One of the PR industry’s longstanding ethical debates appears closer to a resolution: the matter of Wikipedia “sockpuppets“. Today, several of the industry’s top players released a statement promising not to bend the rules of the public database to their own clients’ benefit.
Last year, Wikipedia took a public stand against the practice of hiring administrators to revamp clients’ profiles; it even went so far as to call out Wiki-PR, a firm specializing in the practice, by name. The firms involved in today’s announcement, however, want the organization to know that PR and public content databases can be friends.
The list and the statement after the jump.
The firms involved:
- Porter Novelli
- Ogilvy & Mather
- Beutler Ink
- Voce Communications
CIPR and MDC Partners also signed. Here’s the statement in full:
“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 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.”
So it’s a start.
Surely you noticed that the list includes some of the biggest firms in the business. In fact, it may be more notable for the names it doesn’t include, because on the surface it’s all about repairing the unnecessarily contentious relationship between the industry and Wikipedia. As Edelman’s Phil Gomes told AdAge:
“There needs to be more from PR than subterfuge and more from Wikipedia than shame.”
The post also includes a quick how-to list for firms who want to add their names to the list. The first question that occurs to us: why wouldn’t they?