Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement

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Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE) is a Facebook group[1] started by Phil Gomes,[2] senior vice-president[3] at Edelman Digital, in January, 2012.[4][5][6] Composed of public relations professionals and some Wikipedia editors,[7][8] the group's aim is to improve the relationship between the PR industry and the encyclopedia.[5][6] CREWE lobbies for greater involvement by PR professionals on Wikipedia, with the stated goal of maintaining accurate articles about corporations.[9]

Background[edit]

In a January 4, 2012, open letter to Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Phil Gomes of Edelman posted on his blog,[10]

A truly serious conversation needs to happen about how communications professionals and the Wikipedia community can/must work together. Since recent events have thrown this issue into sharp relief, I'd like us to have an open, constructive and fair discussion about the important issues where public relations and Wikipedia intersect.[2]

Gomes argued that Wikipedia's prominence as a top search result adds a level of responsibility to be accurate.[11] He said that many articles have inaccuracies or are outdated, and existing channels for addressing these issues—such as leaving a message on the article's "Talk" page—do not receive timely responses.[11] Gomes further argued that allowing PR representatives to fix minor errors, such as spelling, grammar and facts, leaves too much ambiguity about what are acceptable changes to make.[11] He made the comparison between PR editors and activists, challenging that activists seem to enjoy "much more latitude".[11] Finally, Gomes argued that in certain situations direct editing of articles was called for:

When an entry is derelict (duration and definition TBD), a communications representative should be granted greater leeway in editing the entry. The entry can have a notification at the top indicating the derelict status, or even that a communications representative has had a hand in updating it. This will allow visitors to make their own judgments on how to evaluate the entry or even prioritize it in terms of how and when it gets evaluated and/or revised by a neutral party. The choice is between the certainty of an inaccurate entry or the possibility that the entry would not meet NPOV guidelines. Negative attention to bad behavior (or even to mediocre efforts) would mitigate the impact of the latter.[11]

Establishment[edit]

The CREWE Facebook group was established by Gomes on January 4, 2012[12] after John Cass of NewLogic Inc.[13] recommended the idea to him.[4] As of March 3, 2012, the group had grown to 237 members, including public relations professionals, academics, and interested Wikipedia volunteers.[12] Among the group's participants at that time were Jack O’Dwyer, Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, Marcia W. DiStaso,[14] and industry trade association the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).[2] The group was created as a source for discussion so that the disparate groups "can have a constructive relationship in the public interest of maintaining entries that are accurate" on Wikipedia.[15]

According to Gerard F. Corbett, CEO of PRSA, CREWE is based on four principles:[6]

  1. Corporate communicators want to do the right thing.
  2. Communicators engaged in ethical practice have a lot to contribute.
  3. Current Wikipedia policy does not fully understand Nos. 1 and 2, owing to the activities of some bad actors and a general misunderstanding of public relations in general.
  4. Accurate Wikipedia entries are in the public interest.

The CREWE Facebook site includes a page where people can report issues they have with Wikipedia.[9] It also details Wikipedia's conflict of interest guidelines, best practices for editors with conflicts of interest, and controversial issues.[9] One proposal of the CREWE participants is for a list of mistakes in the Wikipedia articles on Fortune 100 companies.[16] Another page documents the CREWE PR Plan[17] and a proposal for a pilot project that would allow PR representatives to edit Wikipedia articles.[8]

Among the organization's goals are to get Jimmy Wales to change his opinion about paid editors directly editing articles (he argues it shouldn't happen)[14] as well as making Wikipedia a more welcoming place for PR workers.[18] As of March 8, 2012, Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline "strongly discourages" direct editing of articles, but encourages use of article discussion pages, by editors with a conflict of interest.[19]

Reception[edit]

After the group started, conversation on Twitter and elsewhere ensued between group members and Wales.[2][18]

PRSA's chair and CEO Gerry Corbett said about paid editing and CREWE:

The effort by Phil Gomes and the group he has started on Facebook, is a critical advocacy activity that the Public Relations Society of America wholeheartedly supports...[Assisting the effort], we believe, will augment a timely campaign that will benefit the entire public relations and corporate communications industry, while helping to establish better relationships with the Wikipedia community, which clearly has an influential role in modern research for people of all professions....It is an initiative we hope will be taken up by many and used as a catalyst for an open and honest discussion with Wikipedia and its editors regarding the role and value of allowing corporate communications and PR professionals to responsibly and transparently make necessary edits to their employers’ and clients' Wikipedia entries.[2]

In a response on Gomes' blog, Wales maintained PR representatives should cooperate with the community and abide by its policies, but still not edit articles directly.[11] Wales wrote:

no one in the PR industry has ever put forward a cogent argument (and seldom bother putting forward an argument at all) why it is important that they take the potentially (especially if I have anything to do with it) reputation damaging step of directly editing entries where they are acting as paid advocates. The simple and obvious answer is to do what works, without risking the reputation of the client: talk to the community, respect their autonomy, and never ever directly edit an article. There are many avenues for you to make simple factual corrections, and these avenues actually do work...What I have found – and the evidence for this is pretty comprehensive – is that people who are acting as paid advocates do not make good editors. They insert puffery and spin. That's what they do because that it is what paid advocates do.[20]

Forbes contributor and PR/media strategist Peter Himler wrote of CREWE, "Let’s keep an eye on this, especially since Mr. Wales appears to have listened and may be poised to make some concessions to the PR industry."[2] PR professional Neville Hobson was less optimistic, saying, "From talking to Jimmy Wales [on Twitter] it's clear that he is pretty rigid on his issue of what Wikipedia can do.[1] David King, a marketing professional, suggested that paid editors need to earn the respect of the Wikipedia community and educate themselves about its rules before they push for broader editing privileges.[18][21]

Around the same time CREWE was created, a separate on-Wikipedia group called WikiProject Cooperation[22] was started to provide education, oversight, and assistance, and collaboration to paid editors.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Harrison, Clare (2012-02-24). "Time for Wiki Editing?". CorpComms: The Magazine for the Corporate Communicator. London, UK: Hardy Media. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Peter Himler (January 10, 2012). "Wikipedia & the PR Pro: Friend or Foe?". Forbes. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ Kate Magee (February 2, 2012). "Wikipedia: Friend or foe?". PRWeek. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz (January 13, 2012). "FIR Interview: Stuart Bruce and Phil Gomes on PR and Wikipedia". ForImmediateRelease.biz. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  5. ^ a b Jeremy Woolf (January 30, 2012). "Wikiwars? PR pros seek editing rights from Wikipedia". Campaign Asia-Pacific. Retrieved February 10, 2012. (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b c Gerald F. Corbett (February 2, 2012). "Making The Case For PR Pros Editing Wikipedia". Techdirt. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ Kaya Strehler (February 2, 2012). "Wiki wars". Cream Magazine. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Erin Lawley (January 19, 2012). "PR Pros Push For Wikipedia Editing Rights". Lovell Communications. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  9. ^ a b c Gina Smith (February 7, 2012). "Four Social Media IT rules to live by". TechRepublic. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ "An Open Letter to Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia – Where the Fishermen Ain't: Phil Gomes' Thoughts on PR, Social Media, and Online Communities". Blog.philgomes.com. 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Should PR People Be Able To Edit Otherwise Ignored Wikipedia Pages Of Their Clients To Correct Errors?". Techdirt. 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2012-02-11. 
  12. ^ a b Marcia W. DiStaso, '"Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?" Public Relations Journal, vol. 6, no. 2 (2012), pdf pg. 1.
  13. ^ "News | Newlogic, Inc". Newlogicusa.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  14. ^ a b Marcia W. DiStaso (February 13, 2012). "Should Public Relations Professionals be Allowed to Edit Wikipedia Articles?". Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  15. ^ Staff writer (February 3, 2012). "CREWE group hopes to unblock Wiki impasse". New Zealand Management. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  16. ^ Jack O'Dwyer (January 25, 2012). "Tortuous Wikipedia Rules Require Expert". O'Dwyer's. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  17. ^ "CREWE PR Plan". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  18. ^ a b c d David King (January 16, 2012). "Jimmy Wales and Public Relations Face Off". Socialfresh.com. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  19. ^ Previous revision of Wikipedia:Conflict of interest
  20. ^ "An Open Letter to Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia – Where the Fishermen Ain't: Phil Gomes' Thoughts on PR, Social Media, and Online Communities". Blog.philgomes.com. 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  21. ^ By David King, PR-Squared. "Wikipedia for Marketers: The Last Word." February 13, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  22. ^ "Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 

External links[edit]