Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Wikipedia and Online Reputation Management

By Toivo Mvula

The internet has given public relations practitioners many tools to use to communicate with an organisation’s internal and external publics, the media and other stakeholders.

These tools range from emails, websites, blogs, social networking sites, and search engines among others.
One tool that seems to have been largely ignored is the wiki.

Although some companies use wiki for internal communication, only about 18 percent of public relations practitioners use wiki for public relations purposes.

Wikis are websites with pages that can be edited by any visitor. Wikipedia is the most popular wiki and currently ranks high on the search results of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Hickerson and Thompson believe that wiki websites creates the potential for dialogical communication (public relations) for organisations and their publics.
However, many public relations practitioners regard wiki websites as posing a great risk for corporate reputation management.

If any person can edit a wiki page with information that is believed to be the truth about an organisation, then what influence remains for public relations practitioners?
The low use of wikis in public relations could be an indication that the risks outweight the benefits of using them to communicate and developing relationships with publics, especially the external public.

A study by DiStaso, Messner and Stacks examining Wikipedia’s implications for corporate reputation managment found that ten Fortune 500 companies Wikipedia pages was largely netural, but almost 40 percent of the content was either positive or negative.

In most cases, organisations are not responsible for creating their wiki pages on for example Wikipedia.
But internet users do not know this. The wiki pages look like they are part of the organisation because they have links to company websites and use real company logos.

Although PR practitioners are reluctant to use wikis for communication, they need to monitor what is being said about their organisations on Wikipedia and other wikis.
If any person can edit wiki pages, then PR practitioners can also edit the wrong information on their organisation’s wiki page.

This will prove to be even more difficult, especially due to the fact that Wikipedia is now even more multilingual with over 100 active language editions and reaching over 50 million users a day, which makes it hard for a PR practitioner to know what has been edited on an organisation’s page in all language editions.

Still, if they simply ignore it, internet users will regard the information as the truth.


  1. I am currently working on the wiki presentation and this blog post has reaffirmed what I have found. Wikis do seem to be a largely neglected tool. I have read Hickerson and Thompson and can understand where they are coming from with the argument that wikis form a useful asset in achieving the principle of two way symmetrical communication. But how many PR people actually value this idealistic state?

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  3. A very thought provoking blog. I use Wikipedia on average three times a week for information on a range of subjects, despite being aware that not all the information is accurate. Yet I still use it and I don't believe I am in the minority, therefore it is important that as PR practitioners we do not neglect wikipedia. In my opinion further importance must be given to Wikipedia based on its high rankings in the search engines (as you highlighted). As a matter of interest I carried out a mini search of seven major each case the Wikipedia results came out in the top five!!

    The airline I work for has a comprehensive section devoted to it on Wikipedia, yet I have no idea who posts the information. We do correct factually incorrect information and monitor updates. Moving forward though, I will be looking at further ways to utilize wikis.

  4. Also working for wiki presentation and for Tourism PR, I found an interesting link in my work. Forestry Commission published a draft for consultation of future strategy for the National Park on their website, expecting comments from readers. The draft was a .pdf$FILE/CTFDRecStrategy11Jan10Consultation.pdf I believe it would have been more efficient to use a wiki in this case. People who would come up with ideas might inspire other people to bring innovations to the respective idea, which would never happen if people sent emails which others can not see.

  5. I think that Wikipedia currently is the best source of and book for social media. Most of the people working in any field take advantage of Wikipedia. It can provide information ona any subject you are interested in.

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