magee, PR Week, UK, 2nd February 2012. Filceolaire (talk) 20:32, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Greetings. Thanks for the link. Yes, viewing the article does require registration. For those in the PR industry, that registration process required answering highly intrusive personal questions, which I gritted my teeth, and answered honestly -- only to be informed that my registration had to be approved before I could view the text.
  • My advice about the best practices would be that it should leave no loopholes for those associated with the public relations industry to make any edits in article space, or, in the file:, category:, or template: namespace. First, loopholes would leave too much scope for wishful thinking that edits were the minor kind allowed throught the loophole. Second, loopholes would leave scope for clintonian parsing and redefinition, shoe-horning misleading edits through the loophole. When your client pays you, you have an incentive to find them credible. and that makes you less trustworthy than a genuine volunteer. Period. Geo Swan (talk) 16:16, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
I still believe that telling new editors that there are "Differing views" in the wikipedian community is a mistake. PR pros should not be fixing "minor errors" on pages where they have a conflict of interest until they know their way around and understand more than they will get from this page. Please remove this or put it in an "Advanced techniques - for experienced users only" section at the bottom of the page. Filceolaire (talk) 12:07, 3 June 2012 (UTC)
Mike: I'm worried that your comment will be used to pretend there is more of a disagreement in Wikipedia than there really is. I think everyone (including Jimbo) agrees that PR professionals can engage with editors on the talk page and their most useful contribution is to provide links to reliable sources for those editors to use to improve the article. I think everyone agrees that PR professionals who are not familiar with Wikipedia should not edit pages they have a COI on as they always fail to achieve NPOV. If there is a disagreement it is on the marginal question of whether a PR professional who is experienced in editting wikipedia can achieve a NPOV if he does minor edits on a page where he or she has a COI. These guidance notes are not addressed at that person - if they don't know more about wikipedia than you can find here then they are not experienced enough. Filceolaire (talk) 12:07, 3 June 2012 (UTC)
I hope not, but I do think that there needs to be less of a black-and-white stance than Jimmy puts forward. At the very least, saying that they should gain considerable experience with Wikipedia before editing the article space would be good, better if they can be encouraged to work with existing editors to learn how to constructively edit directly. Mike Peel (talk) 12:46, 3 June 2012 (UTC)
The COI guideline already encourages the use of Talk pages. Where there is disagreement is whether it should be mandated or used as a bannable offense. However any best practice document that is mirroring the COI guideline should also encourage heavy use of Talk pages. It's just too much work to explain exceptions, like overt defamation, vandalism and non-controversial edits. Additionally, these exceptions are open to interpretation and beg COIs to use them to rationalize poor editing.
I call myself a supporter of the "bright line" conceptually, even as I make inconsequential direct edits (Jimbo would not approve). At the end of the day, any genuine improvements a PR professional wants to make can be done without direct editing, so why would we engage in a controversial practice unnecessarily? Why would we contribute to Wikipedia in a way where the community disagrees on our methods, when it's just a little more work to do it in a way everyone supports? My two cents. If there's one thing I think the PR community can do to end the controversy and debate, it's the simple practice of no direct editing, instead of trying to follow a million rules.
King4057 (EthicalWiki)

Improvement to terminology

I think it indicates a more suitable mindset if we discuss improving articles rather than correcting entries.Leutha (talk) 10:10, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

After reading the comments and discussion points, I agree that the terminology and wording could have been better in the first draft. We should talk about improving articles over correcting entries. Thanks Leutha. GemGriff (talk) 16:22, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

Definition of Public Relations

    Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.

The heart of reputation is the truth about what you actually do and what people think you actually do. In theory, where people have a misconception about what your client does then PR is there to correct that misconception. Convincing people of the truth is not so hard so this type of PR is often handled by in house teams.

The other side of PR is where people have an all too accurate conception of what your client does and don't approve. PR is used to convince the public that wrong is right and that your client didn't do it. This is much harder so PR consultancies that can and will do this get paid more.

At least that is the reputation PR has with me. Now who is this Guidance page aimed at? Filceolaire (talk) 14:28, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Just for information, the definition of public relations that we (CIPR) use is: "Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics."
The guidance is aimed at the widest possible public relations audience to promote 'best practice'. I'd just like to flag up your comment that "PR is used to convince the public that wrong is right and that your client didn't do it" - I believe this opinion is probably widely held, but it is common misconception. I'd urge you to take a look at our recent award winners which might give you a totally different impression of public relations.--AJMRoss CIPR (talk) 10:08, 1 June 2012 (UTC)
You should put that definition up on a wiki. Any pair of sentences that contain the word "and" seven times would soon be rephrased into something easier to parse. You may also prefer "aims" to "aim" as there are clearly more than one of them. HTH, --RexxS (talk) 18:13, 4 June 2012 (UTC)
AJM: So if people don't like me because I'm evil then who should I call to get them to change their minds? Who will convince them to love me in spite of the evil? That sure sounds like a job for a PR agency. If you decide to stop being evil then and you call in Bell Pottinger to advise you how to do it then you are going to have a hard time convincing me you are sincere. Filceolaire (talk) 02:04, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
I had a quick look at your awards and many of these are not about reputation. they are about publicising some new thing or inspiring people to action. To me it seems they barely fit into the CIPR definition. Filceolaire (talk) 02:04, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
Wikipedia has had all sorts of reputation problems and we have responded to them by trying to fix the problem and waiting for our reputation to catch up. Stop worrying about whether people think you are evil and start worrying about whether you are evil. Filceolaire (talk) 02:04, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
Hmmm, well I did look at the CIPR 2012 awards link, and yes it did change my views: it eroded any sympathy I might have had for you. It certainly looked like everyone was having a good time as you polished the images of organisations like G4S. Check Wikipedia where we read:
In October 2010, three G4S-guards heavily restrained and held down 46-year old Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga on departing British Airways flight 77, at Heathrow Airport. Security guards kept him restrained in his seat as he began shouting and seeking to resist his deportation. Police and paramedics were called when Mubenga lost consciousness. The aircraft, which had been due to lift off, then returned to the terminal. Mubenga was pronounced dead later that evening at Hillingdon hospital.[1] Leutha (talk) 22:57, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
I think that gets us back to the starting point for many Wikipedians. Wikipedia is the website that everyone is welcome to edit, but please don't edit where you have a conflict of interest. That means that where organisations are unjustly accused of things, they do need to know how to get things fixed. But there is a big difference between writing for a client and writing for the public interest. The more I think about the PR industry the higher the Chinese wall I want between them and editorial control at Wikipedia. WereSpielChequers (talk) 15:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
This is why this debate is important. We want to do what we can to ensure that the Public Relations industry appreciates the ethos of Wikipedia, particularly NPOV and COI editing. G4S has been highlighted in a way that is somewhat besides the point we are debating here, although I wouldn't wish to downplay the seriousness of the issue in that individual story which is well sourced. --Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 09:04, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
A thought occurred to me today - as the influence of PR professionals has grown in newspaper and TV journalism the reputation of newspaper and TV journalism has fallen.
I really believe that the closer PR gets to Wikipedia the more it will undermine Wikipedia's reputation. I do not want PR to do to our reputation what PR has done to the reputation of newspapers and TV news. You know about reputation. You should understand that.
Is it worth adding something to the guidance notes expressing this? Filceolaire (talk) 20:16, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
I'm afraid the arguement that there is a causal relationship between the growth of Public Relations and a decline in journalism is not a strong one. If there has been a decline in the quality of journalism it has been because the business model that supported those media outlets has declined, technology has moved beyond newsprint and the companies that own newspapers have failed to invest in quality journalism. The element of public relations that deals primarily in media relations suffers when then reputation of journalism suffers, because the publics with whom we seek to communicate no longer trust those media. If that has happened, it is not the fault of the public relations profession, but has more to do with those media themselves. We gave evidence on this to the House of Lords Communications Select Committee Inquiry into the future of investigative journalism in December last year. Will you maintain trust in Wikipedia by closing the door on sources of information that could improve it, rather than by shaping the views and professional standards of public relations practitioners in a way that would enable them to engage with you on your terms? --Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 21:44, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
There have been a number of references to PR people as being good sources of information. Your guidelines need to make clear to PR people that they are not acceptable sources of information for wikipedia and they never will be because they are repeating what they heard from someone else and filtering it. If we can't verify a fact then we are not interested in it. If a PR person wants to influence Wikipedia then the way to do this is to help wikipedians get access to sources of information which can be relied on because they have been reviewed and endorsed by experts independent of the parties involved. You may believe there is no such thing as an unbiased neutral source and think that wikipedia is naive to seek such things but you have to understand that, naive or not, that is what Wikipedians are looking for. This may the biggest misunderstanding between our two parties. It is becoming clear to me that it is not enough to tell PR people not to edit the article page, we need to better explain why it has to be that way (and it isn't because we think you are all liars). Do the CIPR people want to edit the guidance to incorporate this or should I try? Editting of the guidance notes seems to have slowed to a crawl. 20:42, 8 June 2012 (UTC). Oops. That was me Filceolaire (talk) 19:18, 14 June 2012 (UTC).
You say "Your guidelines need to make clear to PR people that they are not acceptable sources of information for wikipedia and they never will be because they are repeating what they heard from someone else and filtering it." I must point out that any public relations person operating in that manner would be far from professional. Presenting any audience with unverified information as fact rarely stands up to scrutiny and professionals know it is going to do harm. Good practice in public relations includes the presentation of information and sources. Part of the role of the public relations professional within the organisation is to challenge the presentation of information for public consumption and to ensure that it meets the expectations of the audience - ie. that it can be verified and has credible sources at the very least. Our challenge is to see this approach to be accepted within our profession as the basis for all communication. I think your suggested edit would be a good addition, please include it.--Phil Morgan CIPR (talk) 10:15, 13 June 2012 (UTC)
I'll do that. Filceolaire (talk) 19:18, 14 June 2012 (UTC)
I think there is a disconnect in the discussion above with Phil and, caused by the different languages PR and Wikipedians speak. I would suggest adding a "don'ts" on using press releases, the company website or yourself as a source for content. In most cases, content sources must be independent of the subject, but PRs often add content almost exclusively from company-published materials, which aren't impartial sources.
What I see is PR walking down this complex, morally confusing and reputational land mine of trying to turn themselves into Wikipedians, a very unnatural predicament. We should focus on being PR people (not Wikipedians), which means offering content, discussion, and corrections to the editorial community just like we would with traditional media.
We are not replacements for volunteer editors, but a resource the volunteer community should be able to lean on just as the press does. As long as we directly edit articles, we will create bias on Wikipedia. There will be disagreement, controversy and incidences where good judgement wasn't used. As soon as we stop direct edits, all the controversy, the fear of PR control, the bias and promotionalism, comes to an immediate stop. I would suggest CIPR voluntarily endorse no direct editing in most cases (see non-controversial edits) so PR pros may contribute in a way every editor supports, rather than in ways only some of them do.
King4057 (EthicalWiki)


  1. Lewis, Paul; Matthew Taylor (15 October 2010). "Deportation death: 'Jimmy Mubenga was a good man'". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 19 October 2010. 

A few thoughts

Some suggestions from a paid editor:

  • Delete the Definition of Public Relations section as redundant with public relations. It's also generally not needed, especially since it's intended for circulation among PR professionals.
  • Condense "Dark arts on Wikipedia," "Current debating points," and the first two paragraphs of "The Free Encyclopedia anyone can edit" into a single, more neutral, Background or Context section with less editorializing and a "See Main Article: COI editing on Wikipedia." This way we can focus on the document's mission to provide, clear, practical advice. Pottinger is also FAR from an isolated incident.
  • Add a "recommended reading" and encourage PRs to understand reliable sources, NPOV, the COI guideline, and other documents Fluffernutter mentioned she expects COIs to read and understand.
  • I don't think we should encourage PRs to "use good judgment," when having a conflict of interest means your judgement is impaired. I would prefer a stronger theme of "rely on the judgement of experienced and impartial editors."
  • The same goes for "caution" on controversial subjects. We have to remember COI editors rationalize very extreme edits under the banner of current policies and guidelines. That's why we should rely on the judgment of the editorial community, instead of telling PRs to use their own judgement.
King4057 (EthicalWiki)

I've edited the guidelines

I've edited the guidelines. Someone from CIPR needs to check and make sure they agree. Filceolaire (talk) 20:33, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

Guidelines v1 - 24 June

Just to make all the contributors to this page aware, the CIPR will be taking the text from the current draft guidelines on the wiki at 23:59 on June 24th.

We will then be turning these guidelines in a PDF document to be distributed to our members and the wider PR community.

We are also very keen to keep this wiki page active and we will be actively encourage people to further contribute their thoughts and opinions to this discussion. Hence the PDF document will be titled 'version 1'.--AJMRoss CIPR (talk) 12:35, 15 June 2012 (UTC)

As you can see from the history, I've just invested four hours reading through everything and editing purely with the aim of improving readability ahead of this going to "version 1" for wider circulation to the PR community in the UK and beyond. Saying that, I came across the old chestnut of exceptions to 'paid editing' in the Dos section, which clearly contradicted the assertion not to edit earlier in the guidance. So I strengthened the 'do not edit' guidance and took the three bullet points in question in the Dos section and put them at the end of the list under the heading "Contentiously". I do hope that's OK... I have erred on the side of caution I hope you'll agree. --Sheldrake (talk) 18:03, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

"There's a difference between taking a neutral point of view with the content..."

I'm adding a point of view from John Cass, an active participant in the CREWE community on Facebook. John doesn't want to edit this wiki himself because, he says, "I've been avoiding editing Wikipedia during this period of contention between the PR profession and the bright siders." (You'll have to ask John what he means by 'bright siders.') Therefore, I offered to add it on his behalf.

I think John's point of view is valid and a worthwhile contribution to the overall discussion here on this wiki even though it references content posted elsewhere. I add this purely for that reason. My own point of view on what John has to say is neutral.

John's comments:

"There's a difference between taking a neutral point of view with the content, and being considered not neutral because of your authorship. According to the guidelines, it is okay to edit in some ways. This is stated in the CIPR guidelines, but is really contradicted by stating if you are in PR you automatically have a non neutral point of view. Perhaps its a nuance, but my impression, and I think readers of the articles and maybe guidelines is, "if you are in pr, you don't edit," I don't agree with that if you write from a neutral point of view and reveal your affiliations."

John's comment appears in this thread on Facebook: [1]

--Jangles (talk) 18:34, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Jangles. At the time of writing, the section "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit?" of this guidance asserts: "As PR professionals have a vested interest in an organisation, individual or client, we naturally have a potential conflict of interest. Wikipedians have found that editors with a conflict of interest find it difficult to maintain a neutral point of view." So I believe John Cass' concern is addressed and accommodated. --Sheldrake (talk) 19:50, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, Philip. It's a complicated issue, imo, one that has no simple answer. It seems very unlikely that this particular topic will have a clear-cut solution, so to speak, any time soon. Different points of view are inevitable. --Jangles (talk) 20:03, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia links

If anyone wants to tidy up the links to en.wp, you could use {{w|Article}} (or {{w|Article|Text}}) rather than external links. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:20, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Direct editing

I realize that the COI guideline doesn't necessarily forbid direct editing, however I don't think CIPR's guidance has to be a mirror image of Wikipedia policy, nor do I think there is any value in creating dozens of essays, guidelines, etc. that all try to re-explain the same policy. In particular, because explaining that there is confusion or contention doesn't make things any less confusing or contentious. Rather, CIPR should establish the advice it wants to give to its members, which I would think would represent higher ethical standards than is minimally required by the policy, while supporting what has broader acceptance in order to simplify instructions and stick to what's safe. I think we could dumb this issue way down, by just saying CIPR's guidance (not Wikipedia's but CIPR's) is to never edit a page, except for grammar or formatting. This eliminates all the complexities, contention, exceptions or explaining the controversy and instead gives the reader straightforward instructions - and that's what people need. King4057 (EthicalWiki)

I keep seeing notes about CIPR wanting more PR folks to participate and haven't seen a response, so I just did some bold editing with detailed edit summaries. In particular, I cut down a lot of editorializing, debating points, POVs, etc. and restructured things so we can dive straight into the practical guidance and information the reader needs. Feel free to revert or adjust as your heart desires! King4057 (talk) 15:36, 30 June 2012 (UTC) (EthicalWiki)


In the "Don'ts" section, I think the words

"(exception: PR professionals can remove material that violates Wikipedia's policy regarding living people)"

should read

"(exception: any editor, including PR professionals, can remove material that violates Wikipedia's policy regarding living people)"

I'll make the changes to the guidelines now.

-- Angular (talk) 23:18, 1 July 2012 (UTC)

Writing style

It says something about "don't promote and advertise" and about "hard-copy reference work"-grade material, but I'd put a bit more emphasis on how important the authoring style (tone) actually is. You see this common mistake where the edits' look like a sales pitch instead of an encyclopedic piece and this often is used as an instant indicator for 'spammers' or 'COI' by the Wikipedians. Weasel words or abundant use of qualifiers ("the best in the industry") are some of those indications. It's important to explain I think, because many folks in the industry hardly even notice they are, what we call, 'promoting' their company, simply because it is their natural authoring style after all those years. 18:42, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Wikiproject Co-operation

Thanks for the guide! One resource you might like to add is Wikipedia:Wikiproject co-operation where volunteers "facilitate collaboration with editors paid to edit Wikipedia" hth Woz2 (talk) 11:20, 12 July 2012 (UTC)

Plain and Simple COI guide

I also think this single-page guide for COI editors would be helpful Wikipedia:PSCOI. It includes the pillars, basic editing principles, and a thorough overview of what to do and not do, as well as what to do and whom to contact if you run into trouble. 20:42, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

Version 2

The article says there will be a version 2. Will there be? 13:55, 26 February 2013 (UTC)

Hello there. Sorry it's taken a while to respond. Yes, there will be a version 2. I have a meeting pencilled in with the CIPR next week to discuss the next steps. I'll post an update here afterwards. Thank you. --Stevie Benton (WMUK) (talk) 16:24, 7 March 2013 (UTC)

Unofficial italian version


Strip traslation (artist) Hi! I'd like to know more about "significance of a subject". For example, when an artist is significant enough to be featured on Wikipedia? (Bob) You are a specialist in? (artist) I paint poodles in bright colours, and then I hang them with clothespins... (Bob) Rest assured! I am positive that you will be appraised soon after your demise.

--DracoRoboter (talk) 09:57, 18 December 2013 (UTC)